Taddiford Gap erosion raised by Desmond Swayne MP

New Milton Advertiser story on 20 March

If you can reach the coast path without using public transport you can still enjoy a walk during this difficult time caused by the virus.

It may that, for a very long time, the path will be important as a place for exercise, fresh air and mental refreshment for local people rather than long distance walkers or visitors.

The New Milton Advertiser reports a timely intervention by Desmond Swayne MP who has joined many others in expressing concern about the erosion of the coast path in the Taddiford Gap area west of Milford-on-Sea.

He is looking to Natural England to implement its published roll-back policy for this section.

It is a vital link. Using the nearby road is out of the question as anyone who walks up the Gap to visit the Old Hordle Church remains will confirm. It’s too busy and has no pavement.

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Aubrey Beardsley at Boscombe

The Dream 1896 ( The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles) is typical of Aubrey Beardsley’s style in 1896 when he came to Boscombe.

The Aubrey Beardsley exhibition at Tate Britain includes work by the draughtsman and distinctive illustrator who, suffering from tuberculosis, spent crucial months from August 1896 to the end of January 1897 by the seaside.

Young Aubrey Beardsley came to Boscombe by accident. His doctor has chosen Dieppe for the ailing artist but he was scared about going having once failed to pay an hotel bill there.

His sister Mabel found the Pier View boarding house (now replaced by The Point flats) on the corner of Sea Road and The Marina . The coast path passes the building so one can begin to get a feel of the view of Boscombe Pier and the bay enjoyed by Beardsley from his first floor room with a balcony.

He became friendly with writer Eleanor Towle who promised to take him along the cliff to Shelley Park and meet Jane Shelley who might show him items once belonging to her poet father-in-law. Beardsley was known to be knowledgeable about Keats.

Later Beardsley was caught up in excitement caused by the discovery of a 65 foot long whale washed up on the beach below Shelley Park.

We know that he became familiar with Boscombe Chine and walked up to the East Cliff although he felt ill as he returned. He tasted the Boscombe Spa water available at the chine entrance.

Beardsley, having been sacked from The Yellow Book magazine was working from Boscombe as art editor of The Savoy magazine. His deadline was about a month ahead for each issue which usually carried a cover by him. The content caused WH Smith to refuse copies.

The Savoy editor Leonard Smithers visited from London and is depicted as a chain smoking dissolute in a Max Beerbohm caricature.

Smithers was also a pornographer and had commissioned from Beardsley explicit erotic drawings for Lysistrata and Juvenal’s Sixth Satire. They were to be for private circulation and few saw them at first since Beardsley always worked with curtains closed anyway.

He finished Lysistrata in Epsom a month before arriving in Boscombe in August 1896. At once he was working on the Juvenal series starting with Bathyhurst in the Swan Dance. Messalina Returning Home was followed by The Impatient Adulterer before the end of the month.

Beardsley had long thought about religion and in Boscombe visited Corpus Christi Church. The following year when living in nearby Bournemouth’s Exeter Road during February and March he visited the Sacred Heart Church several times. With encouragement from art patron Marc-Andé Raffalovich, who was always sending chocolates, flowers and books, Beardsley was received into the Church.

This may have led him to ask, on his deathbed in Menton, for Smithers to destroy all the sensational drawings. He did not and the Tate has devoted a ‘Curiosa’ room to them as part of the special exhibition.

Soon after arriving in Boscombe he was also working on the cover for his Book of Fifty Drawings which was published during his last month at Pier View. A reproduction with an introduction by Alice Insley, one of exhibition curators, is on sale at the Tate (£9.99).

During September he completed The Comedy of the Rhinegold frontispiece.

A picture taken in Beardsley’s last hotel room in France gives us a clue about how his Boscombe workroom might have looked. On the table are his two ormolu candlesticks. The wall of prints, like some furniture, travelled with him. In Boscombe he had so many books that when he left that a bookseller was called in to pack them.

The exhibition includes the paper knife which Beardsley would have used in Boscombe to slit open both good news letters from his publishers and angry final demands from creditors.

In Bournemouth during March 1897 he finished a hand wash of the first Mademoiselle du Maupin drawing.

Beardsley’s doctor thought that Bournemouth’s air was better than Boscombe’s but the patient was still in poor health after two months so Beardsley left by train just before Easter 1897 for Paris. He died in Menton a year later.

Beardsley souvenirs in the Tate shop include, a scarf, robe, bag, mug, fridge magnet and postcards.

Aubrey Beardsley is open daily at Tate Britain until 25 May; admission £16 (conc £15).


Beardsley souvenirs include clothing at Tate Britain.


Pier View at Boscombe with its covered balcony (right).
Beardsley’s lost house in Exeter Road, Bournemouth.
The site of the house in Exeter Road chosen to be within walking distance of the sea. The mosaic reflects Beardsley’s drawing Autumn.
Beardsley exhibition souvenir mugs at Tate Britain
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Shelley Legacies launch

Dr David Coates opens the Shelley Legacies Heritage Day

A hundred and thirty-five people gathered at Shelley Park in Boscombe on Saturday for the launch of a Shelley research project.

Shelley Legacies, headed by Dr David Coates of the University of Warwick, seeks to understand the connection between Sir Percy Florence who lived in the cliff top mansion and the Bournemouth area.

Guest speaker was Lord Abinger, Shelley family descendant and Keats-Shelley Memorial Association committee member, who spoke about his ancestor Floss. She was brought up at the house and lived there with her own children.

He also showed pictures of objects once there including a travelling writing desk where Shelley’s heart was said to have been kept.

In an interview filmed at Oxford, Dr Stephen Hebron of the Bodleian Library spoke about caring for and writing about the Shelley Collection which was once stored at Boscombe.

The day conference, sponsored by the University of Warwick, took place in the building’s Shelley Theatre where Sir Percy staged plays which he had written. He also painted the scenery acted.

The main drop scene depicted Casa Magni in Lerici which was the last home of Sir Percy’s father, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. It is claimed that the house at Boscombe was built to resemble Casa Magni on the Italian coast.

Themes for research, as well as the literary connections and Percy’s walking routes, are expected to include the Shelley family’s Boscombe estate which ran to the cliff and embraced Honeycombe Chine and Boscombe Cliff Gardens. Sir Percy was instrumental in the building of Boscombe Pier. Lady Shelley ‘drove the first pile’ in 1887.

Sir Percy had bought Boscombe Cottage, as Shelley Park was then called, in 1849 to be a home for his mother Mary Shelley. But she died before the massive rebuilding was completed. Dr Coates suggests that one research team should investigate claims that Mary visited Boscombe before her death.

Her body was brought to Bournemouth to be buried in St Peter’s churchyard in Bournemouth where she lies alongside her mother Mary Wollstonecraft who never saw Boscombe.

The heart of Mary’s husband was also buried there after being kept at Boscombe.

The bicentenary of Percy Bysshe’s cremation on the beach in Viareggio near Lerici is in 2022.

The day conference ended with Bournemouth Little Theatre Club members staging the first reading for 150 years of a play written by Sir Percy.

The Shelley Theatre’s bar & cafe is open for coffee and lunchtime specials Mon-Fri 10.30am-3.30pm. Follow the path from the clifftop and enter from the north side of the building.


Boscombe Manor with the attached theatre on the left

John Keats died in 1821 and Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned in 1822
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Shelley Legacies Heritage Day at Shelley Park

The University of Warwick is staging a Shelley heritage day at Shelley Park and inviting participation.

The Boscombe clifftop and Honeycombe Chine were part of the Boscombe Manor estate. Poet PB Shelley’s daughter-in-law had her summerhouse by the chine and supported the building of Boscombe Pier which opened in 1888.

Today the house’s theatre cafe is a drop in for coast path walkers.

The heritage day on Saturday 29 February will be in the Shelley Park house where PB Shelley’s son Sir Percy Shelley lived having intended his mother Mary Shelley to join him and his wife Jane.

Warwick University fellow Dr David Coates, the project organiser, will talk about the house and its theatre. The day will climax with the reading of one of Sir Percy’s plays 150 years after its Boscombe performance.

Dr Stephen Hebron, Bodleian Library special projects curator and Keats author, will be talking about the Library’s Shelley papers once at the Boscombe house.

Lord Abinger, a descendant of Lady Shelley’s family, will also speak.

His grandfather inherited Shelley Park and lived there for eight years. The present Lord Abinger’s father, the 8th Baron and chairman of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association, visited in 1979 when the contents of Shelley’s last home in Lerici moved to the building for a short-lived stay.

More details here with booking at the bottom of the page.


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Alan Cobham’s legacy goes to US

Falaise on Bournemouth’s West Cliff

The news at the start of this Christmas holiday is that the government is allowing Cobham to being taken over by a US firm Advent International.

Lady Cobham is opposed to this with the family claiming that the announcement was slipped out last night after Parliament had risen for the Christmas recess.

Cobham defence company was founded by her father-in-law Sir Alan Cobham who lived at Falaise on Bournemouth’s West Cliff.

So coast path walkers might look left at Falaise, built in 1913, as they walk between Middle Chine and Durley Chine this Christmas. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra once played in the garden.

The aviation pioneer was knighted in 1926 after flying from Australia to land on the River Thames in front of the Houses of Parliament.

He founded his company to develop air to air refuelling in 1934 and the company name can still be seen at Hurn Airport, now better known as Bournemouth Airport.


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No cliff lift!

Engineers at viewpoint above cliff lift in 2016

The Bournemouth Civic Society’s latest newsletter reports that the East Cliff’s cliff lift will not be restored and reopened.

“It is virtually impossible for the former East Cliff Lift to be reinstated…” says the newsletter. The decision is described as “a huge disappointment”.

The lift has not operated since it was damaged by a sudden cliff fall in 2016.

The Civic Society’s website carries regular updates on planning applications and pending changes to the town as well as newsletters.

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Hengistbury Head carols at St Nicholas’s

Warren Hill on Hengistbury Head

The Hengistbury Head Nautical Carol Service will be at St Nicholas Church on Monday 16 December at 7pm.

At this gathering of coastal lovers expect a nautical version of the Twelve Days of Christmas devised by some of the Watchkeepers who volunteer on the Head.

Churches dedicated to Nicholas are often found near the coast or a river as he is patron of sailors and this church is near both.

The Purbeck stone St Nicholas Church Hengistbury Head was completed as recently as 1971.

If you going to the service and expect to find enough mince pies to enjoy afterwards please RSVP to [email protected]

Watching from the former coastguard lookout on Warren Hill covers Bournemouth Pier in Poole Bay to Barton-on-Sea in Christchurch Bay.

So all those who enjoy the Bournemouth Coast Path and the Christchurch Coastal Path will be welcome at St Nicholas Church on 16 December.

St Nicholas Hengistbury Head on the corner of Southbourne Coast Road and Broadway
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Sir Percy Shellley’s 200th birthday

Sir Percy Shelley

Sir Percy Shelley, son of the poet Percy and writer Mary, was born 200 years ago today.

His second name is Florence because Mary Shelley gave birth to her son in Florence.

Exactly thirty years later ‘young Percy’ bought the clifftop Boscombe Manor, now also called Shelley Park, for his long widowed mother.

It was to be the alternative to moving to the Riviera or enjoying the pines near Pisa remembered by Mary.

Mary knew of Boscombe, on the edge of Bournemouth, but never saw its clifftop pines because rebuilding work took so long that she died in 1851 just before her move from London.

Her body was brought to Bournemouth for burial in the churchyard of St Peter’s by Percy and his wife Jane.

Percy’s Boscombe estate embraced the cliffs including Honeycombe Chine which was then known as Shelley Chine and had a summer house used by Lady Shelley.

The couple attached a theatre to their house and staged plays in which they took part. Percy also painted the scenery to include a view of his father and mother’s last shared home Casa Magni in seaside Lerici. PB Shelley sailed from there in 1822 and was drowned.

His cremation was on Viareggio beach. His heart said to be snatched from the flames was kept by Jane in a vase at the Boscombe house until eventually being placed in the Shelley tomb.

The house, east of Boscombe Pier, is now Shelley Manor Medical Centre but its theatre has been revived with a programme of performances. The Shelley Theatre cafe (open Mon-Fri 10.30am-3.30pm) is a good place to visit when walking the coast path.

Shelley Park with the theatre to the left of the house.
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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 www.watkinart.co.uk

Richard Watkin’s Bournemouth Coast Path and Christchurch Coastal Path postcards
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