After our stay at the Bournemouth West Cliff Hotel, we walked down the nearby peaceful Bourne Valley through the delightful upper, central and lower gardens, originally laid out in the 1860s, looking very tropical with lovely flowers and ferns by the sparkling stream and specimen trees including the Dawn Redwood. There were mini golf and play areas and cafes for refreshments.
Emerging into a main shopping area, before reaching Bournemouth Pier with amusement arcades and the UK’s first ‘pier to shore’ zip wire which goes from the tower at the end of the pier over the sea to the beach. The 10 miles of warm sandy beach which has won Blue Flag awards, stretched before us inviting us to walk with the sand between our toes, and the sea lapping at our feet. As we approached Boscombe Pier we were taking in the fabulous views to the Isle of Wight, which got better as we climbed up from the Undercliff via the Toft zigzag path.
There are always plenty of major events on in Bournemouth from the spectacular free air festival over a week-end in August, now in its 12th year, (I once had a fantastic day on the beach being amazed at Wing Walkers and the Red Arrows display), to the Christmas Tree Wonderland from November to early January. We stayed during Dorset Architectural Heritage Week, part of Heritage Open Days which was celebrating its 25th anniversary. We decided to walk to Bournemouth Natural Science Society on the Christchurch Road and have the architectural guided tour of the Victorian Grade II listed villa. We discovered that in 1800 this road was a heathland track from Poole to Christchurch. The first building in Bournemouth was in 1810, when the pine trees were planted as a cash crop, with Victorian villas such as Bassendean, that we were exploring, built as family homes in the 1880s in the growing fashionable spa health resort, with its mild climate. The cliffs yielded fossils from 50 million years ago and these, along with many natural history items, are in the museum which is well worth a visit.
Many Bournemouth churches were open for the Heritage week, and on the morning, we left we saw lovely Clayton and Bell stained glass windows at St Andrews on Richmond Hill.
Bournemouth has lovely gardens, many running down the chines, which are small hidden valleys down to the sea. We walked down Boscombe Chine with healthy tree ferns thriving in the microclimate, a play area and lighting, and a well surfaced path making it accessible for all. Bournemouth chines are a hidden enchanting adventure down to the beach, as John Betjeman wrote “walk the asphalt paths of Branksome Chine in resin-scented air, like strong Greek wine”.
It was such a beautifully warm day we bought some sandwiches and climbed Hengistbury Head for a picnic at the top. From the beach there was an easy tarmac path up to the viewing platform showing distances to Christchurch and its harbour, the Needles on the Isle of Wight, Hurst Castle, Milford on Sea and Poole Harbour entrance beyond Bournemouth, plus 75 miles to Cherbourg! Some well positioned seats allowed us to enjoy the spectacular view below of the New Forest beyond Christchurch Priory.
We followed the Stour Valley Way from the top of the hill by a nature reserve with plenty of butterflies fluttering ahead of us as we walked down to the ferry to Mudeford. We walked back past beach huts alongside Christchurch Harbour to the cafe, but you can also catch a land train that runs from Mudeford Spit back to the cafe and car park. We enjoyed a 12 mile walk in Bournemouth, but a land train can take you back along Bournemouth promenade as well, so you can ride some miles and walk as much as you wish. Bournemouth is good for walkers, and below is the view back along Bournemouth beach as you climb Hengistbury Head.
We did not have time to explore attractions such as the Oceanarium, and the Russell-Cotes art gallery and museum but there is always next time, and Bournemouth is an all-year round location with its wonderful climate.
Louise Hammond visited Bournemouth as a guest blogger and guest of the Bournemouth West Cliff Hotel and Spa.
Find out more about what’s on in Bournemouth.