Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Bournemouth Pier to Mudeford Spit (Bournemouth Coast Path 2)

Beach huts at Mudeford Spit

After yesterday's heavy rain, the forecast was good for today so we decided to continue with the Bournemouth Coast path. Last time we walked from Sandbanks to Bournemouth Pier.

We walked to Poole bus station and caught a bus to The Square in central Bournemouth and walked down through the Lower Gardens to the Pier to pick up the route. It made a lovely change from our usual practice of driving somewhere.

We walked up the hill to the cliff overlooking the beach, passed the back of the Bath Hotel and were struck by the various ceramic items which had been entertainingly stuck on the railings. The pier and Ballard Down can be seen in the background.

A bit further on we passed the back entrance to the Russell-Cotes Art gallery and museum. It was built for Russell-Cotes in 1890 and designed by John Fogerty. We didn't go in: it is on the route of a Bournemouth town walk I have designed and we will do it then.

We continued along the grassy area between East Cliff Drive and the cliff edge. There are a number of large hotels here, but the general feel is spacious and informal with plenty of grass, broom and flowers. There are nice views eastwards towards Hengistbury Head.

In due course we descended towards Boscombe and I captured one of the series of Paragliders who had been heading towards us on this section. I was surprised that the updraft was strong enough, but it clearly was well able to sustain a comfortable flight along the coastline.

The next landmark was Boscombe Pier. I am afraid it really is a most unlovely concrete structure. It leads nowhere and there is nothing on it but shelters and benches.

Almost opposite is Boscombe Chine, which is a much more agreeable proposition.

Now you climb up to the cliff again behind a new development of flats to reach a wonderful 1938 development, San Remo towers. It is the work of the American architect Hector O Hamilton and is in a style which, since our recent visit to Napier in New Zealand, I can confidently identify as Spanish Mission.

The rest of the way to Southbourne was without great incident. When we reached Southbourne we decided to go down to the beach to try the Bistro on the Beach for lunch. The Bistro itself was closed and only a take away was available. I voted against, offering the view that it had an air of mediocrity - "it's not that good!" was the tart reply and we headed on.

Soon we saw the finest cliff-top flower meadow yet of several that we had noticed.

When the houses of Southborne ended, we entered the  Hengistbury Head nature reserve and walked along over sand dunes at the back of the beach. Soon there were fine views along the beach to the Head. It is hard to believe that it was an important port in pre-Roman times.

We followed the wide tarmac path and then some steps, now with fine views across Christchurch Harbour towards the Priory.

At the top, the narrow mouth of Christchurch Harbour came into view with Mudeford Spit on the right.

We walked the length of Hengistbury Head and then cam down some steps to reach the end of Mudeford Spit. We walked along the harbour side edge, past the brightly painted beach huts, which famously change hands for remarkable sums of money, to reach the ferry jetty. I was amused to see that it is now called Mudeford Sandbank - which seems to be a fairly crude attempt at gentrification. It appears to be trying to ape its big cousin, Sandbanks. There was a nice view of the beach huts from the jetty.

We were thrilled to find that as well as a ferry across the harbour mouth to Mudeford Quay, there was also one to Christchurch Quay. So we enjoyed a soothing harbour cruise to round off our walk. After a pleasant snack at The Boathouse, with enviable views towards the Quay, we caught a bus back to Poole and walked back to our flat.

Distance: 6.5 miles.

Conditions: warm and eventually sunny under a blue sky. How wonderful after all the recent rain.

Rating: four stars. Varied and full of interest. Hengistbury Head is wonderful.

Flower of the day

It can only be Thift (Armeria maritima), also known as Sea Pink. The archetypical coastal plant.

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