After having recently enjoyed a walk eastwards from Bournemouth pier to Boscombe, we decided it was time to explore the coast along the opposite direction. Our walk commenced at Pier Approach which is the gateway to Bournemouth’s seafront and links the town centre to the beach via the pretty Lower Gardens.
Pier Approach has changed considerably in recent years and was completely redeveloped two years ago creating an attractive open space with cafes, seating, fountains and the new home for the tourist information centre. It’s the perfect place to sit and watch the world go after taking a stroll along the pier or following a few hours on the beach.
Bournemouth pier takes pride of place jutting out into the English Channel. Entrance to the pier is £1.30 but free after 6.00 p.m. and during the winter months. An amusement arcade sits at its entrance with all the usual slot machines and arcade games associated with the seaside.
Towards the middle of the pier there used to be a wonderful theatre which for a long time held summer variety shows and high quality plays. Over the years we’d enjoyed attending several of these plays which were always well attended so it was sad to learn that the theatre was going to be replaced with an indoor adventure activity centre. Alongside the adventure centre is a pier to shore zip wire for adrenaline junkies. It’s located at the far end of the pier and is the first of its kind to be installed
Having set the scene for the start of our walk, we set off along the lower promenade to the west of the pier next to the Oceanarium. Being close to the pier, this stretch is always busy and is lined with more seaside amusement arcades, ice cream kiosks and the upscale West Beach seafood restaurant. As the weather was nice lots of tables had been set out on an extended beach terrace and diners were enjoying a leisurely late lunch as we passed by.
Continuing slightly further and we had reached the West Cliff Lift which was built in 1908 to provide easy access between the beach and the clifftop. Running on tracks the East and West Cliff lifts are actually classed as light railways. It’s out of action for the foreseeable future due to safety restrictions but is still operable unlike the East Cliff Lift which suffered disaster due to a significant cliff slide.
Beach huts are to be found all the way along the lower promenade and many of them can be rented by the day, week or for a longer period. With their uninterrupted views they are perfect for relaxing and watching the waves gently lap the shore. Bournemouth actually invented the modern day beach over 100 years ago and boasts some of the oldest surviving ones in the country. The first of Bournemouth’s beach huts was built in 1909 and is marked with a Blue Plaque.
Amongst all the brightly coloured beach huts we came across several burnt out ones. Back in July when the town was filled with holidaymakers, a fire broke out in one of the council owned huts. It was caused when a camping stove was accidentally knocked over and made the national news as it set alight more than 100m of heath on the cliff face. Sunbathers were evacuated from the beach and a helicopter had to be called to bring the fire under control. Fortunately these things don’t happen very often but it just shows how careful one needs to be when cooking in a wooden shed like structure.
Along this stretch of coast are numerous densely wooded chines which are small river valleys formed by the continuous flow of streams running over the cliff edge. At each of the chines there is access up steep paths to the town with some of them having parking for the beach.
Alum Chine is the largest of the chines and is surrounded by pretty little beach huts on raised levels. There is also a popular beachside cafe called Chineside and the larger Vesuvio restaurant which is just far enough for some people to walk to from the centre of town for a leisurely trip out.
We pressed on, soon passing the beautiful Welcome to Poole sign which marked the former borough boundary (since 2018 the three towns of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole have merged to become one local authority). The panel was made by Carter’s of Poole which became known as Poole Pottery. From the late 19th century until the 1960’s the company produced tiles for use all over the world. This one depicts X class sailing boats racing in Poole harbour and was interesting to see as we had viewed other examples of their work in Poole Museum earlier in the week.
At Branksome Chine there’s a restaurant, cafe and gift shop. Along with Bournemouth pier this beach is always bustling with activity as it has plenty of facilities and is popular with local residents with its large car park. The nearby Branksome Dene beach is dog friendly and a favourite for our four legged friends and their owners,
Canford Cliffs is further on still and always looks gorgeous with its sandy cliffs and picture perfect brightly painted huts. Just up the hill, Canford Cliffs village is worth a look as it has some inviting little shops and restaurants and a real village feel.
On this occasion we didn’t venture up the hill to the village but instead continued the short distance to Sandbanks which was also buzzing with activity. The promenade comes to an end here and to continue further, it’s necessary to turn inland slightly along Shore Road passing the Jazz Cafe on your right then just after the Sandbanks Beach Club follow the path until it reaches Beach Road,
Sandbanks is a small peninsula crossing the mouth of Poole harbour and jutting out into the English Channel. It enjoys spectacular views across the harbour and towards Branksome Island. Due to its picturesque location, Sandbanks has attracted high property prices over the years and is renowned for its expensive homes and high-end restaurants.
This large natural harbour is home to numerous water sports as the unique nature of Poole bay with its shallow tidal harbour makes it ideal for beginners and experts alike.
We paused to watch some kite surfing but it was difficult to photograph into the sun and feeling that we’d walked far enough, decided to leave a walk to the end of the peninsula for another day.
We retraced our steps back to Bournemouth the same way as we had come and noticed a bridal photo shoot taking place near the water’s edge, just the perfect location for a romantic photograph.
Apart from pausing briefly to take photos we had, for once, resisted the temptation of calling into a cafe so our 7 mile round trip had taken us just two and a half hours. It’s an easy level walk and for the less energetic, a land train usually runs part way along the lower promenade.
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