Blessing of the Waters at Mudeford

Sunday being Rogation Sunday, four days before Ascension Day, it was time for the annual Blessing of the Waters at Mudeford Quay.

Rogation is a time for walking the fields and blessing the coming crops. But on the coast the harvest to come is salmon so every year the priest from All Saints Mudeford comes down to Mudeford Quay to be rowed out into the Christchurch Harbour entrance in a salmon punt.

The priest has a lobster pot for a seat but, having been rowed into the Run, stands for prayers and the traditional casting of silver cross into the water.

Hymn tunes were played by a band and sea scouts were present on land and the Mudeford lifeboat in the harbour entrance.

The cross is retrieved for use again.

Once the first salmon caught was given to the Prior of Christchurch.

The punt and lifeboat in the Run
Holding the cross
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Hurst Castle on international danger list

Hurst Castle is reached by a spit from Milford-on-Sea

Hurst Castle is one of the world’s 25 most significant heritage sites in need of immediate attention says the World Monuments Watch.

The 2022 World Monuments Watch calls attention to Hurst Castle as a warning about the future fate of coastal heritage places.

A year ago a section of the eastern battery collapsed leaving castle open to the sea until emergency repairs took place.

‘The long-term survival of Hurst Castle depends on the ability to protect it from the action of the sea, made ever harder by sea level rise and more frequent storm surges,’ says the report.

‘The heavy nineteenth-century batteries sit on a relatively shallow foundation of brick upon concrete. Typically covered by shingle, the foundation is easily undercut once exposed to waves, which can occur when heavy storms wash away massive quantities of protecting shingle.’

The Tudor castle, in the care of English Heritage and the only European structure listed, joins buildings in Beirut and Benghazi on the list.

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Old Harry and coast path on Country Life cover?

This week’s Country Life has a superb cover picture of Old Harry Rocks.

It is an image of ‘This sceptre’s isle’.

The point is named after the 15th-century Poole pirate Harry Paye although also known as Handfast Point.

Numerous ships have foundered off Old Harry including the Spanish galleon San Salvadore -part of the scattered armada which had threatened Elizabeth I.

Here the Dorset coast path has a fine view of the Bournemouth Coast Path.

Studland, Shell Bay and the entire Poole Bay can be seen as well as Poole bound ships often moving rapidly between small craft. The Isle of Wight over to the east is a continuation of this chalk ridge of Purbeck Hills.

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New Hythe Ferry book

A new book on the Hythe Ferry pier railway will be of interest to those who walk the coast path.

Continue east beyond the Bournemouth Coast Path and all it embraces and after Milford-on-Sea you find yourself on the Solent Way. The ferry is the vital link across Southampton Water.

The landing on the far side is at Town Quay in Southampton where the route continues past Ocean Village and over The Itchen Bridge to Netley Abbey.

Alan Titheridge’s book The Heartbeat of Hythe is a hundred pages plus on the narrow gauge railway which takes you out from land to the vessel at the end of the pier more than a quarter of a mile long.

Fellow historian and local resident Dan Snow is just one of many who have expressed concern about the future of the ferry which has been in doubt. This book includes a brief history of the crucial and delightful crossing.

Hythe has the oldest pier railway and Alan is the only person who could have written such a thorough study with so many photographs old, rare and new.

Hythe Ferry operates daily at least every hour. Tickets are £6.50 single; £7.50 return.

The Heartbeat of Hythe: The story of the Hythe Pier Railway by Alan Titheridge is published by Ceratopia Books (£9.99).

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Sir Walter Scott at Mudeford

This year is the 250th anniversary of Sir Walter Scott’s birth on 15 August 1771.

Walter Scott, at one time the most famous writer in the world, was 36 years old when he came to Mudeford in April 1807 staying at seafront Gundimore, built in the shape of a Turkish tent for fellow poet William Stewart Rose.

They had met in London four years earlier.

In 1807 Scott was writing Marmion and his publisher Constable had already paid him £1,100 for the work. At Gundimore he corrected the proofs for Canto III.

It was only through Rose that Scott had heard that prime minister William Pitt liked The Lay of the last Minstrel and this led to the praise for Pitt, who had just died in office, in the first Canto of Marmion which is dedicated to his Mudeford host William Rose.

The two friends enjoyed rides across the New Forest which then reached almost to Mudeford. Together they had a day trip to the Isle of Wight being picked up the Royal Yacht which had anchored in Christchurch Bay.

However, returning via Portsmouth on a smaller vessel, Rose became seasick whilst Scott went below to avoid the waves and eat ships’ biscuits. The bad weather forced the two to put in at Lymington and return by horse to Gundimore.

The Rose brothers were the sons of George Rose MP who lived at adjacent Sandhills where the house, dating from 1785, survives as the centre of Sandhills Holiday Park. It was at Sandhills that the King and Queen enjoyed breakfast in July 1801 before sailing for Weymouth. They returned via Mudeford in October.

Rose’s diplomat brother Sir George was largely responsible for the present look of Sandhills where he added a round wing echoing Gundimore. This can be glimpsed between the caravans from the coast path on Gundimore Promenade.

The tent-like Gundimore had interior walls painted deep red with drapes edged with gold. William filled the house with books and works of art.

It is believed that Scott returned there to begin work on his novel Waverley which includes a character called Davie Gellatley who is based on Rose’s valet David Hinves.

He was more a friend and companion to Rose and even joined him for angling. Scott called him a ‘clown’ but appreciated that he was a bookbinder by trade and always sent him a copy of his new work.

Edinburgh Waverley Station is the only railway station named after a book.

Walter Scott and William Rose were close friends who met often. Scott called him Will, thought he had wit and talent, and recalled the ‘happy days’ in the New Forest when staying at Mudeford.

When Rose was a guest at Scott’s home Abbotsford in Scotland he always had the same downstairs bedroom. He may have felt at home as Rose’s shield was included in the painted decoration round a doorway.

Another of Scott’s friends was Lady Louisa Stuart who followed closely the progress of Marmion. As daughter of Lord Bute who had built the forerunner of Highcliffe Castle she knew Mudeford well from her teenage years. By 1807 the Highcliffe house had been sold and dismantled but her nephew Charles was preparing to buy the site back paving the way for today’s castle.

There is a good view of Gundimore just before the wide coast path meets the road running inland at Avon Beach, east of Gundimore Beach.

The east end of Gundimore is now called Scott’s House.

Sir Walter Scott 250 celebrations continue into next year.

Gundimore from Gundimore Beach
Gundimore’s lookout turret alongside the round Turkish tent room
Gundimore’s adjacent Scott’s House with its round roof is in the foreground
The east wing at nearby Sandhills added by Sir George Rose to echo his brother’s round Gundimore
The view from Gundimore for Walter Scott and William Rose was the Isle of Wight which they visited together from Mudeford
Sir Walter Scott on a Scottish bank note
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Songs of Praise from Swanage Bay

Posters have gone up in Swanage advertising a recording of BBC Songs of Praise.

Aled Jones is the host and the two hour recording on Thursday 29 July which will start in late afternoon at 5.30pm to catch the evening light.

The venue is Prince Albert Gardens, near the Pier, where the Albert Memorial has just been re-erected after being in storage for almost a century.

But the rising grass arena is probably best known for the huge pillars which until 1896 stood in London’s Regent Street where they were part of the Hanover Chapel on the Apple Store site.

The columns will make good television pictures with the sea behind.

Those wishing to take part, especially if associated with a church or choir, should contact [email protected]

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Milford path open again

The reopened coast path in front of The White House

The direct path into Milford-on-Sea from the west has reopened following major sea defence work.

Once more the Westover cliff path continues in front of The White House to join the Milford-on-Sea promenade.

This improvement coincides with the reopening of both the popular Beach House pub with its view of The Needles and the direct coast path from Barton-on-Sea which had been affected by cliff falls.

Many new rocks form a defence
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Back to walking: Bournemouth coast path & beyond

Bournemouth Coast Path under pine trees at Canford Cliffs

Now we are much more free to walk long distances and stay in overnight accommodation it is time to think about walking from Swanage to Lymington.

Or start by walking a short distance between chines or the piers. You can view the coast from the open top buses.

The Bournemouth Coast Path guide, embracing the end of the Dorset Coat Path and the Christchurch Coastal Path as far as Lymington offers some of the best seaside scenery available in the south.

In the 19th century Julia Cartwright described the view as ‘Nice over again’ adding ‘for a minute it seemed like a dream and there were indeed Mediterranean waters below’.

In the same century Henry James commented on ‘the view across to the Isle of Wight looking like a pretty marble toy on an ultramarine horizon’.

Those views survive today from a coast full of history.

The path along the Poole Bay cliffs will be extra attractive this year with Bournemouth expected to have unprecedented numbers on the beach below.

If in the Bournemouth area you can purchase the Bournemouth Coast Path guide at Westbourne Bookshop, Waterstones in The Arcade at Bournemouth, Bookends in Christchurch and BH6 Books and Home in Southbourne Grove.

Or go direct to the publisher Countryside Books.

Guide to the coast path from Swanage to Lymington
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Protection for Christchurch Bay

View along the line of the lost sandbar towards Mudeford and Hengistbury Head

“Additional rock armour” is to be provided to protect the coast path at Steamer Point near Highcliffe.

This is just part of a new BCP Council strategy to slow coastal erosion between Hengistbury Head and Chewton Bunny on the Dorset/Hampshire county boundary.

The plan will look at the next 100-years taking into account the effects of climate change such as sea level rise and increasing storms.

Councillor Mark Anderson, the new BCP Council Environment Portfolio Holder, says: “As work progresses with the Poole Bay Beach Management Scheme, the timber groyne renewals and sand renourishments, it’s vital we also deliver an approved strategy for the Christchurch coastline.

“It will provide the foundation to enable us to make bids for government funding to carry out similar works including harbour defences, to address flood risk as a result of sea level rise.”

Contractors have been appointed to undertake beach recycling next year on Mudeford Sandbank and as far as Highcliffe. This will involve the re-distribution of up to 20,000 tonnes of beach material which has accumulated offshore in the ebb-tidal delta and nearshore bars by the harbour entrance.

This is an interesting exercise in an area with shifting sands. Within living memory Mudeford Spit continued east parallel to Avon Beach. This long sandbar extended the Christchurch Harbour entrance, now at Mudeford, by a mile to below Highcliffe Castle until a sudden storm in 1935 reduced it to its present length.

This long sandbar was on the line of the 18th-century cliff which receded to engulf Highcliffe Castle’s predecessor the High Cliff house.

Cliffhanger cafe overlooking Chewton Bunny on the county and BCP boundary. The New Forest District Council is responsible for the coast in Hampshire.
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Keats 200: John Keats at Studland

Joseph Severn’s watercolour of Old Harry from the ship (Special Collections & University Archives/Wake Forest University)

Two hundred years ago this month poet John Keats sailed from London to Italy where he died the following year.

What was that journey like? It was slow and although we all know that Keats died in Rome he was sailing for Naples, a city familiar to Shelley.

His ship, the Maria Crowther, left Tower Dock on Sunday 17 September and sailed down the River Thames. After passing through St George’s Channel, the captain took her into Portsmouth where Keats went inland to visit old haunts.

So it was not until Saturday morning 30 September that the Maria Crowther sailed into The Solent and past The Needles.

The passengers had a good view of the mainland as the captain cautiously sailed into Poole Bay for shelter before anchoring in Studland Bay.

Here Keats paddled in the water whilst his companion Joseph Severn, who was to nurse him in Rome, lingered on board painting the view of Old Harry Rocks.

In the bay, where a brief sandy cliff gives way to chalk there is a feeling of being enclosed by Bournemouth’s Poole Bay, Hengistbury Head, Christchurch Bay, the looming Isle of Wight and Old Harry Rocks at the southern entrance to Studland Bay.

Today the gap into the English Channel between the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Purbeck’s Old Harry Rocks appears filled by two giant ocean liners sitting out the virus.

This day in 1820 may have been Keats’ last moment in England unless the rumour is true that their ship also went into Lulworth Cove before turning south into more dangerous water.

They arrived in the Bay of Naples on 21 October but, due to reports of typhus in London, the ship was quarantined until Tuesday 31 October, Keats’ last birthday.

Keats and Severn reached Rome two weeks later where they were greeted by Dr James Clark who had found rooms for them next to the Spanish Steps.

John Keats died there very late on Friday 23 February 1821.

Dr Clark later came to know Poole Bay. He believed that the pines in Bournemouth contributed to the town’s healthy environment and he lived in a house on the West Cliff called Eagles Nest with a view of Studland. The Eagles Nest site is now the BIC’s Purbeck Hall.

Old Harry Rocks from Studland Bay
Studland Bay’s cliff and natural beach
Redundant cruise liners anchored between the Isle of Wight and Old Harry Rocks
The Allure of the Seas, which was due to have visited Naples next month, appears close to Studland as she awaits an end to the virus
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