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Hengistbury Head Walk

This article describes a coastal circular walk in the Southbourne, Hengistbury Head and Christchurch area of the South Coast of England (near Bournemouth) with spectacular sea and harbour views. The total walking distance is approximately 4 miles and the use of public transport (bus and ferry) is also involved. Please note that the ferry service only operates from April to October and may not run in bad weather so please check before you start (contact information for the ferry in the section “Ferry Ride” below).

I love this walk. If you are visiting this area I urge you to consider this for a day out. I don't think you will be disappointed.

Map

The following shows the general area of the walk:

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zzNoZu85X_-c.k5iU8G1SY6bM

Starting Point

The suggested starting point is at the end of Fisherman’s walk by the Fisherman’s walk cliff lift. The nearest postcode for sat nav is BH5 2EL. This is a good starting point as there is plenty of (free) parking on the Overcliff Drive, as well as on several nearby side roads (Seaward Avenue, Southern Road, Grand Avenue and others). The council is threatening to start imposing parking charges in these areas, but at the time of writing (Jan 2014) it is still free parking. It should be mentioned that in July and August on a hot and sunny day it is likely to get very busy, but if you plan to start your walk by about 10 o’clock there should be no problem parking.

Another good reason for choosing this starting point is that there is a Cafe (Cafe Riva http://riva-southbourne.co.uk/) where you can have a very nice breakfast before you start the walk. The Cafe has outside seating and you can enjoy views over to the Isle of Purbeck as well as to the Isle of Wight and the Needles while you have your breakfast.

When you get back at the end of your walk there is a pub (the Commodore https://www.oldenglishinns.co.uk/our-locations/the-commodore-bournemouth) just across the road from the Cafe where you can get a meal (and a drink!) at any time of day.

If you are planning to use by public transport, there are several bus services (1C, 1B, M1 and M2) which can take you to the other end of Fisherman’s walk (see Alternate Start waypoint on the map), from which it is a 5 minute walk along Fisherman’s walk to the suggested starting point. These buses have an LCD display that will tell you when you have arrived at your stop.

Bus information and timetables are available here https://www.bybus.co.uk/

Start of the Walk

From Cafe Riva you walk along the cliff top to the East along the footpaths between the cliff edge and the overcliff drive. This section of the walk is only about half a mile long after which you reach a zig zag path which you follow to take you down to the beach.

In this area of Southbourne (indeed throughout the whole of Bournemouth and Poole) there are many park benches which have been provided to the community by families in memory of relatives and loved ones that have died. Walking down this zig zag I often reflect on the different hands that people are dealt in the lottery of life. Near the top of the zig zag you will see that Babs Lennon lived to the ripe old age of 101. Further down Teresa Harding lived a relatively modest 53 years, and near the bottom you see that Zara Jade Ainsworth sadly died when only 16 (I have no idea about the circumstances).

Beach Section

At the bottom of the zig zag turn left. There is a tarmac road (there are no motor vehicles, but you may well encounter bikes and skateboards), or you may prefer to walk along the beach itself. In this particular section of the beach the groynes which are located approximately every 400 yards are well buried in the sand so it is easy to walk along the waters edge.

After approx 2/3 or a mile you will reach another cafe, Bistro on the beach, another good opportunity for a drink and/or a snack. http://www.bistroonthebeach.co.uk/

At this point I like to rejoin the tarmac road, as the beach becomes more difficult to walk on due to increasing level of shingle.

Walking along the tarmac road you are looking directly towards a headland - this is Hengistbury Head, your destination.

Continue right along to the end of the tarmac path where it gives way to beach.

Hengistbury Head approach

At the end of the tarmac road, turn left and climb the flight of about 30 steps, and then turn right along the road. After only about 75 yards there is an entrance on the right hand side to a footpath leading to Hengistbury Head.

This section of the walk has a different feel to the beach section - you are now walking along a golf links type environment with a mixture of grass paths and raised boardwalks. These will lead you in about 3/4 of a mile to the entrance to Hengistbury Head Nature Reserve.

Hengistbury Head

Hengistbury Head is a designated site of special scientific interest and a nature reserve. It was also the site of a bronze age settlement. There is plenty of information about Hengistbury Head available at this link

http://www.hengistburyhead.org/

There is also a new visitor centre which is scheduled to open in Spring 2014. This is not located directly along the path of this walk, but I have marked its location as a waypoint on the map for those that are interested and may want to add a small detour.

Very soon the path will take you on the climb up to the top of Hengistbury head. In fact Hengistbury Head is only some 120 feet in height, so the climb is not that arduous. However, because of its position it offers fantastic views in all directions. In particular you now have a splendid view down over Christchurch harbour, you can also see Christchurch Priory and there are views off towards Highcliffe and Milford on sea.

If you are anything like me, you will spend quite some time enjoying these views (luckily there are more park benches up here also).

Across Hengistbury

If you look down towards the entrance of Christchurch harbour you will see there is a prominent black building at the end of a sandy spit of land (this is Mudeford spit). This is now your destination (very near this in any case). From where you are standing you now need to make your way towards this spit of land.

To do so there are a variety of paths which can be used. The paths nearest to the sea are more open going through heathland, whereas the paths closer to the harbour are more wooded. You can choose any path as you see fit - they will all lead you eventually down to Mudeford Spit.

Mudeford Spit

Mudeford Spit is a sandy strip of land having Christchurch harbour on one side and the sea on the other. It is also a remarkably peaceful location, particularly on the harbour side. I suggest walking down the harbour side of the spit, but you can walk down the beach side if you prefer.

You will notice that there are a large number of beach huts on the spit. Even though these huts are of modest size and have limited facilites, because of their location they command extraordinary prices - some of these huts sell for in excess of £200,000 (approx $300,000)! Yes, really. This is even more surprising given the fact that this is for a 25 year lease.

It is only a 10 minute walk along Mudeford Spit until you reach the jetty from which the ferries depart and the Beach House Cafe. There is also a small shop selling refreshments here.

If you are looking for a meal at this point, the Beach House Cafe is of good quality (it would be better called a restaurant) and the prices do reflect this. Alternatively, on the other side of the harbour entrance on Mudeford quay, there is a pub (the Haven House Inn) selling more typical pub food (please note that children are not allowed inside this pub, although there is plenty of outside seating).

Crab and Mackerel Fishing

If you do decide to go across to Mudeford quay you may like to try your hand at a spot of crab fishing! Mudeford quay is famous as a place to do this and there is even a local band named after this (the Mudeford Crabs) that often play in local pubs.

All the equipment you will need is on sale at the shop on the quay. Then you need to go to the fishmonger (also on the quay) to get a bag of bait. That is unless you happen to have a packet of bacon in your pocket (unlikely, I suppose) but bacon is the best bait of all.

There are no hooks involved - the bait is simply placed into a bag on the end of the fishing line. Then you fill up your bucket with water and join the other people along the harbour wall and start fishing. The crabs grab on to the bags containing the bait with their claws and get entangled in the netting.

This is a very satisfying way of fishing as in my experience you are likely to have caught at least 1 crab within a few minutes. You see people with their bucket full of crabs. I assume the crabs are edible, but for me it is just a bit of fun, and I pour the crabs back into the sea when I have finished.

It is also possible to go (by boat) on a Mackerel fishing trip starting at Mudeford quay. Ask at the fishmongers, but you will need to book a few days in advance. For these trips all the equipment you will need is provided. Also note that the time of the trip will be very much dependant on the tide. Prices are reasonable - about £15 per person for a 2 hour trip as of Summer 2013. The boat takes you out into the waters off Hengistbury head and of course you get to keep any fish you catch (these definitely are edible!). Last time I went we caught a couple of dozen fish between the three of us.

Ferry Ride

The next part of your walk is in fact a ferry ride! There are 2 ferries which leave from the end of the jetty. The larger of the two, which looks rather like a fishing boat will take you on the short hop across to Mudeford quay on the other side of the harbour entrance for £1.20 (Summer 2013 price).

However for this walk we are taking the smaller Tuckton Ferry. The Tuckton ferry comprises a fleet of beautifully maintained wooden boats, of only around 30 foot in length, which were constructed in the 1930s. Some have cabins, others do not. The boats they choose to use on any particular day will reflect the weather conditions.

Please see the following link for information about the Tuckton ferry. The frequency of the ferry varies with the demand and may be anything from every 30 minutes at peak periods to only every 1:30 hours at times of low demand. There is a phone number (see the link) which you call for the time of the next ferry.

http://www.bournemouthboating.co.uk/ferry.html

For this walk you will want a ticket all the way to Tuckton Tea Gardens - as of summer 2013 the price for this was £4:50.

The ferry will take you right across the harbour - it is a lovely ride - and into the river Stour where it will stop in quick succession at Christchurch quay, then the Captains club, and then Tuckton Tea Gardens (your stop).

Of course you may wish to break your journey at Christchurch - it is a pretty little town and of particular note is the priory which is well worth a visit.

http://www.christchurchpriory.org/

Tuckton Tea Gardens

You may be ready for another drink and a snack - Tuckton Tea gardens is a pleasant spot for this.

http://www.bournemouthboating.co.uk/cafe.html

Bus Journey

You now need to get a bus back to Fisherman's walk. From the Tea Gardens you need to walk across Tuckton bridge and there you will find a bus stop. You need to catch either a 1b or a 1c bus. These buses are quite frequent (less so on Sundays). In all honesty there is not much point in consulting the bus schedule - these buses do tend to come along when they feel like it - but you should get a bus within about 10 minutes at most (apart from Sunday when the buses are about half as frequent).

The bus fare back to Fisherman's walk was £1.50 as of 2013.

Fisherman's walk

Now you just have to walk down Fisherman's walk back to your starting point. From where the bus stops go down the road which was on the left immediately before the bus stop. This road almost immediately forks in two, and Fishmerman's Walk is the strip of parkland in the middle. There is a bandstand half way down it - occasionally you may find a band playing. At the end of Fisherman's Walk there is a formal pond and garden area, and then you are back at your starting point.

I hope you enjoyed the walk!


Recreation | United Kingdom


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