Dorset walk around Bournemouth
PUBLISHED: 12:00 10 December 2015 | UPDATED: 12:00 10 December 2015
Edward Griffiths walks through 4,000 years of history on this coastal stroll that takes in the distinctive wooded ravines and seafront promenades of this area
From a Bronze Age barrow site on Bournemouth’s West Cliff to the memorial to Red Arrows pilot Jon Egging on the East Cliff, this walk spans nearly 4000 years, with the temporary homes of two famous authors and a World War II Field Marshall in between.
Originally wild heathland, the areas around the chines, or steep-sided narrow ravines, were planted with mixed deciduous trees and pines during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These pines gave Bournemouth its reputation as a healthy retreat for people suffering from tuberculosis and other ailments during Victorian times, encouraging doctors to send several famous clients here including young artist and illustrator Aubrey Beardsley and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde author Robert Louis Stevenson.
Starting at Alum Chine, named after a financially disastrous attempt by the Lord of Canford Manor to mine alum for tanning in the late 16th century, the route alternates between wooded chines, elegant pine and laurel clad roads, cliff tops with expansive views, and seafront promenades.
• Distance: 4 ¾ miles (7.5 km)
• Time: 4 hours
• Exertion: Not too strenuous but several chine ascents
• Start: Alum Chine Car Park (Grid Ref: SZ075902)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195
• Public Transport: Yellow Buses 2a, 2b
• Dogs: Freedom of the beaches during winter months, but on leads on roads
• Refreshments: Coffee at Argyll Gardens Café; lunches at the Harvester in Durley Chine; lunches, coffee and tea at Bournemouth Pier Café
1 From the Alum Chine Car Park at the end of Alumhurst Road, walk into the Tarmac path along Alum Chine’s valley floor. Follow the meandering path up and under the suspension bridge, ignoring left steps and fork and then crossing steps. Around more bends, the path leaves the valley floor and passes two right bridges before reaching Warren Road with a backwards ‘Alum Chine Footpath AO1’ pointer. Continue along Warren Road, sign at other end, into Alumhurst Road. Turn right and continue to Alum Chine roundabout. Turn right into Alum Chine Road. Follow the bending road to left R L Stevenson Avenue. Go into right ‘Skerryvore’ where Robert Louis Stevenson lived between April 1885 and August 1887, writing Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Kidnapped. Skerryvore was named after the lighthouse built on rocks near the Isle of Mull by Stevenson’s father. The house was destroyed by enemy bombs in November 1940 but the ground plan can still be clearly seen.
2 From here, continue along Alum Chine Road, crossing Denewood Road and bending right into West Cliff Road. Pass the right ‘Alum Chine’ footpath and pass left Grosvenor Road. Take next right West Overcliff Road with St Ambrose’s Church on the corner. Follow the meandering road above right Alum Chine with many pines, high laurels, rhododendrons, all surprisingly quiet except for the birds. Pass left McKinley Road and the right suspension bridge. Reaching grassy cliff top areas, take a seat, admire the sea views towards the target of Bournemouth Pier, or visit the Tropical Gardens which were restored in 1996. Bending completely round away from the sea, Middle Chine is now below right. Pass left Milner Road. Reaching McKinley Road and West Overcliff Drive bridge, go down the right corner steps before the bridge into Middle Chine. Turn right down the Tarmac path to the Promenade. Turn left.
3 Reaching the ‘Harvester’, turn left up Durley Chine, through the car park and up the road, but only as far as the right steps. Up these, keep on up to the T-junction facing Admiral’s Walk flats, the biggest on this stretch of coast. Turn right and follow the fenced path close to the chine and cliffs with pinewood left. Keep on round, passing a right path down to the sea, into the grassy cliff top walk. Keep straight on with beautiful views, passing the plinth at the site of Bronze Age barrow Monument No. 132, and ignoring all seaward paths. Passing into the road, with parking, continue past left turns and the Highcliff, Margaret Thatcher’s favourite hotel during Bournemouth conferences. Now descend wide West Cliff Promenade, past the Cliff Lift and Bournemouth International Centre (known as the BIC) to Pier Approach.
4 Pass the Pier Head and go up the steps before Harry Ramsden’s to East Cliff Slope. Walk up, past the car park with Westover Road’s stylish shops beyond, past the Royal Bath Hotel and Russell-Cotes Museum and Art Gallery to East Overcliff Drive. Keep straight on, past left Hotel Miramar where Tolkien was a regular visitor before moving to Lakeside Road and past the Carlton Hotel where Field Marshall Montgomery had his own suite after the World War II. See the memorial to Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging, Red Arrows pilot ‘Red 4’, who tragically crashed after displaying at the 2011 Bournemouth Air Festival. Then double back a few steps past the Cliff Lift to the zig-zag path down to the Undercliff Promenade. At the bottom, turn right and follow the promenade back to Alum Chine where you started.
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