The Bournemouth Coast Path links the Dorset Coast Path, the final and most easterly section of the 572 mile South-West Coast Path, with the Solent Way running from Milford-on-Sea to Emworth. This creates a continuous 652 mile route from Minehead in Somerset to Emsworth on the Hampshire-Surrey border.
Whilst the Dorset Coast Path evolved over many years before receiving official recognition as part of a National Trail, the Solent Way was devised as recently as 1982 to be Hampshire’s lasting contribution to the Maritime Heritage Year festivities.
Three years later the Sandbanks to Milford-on-Sea gap was bridged when Countryside Books published my guide to the Bournemouth Coast Path.
Since its launch in 1985, the Bournemouth Coast Path has been recognised in numerous guides as an established route. In 2003 the route was designated as part of the E9 European Coastal Path and an inaugural ceremony took place on the Bournemouth Coast Path in the garden at the junction of Banks and Shore Roads at Sandbanks where a plaque can now be seen.
The E9 will run for 3,125 miles from Capo de SÃ£o Vincente in Portugal to Narva-JÃ¶esuu in Estonia. Sections of coastal path in Portugal and Spain are still under development but in France there are stretches of continuous path between Sare and Contaut using the Arcachon and Cap-Ferret ferry. The path also follows the coast of Belgium, Holland and Germany to join the Baltic coast and includes the Polish the Russian borders. Paths through Russia, Latvia and Lithuania have yet to be established but much of the Estonia route is complete.
The British section is the 449 miles from Plymouth to Dover embracing the South-West Coast Path, the Bournemouth Coast Path, the Solent Way, the Staunton Way, the South Downs Way, the 1066 Country Walk and the Saxon Shore Way.
Bournemouth Coast Path
The Bournemouth Coast Path is full of varied interest with two natural harbours, ferries, woods, high cliffs and some of the finest views on the south coast. At the same time there is transport close to hand making the path an attractive walking route not only for experienced walkers but also visitors and residents who may wish to explore only short stretches of coastline.
Dorset Coast Path & Solent Way
This book provides details beyond each end of the Bournemouth Coast Path by including the last few miles of the Dorset Coast Path from Swanage and the first few miles of Solent Way to Lymington. This creates a 37 mile route which can be walked over a period of a few days from one base such as Bournemouth using the good bus and rail services. The directions are written from west to east to make the guide compatible with the majority of Dorset Coast Path guides.
The Isle of Wight is a constant presence being viewed first from the east across Swanage Bay and finally from the north across the Solent. Marconi was in touch by very early radio with the Isle of Wight when setting up his experimental radio stations on the coast at both Sandbanks and Bournemouth. Edward VII was familiar with Bournemouth’s East Cliff, Highcliffe Castle and Milford-on-Sea. His friend Lillie Langtry also knew both Bournemouth and Milford-on-Sea.
Another recurring name on the coast is artist Paul Nash who lived for a time at Swanage whilst writing, drawing and exploring Dorset. He died at Boscombe having just completed, in his cliff top bedroom, a watercolour of the view which included a typical Bournemouth shelter above Honeycombe Chine. The new winter alternative route round Christchurch Harbour means that the Bournemouth Coast Path now passes Christchurch Priory where Paul’s great uncle Zachary was vicar in the 19th century.
Nash died above Boscombe Chine which is just one of twelve of these valleys, known sometimes as a chine or, as you walk east, a bunny, which are so fascinating and varied. They provide the natural access to the shore and so are the focus for the older coastal communities but still act as green inland lungs.
Original route option
This new guide includes the original clifftop Bournemouth Coast Path route in Poole Bay for those who do not wish to be confined to the promenade which the new E9 designates as the main route for two Bournemouth stretches. The old cliff route affords the best panoramic views and the chance to explore the chines and rich coastal history.
There have been some improvements in path quality and waymarking since 1985. The opening of Highcliffe’s Rothesay Wood footpath in March 2004 followed more than 20 years of numerous attempts to link Steamer Point Woods to Highcliffe Castle’s grounds. Walkers no longer have to go down the high cliff to the beach for just a few yards. The diversion across the golf course between Barton-on-Sea and Becton Bunny has become unnecessary as a path now runs east along the cliff as it drops dramatically towards the Bunny. Meanwhile, however, the cliff at Barton-on-Sea continues to crumble especially at its western end near Chewton Bunny.
Although the map accompanying each section in this guide is designed to give a simple but accurate idea of the route some walkers may wish to carry an additional map. The entire route is covered by OS Explorer Maps OL15 (Purbeck & South Dorset) and OL22 (New Forest).
Illustrations and photographs
Many of the drawings by my father Ken Hatts have been retained from the first edition. It is interesting that only two proved to be unsuitable. One was the Pier Approach in Bournemouth where the swimming baths have given way to the IMAX building and the other is rural Taddiford Gap all the wartime dragon’s teeth have now toppled into the sea.