At the Poole end of the South West Coast Path the journey ends for most walkers after their 630 mile trek from Minehead, but really keen coastal walkers can continue their journey along the fairly short Bournemouth Coast Path which follows the coast through this famous old seaside resort and beyond to Milford-on Sea where it then makes an end-on connection with the Solent Way (see the excellent website http://www.bournemouthcoastpath.org.uk/ for more details). The total distance is a mere 20 miles so I am not sure if it qualifies as a long distance path as fitter walkers could undoubtedly walk the full distance in a day. I had long thought it would make for a good winter project, but an unexpected opportunity arose when I had a couple of hours to spare at the end of my conference in
I took the bus over to Sandbanks, the very end of the ‘
Before setting off on my walk I waited for the old chain ferry to clank across the half mile or so stretch of water that it services. I have a certain fascination with these ferries – they are like real old school transport solutions that no-one has found better technology to replace! After watching just one of goodness knows how many loadings and unloadings that take place on the ferry, I headed off towards Bournemouth Pier. Initially the route wasn’t hugely promising, following the sea wall around the bottom of the very expensive dwellings that command such eye-watering amounts of money. Around the base of the sea wall were the usual large boulders placed to dissipate the force of the waves. What did catch my eye was a very unusual boulder, which had been carved into the shape of a hand. Someone obviously had a sense of humour! As I headed around the sea wall I got a closer look at the coastline around Swanage, some miles to the south west of my position and which someday I hope to enjoy on one of the legs of the South West Coast Path.
As I rounded the end of the spit that forms Sandbanks I found myself on a sandy beach, one which continues all the way to
As I got to the end of the area of housing on Sandbanks I took a quick detour across to the other side of the spit to take a look at the wide expanse of
Another feature of this stretch of coast is the unusual cliffs that are made of soft sandstone and clad in gorse and other trees and bushes. I am not aware of any other coast like it, apart from a short stretch on the
A short while later I crossed the boundary from Poole into Bournemouth and the character immediately changed from a resort that seem to be a Johnny-come-lately to one where you can feel the tradition. Almost immediately the style of beach huts changed to a crop that were more in keeping with my expectations. Sadly the very warm sunny weather that I had enjoyed in
Now at height I could appreciate the sweep of the bay that characterises this holiday coast. Far off in the distance to the west of me were Old Harry and the Swanage Coast while ahead was the Isle of Wight and the twin piers at Bournemouth and Boscombe. It made for an impressive sight! As I climbed to the top of the Chine the first spring flowers such as hellebores and daffodils were all coming into bloom, gladdening my heart after all those dark winter months. I was also getting lungfuls of the coconutty aroma given off by the gorse blossom that dominates large swathes of the cliff faces. This is a smell I love so much and have really grown to appreciate all the more on my various coastal walks.
At the top of the cliff the path switches between green space and roadside. Due to the topography of the landscape the road has a good deal of trouble maintaining any distance along the cliff top and as a result behaves like a zig zag to and from the coast as it tries to maintain a steady height past all the chines. Being on foot I didn’t have to worry too much about this and it gave me the opportunity to have a bit more exercise than if I had rigidly stuck to the promenade for the whole journey. As I got closer into
All in all an easy and enjoyable afternoon stroll along this holiday coast. There are numerous refreshment opportunities and the bus service is regular, making a short walk quite achievable without expending a lot of time. Perhaps next winter I shall finish the remaining part of the walk through to