Saturday 07 November 2015 – Bournemouth, Dorset.
One of the reasons I wanted to go to a four day working week, or more importantly a three day weekend, was to be able to go away overnight on occasion yet still have time to do all the things that need to be done at home.
After a really good trip to Folkestone last Saturday I decided to go to the complete opposite end of my ‘where should I live on the UK south coast’ line and head to the Bournemouth area. I have long considered Bournemouth and Poole as an area to live in, not that I have done anything more than drive through. They are two hours from London, which is the furthest I want to be away, but more importantly they are a short ferry ride from the end of the South West Coast Path, an area I remain completely fascinated with.
There is quite a lot to look at, Bournemouth is a reasonable size town and Poole runs right along one side. Bournemouth sits on Poole Bay with its long long strip of beach, so I planned on getting a train to Poole, walking down to the bay and then along the coast to Southbourne where I will stay the night. On Saturday I will go to Christchurch to have a look around and get the train back to London from there. There were a few flats to check out on the way, so it seemed like a good plan. It rained both days…
As it was a Friday I chose to leave after 10:00 as the non-rush hour fares are significantly cheaper than peak fares. The train left from Waterloo, I paid a little extra to get a first class seat, mainly as I wanted to get a seat with a table, and with free wifi in the carriage I could catch up with emails and other things on the way down. I did not pay much attention to what was going on out the window until we passed Southampton and got into the New Forest. Not that I could see too much through the rain anyway.
I arrived in Poole a little late at 12:30. It was not really raining, just a fine drizzle, but it was being blown by a really strong westerly wind. There was no station at Poole, just an exposed platform, so I hurried off in the direction of the old town, but was faced with a massive roundabout and big wide roads, which took me a while to navigate across and around to get to some shelter and put a rain coat and my pack cover on.
For a change I had actually packed well for this trip, and even had appropriate clothing for the conditions – lessons finally being learned. I had also printed off some maps of the route I wanted to take, but paper maps were useless in these conditions, so maybe I had not planned that well…
I did find my way to the old centre of Poole easily enough, it is only a couple of streets with a scattering of old buildings. There was a flat opposite the church that I wanted to walk past, checking the area out. It was nice, but really only just one street nice.
I had read that Poole itself was not the most attractive of towns with a lot of the centre built during the dire architectural period of the 60s and 70s. It was fairly evident, especially around the harbour at the end of the road. I was also disturbed to see a few closed restaurants – never a good sign.
I started walking down the harbour side in the wind and drizzle, I was planning on walking through to Bournemouth a few miles away, but a bus happened to stop at a bus stop just as I was walking past, so I jumped on board and got a ride to the bus station and from there a bus towards Bournemouth. The traffic was pretty bad; as my tummy was telling me it was lunch time and we were not going anywhere fast I got off the bus in Westbourne to look for an open cafe. I am glad I did, it had a decent looking high street and a vegetarian cafe, where I had a very nice lunch.
There were a few flats to rent on West Cliff Rd, so I walked down it to Bournemouth central and the coast, passing the ubiquitous Conservative Club. They seem to be everywhere in small towns.
I skipped Bournemouth town and headed straight down to the waterfront by the pier. I was surprised, pleasantly so, to see a few surfers out making use of the small break, I never considered Bournemouth as a surf town, so this is good news as surfers are generally laid back types, and I want that where I live.
With the wind blowing the rain into my back I headed up the beach front towards Southbourne, three miles away. After pebbly Folkestone, it was nice to sea a long stretch of sand.
It was an interesting walk, a bit damp, but I was wrapped up well and if I did not point the camera into the rain I managed to take a few photos without rain drops on the lens.
The strong winds brought out a couple of para-surfers who were really making the most of the conditions, whistling up and down the beach.
You can see from the, very New Zealand looking, grasses and trees just how strong the wind was.
I loved how these beach huts followed the colours of the rainbow from beginning to end, nice to see some real thought put into planning and designing public space.
Like Folkestone last weekend the sea front is a narrow band between the sea and the cliffs and for the most part it is free of buildings, in fact walking along it was rare to see anything at the top of the cliff as well, I really liked that. There were not that many places along the sea front to access the tops of the cliffs, though there was this cool funicular.
And further along there was this zigzag to the top. I walked up so could I have a look at what the houses looked like on the cliff-top, but apart from the large building at the top of the zigzag there were no other buildings, there was a little more cliff to go.
I walked along the road into Boscombe Spa, which looked quite nice from here, a winter time flat on the beach would be OK – not sure if I would want to live here in the summer when it is really busy.
There was a nice little chine here, and the trees looked amazing with the autumn leaves still on, the photos I took was just washed out of colour sadly. I checked out Boscombe Pier, though there was nothing much to see, just a few stragglers braving the weather for some fresh air.
There was another mile or so to go to Southbourne, and though it had mostly stopped raining my trousers were soaking, and my legs were getting cold in the wind. I picked up the pace a little bit, though still had to stop and take a couple of photos. It was nice down here, and I loved the weather as well! The Toi-tois – or pampas grass as they are called here, just reminded me of home – as did the acres of scrubby gorse all along the hill side. There are no beach huts in Auckland – so I remained rooted in southern England.
I found another zigzag and headed up towards Southborne.
I popped out not too far from where I was staying the night at the Cliff House Hotel, I had booked a single room online and it was tiny – but very comfortable and nicely appointed, though the shower was rubbish
The bar area was booked for a party in the evening, I was planning on not going out once I had arrived, but had to change that plan to find some food. After getting into some dry clothes and shoes – I am so pleased I bought a rain cover for my day bag yesterday, I went for a walk to the local pub. One pint and out, it wasn’t my sort of place, not bad, but not great either.
I looked for restaurants on my phone and found a place that looked OK, but took a wrong turn in the dark and found Southbourne’s high street instead. It was a nice high street, couple of bars, coffee shops, loads of other shops etc and only one bookie. Not bad. I found myself a bar, had a drink, felt comfortable enough to sit and read my book and eat my dinner so did. It was not a late night and I was back in my room well in time to watch The Returned on the TV. A great episode too, the best TV for a long time !!
I slept pretty well, and woke up to the expected very heavy rain. I lay about in the room for a while, eventually going down for breakfast just before last orders. I was trying to kill some time until the rain stopped, which it did pretty much on forecast mid-morning, though it was only a brief respite. I walked back up to the high street and had a look around in the day light, taking some time to visit a couple of real estate agents to talk about short term furnished rents – food for thought. It is very expensive !!
Christchurch is the next town along the coast , on the other side of the River Stour. Fortunately there is a good bus service running along the coast so I jumped on a bus rather than make the walk the in the newly started rain. Like the view of the New Forest from the train there was not a lot to see crossing the river from the bus.
Leaving the bus at the top of the high street I took a leisurely stroll down towards a big old church I could see at the end of town. I was talking to a woman on the bus – I like a friendly town, and she was telling me about all the good things in Christchurch, including the volunteer run cinema.
What I did not know prior to visiting, was that Christchurch had a small castle. I saw a sign at an intersection in town, so had to take a detour to check it out. It was a bit wet, so I did not get a good explore.
There has been a fort here since before Norman times, but the ruined keep on the hill was built in the mid 1100’s when the castle was extensively upgraded from wood into stone. The site was largely destroyed in 1652 after a short siege during the civil war. The castle was built near where the rivers Avon and Stour meet and guarded the entrance to the New Forest.
The first thing I found was the remains of the constable’s house, built inside the castle walls around the time the keep was built. It has one of only five remaining Norman era chimneys left in the UK – the fact there are any left amazes me! The rain was falling quite heavily now and the ground around the house was just one large puddle, so I took a couple of rain splattered snaps and left.
There is not much left of the keep, only a couple of walls remain standing, I am sure there was a nice view to be had from the top of the low mound, but I did not linger up there after taking a quick picture of the priory from the shelter of the walls.
A path down the side of a small tributary of the River Avon took me to the back of the priory. The church is all that remains of priory which was (as usual) destroyed around 1539 in the dissolution of the monastries. I took a walk around the churchyard, but did not venture inside, which I now regret as reading about it on Wikipedia I have discovered it is more interesting than I thought. Next time.
After stopping for lunch, and a respite from the drizzle, I headed back up the high street to the station and caught the train back to London.
The view of the New Forest on the return was worse than the view on the way south !!
Despite the weather I really enjoyed my two days out, walking along the sea front in the rain was not as dire as it sounded, or could have been. There were enough people around to make it not seem deserted, but few enough for me to enjoy the space and the scenery. I liked the area and will add it to my list of places to consider moving to.