Hampshire Pevsner at last!

18th-century Shelley Manor in its clifftop garden at Boscombe

“It’s been along wait,” said the bookseller as he laid the Hampshire: South volume of Buildings of England on the counter.

It has. The last edition was fifty years ago. Since the new book, a Pevsner Architectural Guide,  retains the old county boundaries it is possible to enjoy a survey of the coast from Bournemouth to Lymington and beyond.

Includecd are new buildings such as the Hilton in Bournemouth.

St Stephen’s is highlighted as the town’s “finest church”.

In the Pier Approach area there is little praise for the Bournemouth International Centre but it’s good to see mention of John Keble’s house surviving next to the Hermitage Hotel.

An important reminder is naming the pier’s theatre architect Elizabeth Scott who had already won the competition to design the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford.

The Royal Bath Hotel on the coast path has a 1837 original core by Pugin’s friend Benjamin Ferrey.

To the west the Alum Chine suspension bridge is described as “a big surprise”.

To the east at Boscombe the star is San Remo Towers described as “Transatlantic…turns Spanish-Californian” and “one of the most elaborate seaside flat blocks  of the 1930s’.

Also getting a mention is the 2003 The Point on Sea Road hill which replaced The Pier Hotel where Aubrey Beardsley lodged.

But still surviving is Shelley Manor which the joint authors reveal dates from the late 18th century.

Hengistbury Head has a half page entry which recalls that it was nearly spoilt by Gordon Selfridge who had plans f0r a castle. He was living at another castle a little further along coast  – Highcliffe which has fascinating additions from medieval France.

There is no mention of Barton-on-Sea. I know some of it has fallen into the sea over the years but there is  Tudor cottage. There are also coastguard cottages and elsewhere there is careful mention and dating of coastguard cottages in Bournemouth (1865 next to Highcliff Hotel) and in Southbourne.

Beyond here the detail for Milford-on-Sea is of course impressive. The editors are probably right to deplore the change of name for Westover built for Alexander Siemens. But as The Beach House pub we can now easily drop in to enjoy the Pre-Raphaelite glass and William De Morgan tiles.

Hampshire: South (The Buildings of England) by Charles O’Brien, Bruce Bailey, David W Lloyd and Nikolaus Pevsner (Yale University Press £35)


John Keble’s boarding house where he died in 1866 is opposite Bournemouth Pier

Westover, or The Beach House, at Milford-on-Sea seen from the coast path

Posted in Updates | Leave a comment

Dorset Life: Shelley Theatre feature

Shelley Park house with the theatre (left)

September Dorset Life

The September issue of Dorset Life has a feature on the Shelley Theatre at Shelley Park.

Shelley Park at Boscombe is the clifftop house bought by Percy B Shelley’s son for his  famous mother Mary.

She died just before she could move from her London house but Sir Percy and his wife Jane enlarged the seaside ‘cottage’ and made it their own home.

The poet’s heart, snatched from cremation on Viareggio beach, was kept in the north-east upstairs room along with the now Bodleian Shelley Collection.

The extensive grounds stretched to the cliff and Lady Shelley had a summer house at Shelley Chine. This now has the name (and strange spelling) of Honeycombe Chine.

The Shelleys were keen on theatre, and built their own attached to the main house. They painted scenery, wrote plays and appeared in productions.

One of the stage drops depicted Case Magni.

Now the house its a medical centre whilst the Shelley Theatre has a programme of stage and cinema events. There is also a slowly expanding cafe.

Charlotte Gordon of Boston University, author of Romantic Outlaws, visited in 2016.

A shelter at Honeycombe Chine today

Posted in Updates | Leave a comment

Christchurch Coastal Path: Avon Beach Diversion

The closure of the ramp at the end of the cliff top path above Avon Beach means that walkers should stay on the promenade between Mudeford and Steamer Point.

The Daily Echo has the full story.

Posted in Updates | Leave a comment

Barton to Taddiford Gap path

One of dragon’s teeth moving the coast path inland

During the past year there has been uncertainty about the coast path east of Barton-on-Sea.

In May last year it was closed due to a cliff fall.

This summer it is now open again.

The first section from Barton-on-Sea cliff to Beckton Bunny is not a public footpath. However this permitted path has been moved inland slightly with low posts, being described as dragon’s teeth, indicating the safe new alignment away from the crumbling cliff.

After the Bunny the coast path is  public right of way. But between the Bunny and Taddiford Gap there are more dragon’s teeth for guidance.

By chance at Taddiford Gap beach there are just two large concrete dragon’s teeth left from the World War Two defence against German invasion.

The name now has a new meaning on the same coast path.

Unstable cliff

Warning notice on path

Taddiford Gap’s concrete dragon’s teeth in 1984 (Ken Hatts drawing)

Posted in Updates | Leave a comment

Alum Chine suspension bridge poem

In Praise of Westbourne by Hugh Ashley

The suspension bridge in Alum Chine is mentioned in Cyril Connolly’s The Unquiet Grave.

He stayed in nearby Branksome Chine and walked across the ‘quivering planks’.

So it is interesting to read in a new book by Hugh Ashley, In Praise of Westbourne, that the crossing also features in a Cumberland Clark poem called Alum Chine written about the same time.

Stretched across a deep ravine,
For every eye a pleasant scene,
With here a dip, and there a ridge,
Is Alum Chine Suspension Bridge,
You’ll stand upon it, if you’re wise.
And leisurely will feast your eyes
Upon the glories to be found
Below and everywhere around.

The bridge, more than a century old, is part of the coast path.

Hugh’s book reminds us that in 1973 the Council considered demolishing the crossing when faced with a £22,000 repair bill.

A chapter in the book, ‘Middle Chine to Alum Chine’, is devoted to the coast of Westbourne.

The book is available (£14.99) from the excellent Westbourne Bookshop.

Posted in Updates | Leave a comment

Barton-on-Sea WW1 memorial ceremony

Obelisk and shops at Barton-on-Sea

Expect to find quiet Barton-on-Sea slightly a little more crowded than usual on Tuesday 10 July.

It will be 101 years since a monument was erected at Barton-on-Sea to recall the WW1 Convalescent Depot.

The centenary last year passed with little notice but this year, being the anniversary of the end of the war, there will be a ceremony at the obelisk near the clifftop.

The depot with a sea view was a hospital for Indian troops who had served in Europe.

The inscription on one side of the monument is in Urdu.

At 2pm on Tuesday the Indian High Commissioner will unveil a permanent information board prepared by Cllr Geoff Beck with help from the Milton Heritage Society.

The hundred guests expected include the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire and the MP Sir Desmond Swayne.

A kirpan, a small sword which is an article of Sikh faith, will be presented to the Mayor of New Milton.

Expect to hear Sikh drummers on the coast path after the ceremony when it will be possible to view an exhibition at Barton Court opposite.

The venue is appropriate since the depot occupied the Barton Court Hotel of which the nearby shops are a remnant.

10 July 1917 was also a Tuesday.

Posted in Updates | Leave a comment

Highcliffe Castle open again

Outdoor tables at the tearoom

Highcliffe Castle is now open again following the winter closure.

The hours are Sunday to Thursday 10:30am–5pm. Friday and Saturday opening times can vary if there is  a wedding. Admission £2.50.

Coast walkers can pass through the grounds free from 7am to 7.30pm. But at present it is still necessary to go via the main entrance whilst the zig-zag cliff path remains closed.

The Castle’s tea rooms are open to all from 10am to 5.30pm this summer.

New leaflet with voucher from TICs

Posted in Updates | Leave a comment

Cherry Tree Walk blossom

Cherry Tree Walk

There is a little blossom at the west end of Cherry Tree Walk on the West Cliff.

Lots of buds are on other trees although some half way along, where there is high ground, have been hit by the recent blast of cold.

The 175 yard short cut is on West Overcliff Drive between Middle and Durley Chines.

Posted in Updates | Leave a comment

England Coast Path: Christchurch Bay proposals

Approaching Milford-on-Sea

The England Coast Path proposals for Highcliffe to Calshot have now been published.

The ECP is a government initiative to create a continuous coastal path round England.

The Natural England report for Highcliffe to Calshot states that its recommendations generally follow “existing walked routes, including public rights of way, along most of this length.”

It adds that the proposed route is “similar to the existing Solent Way, E9 European Long Distance Route and the Bournemouth Coast Path”.

(Bournemouth Coast Path is the overall name for the Sandbanks to Milford-on-Sea coast route incorporating the named local stretches such as Christchurch Coastal Path. The BCP guidebook includes the Solent Way, which starts at Milford-on-Sea, as far as Lymington.)

The report says: “In some areas it is no longer possible to walk on the definitive line of the existing public rights of way due to cliff erosion; here we have proposed the most appropriate route on the ground.”

It also says that “part of the route of the trail on this length of coast would be able to change without further approval from the Secretary of State in response to coastal erosion or other geomorphological processes, or encroachment by the sea. This would happen in accordance with the criteria and procedures for ‘roll back’…”

There has been been an adverse reaction from landowners and walkers to the proposals east of Lymington where the path has long been mainly away from the sea.

But the proposals west of Lymington have been generally well received.

The only disappointment is near Highcliffe.

Whilst Ramblers chair Frank Welling declares the Highcliffe to Lymington proposals “fine” he does regret that the inland diversion at Naish Farm caravan park (next to Chewton Bunny) remains in place.

It had been hoped that the ‘roll-back’ provision might be applied to the farm’s dramatic crumbling cliff.

The only change from the route described in the BCP guide for the Milford-on-Sea to Lymington stretch is at Moses Dock beyond Oxey Lake. Here the new proposal is for the coastal path to cross the dock and avoid passing in front of Creek Cottage.

Of the two reports for the Bournemouth Coast Path this one is the most positive and faithful to local routes.

Copies of the Highcliffe to Calshot report can be seen at Lymington and New Milton public libraries.

Responses must be received by Wednesday 9 May. Afterwards the proposals and any public observations will go the Secretary of State Michael Gove for approval.

Posted in Updates | Leave a comment

Studland & Boscombe have ‘top beaches’

Boscombe clifftop in summer

The coast path in Dorset has two of the top 30 beaches says The Times.

Studland Bay is number 12 with its “gently shelving bathing waters and views of Old Harry Rocks and across to the Isle of Wight”.

More surprising is the inclusion of often overlooked Boscombe at number 24 which is described as “cool”. But it does add the “when the weather is good”.

Posted in Updates | Leave a comment