Bournemouth, Dorset

Julia Bradbury heads to Dorset for a bracing walk along the seafront of one of our most handsome seaside towns

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Walking along a seafront in winter is one of the most refreshing UK beach experiences there is. There are none of the summer crowds, and the winter sun, crashing waves and brisk sea breeze mean that the stifling excesses of the Christmas season can be truly blown away.

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The Bournemouth seafront is a perfect Boxing Day walk. The backbone of the beach is the promenade, which stretches between seven miles of award-winning sands, and cute, colourful huts (which can be hired all year round). This is not a taxing hike, so the whole family will be able to work off the turkey – but if it does prove too much for tired legs, hop on the land train or take a ride back up to the town in any of three cliff lifts along the beach.

People have flocked to Bournemouth for a long time, mostly thanks to three men. Firstly, military man Lewis Tregonwell bought land here in 1810 after falling for the location during a family visit. He is often said to be the founder of the town. Next came Sir George William Tapps-Gervis who, after inheriting his father’s estate in 1835, decided to develop the seaside village into a resort inspired by others such as Weymouth and Brighton.

The third important figure was the physician Augustus Bozzi Granville, who wrote Spas of England in 1841, including a chapter on Bournemouth. Anything that promoted the idea of longer life and healthy living was a bestseller back then, and the prospect of fine sea air and spa facilities enticed affluent holidaymakers and the sickly in their droves. Less than 30 years later, train travel made regular trips possible, and the mission was complete: Bournemouth had a firm place on the seaside map.

From pier to pier

These days the area still holds a top position in the seaside charts. The traditional centrepiece of a great British beach is the pier, and Bournemouth has two of them. Stroll along Bournemouth Pier for great views stretching across the Poole bay and, of course, to enjoy the traditional seaside attractions and entertainment.

A little further east along the beach, the redeveloped Boscombe Pier was voted Pier of the Year in 2010. Following a radical facelift in 2008, it’s a contemporary streamlined affair – the epitome of modernism. The Boscombe seafront is home to Europe’s first artificial surf reef, and also features retro-style beach chalets designed by Wayne and Gerardine Hemmingway, with an asking price of £60,000.

Reef encounters

I visited the reef with Countryfile in 2009 and remember delivering a piece about Bournemouth’s latest seaside attraction to camera as the crew and I were battered by a fairly robust wind. The innovative artificial reef cost £3m, lies submerged 200m (650ft) from shore and covers an area the size of a football pitch. It was created to enhance waves for surfers. 

Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan. Firstly, there was much discussion about whether the reef actually made a significant difference to the surf, and, in March 2011, a boat propeller damaged one of 55 giant sand-filled bags that make up
the bank.

Since then, the Boscombe Surf Reef has been officially closed but, of course, you can’t stop people from heading out there. Bodyboarders love it, and claim that the waves are faster than the breakers at the beach.

The seafront also features five chines, narrow ravines cut into rock by rivers or streams and home to a wide variety of water-loving plants and wildlife, sheltered from the harsher conditions of the beach. Plus, just a few miles west of Bournemouth is the world famous Jurassic Coast, made up of towering cliffs, huge chalk stacks and incredible rock formations.

Finish off your day out with some good old fish and chips on the seafront –
it is Christmas, after all.

Useful Information

USEFUL INFORMATION

HOW TO GET THERE

Bournemouth is on England’s south coast and is served from the north and east via the M3, M27, A31 and then the A338. Trains run from London Waterloo, Manchester Piccadilly, the Midlands and many stations
on the south coast.

FIND OUT MORE

Bournemouth Tourist Information Centre

Westover Road, Bournemouth

BH1 2BU

0845 0511700

www.bournemouth.co.uk

EAT

Gilbey’s Restaurant

Wollstonecraft Road, Boscombe Spa, Bournemouth

BH5 1JQ

01202 394588

www.listonhotel.co.uk/gilbeys_restaurant

Enjoy modern food in an Edwardian decorated restaurant.

STAY

Bed and Breakfast
by the Beach

Burtley Manor, 7 Burtley Road, Southbourne BH6 4AP

01202 433632

www.bedandbreakfast
bythebeach.co.uk

This family-run, luxury B&B in nearby Southbourne enjoys fine views of the beach and is a great base for exploring the area.

NEARBY

The Jurassic Coast

www.jurassiccoast.org

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Stretching from Orcombe
Point, Devon, in the west to
Old Harry Rocks, Dorset, in the east, this stunning World Heritage Site of imposing cliffs offers great opportunities for walks and days out. For a day trip to one of its greatest wonders, Durdle Door, turn to page 92.