Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has been up and down the coast path on Bournemouth’s West Cliff over the weekend during the Liberal Democrat Conference at the BIC.
On Monday he was at the bottom of the East Cliff to enjoy some crazy golf at the Smugglers Cove golf attraction very loosely inspired by the town’s smuggling history.
Sir Ed’s golfing partner was Times Radio presenter Matt Chorley who hosts the popular ‘politics without the boring bits’ show every weekday morning.
Their round of crazy golf is being featured on Matt’s programme this morning from 10am. Expect to hear Matt having difficulty getting his ball into an old tombstone and Sir Ed’s interesting asides.
Afterwards Ed Davey and his aides walked vigorously up the West Cliff path ahead of Conference delegates streaming out of the BIC to the Highcliff Hotel.
The goats by the cliff path are proving a popular image to photograph and send home. Meanwhile the television news coverage with its Pier and Isle of Wight backdrop is proving a good advertisement for the coast path.
The Conference ends this afternoon with the Leader’s speech.
Today Bournemouth’s Royal Exeter Hotel could be flying the Empress of Austria’s standard. In 1888 she gave the hotel permission to do so on Sundays.
Sunday 10 September is the 125th anniversary of Empress Elisabeth’s assassination.
In 1888 Empress Elisabeth, known as Sisi and consort of Franz Josef I of Austria, came to stay in Bournemouth with her daughter Archduchess Marie Valérie staying at Newlyn’s Family Hotel (now Royal Exeter).
The building had been reserved ‘by Royal command’ for the visitors and their 28 personal staff.
Every windowsill was filled with flowers and the main corridor was fitted with seventy purple curtains tied back with ribbons in the gold and black Austrian colours.
The Empress had spent the Easter weekend in London confined to Claridge’s with a sore throat but on Easter Tuesday the royal party arrived at Bournemouth Station at 1.20pm on a special six carriage train. Three removal vans were required to carry luggage to the hotel.
Proprietor Henry Newlyn welcomed the Empress and princess. His daughters Florence and Leonie presented bouquets.
The following day Elisabeth walked the 300 yards to the beach at 6am. Later the Swedish Lord Chamberlain arrived with an invitation to visit the Queen of Sweden at Crag Head on the East Cliff where there was a better view of the bay from the Isle of Purbeck to the Isle of Wight.
At the Royal Exeter the Royal doctor supervised the collection of milk from stables opposite where a cow was kept. The Empress liked to take sea water baths. Language difficulties were resolved by the gardener who wore a tabard with ‘milk’ written on the front and ‘sea water’ on the back. A slap on the back meant ‘prepare a bath’ whilst a poke in the chest indicated a request for milk which was a major feature of her diet.
The following Monday the Royal train arrived at the station at 8.50am to take the Royal party to Newhaven.
The Empress found the hotel ‘so comfortable’ and Bournemouth ‘one of the most charming places I have ever seen’. With Her Majesty allowing Henry Newlyn to continue to fly the Royal Standard on Sundays he changed the name of his hotel from Newlyn’s Family Hotel to Newlyn’s Royal & Imperial Exeter Hotel.
***This was less than a year before Elisabeth’s son Rudolph was found shot dead at Mayerling with his baroness mistress (who had instigated the liaison whilst Empress was in Bournemouth) and a decade before Elisabeth’s assassination by an anarchist at Lake Geneva.
Saturday 2 September will be the 50th anniversary of JRR Tolkien’s death in Bournemouth where he loved the coast.
The author of author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and his wife Edith were closely associated with the Hotel Miramar on the East Cliff.
The hotel with its sea view and sweeping lawn was built as a holiday home for the Austro-Hungarian ambassador but with the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 the diplomat left without paying for the property.
The Tolkiens took holidays there from the 1950s. He had room 37 to himself, as he worked so much, whilst his wife Edith stayed in 39 where she enjoyed tea on the balcony. The climate was considered good for her arthritis.
In 1968 the the couple suddenly bought a bungalow (now demolished) in Branksome Chine.
Following his wife’s death in a Bournemouth nursing home in 1971 he returned to his old home city of Oxford. He came back in August 1973 to stay with friends but was taken hospital with pneumonia where he died in early September.
There will be a Requiem Mass for JRR Tolkien at the Sacred Heart Church on Richmond Hill, where the couple worshipped on Sundays, 12.15pm on the anniversary day.
Friday August 4 is the Duchess of Sussex’s birthday.
Once it was a much more important Royal birthday. When the Queen Mother was alive the Royal Family could not get away to Balmoral for the holidays until after 4 August as her birthday was nearly always celebrated in London at Clarence House.
It was because Her Majesty, born in 1900, shared her birthday with poet Percy B Shelley that she became patron of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association. The position is now held by the King.
Shelley was born in Sussex but his heart is in the family tomb found at the top of the steps outside St Peter’s church in Bournemouth.
It had come on a long journey from Viareggio and was for almost forty years at clifftop Boscombe Manor, now known as Shelley Park, where Shelley’s son Sir Percy Shelley lived.
PB Shelley was born in 1792 and died at sea in 1822.
Boscombe Manor (or Shelley Park) was purchased as a final home for PB Shelley’s wife Mary Shelley but she died before she could move from Chester Square in London.
Friday 11 August is the 200th anniversary of Mary being revealed as the author of Frankenstein.
The annual commemoration at Barton on Sea’s Indian Soldiers’ Memorial took place on Monday.
Civic leaders present included the Mayors of Bournemouth and Christchurch.
The obelisk, near the clifftop, was erected on 10 July 1917 to remember the volunteer Indian troops of the First World War who rested at the Barton Court Hotel and Grand Marine Hotel which had become a convalescent depôt for those discharged from nearby hospitals.
The Barton Court building has largely disappeared with cliff falls leaving a section which is now the row of shops and Post Office.
As many as 1,500 injured and sick Indians were looked after at Barton before returning to the front line.
Sepoy Khudadad Khan was at Barton when it was announced that he had been awarded the Victoria Cross.
The monument is one of only two memorials in the UK to Indian troops and one of the first war memorials to be erected. The funds were raised by the depôt staff.
Fisherman’s Walk, the quarter of a mile inland path from the cliff, between Boscombe and Southbourne, was a direct route for the scattered village of Pokesdown.
It is claimed that smugglers took the path to go on to Holdenhurst and Throop.
But it was also the straight beach path to and from the now lost Stourfield House (just above Ravenscourt Road until demolished in 1990) which was built in 1766 with a view north over the Stour Valley. The Countess of Strathmore, an ancestor of the late Queen Mother, lived there from 1795 until her death in 1800.
The long path with a strip of wooded ground on its west side was preserved in 1913.
Go beyond the pond with fish and a fountain near the clifftop and you walk through the woodland with a bandstand before reaching the shops at Southbourne. .
Next to the pond is The Commodore pub, part of the Greene King chain, with a sweeping view of the bay from the bar. Bed and breakfast is available.
Nearer the cliff is the Cafe Riva also with a sea view.
To reach the beach there is a zig-zag and the cliff lift.
After the last house in Southbourne do not go ahead on to the sandy path towards Hengistbury Head but stay with the road as it curves left round the corner. This is the coast path’s winter route but after a short distance there is St Nicholas Church.
The modern church, dedicated to the patron of sailors, was designed in 1959 by architects Jackson & Greenen, and completed in 1971.