Friday 30th March 2001
Southbourne – Alum Chine
So much for our plans to walk east! Foot and Mouth disease had struck England and as one of the measures to prevent infection spreading, the government had closed all the footpaths in the country. We could not walk along the coastal paths of Hampshire or Sussex so picking up the walk either at Langstone Harbour to walk east or Hythe to walk west was impossible. The New Forest appeared to be closed to visitors of all kinds with so many restrictions it would be impracticable to try and negotiate round them. However, we were reluctant to abandon the chance of an Easter walk so decided to look to the west, miss out a chunk and walk the seafront at Bournemouth, which was unrestricted and accessible.
So, we caught the train to Christchurch and took a taxi to the seafront as far as the point near Southbourne where the promenade ends. Then, we set out to walk as far as we could along the long, long concrete path behind the lovely sandy beach which everyone associates with summer fun.
The weather was absolutely beautiful. The spring so far had been wet, cold and dank but today the sunlight on the sea was dazzling, the sunshine was warm on our backs and the wind was whipping the waves into perfect gentle breakers. The only problem we encountered all day was that everyone else who wanted a walk had also headed for Bournemouth and we shared the prom with dogs and their owners from miles around.
As we had started the walk late in the morning we had not gone far before lunch called and we stopped on a bench for a picnic of rolls and fruit. Putting corned beef in the rolls may have been a mistake as every dog that passed came up to us in the hope of scrounging a morsel. They all went away without though as we were enjoying our lunch in the sun far too much to share. We watched the approach of one particularly vicious Alsatian who was loping along turning his attention to every other dog he met including two tiny Chihuahuas, one of whom he nearly pushed over the edge of the sea wall. Luckily, the Alsatian’s owner was jogging so he didn’t hang around for long and the Chihuahuas just yapped at him anyway.
Lunch over, we continued along the prom past the zigzag paths remembered from earlier holidays. We had spent a week in Southbourne when Jen was four and the zigzag paths had delighted her then, though today she was less inclined to run up and down them like a mad thing. Before long, we left Southbourne behind and finally reached Boscombe with its pubs, beach huts and pier.
All along the promenade were signs of summer preparations. People were cleaning up and airing their beach huts with blankets and chairs spread all over the ground and paint pots much in evidence. One elderly couple were helped by their tiny granddaughter who was happily engaged in tying up a totally unconcerned dog in his tethering rope while Grandma and Grandad worked. Elsewhere council working parties were clearing drains and shovelling sand back onto the beach after winter storms. Beach huts were plentiful all the way, with their numbers slowly counting down, but only one with a name – Jabba the…
The stretch between Boscombe pier and Bournemouth centre has a road running beside it and was much busier. The red sandstone cliffs are drained by pipes under the road, which form little streams on the beach and turn the water red as they trickle along.
At Bournemouth Pier, we found more people and some attractions open. We chose the oceanarium and had a lovely cup of tea and a cake in the café overlooking the sea. We also made use of the loos and shop before walking on again.
Soon we had to leave the promenade because there had been a cliff fall and the path was closed. This meant a long climb up cliff steps and a slow descent along a zigzag a few yards further on. The views from the top were amazing though; right across vivid blue waters to the cliffs beyond.
As we walked westwards there were fewer people and we soon passed West Cliff and arrived at Alum Chine, both of which have car parks and give access to the beach. In the summer these areas are particularly busy but today, apart from the many dog walkers, they were relatively quiet.
We had chosen Alum Chine as the end of our walk, although we could have gone further, because it is possible to catch a bus to Bournemouth station from there. We did just that and we soon on our way north again.
In the summer we hope to begin to fill in the gap between Southbourne and Hythe, providing the footpaths are open and Foot and Mouth is under control.
Running Total 42.4 miles