South Coast Central
A Guide To England's South-Central Region
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Beach In Off-Season
The news has reported that a travel-firm survey indicates Bournemouth is the most 'Instagrammed' or ‘Instagram-worthy’ beach in Britain. (It's documented by ramking hashtags on the Instagram photo-sharing site.) Of course, the beach is also packed at that time of year, especially in late August when the 4-day airshow brings 900,000 more people to the seafront, and the late August bank holiday weekend provides a last chance for summer-hols seaside visits for daytrippers and staycationers. But come September, the holidays are over, the kids go back to school, and the beach is clear once again, to be enjoyed for bracing walks - till next summer.
Council has secretly developed plans to turn part of a Conservation Site it owns into a “a
large commercial 'community farm'” which will also become “a major entrance to the proposed
Stour Valley Park, alongside Hengistbury Head and Kingston Lacy at either end,” that will
“include a working farm for visitors, a community garden, river walks, wildlife watching
and exercise activities.” The revelation of this in the local press has prompted local residents
to form Throop
Village Conservation Group in protest. Throop village is on the northern outskirts of
the modern conurbation, on the banks of the River Stour, with meadows on the northern side
[pictured here], between it and the airport. The HQ for this development will be Hicks Farm,
“home to the largest cluster of listed buildings within the Borough,” in what was the now-subsumed
hamlet of Muccleshell. The Council’s argument is that the commercial development is necessary
because ... they themselve have neglected Hicks Farm. The farm takes its name from the Hicks
family, whose own story is told in a pioneer journal documented on another of our web pages,
here , along
with a gallery page, here
. As this journal reflecting the life of the early residents when Bournemouth was still called
'Bourne' shows, there is more to 'heritage' than commercial development of its last surviving
unspoilt corner as a tourism attraction.
With the longest
heatwave since 1976 continuing (daytime high currently 27C), England's heathland has been
under threat from brushfires. Studland Heath on the Isle of Purbeck has been in the news,
its Nature Reserve identified as the most biodiverse place in the UK, with 44 of the 58 species
of mammals found in Britain, all six native British reptiles, plus some rare birds. This
surviving 10km-wide corner of a once-extensive Dorset heathland memorialised by Thomas Hardy
is now maintained by the National Trust. In the image above, you see the sandy path leading
inland from Studland's dune formations, the gorse-covered heath beneath occasional rock outcrops
beyond, and the sparse tree cover.
Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch are to merge as a single council or unitary authority.
This being the region's largest population centre, the conurbation offers a considerable
range of public amenities, which is our interest here (rather than the politics of which
existing Council is the most / least useless or corrupt). Recently, Bournemouth has been
promoting itself as a 'hub' for the relatively new 'digital creative' market using the [borrowed]
moniker Silicon Beach. In furtherance of this aim, we have a set of webpage guides up [10
pages so far] on our sister site. These mainly focus on a particular neighbourhood with potential
to be a local 'hub' in its own right, from downtown Poole through Westbourne to central Christchurch.
The pages are orientation guides to public amenities such as cafes and restaurants - so you
don't have to be a 'digital creative' type to find them useful. For our keynote image here,
we've chosen Bournemouth Square's centrepiece cafe, but all the pages are illustrated. The
table-of-contents page for our 'Silicon Beach Bomo' section is here.
After a prolonged
winter (the groundhog's 2 Feb prediction of 6 more weeks of winter proved only half-right),
hot summery weather finally arrived with the May Day holiday weekend ... though inevitably
this never lasts. Still, one of the delights of living by England's south coast premier resort
is to be able to sit outside at some seaside (beachfront or clifftop) cafe and enjoy the
sea view over a meal, ranging from the simplest fare to chef's special. Here are a couple
of examples of this, one from the western end of the 7 miles of sands that front Bournemouth,
Poole and Christchurch, and one from the eastern end. (Hover mouse over top image to see
the one beneath, which you can also download, here).
Beach View, Groundhog Day 2018
used to be observed as Candlemas, an Anglicisation of the Celtic Imbolc or Oimelc, meaning
when sheep's udders fill with milk in anticipation of the first spring lambs being born.
The first week February is halfway between the midwinter solstice and the spring equinox,
and hence a turning point in the great wheel of the year. The date is now better-known worldwide
as Groundhog Day, when the US media gather to watch whether a local groundhog will emerge
from his den; if it is sunny, he will return to his den promptly, supposedly frightened by
seeing his shadow. This was a custom imported to the US by German farmers who emigrated to
Pennsylvania, to try to predict whether there would be an early spring or 6 more weeks of
winter, i.e. up to the spring equinox March 21. The 'scientific' explanation is that, temperature
and pressure being inversely related, a sunny period of 'false spring' at this time will
be followed by a final stretch of wintry conditions; this is what usually happens, and this
year, freezing overnight temperatures are indeed set to continue. Here, the view is from
just in front of Poole's Branksome Beach cafe, where people are already sitting outside on
the terrace, while others take a brisk stroll along the beachfront.
Heights Winter Sunset View
the sun set over Poole Harbour and the Purbeck Hills beyond, perhaps the best location, even
in winter, is the verandah or lounge at the Harbour Heights Hotel. This was originally built
for BOAC passengers and crew arriving on the flying boats that landed in Poole Harbour, and
was a vital transatlantic lifeline during the war, carrying VIPs including Churchill. Its
historic role has recently been recognised with a blue plaque, pictured below, at Poole Museum,
which was formerly 'Airways House,' BOAC's HQ. As its name reflects, the hotel was built
on the heights to command the best view of the harbour, and still does.
Square & Compass is one of Dorset's most
venerable pubs, a Grade II listed public house which opened in 1793 housed in a pair of limestone
cottages. Situated in a cleft in the Purbeck Hills, it remains unknown to many as it is off
the main tourist routes, but is appealing to those wanting to avoid the crowds in Corfe and
Swanage. The pub is one of those where there is more room outside than in, and where the
only food, to go with the local ales and cider, is pasties and locally made pies. In other
words, people come to sit outside and enjoy the coastal views, which includes watching the
sunset, as shown here.
- Prince Charles's 'designer' township outside Dorchester - dates back to the 1990s, but
has only now just found international fame with its appearance in the tv series Electric
Dreams. The Channel 4/Sony anthology series is based on stories by cult SF author Philip
K. Dick, best known for Blade Runner, currently also in the news for its belated remake.
In the Electric Dreams series episode "The Commuter," it portrays 'Macon Heights', a planned
township in Hampshire which was never built, but is accessible by those who desperately need
to spend time somewhere that dreams come true. The producers said that Poundbury, with its
mix of architectural styles, was ideal, requiring no set dressing.
from St Giles Hill Viewpoint
whenever early summer weather is variable (affecting events like Glastonbury and Wimbledon),
the media look to St Swithun’s Day on July 15th for a clue as to what the rest of the summer
will be like, i.e. from the week the school holidays start. The popular rhyme the press still
quote ran "St Swithun's Day if thou dost rain / For forty days it will remain /
St Swithun's Day if thou be fair / For forty days 'twill rain nae mare."
1920s Art Deco style hotel The Haven is one of the area's landmarks. Its prominent position
on a peninsula at the mouth of Poole Harbour was why Marconi did some of his first radio-telegraphy
tests here, sending Morse messages across the Channel in 1897. Now the Sandbanks peninsula
is about to see its biggest developmental changes ever, and the 3 big hotels there will be
the BBC chose the RSPB-run Arne nature reserve on the southern side of Poole Harbour for
its live Autumnwatch show, broadcast over 4 nights for the half-term holiday break in late
October. In late January, Chris Packham and the team returned to Arne for Winterwatch, available
on iPlayer, here . When not overrun
by such birdwatching events, Arne is typically quiet, ideal for a peaceful country walk of
an hour or so to the seashore and back, accessible from the RSPB car park on the Arne village
road off the busy A351 Wareham-Corfe-Swanage highway. The peninsula is officially Britain's
most biodiverse region, and there is other wildlife besides birds to see, such as deer in
the daytime and fox in the evening.
now-annual event was originally called the German Market, but after various complaints, it
was decided this was impolitic, and it is now known as the Alpine Market, or simply the Christmas
Market. The Alpine-chalet style stalls are not limited to offerings from the Alpine countries
however, cf there is a Greek food stall this year. There are more Xmas attractions such as
a skating rink in the adjacent Lower Gardens.
View Of Poole
is 200 years since the Year Without a Summer in 1816, when mists and storms prevailed, famously
inspiring Romantic authors to create works with Gothic Sturm-und-Drang effects, like Frankenstein
by Mary Shelley, whose creative bicentenary is being celebrated in Bournemouth, where she
is buried. The misty summer is also claimed to have helped inspire landscape painter JMW
Turner (1775-1851) to begin the move towards the hazy impressionism characterising his later
work. However, his early work was of recognizable scenes, with paintings based more closely
on sketches taken in the field in all weathers. His first oil to be exhibited at the Academy,
‘Fishermen At Sea’ , shows a moonlit scene of fishing boats braving the sea-swell
inshore of The Needles chalk pinnacles off the Isle of Wight. Turner based his paintings
on sketches made in the field during his walking tours. He had visited inland areas of our
region early on due to 1790s commissions to sketch and paint Salisbury and its cathedral,
Stourhead estate, and Fonthill Abbey.
get a full moon deemed newsworthy, the press publish shots of it taken with a telescope lens
so it appears gigantic against some skyline feature. In reality it looks nothing like this,
even when it is a 'supermoon', which in fact appears only slightly larger as it is slightly
closer. Telescopic versions foreshorten the perspective for dramatic effect but miss the
point of seeing the moon as humans have for thousands of years, high in a dark sky unaffected
by light pollution from urban lighting. Nor is the moon yellow, orange or red, as in those
photos, the discolouration being caused by atmospheric dust when viewed near the horizon.
It also ignores the fact that in Britain we are unlikely to have clear skies for viewing
due to cloud cover, and must wait for it to emerge through a gap in the clouds, where it
creates a halo effect, a swirl of moonlight, as shown here.
is the 80th anniversary of the Spitfire's first flight in March 1936, made over the south
Hampshire countryside around Eastleigh airport, commemorated as a 'just-in-time' historical
event. (The flight was made 2 days before the Rhineland was invaded, the first step towards
WWII.) Our interest here is not the Spitfire, whose local connections we've covered elsewhere
but in the era's iconic image, which you can see in officially-encouraged paintings and films
set in the war era, where a lone Spitfire zooms protectively over English downland.
19th-C stately home, reopening 1 February, has just been put on the international tourism
map courtesy of ITV's hit Friday-night drama series Mr. Selfridge.
Over Bournemouth Pier
celebrate many seasonal civic rites of passage. In Bournemouth they are part of the tourism
draw each year, with the biggest display usually the final one of the season, the Pier being
the main 'launching pad' for the show. Bournemouth Pier has just been celebrated in the media
for another reason: the designer of its main building, the Pier Theatre, is one of only two
women whose waternarked images are on the new UK passport, which has a ‘Creative United Kingdom’
theme. Architect Elisabeth Scott was Bournemouth-born and returned in the late 50s to work
for the town, designing the Pier's dominant building, the Pier Theatre, which was completed
in 1960 after the Pier was strengthened to support it. (The 1880s pier had been partly torn
up in WW2 to foil any German invasion, and repaired in the 50s so it could reopen as a promenade.)
is the 80th anniversary of one of Dorset's more exotic attractions, a landscape which appears
a natural one, but is in fact man-made. The Blue Pool nested in the Purbeck Hills south of
Wareham was originally a clay-pit on the heath, part of the chalk- and clay-working industry
which had provided material for clay pipes etc since the 17th century. It fell into disuse
in the early 20th century as it flooded with rain and groundwater, the pool taking on a turquoise
hue due to clay particles in suspension reflecting the sunlight. A tearoom
was opened on the 25-acre site in 1935, and pines and other trees were planted to create
shaded scenic walks around the pool. (You can just glimpse the tearooms in the picture, across
the pool, now expanded into a cafe and museum with souvenir shop.)
main annual summer Christian pilgrimage is the one ending at Glastonbury's ruined Abbey (in
July), but this year it is a much shorter pilgrimage route [4km or 2.5 miles] that got international
press attention. Although a walk between a pair of old and new cathedral sites, it is is
more than a Christian-pilgrimage event, for it marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.
This document, signed (technically, sealed) by King John at Runnymede in June 1215, first
limited the divine right of kings in England and is regarded as the foundation of English
constitutional law. The best-preserved of the four surviving copies is kept at Salisbury
Cathedral, which sponsored the event.
spring skies finally broke through the clouds on Easter Monday at the end of an otherwise
grey bank holiday weekend. The polar front which turned late March into a brief false spring
has been replaced by a 'Spanish plume' bringing balmy Mediterranean weather. It has been
an Easter weekend tradition since at least Victorian times for families or couples to go
for a promenade through their local municipal gardens or along the seafront Esplanade, and
this year spring weather appeared just in time to mark the occasion.
This view looks
southwards towards the coast hills above the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast. March has
arrived and the long winter is almost over; the sun is out and the grass is starting to grow
again. This early-spring pastoral scene shows the donkeys at the Margaret
Green Animal Sanctuary & Visitor Centre at Church Knowle just west of Corfe Castle [see
map inset below]. Free and open every day except Christmas, it is a popular local attraction
where people wander about the farm looking at the donkeys [as seen here], goats, horses,
pigs, roosters, rabbits and cats. The latter, being household creatures rather than farm
animals, live in a communal room or meshed individual boarding kennels. The farm animals
live in outdoor paddocks or corrals. All the animals have placards on their enclosures telling
about them, sometimes their individual case stories where they are up for adoption. There
is also a Garden Of Remembrance pet cemetery.
in East Dorset is a site which we've shown before for its unique setting - a ruined Norman
church inside a prehistoric henge or ring, part of an old church policy to build atop pagan
sites. More generally, it makes an ideal vantage point for observing the night sky. This
image, an unretouched photo shot at dusk (i.e. 430pm), was taken the Saturday before the
winter solstice, an evening when the weather forecast (coldest night of the year) meant the
sky would be clear for once. In Britain, opportunities for stargazing are more often than
not ruined by clouds, but the next day the press in southern England carried many photos
of the Geminids meteor shower that happened around 2am. The pair of tall yews visible in
the background here stand on the eastern perimeter, towards the rising sun. Yews are a feature
of many sacred sites: their leaves being poisonous, local farmers will not let their cattle
stray into such precincts.
several navigable rivers, which you can cruise even if you don't have your own boat, via
a water-bus service. Going west to east, there are half-day cruises
across Poole Harbour up the tidal lower Frome to the market town of Wareham, which Alfred
fortified after the Danes occupied it as a useful sheltered river-port (it still bills itself
as 'Saxon Walled Town'). There are also cruises down the lower Stour, connecting to the lower
Avon at Christchurch.
This week is
the 200th anniversary of the first appearance of that familiar and much-loved fixture of
the British seaside resort, the seaside pier. It was 200 years ago the first of the structures
that would become a British 'icon' was built, at Ryde on the NE side of Wight, in 1814. This
still stands but is somewhat the worse for wear. (Most piers have been extensively rebuilt
for this reason, their foundation piles lasting only a few decades.) Pictured here instead
is a neighbouring pier on the NW side of Wight. Built in 1876, and now a Grade II listed
structure, Yarmouth Pier claims it
is the longest wooden pier - as well as the only all-wood pier surviving today.
rocks and lighthouse (with helipad on top) represent one of England's most iconic views,
used as a BBC visual due to its instant recognisability. Along with Old Harry Rocks opposite,
the two promontories form the entrance to the great bay which shelters the coast from the
open sea, making the bayshore westward past Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole suitable
for the development of seaside resorts. The view southward towards and out past The Needles
- westernmost point of the Isle of Wight - was called 'the finest outlook in England' by
former Prime Minister Lord Bute. He built almost the first seaside villa on the protected
bayshore - since rebuilt on a grander scale as Highcliffe Castle - which began the late Georgian
fashion for 'marine villas' and thus led to the establishment of spa-resorts all around the
Spring is by
definition a transitional season, starting out as February late-winter weather and ending
up early summer as May dawns. The result is a mixed period of unpredictable weather in March,
reflecting the saying 'March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb'. Now
the spring equinox [21 March] is here, the storms and floods that dominated the forecasts
for months having finally ended 2-3 weeks ago. People can at long last get out and go for
a walk on riverbanks (in this case, as pictured here, the Lower Stour at Tuckton) that were
underwater a short while ago. In the past, the lower stretches would sometimes freeze right
over and become crossable on foot, cf here.
Now we have sunny intervals by day with freezing temperatures at night, which at least is
Winter Skies, Poole Harbour
This winter will no doubt remembered for its storm-floods and sea-surges, the worst in over
20 years. Thousands were left without power over the midwinter holidays, overflowing riverbanks
are forcing evacuations of entire communities, and police are warning the public to stay
away from the seafront after several people were swept off esplanades.
Paddle steamers were a vital link in the opening up of British seaside resorts. Where the
bay was too shallow for them to dock, long piers had to be built, starting 200 years ago
with a mile-long wooden one at Ryde on north Wight (begun 1813). These 'pleasure steamers'
were often operated by railway companies and sometimes the pier would be broadened to run
a train line to the pierhead, as at Ryde, where a train still runs direct to the resorts
on the south coast of Wight. With the decline of the railways, the heyday of the pleasure
steamer ended, but one was saved and now operates around the entire English coast: the PS
Waverley, built in 1947. A brass plaque aboard explains this is actually a replica-replacement
for the 1899-built original, which sailed the Clyde prewar but was sunk in 1940 while evacuating
troops from Dunkirk. The Waverley is the last seagoing paddle steamer in the world and is
claimed to be 'probably the most photographed ship in the world.'
Its seagoing profile is a familiar sight in this area. The restored Waverley sails the south-central
coast every September, docking at local resorts like Ryde, Bournemouth, Weymouth and Swanage
(the photo illustrating the Wikipedia article on the boat's history, here
, shows it in Swanage Bay). For those who prefer a scenic shot, there is an alternative clickable
one below, showing Waverley departing Sandown Bay on the south coast of Wight on one of its
September day excursions.
[click to view, right-click to download full-size version]
The current heatwave has driven millions to the south coast in search of cooling waters.
Normally English summer is defined as 3 sunny days then a thunderstorm, but it has been sunny
since Midsummer Day on June 24 and for over a week now it has been hotter than for years
(nearly 30 degrees C. in places), with no relief in sight. That 'relief' of course is at
least partial cloud cover offering intervals of shade from the glare, as seen here.
While the traditional claim this is the world's largest natural harbour is not correct,
within its 98-mile circumference it does offer a considerable variety of scenery and activities.
Here, looking SW from Rockley Heath in the NW corner, the harbour's biggest peninsula, Arne,
is visible. Less well-known than Brownsea Island [to the left of the picture], this is a
quiet nature-reserve area of trails, wetland [see image below] and lagoon, with its own 'secret'
bay, deer and much bird-life (RSPB bird-watching hide by lagoon). In the background to the
right is another popular tourism destination, the Purbecks between Corfe Castle and Swanage,
which we've covered here
and its various on-screen appearances of the Purbecks area, here.
in this locality has shot up due to what the press has called the 'Broadchurch effect', after
the ITV murder-mystery serial Broadchurch. The drama attracted around 9 million
and enquiries and visits to the various West Dorset tourism websites have suddenly spiked.
Only the seafront scenes were in fact shot here, as West Bay itself was too small to provide
the range of locations needed to portray the fictional town of Broadchurch (the rest was
Clevedon in Somerset), but these were scenic enough to promote a surge in visitor interest.
This sea fort is currently in the news
because shifting coastal erosion patterns mean that waves are now lapping at its foundations,
threatening to undermine it. It is of considerable historic interest to visitors for it is
a development of several centuries of military fortification to control the Solent Narrows
between West Wight and the mainland. From here, there is a view east along the Solent, west
into Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole Bays, south to the Isle of Wight, and north over
the New Forest-Lymington area. Seen here from a westward-looking angle, in fact it sits on
a shingle spit which reaches most of the way southward to Wight, leaving only a narrow passage
for shipping. (This also made attack from its landward side difficult.)
Abbey Gardens, Winchester
Currrently, for the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice, Hampshire
tourism agencies are promoting
visitor sites in and around around Winchester, where the author died in 1817 and is buried
(in the Cathedral), with a guide to surrounding landmarks, such as nearby Chawton (where
she lived, and the Austen Museum is). Outside of organised package tours for keen 'Janeites'
(where participants sometimes dress in Regency costume), there may not be the hoped-for upsurge
in visitors that tourism chiefs are hoping for, as it's only a recent Austen screen adaptation
that really bumps up visitor numbers. Nevertheless, Winchester is worth seeing in and for
itself via a walkabout tour. A City Tourism leaflet outlines a recommended 'Sunset' walk
around the town centre, starting at the statue of King Alfred [visible at left in image above],
this being the old capital of England after he established his kingdom of Wessex.
"…the swan /Brings winter on his wing" goes the old weather
adage. Watching vees of swans, geese, ducks and other birds flying south was long a reliable
indicator of the onset of winter. These days the picture is more confused. The "first day
of winter," i.e. the day of the winter solstice [Dec 21st], which some claimed (citing the
Mayan calendar) would be the world's last, in the event proved a sunny moment amidst a stormy
season which has officialdom advising us not to travel over Xmas, due to widespread flooding.
If you want to see swans close up, Britain's largest nesting colony of mute swans is still just along the coast, at Abbotsbury Swannery on Fleet Lagoon (where the 'Dam Busters' bomb was tested). In fact, it is the world's only managed colony of such birds. Today, these swans are protected, the property of the Crown and no longer eaten; nor are they captive; their wings are not clipped and they can fly away. As they weren't calling when they were photographed, it's not clear what breed of swans these three specimens are (see closeup). Due to the region being such a crossroads for bird migration routes, whooper swans, trumpeter swans, and mute swans (which do not trumpet or whoop, only hiss) are all possibilities.
That Last Alfresco Meal - Terrace Bistro, Bournemouth Central
Once again, it's that time of year, to indulge in that last alfresco meal of the year before
it becomes too chilly to be able to sit outside comfortably and enjoy the warmth of the sun.
(Local mid-day temp. today, Nov 1st: 10 C.) The 'Continental' culture of pavement or terrace
cafes with outdoor seating was a long time coming here (some councillors tried to block it
as un-English), but is now an accepted part of the resort's more upmarket identity, for both
visitors and residents. This particular bistro/cafe/bar with free wi-fi is actually the latest,
opened this year, as part of the refurbishment of the Pavilion overlooking
Bournemouth's Central Gardens [view from terrace shown below], which now includes a series
of heritage plaques in black marble on the terrace above the cafe. The cafe is one of a number
of new establishments in Bournemouth (and Poole - cf. at the refurbished Lighthouse arts
centre) run by the Council's nonprofit company, BH Live - a sign of changing times.
If there were to be a quintessential image of this summer just ended, it would have to be
of changeable weather with sun one moment and rain the next. This is what happened here,
with that approaching low cloud in the distance soaking the scene in a sudden rain squall
a few moments after this was taken. The scene here is the view from Badbury Rings hillfort,
an Iron Age crossroads fortification in east-central Dorset. Today accessed via the B3082
Wimborne-Blandford road, it guarded a key local crossroads, where the Salisbury-Dorchester
road met the Poole-Bath long-distance trade route. It stands in the estate around Kingston
Lacy House managed by the National Trust (car park free, donation requested). The surrounding
terrain pictured here is used for the annual point-to-point race run by the local hunt.
As one of the strongholds of the Celtic Durotriges tribe, it would have been one of the
20 'oppida' (British towns) that fell to the siege tactics of the legionaries commanded by
Rome's future emperor Vepasian. Part of the defenses of these British oppida (of
which there were hundreds) was the fact that (as Caesar had earlier complained) they were
on wooded hills, and Badbury remains one of the few to retain tree cover inside. (Other hillforts
Vespasian attacked, like Hod and Hambledon Hills to the north or Maiden Castle to the west,
have long been denuded of tree cover. However you can walk clockwise around the rings at
Badbury, as some do for luck (it's a neopagan thing), and then into the beech and pine wood
to find the OS trig point with plaque showing what lies in each direction.
English Summer, Southwest Dorset
This is the view over Chesil Bank and the Fleet Lagoon, at noon on Midsummer's Day 2012, taken from Abbotsbury hill-fort where a beacon stands commemorating the one lit to signal the coming of the Spanish Armada on 21 July 1588. (In the event, the English Navy drove them off and summer gales then wrecked many of the galleons as they tried to escape up and around the British coast.) After the wettest April, the wettest May, the wettest June for a century and now what looks to be the wettest July, 2012's 'English summer' continues apace. Someone once sarcastically defined English summer as "three fine days and a thunderstorm", but this year it was several fine days (last week) and then a return to stormy weather. What the forecasters refer to as 'unsettled weather' does however provide dramatic cloudscape vistas evoking a Turner painting.
Mill-pond By Throop Mill
A picturesque riverbank or weir near a lily-covered mill-pond was a favorite of painters
in pre-photography days. Unfortunately, as with many such views, it is under threat. Throop
Mill [just to the left of the main photo, see inset below] has long been derelict
and the main weir footbridge, popular with walkers, has now become unsafe.
As one of the oldest villages subsumed into Bournemouth, whose northern boundary runs along
the Stour, Throop is a conservation area, with carefully preserved houses and cottages like
the one seen here. It is one of those areas off the main tourist trail but popular with local
walkers, in this case for its access to the Stour's riverbanks, country lanes and green meadows
lying between town and airport. However, the planned conversion of the old mill into a tearoom
and craft shop has had to be shelved
due to lack of funding, and the phrase "enjoy it while it lasts" now applies.
Poole Bay from Sandbanks, taken one winter afternoon as HM Cutter Valiant sails out
to the open sea from its berth in Poole Harbour [see inset below], past Old Harry Rocks,
which form the tip of the Purbeck peninsula.
At present, one of those mandatory public consultations
has been going on, for what that's worth. Some of the objections being coordinated by the
ad hoc campaigning group Challenge Navitus
to Eneco's "wind park" are to do with maritime safety, as the farm will create
a vast maze of navigation hazards for passenger ferries, merchant ships, official craft like
HMC Valiant or the RNLI lifeboat, as well as the thousands of yachts and other pleasure craft
moored at Poole, Lymington, Cowes etc. However, two years before the public consultation,
the Crown Estate (which owns much of the coast) already handed over to Eneco the 279 square
mile area of seabed it asked for to build its scheme. The area in future will thus be known
as Navitus Bay.
Clavel Tower, Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset
New Year’s saw national press coverage on the importance of recognising Britain's “follies”
as well worth preserving. This was prompted by a campaign by historian and author Gwyn Headley,
a tie-in with an ebook-update of his county-by-county series Follies Of England.
‘Follies’ means a building put up for ornamental or aesthetic reasons rather than practical
purposes. In the 18th and 19th centuries, in the wake of the landscaped-estate movement and
associated “Cult Of The Picturesque,” follies became fashionable among the landed gentry.
Your estate was just not really complete without an ornamental tower of some sort, a Greek-style
temple, an Italianate grotto, or some other feature that made your estate resemble a scene
from classical painting or (after the Romantic Movement) a ‘Gothick’ novel. If you were lucky
enough to have a left-over ruin such as a ruined abbey, you could carefully preserve that;
or if not, you could even have a fake ruin purpose-built.
In this case, the threat was from the sea eroding the headland. The tower then became an example of what could be done in the way of preservation: over a two year period, the whole tower was dismantled stone by stone and reassembled just inland, the cost defrayed by turning the rebuilt tower into holiday accommodation. It's more remote and harder to find than busy Corfe Castle, which for many adds to its appeal of Romantic isolation. But for those needing encouragement to venture further, also recently refurbished is the farm-produce cafe/shop in the village, pictured left. Our south-central region has more than a few examples of the different types of folly, and we’re working on a webpage on follies around the region. But in the meantime, some of those on our webpage on preserved scenic ruins arguably qualify as they are preserved largely for aesthetic reasons. [click here].
Tyneham Valley from Whiteway Hill
[click to view, right-click to view download full-size version]
The fine 'Indian summer' weather which began in September right on the day of the autumn
equinox and continued to the last Friday in October is now just a memory. With a long, grim
'Siberian' winter forecast, it seems appropriate to represent that memory with a suitable
local photo, of clouds creeping over a sunlit landscape.
weather, with constantly-alternating sun and rain, has made planning outdoors activities
more difficult. With the various types of marine activities popular along the coast here,
these have at least have been conducted with the reassurance of RNLI-lifeboat or Coastguard
air-sea rescue cover in the event of a mishap. With the increasing numbers of watercraft
of various types, mishaps are becoming frequent, as anyone can observe from this viewpoint
on the north side of Poole Harbour. (Just from this viewpoint, we saw half a dozen in an
hour, involving sailboats, a parasailer and a windsurfer.)
It's 350 years this month since the 1661 coronation of Charles II marked the public start
of what historians call the Restoration. The Restoration of the Monarchy was greeted as an
occasion of public celebration as it meant the end of two decades of bloody strife ending
in a Puritan republic that had even banned Xmas. Exactly a year later, on 23 April 1662,
a royal wedding was held to secure the succession.
17th Century Sites Of Historical
Interest: An Introduction To Sites You Can Visit
England's newest National Park was officially opened today [April 1st,
2011]. The new South Downs National Park extends eastward beyond our own south-central coverage
area, but the western end is adjacent to our own regional gateway for visitors from London
etc: St Catherine's Hill overlooking Winchester. Our main photo, above, was taken looking
westward from the new Park’s highest point, Butser Hill National Nature Reserve [270m /886
ft], which stands near its western end, within Hampshire’s largest protected (yew and beech)
woodland, Queen Elizabeth Country Park.
With Valentine's Day upon us, the press is full of features about things
to do and places to go for a romantic weekend. We can suggest none better for an outing in
this immediate area than a walk up St Catherine's Hill between Bournemouth and Christchurch.
(The main road access, the B3073
, runs down the west side of the hill, car park / access lane a quarter mile north of the
hospital.) It's still relatively unknown even locally, and has a somewhat mysterious history
(see our Notes & Queries feature, The
Mystery Of St Catherine's Hill, illustrated with photos taken in different seasons).
It's pleasantly wooded with pine trees, and at present there's a campaign to save it from
the Council's plans to deforest
it. It's thus less windswept than the open heathland the Council prefers, and hence walkable
year round, even during inclement winter weather. It has a labyrinth of paths, so that every
time you visit, you can take a different route and discover a new corner. There's little
danger of getting lost as you can re-orient yourself by looking at the view. There are so
many linked paths you can always discover a new corner or vista you haven't seen before.
Eype, West Dorset
The beach seen along here has been in the national news
this week [10-Jan-2011], due to the local Council listing it as being for sale for £1, or
best offer above that. Conservative-run West Dorset District Council explained
the £1 was just a simplified accounting convention since the beach doesn’t bring in any money,
but has associated maintenance costs, and the planned sale is part of the Council’s “asset
management plan.” The notion that a key beach on the Jurassic Coast (a World Heritage site
and major international tourism destination) should be sold for best offer over £1 on the
grounds it is not an asset bringing in any revenue may strike some as not so much simplified
accounting as simple-minded.
Our viewpoint, Thorncombe Beacon is, at 157m / 515ft, the second-highest point on England’s
South Coast, and takes its designation from the fact there is a beacon here built in 1988
to commemorate the one erected in 1588 to be set alight if the Spanish Armada was sighted
(which it was, heading east, leading to a sea battle off Portland). The highest point on
the south coast is a kilometre or so farther west: Golden Cap [National Trust], at 191m /
617ft another viewpoint well worth the climb [see inset photo below of Thorncombe Beacon
seen from Golden Cap]. Farther to the west, beyond another tiny resort, Seatown [with
pub-restaurant], and then Charmouth [town, slightly inland] is Lyme Regis, an even bigger
tourism draw, and it is possible for those fit enough to walk all the way as a scenic daytrip
The new hit
film just out, Tamara Drewe, based on a cult 2007 Guardian comic strip, was shot
at various locations in the West Dorset countryside. An article in the Telegraph
comments how when such scenic films create a surge of tourism interest, the experience of
visiting them does not always live up to expectations. Of course, it never will for anyone
expecting to see exactly what they saw on screen, but for anyone else, in this case it definitely
does. It was West Dorset’s “deep country” aspect that prompted the director to film it there
when the comic strip was set closer to Bournemouth, at locations ranging from Bridport near
the coast to Yetminster near Sherborne and the Somerset boundary. West of Dorchester, the
inland countryside changes from the flatter eastern half of Dorset to a landscape of rolling
downs where every turn in the road brings a different perspective, and there are many climbable
hills as viewpoints.
The view pictured above is from the Hardy Monument at Portesham, the first major inland
viewpoint beyond Dorchester [detour S off A35]. It is not named after the author of the “Wessex
Novels” like Far From The Madding Crowd (which also largely inspired Tamara
Drewe) but his naval namesake, Nelson’s flag officer of “Kiss me, Hardy” fame. This
Thomas Hardy was from the village of Portesham, and the 72ft (22m) Monument was erected in
his memory in 1844. It was recently repaired, and this summer the surrounding land seen here
was bought by Dorset County Council, for the purpose of “improving public access, creating
learning opportunities and promoting recreation such as walking, picnics and enjoying its
views and tranquillity - a source of inspiration for art and poetry." (Tamara Drewe,
pictured below, is set at a writers' retreat where writers are meant to draw inspiration
from staying in the area.)
[click to view, right-click to download full-size version]
This year, the Dorset
Architectural Heritage Week of open days runs from 8-16 September. Sites include (in
no particular order) Hardy's Cottage, Weymouth (town walk), Blandford (town walk), Highcliffe
Castle, Christchurch River & Harbour Cruise, Lulworth Castle & Park, Mapperton House, Poundbury,
Christchurch Castle, Hengistbury Head, St Catherine's Hill, Clavell Tower, Clouds Hill Cottage,
and Corfe Castle. The programme can be downloaded from here
[PDF], with booking details here
[click to view, right-click to download full-size version]
The usual meaning of 'Somerset' given is people of The Summer Country, and the arrival of
fine summer weather makes the Tor a natural choice for a viewpoint, for on a fine day such
as this [July 9, 2010] one can see farther from here than anywhere in the region. With the
coming of summer, Glastonbury becomes an international tourism destination (outside of the
famous music festival held annually nearby).
Glastonbury itself is the focus of many legends about the first British church being founded
here by the disciple Joseph of Arimatheia sailing here when it was still a port. Supposedly
he planted his staff on Wearyall Hill [the ridge visible in the photo above, lower right],
and it sprouted into a Palestinian variety of thorn tree. He also supposedly brought with
him sacred Christian relics like the Grail which features in the Arthurian legends. A tomb
excavated in the Abbey grounds in 1991 is claimed to be the site of Arthur and Guenevere's
grave. This nexus of associated legends is the basis of much of the area's tourism [more
[click to view, right-click to download full-size version]
Bournemouth and Poole have a new joint tourism campaign for 2010, “The
Coast With the Most.” It has the tagline “Love Watersports, Love Bournemouth and
Poole,” which was evidently meant to tie in with the new artificial surf reef constructed
in Poole Bay off Boscombe Pier and new seafront development (which has just won a restoration
award). In the event, the surf reef completed in the autumn has proved somewhat underpowered
for the handful of keen year-round surfers [pictured] who promoted the idea, but
there are plenty of more general-interest attractions all along the coast. As BBC’s hit TV
series Coast demonstrated, Poole Harbour is so shallow that it is relatively safe
for beginners to learn water sports in, with various equipment-rental services for this.
And any definition of “The Coast With the Most” would have to include the Jurassic Coast,
which starts on the west side of Poole Bay just beyond the sands of Studland Bay, out of
shot on the left. Note that our photo, taken from Bournemouth Pier on a bright but breezy
March day, is not of the Boscombe–Eastcliff surf-reef side, but shows the Westcliff side,
with the Marriott-Highcliff Hotel above the cliff-face lift from the beach.
[click to view, right-click to download full-size version]
The Anglo-Saxons called February Solmonath, the month of Sol the sun, commorating
the first sunny days of the year. This is the phenomenon referred to as 'false spring,' when
the first hardy green shoots appear, just before winter's last gasp. The first week of February
is also the start of spring in another sense. The halfway points between solstices and equinoxes
are known as cross-quarter days, and were marked by ancient festivals. The 5th/6th of Febrary
is the halfway mark between the midwinter solstice [21/22 Dec] and the spring equinox [21
March]. The former is the point when the nights rather than the days begin to get shorter,
and the latter the point when the days become as long as nights.
Full English Breakfast, Dorchester cafe
[click to view, right-click to download full-size version]
With the entire island of Britain in the grip of Arctic conditions this month, a photo of
icy roads, fields etc might seem de rigeur. But instead of one more such photo to add to
the tens of thousands already uploaded to personal and news sites, I thought we'd have something
different, a photo of what is most important to people in such times - hot meals. Although
the supermarkets are reportedly running out of bread, milk and other perishables due to delivery
slowdowns combined with panic buying, the cafes along the transport routes are still going,
providing vital breaks and comfort to the snowbound traveller. The 'Full English Breakfast'
is an English institution, a meal which can be had in B&Bs and some pubs as well as cafes
and restaurants, sometimes on an "all-day" basis. This may date back to author Somerset Maugham's
famous dictum, "To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day."
The standard shorthand for the ingredients is 'EBCB' or eggs, bacon, chips, and beans,
usually with toast or fried bread on the side. There will be fried tomatoes and perhaps mushrooms,
and these days a complete vegetarian version of the FEB is usually available. These meals
are often made using local produce where possible. This one is from a Dorchester cafe, but
wherever you find 'Full English Breakfast' listed, you'll find having one sets you up for
the whole day.
[click to view, right-click to download full-size version]
The week before the winter solstice and Xmas has brought genuine wintry weather, with freezing
rain, black ice, sleet, and fog resulting in a few traffic disasters. The winter solstice
[Dec 21/22] is when the sun is at a standstill (sunset and sunrise are the same time for
a period of 2-3 days), and the days are at their shortest before getting longer again. Archaeologists
now say (based on finds of the bones of pigs which would have born in the spring and when
killed were around 9 months old) that this was when the main rendezvous and feast occurred
at Stonehenge. They surmise this may have been the main feast of the year in pre-Christian
Britain. (For more on the ancient calendar, click here: The
Ancient Country Year.)
[click to view, right-click to download full-size version]
The Arne Peninsula, on the southern edge of Poole Harbour, is not well-known, but has been
in the local news lately. This was part of November's Remembrance Day events, in commemoration
of its wartime role as a night-time 'bombing decoy' ground, to lure the Luftwaffe into bombing
it instead of Poole across the Harbour - or the Holton Heath cordite factory nearby. Tar
barrels, troughs of petrol and the like were set alight to simulate the appearance of a city
or factory on fire, leading the bombers to drop their bombs there without loss of life.
Hallowe’en weekend, with the media focusing on spooky subjects, I thought this image might
make a more appropriate local-interest choice than the usual ghosts etc. In most such cases,
you can only read about others reporting strange phenomena, but at Avebury you can see for
yourself, walk among the prehistoric megaliths, and decide whether or not the stones are
actually hewn into faces. If so, what do they represent? Visitors claim they can see faces
on many of the stones, with some vaguely human and others distinctively animal-shaped - as
shown below [hold mouse over image].
This is an alternative to earlier schemes over the past two decades, culminating - after
£38 million was spent on consultation fees for aborted schemes - in a plan last year to replace
the A303 main road by excavating a sort of mini Channel Tunnel under Salisbury Plain -- not
surprisingly dropped as too expensive, at £500 million-plus.) Avebury meanwhile, remains
in care of the National Trust,
who let visitors walk within the stone circle, which is larger and older than Stonehenge.
Last Days Of Summer, Poole Harbour
[click to view, right-click to download full-size version]
in England, the autumn weather is sunnier than it was in the summertime. After the promised
“BBQ summer” failed to appear, the press have been headlining a “BBQ autumn,” with ‘unseasonal’
sunny weather offering a final opportunity for outdoors pursuits. The south-central coast
is a boating playground – hence the decision to hold the marine events for the 2012 olympic
summer games here. Poole Harbour in particular is a natural marine playground – shallow,
yet almost the largest natural harbour around (98 miles in circumference). Most of the northern
side is now a yachting haven, new shoreline housing developments having their own private
marinas with mooring areas and slipways. The summer-only residents have gone home by now,
leaving the harbour relatively quiet. Local boat owners however can enjoy these last glory
days of summer, before autumn gales force them to stow sails and batten down the hatches.
For now, harbour waters are calm and still, the only waves from the wake of passing power
boats, often pulling waterskiers. Overall, the appearance is almost that of a painting. Here,
in the background along the shore at Hamworthy can be glimpsed one of the newer harbour-shore
developments at right, with the more traditional type of British seashore structure at left
– the beach hut.
Along here is
the area known simply as Lake, where Vespasian’s Roman legions set up their first mainland
foothold. Westward are the sandhills of Ham Common and Rockley Sands development and holiday
park. Beyond Lytchett Bay, the channel turns southwest, between Holton Heath to the north
and the almost completely unspoilt Arne peninsula on the south or Purbeck side, leading up
the Frome towards Wareham via a meandering route through an extensive reed-marsh at the river
[click to view, right-click to download full-size version]
English Heritage’s Architectural Heritage Week Open Days are here again, with hundreds
of sites not normally accessible to the public opened up for free, often with bookable guided
tours available. (Year-round, many of these are normally only open limited hours, or do not
offer guided tours, or are not free.) The scene shown above for instance is a public site,
and indeed is a famous postcard view. (Yes, it’s the one in the old Hovis ads.) But the adjoining
ruined Abbey whose buttresses can be see on the right of the picture normally has limited
public access. Abbey Park Walk viewpoint [pictured below] over Blackmore Vale to
the south is open 365 days a year as a public promenade, but the Abbey ruins behind are walled
[click to view, right-click to download full-size version]
This famous Dorset landmark, carved on the Coast Downs in or before 1808 to commemorate
George III’s stays at Weymouth, is in the news this week. The story is that a 2-day makeover
of the Osmington White Horse, done for a TV ‘challenge’ show, was botched. In September 1989,
BBC’s ‘Challenge Anneka’ tasked presenter Anneka Rice and several local Scouts with making
the rather overgrown figure show up better. Tons of white Portland stone chippings were brought
in to dress the exposed limestone, which is more greyish-purple than white. This was 20 years
ago, and in the last few years, the hasty makeover has succumbed to age, leaving the carving
looking rather grotty-looking, due to uneven placement, slippage and weathering. The photo
above is one I took over 5 years ago, on a sunny day in July '04, and can be compared with
more recent ones in the press [Daily Mail story here]
or on Wikipedia,
which show the deterioration since then.
The 2012 Summer
Olympic & Para-Olympic Games are being held not only in London, but down here as well, along
the coast between Portland and here.
The sailing events will be held off Portland, but Christchurch Bay will be used for competitor
training and practice. Because of the income the Games are expected to bring
to the locality, certain key areas are being upgraded. The coast esplanade, just visible
beyond the line of beach huts, is to be refurbished, to quote BBC News [27 Aug 09], with
a “new beach access track and areas for sailors and watersports people to store and launch
Red Arrows Departing, Poole Bay
[click to view, right-click to download full-size version]
Said to be the largest event of its kind in the UK, the 2nd Bournemouth Air Festival [20-23
Aug 2009] drew record crowds of over 300,000 a day, and over a million altogether. There
were aerobatics displays by helicopters, biplane and monoplane prop planes and jets, and
ground events like a simulated beach landing by the Royal Marines, and evening fireworks.
(An over-promoted 'world-record' show on the first evening got bad publicity in the national
press for being a fizzle.) The 4-day show's aerial 'stars' were the RAF's Battle Of Britain
Memorial Flight of 3 WWII planes (a Spitfire, a Hurricane and a Lancaster), the RAF's newest
fighter the Eurofighter Typhoon, a restored Avro Vulcan delta-wing nuclear bomber (a no-show
in 08), and of course, the perennial favourite, the RAF Red Arrows aerobatics team. This
photo, taken from Bournemouth's Eastcliff at 4pm on Saturday, Day 3, shows the Red Arrows
flying off into the late-afternoon haze and cloud, watched by a crowd estimated by police
at 340,000, including an 'armada' of nearly a thousand boats moored offshore.
Red Arrows over Bournemouth Gardens
The 2nd Bournemouth Airshow, Thurs 20th - Sun 23rd August, again stars the RAF Red Arrows, who open and close the 4-day event. There are dozens of other attractions - the RAF's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, an RAF Eurofighter Typhoon, the last airworthy Avro Vulcan nuclear bomber, a Sea Vixen, a US WW2 P51 Mustang long-range fighter, with various helicopters performing aerobatics as well as the range of prop and jet planes. In the Central Gardens in the evenings is a 'Night Air' entertainments programme, with hot air balloons, fireworks displays, a Royal Marines band, laser show etc. (Last year's show was attended by an estimated 750,000, so any visit needs planning. For schedule of main highlights, click here.)
Dorset’s key inland ‘viewpoint’ features. For anyone ready, willing and able to take a hike
up them and then around their perimeter rampart, they offer 360-degree views over Dorset’s
varied landscape panorama. In fact, the stem of the names Dorset and Dorchester (Roman Durnovaria)
may derive from that of the builders of dozens of these ‘multivallate’ [i.e. multiple walls
and banks] hillforts - the Celtic Durotriges tribe, thought to mean “wall artificers.”
The walls are giant earthen ramparts [pictured in foreground] with ditches large
enough to be railway cuttings, and have survived twenty five centuries of erosion, unlike
the timber palisades that stood atop them. In times of hostile incursion, they could hold
thousands of people together with their flocks and herds, on a temporary basis (drinking
water being the problem). The Roman campaign of AD 43 led by future emperor Vespasian classed
them as oppida, translated as tribal towns. Vespasian’s legions had to conquer over
twenty of them, necessitating the use of siege engines firing giant ballista bolts.
with its ranks of empty deckchairs and unused BBQ, is a typical scene these days, given the
continuing vagaries of English summer weather. (The Met Office had mistakenly predicted a
"BBQ summer.") After the June heatwave (as the papers like to say, Phew, what a
scorcher) - as ever followed by a period of stormy weather - we've returned to normal English
summer weather. This means even when the sun shines, it never gets hot, due to the strong
afternoon breezes. It might seem that another English tradition - gazing at the sea for hours
- is sadly dying away. But while the Councils who charge for deckchair hire might feel this
way, contributing to the abandonment of the traditional deckchair holiday is no doubt the
increased range of attractions and activities available. There are more and more these every
year, here on the Jurassic Coast, even if you
just want to gaze out to sea. As they used to say in the old travel books, views of great
Burton Bradstock beach and Hive Beach Café
[click to view, right-click to download full-size version]
Though England has just enjoyed more than the proverbial 'two fine days and a thunderstorm'
that make up a typical English summer (with a heatwave lasting well over a week), the return
of more typical unsettled weather has made planning a holiday outing problematic. However
even if going to the beach for a suntan is not an option, Dorset's Jurassic Coast offers
all-weather outdoors pursuits. Even on a rainy day, a favourite activity is a 'bracing' walk
along the seashore, inevitably followed by a hot meal at a nearby café or inn. A particularly
popular rendezvous for this, year-round, is the Hive
Beach Café at the western end of Chesil Bank near Burton Bradstock in West Dorset. The
seaside café/bakery/ice cream parlour has regularly won awards, most recently Coast magazine's
2009 Award for Best Coastal Café/Pub/Restaurant, and the Times shortlist [4-7-09] of Britain's
top-ten fish-n-chip outlets. The seafood menu is sourced where possible from Lyme Bay, of
which the café environs offer an impressive view, a walk along the bluffs being a must before
or (usually) after a meal. (As Dorset-resident TV chef Lesley Waters puts it, "You get
a big bowl of fish soup with really good bread, then walk it off on the beach.")
The fuss in
the national press about the MP who claimed on his expenses a floating “duck house” for his
Hampshire estate has made anything to do with the topic newsworthy. In fact, many old estates
had duck ponds, often with a “duck island” to prevent foxes getting the ducklings. These
were known as Decoy Ponds or Coy Ponds (nothing to do with the koi carp who also now often
reside in them), as they were used to ‘decoy’ migratory water-birds like ducks down, so they
could be netted or shot. Wooden - now plastic – decoy ducks were moored to lure unsuspecting
birds into seeing it as safe to land there.
and Worbarrow Tout [a Celtic term for a sacred headland], photographed from Flowers Barrow
hill fort. This is a spot which made the news this weekend. The arrival of summer weather
has brought thousands to the coast, which in turn keeps the Portland Coastguard helicopter
and the RNLI lifeboats busy
rescuing people. The news coverage was because spectators atop the Tout refused to move out
the way, preventing the Coastguard helicopter from winching a crewman directly down to where
a man and a girl were stuck on the cliff. (The pair had tried to climb up the Tout from the
footpath along the side.) The helicopter had to lower the winchman and traverse him along
the cliff. You can’t see it in the thumbnail version, but if you examine the desktop size
image, you’ll see the end of the incident, the Coastguard helicopter sidling up to the bayshore
to drop the pair safely onto the beach. The coast here is popular as it is accessed via another
attraction, the ruined [now preserved] village of Tyneham [see our Scenic
where the sailing events will be held for the 2012 Summer Olympics. A National Sailing Academy
is currently being built here, on the NE corner of the peninsula, by the site of the former
RNAS heli-port, part of a £400m development programme to include a marina and luxury spa
hotel. Portland Harbour beyond was long the southern port of the Home Fleet, but was largely
abandoned in the 1990s after the Cold War ended. To the left, the Chesil Bank enclosing the
Fleet Lagoon stretches away NW into the distance. (The Fleet was where the Dam Busters bouncing
bomb was tested – it’s actual footage of the 1942 Fleet test drops you see in the 1954 film,
currently being remade). The Queen and Prince Philip will pay a visit to the Sailing Academy
in June. Weymouth [in the distance, right] is the resort King George III sojourned at during
several summers to help cure his madness, first making the idea of the seaside resort fashionable
in polite society. The royal couple will also visit the Tank
Museum at Bovington near Dorchester, redeveloped with the help of £16.5m in Heritage
Lottery Funding, and being officially reopened by the Queen the same day, June 11th.
Osborne House, Isle Of Wight
This seems a timely choice as the film Young Victoria (on current release and coming
out on DVD), has made many aware of the Queen's early happy married life. Victoria had spent
youthful seaside holidays on Wight, at Norris Castle near Cowes, having begun her popular
'Royal Progress' trip of 1833 by yacht along the Dorset-Devon coast here. After she became
Queen, she and Albert bought up the Osborne estate next to Norris Castle, and had their own
'marine palace' built overlooking The Solent. It was designed in the then-fashionable Italianate
style as the Solent view [pictured below] reminded Albert of the Bay Of Naples.
The Italianate design would give the place some of the appeal of a sunny Mediterranean resort.
The Georgian manor house was rebuilt in Palladian style, including campanile towers,
a loggia balcony, and pavilion. Terraced gardens with statues and fountains in Renaissance
style cascaded down towards the seashore, where Victoria had her own bathing machine.
recent ‘Arctic’ (for England, that is) weather has been documented by tens of thousands of
images of snowy or frosty winter scenes uploaded to various websites. As we had already posted
a bleak-midwinter scene (the Stonehenge silhouette, below) last time, I decided this time
we should look ahead to Spring, whose first rays and shoots are just now becoming apparent.
The sure sign of Spring having fully arrived is when you are able to go for an alfresco pub
lunch, sitting outside in the garden of a country inn: this popular rite of passage is surely
the real test of winter’s finally being over. Well, we’re not at that stage quite yet, but
to cheer us all up here’s an alfresco pub meal from last year, taken in the garden of the
Scott Arms overlooking Corfe Castle. The pub has often been used by TV crews (there are souvenir
stills in the hallway inside), and I think even film director turned food critic Michael
Winner would have approved of this fare. In case you can’t tell, the two meals were bacon,
eggs, & chips with onion rings, and bangers & mash with a side-order of grilled tomatoes,
and of course the view over the Purbeck Hills is great. For a panoramic view taken from this
same pub garden, see the page on our sister site The
Isle Of Purbeck On Screen.
in silhouette is our chosen image to portray the midwinter period. For recent archaeological
research suggests Midwinter sunset, and not Midsummer sunrise (when the largest crowds now
gather every year) was the key date in its use in ancient times. Its central "avenue" is
aligned to the solstices at each end (21 June and 21 December). But analysis of pig bones
found in pits nearby indicates the main prehistoric feast was in December. It would thus
be a celebration of the passing of the shortest day (and longest night) - and thus the lengthening
of the days again towards the spring equinox (21 March), when days and nights are of equal
length. This in turn is the halfway point to the start of another summer at the festival
anciently called Beltane, and later May Day.
Autumn is the
season of mixed weather, with crisp sunny days giving way to rainy ones, and misty weather
in between. Due to its topography, Portland is one of those places that acquires a dramatic
and mysterious quality in misty weather, with unusual features suddenly looming up at you
out of the fog. Here, a double ruin overlooks Church Ope Cove, on the E side of Portland.
In the foreground stands the ruin of St Andrew's Church, and above in the background, ruined
taken at Lymington Market in October, was chosen as this is traditionally the time of year
when plentiful health-giving food is celebrated as part of what are termed harvest festivals.
Although America’s national November holiday of Thanksgiving was established by the early
Puritan colonists, many of whom came from this region, it is not officially observed in Britain.
This is despite the fact that other forms of harvest festival, like the Harvest Home Supper
depicted in Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd, were never officially adopted as
national holidays. What is still alive, and becoming more popular yearly, is the phenomenon
of the farmer’s market or local produce market, usually set up by the food producers themselves,
but now promoted as a visitor attraction. Most of these events are in the summer for obvious
reasons, but some markets run throughout the year.
had been blown out like a candle by a biting wind that ushered in a leaden August sky. A
sharp, stinging drizzle fell, billowing into opaque grey sheets when the wind caught it.
Along the Bournemouth sea-front the beach-huts turned blank wooden faces towards a greeny-grey,
frothchained sea that leapt eagerly at the cement bulwark of the shore.” The
opening lines of Gerald Durrell's 1956 My Family And Other Animals could have been
written this year, and make for a fitting image to commemorate a wet summer giving way to
autumn rains. The beach-huts mentioned are a historic feature, the Council claiming in a
to have pioneered the beach hut 100 years ago, in 1908. (Since then, the beach hut has become
a national institution, an alternative to sitting in a damp seafront shelter during the rainy
weather which is increasingly a feature of the British summer.) Over 50 of what the Council
says will be “the best beach huts in the world” are currently being developed,
ranging from luxury penthouse “super beach huts” down to single “surfer
pods”, to tie in with the £2.68m surf reef
(“the first artificial surf reef in the northern hemisphere”) now being
built on the far side of the town's 2nd Pier, Boscombe Pier, which is also being refurbished.
Salisbury Cathedral Cloisters
This year, Salisbury Cathedral is celebrating the 750th anniversary of its completion and
dedication, in 1258. The Cathedral has the tallest spire, at 404', in England (some claim
in all of Europe), but it's been difficult to get a classic exterior shot for some time,
as the façade has been shrouded in scaffolding. English Heritage rejected a £1.3m grant application
for extensive restoration to its crumbling masonry, as it will pay only for essential work
on an ongoing ad-hoc basis, which means an endless cycle of temporary repairs.
Now, a report backed by Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber called 'Sacred Britain' has recommended
marketing initiatives be established e.g. to "publicise the role of churches in genealogy
to the thousands of Americans expected for the 2012 Olympic Games in London." Salisbury
Cathedral installed an entry turnstile where you would hand over a "voluntary donation" ,
and they also tell you the amount you should give (on their website
it's £5 per adult and £12 for families). They also had 'formal' admission charges during
750th Anniversary events like the Flower Festival in the summer, but this is now over. It's
also less crowded now school has re-started, but with other "Salisbury Cathedral 750" events
ending September 30th, it'll soon be last chance to see the historic exhibit in its inner
sanctum, the Cloisters courtyard shown in the downloadable image above.
The image above
was taken Sunday 31st August, on the final afternoon of the first Bournemouth Airshow, when
the weather was closing in. It shows the final fly-past over Bournemouth beach of an Avro
Lancaster bomber. A type made famous byThe Dam Busters, the Lanc had performed every
day at the Airshow together with a Spitfire and a Hurricane as part of the Battle Of Britain
Memorial Flight. Despite the weather, the Airshow attracted an estimated three-quarters of
a million spectators, and is to be repeated next year.
This is the
only remnant [OS map ref SY634805] of a hamlet left by a storm surge mentioned in JM
Falkner’s smuggling novel Moonfleet, which is set in the vicinityy. In 1824, the
sea breached Chesil Bank and overflowed the Fleet Lagoon within, sweeping away the village
and the rest of what was their parish church. What you see is actually the old chancel, since
maintained for use as a chapel, on the site of the lost village of Fleet. A new parish church
( a larger Gothic Revival church, Holy Trinity) was built in 1827 a quarter-mile northwest,
closer to the present village.
The photo above,
taken last month (in late June), shows how seaside resort and dramatic natural features are
juxtaposed along the Jurassic Coast.
The ruin of
this mediaeval church, built deliberately inside a prehistoric 'pagan' sacred site, makes
a suitable choice for National Archaeology
Week 2008, which begins today (12th July). NAW runs for 9 days (this could only happen
in England), when selected archaeological sites (including current 'digs') are open to visitors,
and there are special educational museum exhibits. However, as with the Architectural Heritage
Weeks in September, only a few sites in each county are open, and the more interesting ones
are not on the list. Knowlton, near Cranborne in east Dorset, is an example of such a neglected
site, one you can walk around freely (in both senses). For more info on this site and others
of interest here, see our webpage on the Top
Ten Scenic Ruins In The Region.
has finally arrived in England, with July 1st the hottest day of the year so far. I chose
this as a suitable high-summer scene, the sort Victorian landscape painters would have selected
as an idyllic vista. (There's a romantic if dubious legend of a local noble fleeing across
here after the death of King William Rufus in August 1100 AD in the New Forest in an odd
"hunting accident." Later it was a smugglers' route. )
This is the view most people get of the 180ft high chalk giant visible from the official
viewpoint, in a lay-by just outside Cerne Abbas village in central Dorset. It's not a great
view (you need to take binoculars to see any detail), but I thought it was worth offering
a desktop-size download under the circumstances.
St Augustine's Well
Glastonbury Abbey ruins
A shot of the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, taken on the June 1st weekend. The property was re-acquired by the church 100 years ago, in 1908. It had been in private hands following Henry VIII's Dissolution of The Monasteries, which had seen what had been England's finest abbey ruined. It is semi-officially known as "the cradle of Christianity in England" as some believe the first church in England (perhaps in Europe) stood here. Every year, there are both Catholic and CoE pilgrimages. This year, the Catholic one comes first (Saturday 7th June), followed by the Church of England's own official Glastonbury Pilgrimage 2008 on Saturday 21st June.
The New Forest
[click to view, right-click to download full-size version]
Above: A woodland area in the depths of The New Forest, once a Royal Forest (i.e. mediaeval
hunting preserve), redeveloped after WWII by the Forestry Commission with new conifer plantations,
and now our newest National Park.
View from South Cadbury Hillfort
Corfe Castle, April
Spring equinox 2007, The Agglestone, Purbeck
The fact of having a cathedral gave Wells the legal status of a city, albeit today England's
smallest. Unlike nearby Glastonbury Abbey, the Cathedral survived the Reformation almost
intact, together with the moated Bishop's Palace. It is today regarded by some as the most
magnificent example of its kind.
Row, Sandbanks (the spit of land enclosing Poole Harbour on the north) has been much featured
in the media this past year. Regularly the topic of newspaper stories on high property prices,
it was also showcased in an episode (on the 'Property Coast') of BBC's hit series Coast and
an ITV 3-part series hosted by Piers Morgan in January 2008. Its nickname Millionaires' Row
derives from the fact it is the most expensive real estate in Britain, owing to its combination
of a central location (within the Poole-Bournemouth conurbation) and scenic views. Due to
its siting on a narrow sandspit, houses have an upper-floor view over Poole Bay to seaward
and, in the other direction, Poole Harbour.
takes on a different aspect in winter - quiet and mysterious when fog-shrouded - from its
summer image, when it is a lively venue for water-based sports of various kinds.
The Avon Valley
and western edge of The New Forest at New Year's, looking E from St Catherine's Hill viewpoint
N of Christchurch. The valley is wet bottomland along here and low-lying fog is a regular
feature of the area on winter mornings.
the most suitable wintry photo I could find for December. We haven't had any serious snowfall
for some years.)
Down, in Hampshire: the scarp or escarpment is famous as the home of a colony of rabbits
in the Richard Adams novel and animated film and tv series based on it, but is a real place
[Wiki page here]. The
Wafayers Walk long-distance path skirts it, as does a cross-country cyle route, though sightings
of rabbits are not guaranteed....
The view from Farley Down, Hampshire, looking SE towards Southampton, towards sunset on a late-August evening, just after a rainshower — hence the (double) rainbow.
Google Earth Map
As well as Ordnance Survey's Get-A-Map service [see below],"Google Earth" is also useful to gain directions to sites. Google Earth offers satellite photos, maps, or photos with a map overlay (usually road and town names) if you select the “Hybrid” tab. When loaded, the initial view from the link below will show the entire south-central region which we cover. You can zoom in from there using the “+” slider control. Map View | Hybrid View
Today, you can also access Google Maps on a smartphone, and most of these have a function to download a map section for viewing offline if need be.
Ordnance Survey Maps Online
To visit or locate many of the sites we discuss on these web-pages, you'll need one of several Ordnance Survey maps. The OS Maps series, produced by a Crown agency based in Southampton, are traditionally available via bookshops and outdoors equipment shops (usually £4-6), and shopping for these is best done in person. (You have to check which ones you need - your planned trips may easily cross into another map area.)
The series you need, for both driving and walking, is the Landranger 1:50,000-scale map series. The 'sheet' numbers are: 183 and 184 [covering Wiltshire], 193 [W Dorset and E Somerset], 194 [central Dorset], 195 [E Dorset], and 196 [New Forest and Wight].
There is also an Ordnance Survey double CD set available for around £20, but having bought this several years ago when it first appeared, I have to say it's more of a sampler, with only a few detailed map sections available for any given area. Although the printed versions are really a necessity for actual trips, when you are just doing preliminary planning, these days you can access and download relevant map sections free, from here: 'Get-a-map' from Ordnance Survey.
As with other websites, you can also right-click on the on-screen image to save it to your computer for future reference. The map sections are in PNG format, so you'll need a graphics viewer that can handle these. (If stuck, install IrfanView - it's a versatile freeware graphics programme which can view PNGs and resave them in the more familiar GIF, JPEG or BMP formats.)
You can search by place name, by postcode, or by grid reference. If you know the OS grid reference (such as ST653167 for Sherborne Castle in north Dorset) of a site (e.g. from a guidebook or website), you can use it to get the relevant map. Note that however, for readability, these codes are often printed in guidebooks with spaces or slashes between the two-letter prefixes and sets of three or four figures (e.g. as 'ST 653 167' or as 'ST653/167'). However this will not work when inputting the reference into the OS website search-box - this punctuation must be removed if you type (or copy and paste) any online coordinates directly into the OS website's search box.)
If you don't know how to find sites using the OS grid-reference co-ordinates when using the printed versions, click below to download our printable PDF, Reading Ordnance Survey Maps.
Tourism Info - Links