Lib Dem ‘Brexit conference’ on coast path

Bournemouth International Centre on the West Cliff next to the coast path

This weekend the Brexit crisis focus is moving from Westminster and Brussels to the Bournemouth International Centre beside the coast path.

The Liberal Democrat party conference is at Bournemouth’s BIC from Saturday 14 September to the following Tuesday.

Brexit is said to be the biggest constitutional crisis since 1940. That year the Labour Party Conference which confirmed the Churchill coalition in power was held at The Pavilion on the east side of the Lower Gardens entrance.

The drama of that occasion was preceded by a meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee in the basement of the Highcliff Hotel where Clement Attlee triggered Neville Chamberlain giving way to Winston Churchill as prime minister.

In 1994 John Major stood on Highcliff Hotel steps to welcome the Ulster Loyalist ceasefire. Over dinner there in 2006 John McCain told David Cameron of his intention to run for President of the United States.

The Highcliff Hotel, at the top of the West Cliff path, is the Liberal Democrat HQ this weekend.

The Liberals can also claim an old link with the town. William Gladstone spent his last days at the top of Bath Hill. His choir seat in St Peter’s Church is marked with a plaque.

Expect some good pictures of Poole Bay on the TV news.

Highcliff Hotel
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Richard Watkin’s Dorset coast views

An Artist’s View of Jurassic Dorset is a charming book looking at the Dorset coast from Lyme Regis to Sandbanks Ferry.

Each of the thirty poster style paintings by Richard Watkin is accompanied by a description of the scene and a section of large scale Victorian OS map.

With Sandbanks Ferry he recalls the many crossings with his children always running up the steps of the open top bus for a good view during the crossing.

Although the book ends at Sandbanks it is exciting to find that elsewhere Richard Watkin does continue along the Bournemouth Coast Path although this time the views of Bournemouth Pier, Poole Bay cliffs and beyond are available through his l0vely postcards.

One depicts the mysterious 250 year old Black House on the sandspit opposite Mudeford and another shows the low cliff at Avon Beach where the line of trees gives a hint of the Cote d’Azur.

Some of these views also appear on next year’s Watkin Art calendar.

One looks forward to his take one day on Highcliffe Castle and Beckton Bunny.

An Artist’s View of Jurassic Dorset by Richard Watkin (£17.50) and his postcards (set of 6 £5.75) are available from

Richard Watkin’s Bournemouth Coast Path and Christchurch Coastal Path postcards
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New Milton Advertiser report 9 August

The coast path between Chewton Bunny and Barton-on-Sea has been in daily use by walkers for many years.

Indeed some might say that it should have been claimed as a public right of way since the cliff has been walked for more than twenty years as many can witness.

This weekend the New Milton Advertiser reports on the growing concern of local residents at news that the path is to be closed and cut off by locked gates at each end. This will cause walkers to take a long inland detour.

The change will come as a surprise to walkers passing along the coast path having come on maybe from the SW Coast Path and heading for the Solent Way.

However, those using the Exploring the Bournemouth Coast Path guide will find that the official route does go inland. This is because when the guide was devised in 1985 the land owner, Hoburne Naish holiday park, was unwilling to agree that the popular cliff route was a permissive path.

It is a surprise that Natural England now proposes to avoid the cliff top in its new coastal path plan. Whilst the crumbling cliff may suggest that the line of path is liable to change there is provision in the Natural England guidelines for ‘roll back’ as cliffs erode or slip.

If agreement could be made between New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council, Natural England and Hoburne Naish there could be benefit for everyone.

Walkers, including local people, could enjoy the direct route along the cliff whilst the holiday park’s cafe pub, in an 18th-century farm building, could be open as a welcome refreshment stop on the long distance coast path in all seasons.

Hoburne Naish (pronounced ‘nash’) had been a cliff top farm for about five hundred years until bought John Burry in 1920. His family’s holiday business developed from two tin huts, one used by a shepherd, rented out in the summer holidays. Film director Ken Russell spent childhood holidays there when the holiday homes included railway carriages and single decker buses.

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Sandbanks Ferry: No service for a month

Sandbanks Ferry is out of action and no service is expected until Monday 12 August at the earliest.

This surprise news follows a difficult winter for people living on the Isle of Purbeck when the annual November closure lasted into Christmas.

Walkers completing the Dorset Coast Path at Shell Bay will need to return to Swanage by bus and reach Sandbanks via Wareham.

Sandbanks Ferry is the vital link between the Isle of Purbeck and Poole’s coastline which joins Bournemouth at Durley Dene Chine.

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Admiral Cornwallis remembered at Milford-on-Sea

Admiral William Cornwallis gave his fortune, house and name to a dynasty which included royalty and Churchill.

On Friday 5 July the seaside village of Milford-on-Sea will be marking the 200th anniversary of his death with a church service, window unveiling and Trafalgar news re-enactment.

Admiral Cornwallis’s tomb is near the church’s vestry door.

He is honoured for thwarting Napoleon’s invasion, saving Nelson’s life and playing a decisive role at the Battle of Trafalgar.

He settled at Milford’s Newlands Manor in 1800.

During the 1801 Christmas morning sermon, the church congregation saw through the north windows that Newlands was on fire and one by one people left until the vicar paused to ask where everyone had gone.

The admiral oversaw rebuilding in the gothic style and invited Captain John Whitby, fresh from taking news of Nelson’s death to Emma Hamilton, to live at Newlands and bring his family.

Soon after arriving Whitby died leaving his wife Mary Anne who eventually cared for the admiral. The mansion was inherited by Whitby’s daughter Theresa who married Richard West.

Their son Colonel William Cornwallis-West entertained the Prince of Wales, the Kaiser and Lillie Langtry who were all friends of his wife Patsy. Their son George shocked society by marrying Winston Churchill’s widowed mother whilst the daughters became the Princess of Pless and the Duchess of Westminster. The house is now apartments.

There will be celebrations on the green in Milford on Friday afternoon 5 July when a specially composed sea shanty called Billy Blue after Cornwallis’s nickname will be sung.

Meanwhile the St Barbe Museum in Lymington has a special exhibition exhibition until Sunday 1 September.

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Foreign Secretary on Coast Path

Darren Slade on cliff path with the Foreign Secretary on cliff path for an Echo interview

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was on the Bournemouth Coast Path early yesterday looking at the view, giving an interview, posing for photographs by the pier and buying the first ice cream of the day.

Few recognised him as he walked about or when he was driven down the slope by the cliffside BIC where many political conferences are held. He wants the Conservative conference to return to the town.

The Liberal Democrats return this autumn.

Jeremy Hunt was on the coast, and crossing to and from the Isle of Wight, prior to the Conservative leadership debate at The Pavilion last night.

But it was his opponent Boris Johnson who has the strong local connection.

In 1909 his great grandfather Ali Kemal, the Ottoman Empire’s last interior minister, brought his pregnant wife Winifred to the town where she gave birth to Osman.

The mother died and the father was assassinated on returning to Turkey leaving Osman in the town to be looked after by his grandmother Margaret. She gave the baby her maiden name of Johnson.

Friday’s Daily Echo has pictures and Darren Slade’s interview with Jeremy Hunt.

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Royal visit to Highcliffe Castle

Zig-zag awaits planting

The Duke of Gloucester is visiting Highcliffe Castle on Thursday morning 30 May.

His Royal Highness, an architect, has paid several visits to Highcliffe Castle and has long taken an interest in its restoration.

Afterwards the Duke will be on the Christchurch Coastal Path when he opens the restored zig-zag link from the Castle grounds to the cliffs and beach. The ceremony is expected to take place at about 11.15am.

Council has now finalised its arrangements for the opening of our path. It will be opened on 30th May by Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester. The Duke will start by attending a private function in the Castle; he will then walk to the top of the Path to perform the opening ceremony. Timings depend on how long he stays in the Castle but it is anticipated that he will open the path at 11.15 -11.30.

The retaining walls of the zig-zag are clad in reclaimed planks from Bournemouth sea defences.

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Highcliffe Castle zig-zag opens as furniture arrives

Highcliffe Castle seen from the top of the zig-zag

Highcliffe Castle is preparing to welcome the Duke of Gloucester who will re-open the zig-zag, a vital part of the Christchurch Coastal Path, and open part of the castle never seen before.

HRH is due to visit on Thursday 30 May and as an architect he will probably appreciate the spectacular work revealed since his last visit in 2008.

Two floors of the Penleaze building are now open. This eastern wing is named after Dr James Penleaze who bought ‘High Cliff’ in 1799 having found a fortune in a hat box.

The downstairs rooms have been filled with fascinating information boards containing new research on the many past owners.

Upstairs a bedroom contains original furniture from the castle which has returned on temporary loan from the Victoria & Albert Museum. It is also possible to enjoy the view from the Chinese bedroom.

The kitchen in the basement displays a recipe for Eel Soup. An unexpected find is the kitchen well which had been covered and forgotten after mains water was installed. You can again look down into the well and still see water.

Descending to the castle kitchen
Highcliffe Castle well

The library now has its walls covered in pictures recording the ongoing restoration work.

In the Octagon Room, just inside the front door, there are more clear information displays listing such tenants as William Cavendish-Bentinck (1900) and Lord Rothermere (1910-1912).

Winter Garden fireplace
Carved figure on Winter Garden fireplace

The Tea Rooms accessed from the grounds has been under a new contract since 2017. Its best dish is probably Dorset Rarebit £5.75 but you may have to ask for it as the main menu is not displayed at the counter.

Highcliffe Castle is open 10am to 5pm; admission £7. The coast path runs through the grounds.

Rebuilt zig-zag path
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Cliff erosion at Hordle

New Milton Advertiser

The cliff erosion between Barton-on-Sea and Milford cliffs means that the coast path is now a permissive path.

The line of right of way has fallen into the sea with a route now being open only thanks to landowners allowing the path to be unofficially moved back.

Now Milford-on-Sea Parish Council has expressed fears that, with increasing erosion, the coast path could close.

It appears that any action by New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council or Natural England is unlikely until the Secretary of State for Environment has approved plans for the continuous England Coast Path.

This scheme will allow for path roll-back where there is erosion.

New Forest MP Sir Desmond Swayne has said that he is making representations to Natural England.

Meanwhile it continues to be just possible to pass along the coast.

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E9 path: more coast

If you walk east along the Bournemouth Coast Path and keep going you get to Brittany.

This is because the BCP is part of the E9 which links at Dover with France leading down to Spain and Portugal. Or you can go further east along the Belgium and German coast.

The latest news is that the Emerald Coast section in Brittany is opening after a 37 year dispute.

Whether the BCP ceases to be part of the E9 after the end of this month is uncertain.

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