Continuing my series of walks in and around Bournemouth, we recently took a 3.5 mile looped walk along the promenade, through Alum Chine to Westbourne and then returning through the Central and Lower Gardens. The scenery is varied and there are some lovely cafes along the way to stop off for a bite to eat and to enjoy a little rest.
Our walk started at Pier Approach which is the gateway to Bournemouth’s seafront and connects the town centre to the beach via the pretty Lower Gardens. Bournemouth pier takes pride of place jutting out into the English Channel costing £1.30 to enter 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. A more recent addition is PierZip, a thrill seekers zip wire attraction taking riders 250 metres between the end of the pier and the beach.
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 of beach is always busy and is lined with seaside amusement arcades, ice cream kiosks and the upscale West Beach seafood restaurant with its large outdoor beachside terrace.
Colourful 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 hut over 100 years ago and boasts some of the oldest surviving ones in the country. The first of the town’s beach huts was built in 1909 and has been marked with a Blue Plaque.
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. The chines are unique to the Dorset coast and the Isle of Wight with each of the ones in Bournemouth having access up to the town via steep paths.
It took us just ten minutes strolling along the seafront to reach the first, known as Durley Chine which provides a scenic backdrop to its wide golden sands which gently slope down to the sea. As the water is safe and shallow this beach is a popular choice for families. Overlooking the beach is the stylish Chineside cafe/restaurant, a pub and ice cream kiosk.
Our walk then took us to Middle Chine, the smallest of the chines and roughly half way between Durley and Alum Chine. It may be smaller but its extremely pretty with its beach huts arranged in rows along the cliffs.
On reaching Alum Chine we followed a footpath just to the east of the car park. Much of the chine is covered in pines and woodland attracting several species of birds and red and white butterflies which were fluttering beside the path. This fairly steep uphill slope skirts a pirate themed children’s playground before reaching the tranquil gardens.
Bournemouth Tropical Gardens were first planted in the early 1920’s with major replanting and landscaping taking place in the mid 1990’s. Lying in a sheltered position with the cliff for protection, a wide variety of tropical and sub-tropical plants including Chusan Palms and Yuccas can thrive there.
An information board in the gardens explained how Alum Chine got its name. Interestingly, this was after a small mine established here in 1564 to extract alum and copperas. The alum was used in manufacturing and medicine whilst the copperas (ferrous sulphate) was used for dye-making and ink.
Close by, we passed the Argyll Gardens Bowling Green before reaching West Overcliff Drive which took us into the affluent suburb of Westbourne. This is one of my favourite parts of Bournemouth with its attractive centre retaining a village feel. Its two main streets are lined with many small independent shops and cafes and these are linked by the beautiful Westbourne Arcade.
This stunning Victorian arcade with its symmetrical facades of red brick and stone at either end and a glazed roof has been well preserved and contains an eclectic mix of shops and cafes including the wonderful Renoufs Pantry. With more than 200 types of cheese on offer, it’s foodie heaven for me and definitely worth popping in to take a look.
Another ‘must visit’ place in Westbourne is Chez Fred just outside the arcade on Seamoor Road. Run by three generations of the same family, it’s been serving up award winning fish and chips since 1989. There’s both a takeaway and restaurant but be warned, you will probably need to queue awhile to be seated but the wait is definitely worthwhile as the food is delicious.
Lining the restaurant’s wall are photos of famous people who gave dined there whilst visiting the town. These range from celebrities appearing at Bournemouth’s theatres to politicians attending their annual conferences.
After our shopping and cafe stop, we were ready to return to Bournemouth by a different but equally attractive route. From the converted supermarket chapel on the corner of Poole and Milburn Roads we turned into Westbourne Close. Our stroll then took us onto the delightfully named Pine Tree Glen which led us past St. Michael’s church and through a short under-road tunnel onto Surrey Road.
Slightly further and we had arrived at the far end of the Central Gardens where we wandered along a footpath beside the Bourne stream. These gardens are attractive with their many weeping willow trees and formal flowerbeds and much quieter than the Lower Gardens were our walk would take us next.
Soon after passing the tennis courts and a children’s adventure playground we were approaching the end of the gardens with the majestic town hall to one side and war memorial in the centre.
On leaving the gardens we walked through the town’s bustling square before crossing a narrow road (beware of buses here) into the Lower Gardens. These gardens, linking the town centre with the seafront have several small cafes, a mini-golf course, aviary and a bandstand where music can frequently be enjoyed during the summer months.
A few steps further and the Big Wheel had come into sight and we had completed our looped walk to Westbourne. I hope you have enjoyed this walk and might be inspired to take this route if you are visiting Bournemouth sometime.
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