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Monday, 6 January 2014

Walk 109 Barton on Sea to Christchurch, Hants

 Walk  109 Barton on Sea to Christchurch (Dorset)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 195
Distance: 10 miles or 16km approx.
Difficulty: moderate
Terrain: paths and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Rail links with New Milton from surrounding areas (a mile or so inland from Barton on Sea). The X1 bus goes hour from Barton to Purewell (a part of Christchurch) and the X2 also hourly leaves from New Milton to Purewell.

Start the walk on the cliff top at Barton on Sea. The walk from here to Highcliffe is partly on the cliff top but some navigating around roads and open spaces near to the coast is required. I know it is possible having done it, however erosion may have got worse! The views along the cliff tops give good views of the coast around to Hengistbury Head.

After just over a mile the border between Hampshire and Dorset is crossed where Walkford Brook comes into the sea at Chewton Bunny.  A bunny is a local word meaning valley. The area is a special conservation area because of the 5 acres or so of ancient woodland.

A further mile along is Highcliffe Castle, positioned a short way back from the cliff top. This was built in 1831 by Lord Rothesay and has been described as “the most important example of the romantic and picturesque styles of architecture”. After falling in to disrepair the local council and English Heritage financed its restoration as a visitor attraction. It was reopened in 1999 and can also be booked for weddings and other functions.

Continue the walk towards Mudeford. It was possible to walk on the beach or on a low level promenade for part of this section. There is a feature here called Steamer Point which is marked locally but not on my OS map. The area got its name from a paddle steamer which got wedged into a cliff opening in 1829. Thirty years later Steamer Cottage was built on the cliff edge above and in line with the steamer. Unfortunately, this part of the cliff was removed in 1964.

Continue the walk around to Mudeford Quay. This is a very popular spot with a large car park, busy pub and many anglers. Opposite, across the entrance to Christchurch Harbour is Hengistbury Head.

Leaving Mudeford Quay, walk along the edge of Christchurch Harbour to Stanpit Marshes. The paths are clear across the nature reserve/golf course and enable you to walk to Christchurch Priory. In the past this area was used as a rubbish dump and by the military in both world wars. In connection with this, look out for the first prototype Bailey Bridge which is still here. (These were temporary bridges able to be quickly constructed and used in World War 2). Another interesting landmark is Tutton’s Well near the road and car park. The water from here was known for its medicinal properties and sold as The Christchurch Elixir. The well was capped in 1941.

Continue the walk around to the ruins of an old Norman Castle overlooking the River Stour. The stone keep replaced the original timber tower at the end of the twelfth century. The castle was mainly demolished in 1651 after the civil war between the king and parliament. Look out for the ducking stool a little further up the river in Ducking Stool Lane.

Christchurch Priory is a bit further around next to the River Avon. In 1043 Edward the Confessor founded a monastery here and it was rebuilt in 1095 giving the town the name of Christchurch. The monastery later became a priory reflecting its importance and that of the town.  

Snaps show: Tutton's Well on Stanpit Marshes; beach near Highcliffe; Place Mill (at start of next walk); Christchurch Priory.

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