Dorset walk: Bournemouth Tree Trail & Tropical Garden

PUBLISHED: 11:32 19 July 2016

View towards the Purbeck coast from the Tropical Garden (Photo by Edward Griffiths)

View towards the Purbeck coast from the Tropical Garden (Photo by Edward Griffiths)


Edward Griffiths goes tree spotting on this delightful urban walk which revisits the Pleasure Gardens of the 1870s

The difference with this urban walk is that we’re going to some of the quieter, shadier and infinitely more educational parts of Bournemouth. Some years ago, Bournemouth Borough Council published a ‘Tree Trail’ leaflet of the rare and exotic trees which were planted when 30 acres of the marshy valley of the Bourne Stream were transformed into Pleasure Gardens in 1873-74. Essentially on this walk we’re going tree-spotting.

Then we’re going to visit one of Bournemouth’s award-winning Gardens of Excellence which was replanted in the 1990s to take advantage of the mild microclimate this stretch of coastline enjoys.


• Distance: 2¾ miles (4.5km)

• Time: 2 hours

• Exertion: Easy

• Start: Bournemouth Pier Approach (Grid Ref: SZ089907)

• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195

• Public Transport: Wilts and Dorset X1, X2, X3, 13 and countless Bournemouth Yellow Buses to The Square

• Dogs: On leads at all times

• Refreshments: Obscura Café in The Square, Vesuvio, Harvester, West Beach and Offshore restaurants on Undercliff.

The walk

1 Starting at Bournemouth’s stylishly revamped Pier Approach, go under Bath Road bridge into the Lower Gardens with the Pavilion and Bourne Stream right. Past the Pavilion’s twin flights of steps, cross the stream bridge then fork left above the stream. Against the bandstand, the branch-less leaning tree is a Maritime Pine, native to the Mediterranean and popularly called ‘Bournemouth Pine’. Further along the shady path, take the first left path and cross the stream bridge. Turn right. Past the Bournemouth Eye Balloon, the first right tree is the Blue Atlas Cedar (cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’) from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and Algeria. Then, going up to The Square exit, pass through an avenue of Chusan Palms (trachycarpus fortuneii), widely planted in European coastal gardens since 1836.

2 Cross The Square, keeping right of the Obscura Café and telephone boxes. Meeting Bourne Avenue, instantly cross to the path down into Central Gardens. Pass the ‘Boscombe Veranda’ pergola and continue, parallel with Bourne Avenue. Past the War Memorial, with Bournemouth Town Hall to your right, the first left tree against the path is a Dawn Redwood (metasequoia glyptostroboides) with its distinctive spiral trunk, introduced to the West in 1948. Reaching a fork, keep right. The large trees in the triangle’s group are Monterey Pines (pinus radiata), native to California and discovered by David Douglas in 1931. Continue right of the tennis courts and over the crossing path under the flyover into Upper Gardens, keeping right of the stream.

3 After a series of weeping willows, the large tree overhanging the path from the left is a Caucasian Wing Nut (pterocarya fraxinifolia) from the Caucasus and Northern Iran. Introduced in 1810, it is distinguished by its very long bright-green catkins which bear nuts like walnuts later. Now, after a large Dawn Redwood left and a paths’ crossing, the next large pine is the Coast Redwood (sequoia sempervierens). A long-lived native of California, a felled example in 1943 was dated as 2,200 years old. Feel the unusual spongy bark. In another 100 yards, reach Queen’s Road and turn left, crossing Bourne Stream, for ‘Westbourne’. Ascend past Surrey Road crossing and other side roads. Under the flyover, continue past shops to traffic lights.

4 Cross Poole Road into Clarendon Road, with the old stone-built Bournemouth Eye Hospital right. Walk the full length of Clarendon Road to West Cliff Road. Cross over into West Overcliff Drive with shady Middle Chine down to your right and stylish properties left. Take first right West Overcliff Drive over Middle Chine Bridge and turn left, continuing with the chine now left and passing right Milner Road. Continue around the return-right bend with the raised shelter and superb views to Bournemouth and the Purbeck coast.

5 With Argyll Gardens and Bowling Green right, take the left path to the ‘Tropical Gardens’ walled path. Go down into the award-winning gardens and wander around freely. Look for the extremely tall blue pinnacles of echium pinniana from the Canary Islands, the leathery leaves of banana plants (musa lasiocarpa), the yucca (beschornia yuccioides) from Mexico, the striped agave Americana also from Mexico and the Chusan Palms (trachycarpus fortuneii) like those you saw approaching The Square. Keep descending and take the path/steps directly to the West Undercliff promenade. Turn left, with Vesuvio restaurant right. Enjoy the beach stroll back to the pier or take the Land Train. Pass Middle Chine, Durley Chine, West Cliff zig-zag and the cliff lift on the way.

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