The weather experts have confirmed today that the UK will experience a mini heat wave for the early part of August and what better way to enjoy the sunshine than to spend a day by the sea. Bournemouth in Dorset has been a popular seaside resort since the early 1800’s. The town has beautiful, award-winning beaches, delightful pleasure gardens and a fascinating history.
Length of walk: 3 miles
Time taken: 2-3 hours with Museum visit.
Route: Circular – Click here for Map
1. Leave Bournemouth station by exit 3, turn left and head toward the main road (Holdenhurst Road), turn right, enter the underpass, follow the signs to the Pier, on exiting the underpass continue along Holdenhurst Road. At the Lansdowne roundabout, cross Christchurch Road, cross Meyrick Road and turn left into Bath Road, crossover and keep right. At St. Peter’s roundabout turn right into St. Peter’s Road, keep right, follow the road round until you reach St. Peter’s Church on your left.
St. Peter’s Church was founded in the 1840’s and designed by George Edmund Street, R.A., the architect responsible for the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand. The interior is full of stunning Victorian gems. The churchyard is just as fascinating; on the rising ground to the south of the Church there is an unusual addition, The Resurrection Chapel. Some of Bournemouth’s most notable citizens are buried in the churchyard, including Mary Shelley (1797-1851) – the authoress of Frankenstein, Mary’s mother and early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797). The ashes of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s heart (1792-1822) have been interred here in the Shelley family tomb.
Author Robert Louis Stevenson lived in Bournemouth from 1884-1887 and wrote some of his most important works including: A Child’s Garden of Verses; Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Apparently, the rural landscape of Bournemouth at that time, reminded him of his native Scotland.
Bournemouth’s origins as a coastal town date back to 1810 when the area was just rugged, wild heath land and a favourite haunt of fishermen and smugglers. A small unnamed stream appears on early maps of the area and is simply identified as ‘Burna Muth’, meaning ‘Mouth of a Stream’. The area was subsequently known as ‘Bourne Mouth’ and eventually Bournemouth.
Dorset landowner Captain Lewis Tregonwell and his wealthy wife Henrietta were keen sea-bathers. Having fallen in love with the landscape they decided to build a Mansion here which they lived in during the summer months from 1812. The Bourne Tregonwell Estate began to rapidly grow in size and popularity over the coming years and the Tregonwells played host to many influential guests. The Mansion now forms the central part of the Royal Exeter Hotel in Exeter Road.
2. Exit Church, turn left, cross Hinton Road, turn right and then immediately left into Gervis Place, kept left, at junction turn left into Westover Road, cross Westover Road, the Tourist Information Centre will be in front of you, keep right and continue along Westover Road, past the public telephone boxes, turn right and descend into the Lower Gardens via the Pinewalk Art Exhibition (Summer months only) and the Exotic Bird Aviary.
The gardens were planted 1836-1840 as a private pleasure garden for the residents living in villas on Westover Road. The gardens were also known as the ‘Westover Shrubberies’ and in 1859 the Westover Gardens became the town’s first public park. The Aviary has been here since the end of the 19th Century; it is now run by volunteers and contains approximately 250 birds.
3. To enter the Lower Gardens further, use the steps to the right of the Pinewalk Café, turn left at the bottom and proceed past the bandstand along Pine Walk, following the pathway round to the right, cross over the bridge, continue on pathway, head towards Pier Approach and Bournemouth Pier.
In 1841 Dr Augustus Granville stayed in the new Bourne Marine Village and recommended Bournemouth for the benefits of its sea air and sea-water which only served to increase the town’s popularity amongst the health conscious Victorian. The Lower path behind the bandstand was originally called ‘Invalid’s Walk’ due to the large numbers of bath chair-borne individuals who were pushed along to enjoy the pine-scented fresh air. In 1916 this area was renamed the ‘Pine Walk’.
Bournemouth in the Summer months is a particularly charming place to visit. One of the more unusual happenings is the event, Flowers by Candlelight, which takes place in the Lower Gardens. Nearly 15,000 candles, in coloured glass jars, are lit by children. It is a free and takes place every Wednesday evening (7-10pm) from the 27th July-24th August. The origin of this event dates back to 1896 when Princess Eugenie of France visited Bournemouth and her route through the gardens was lit by candles.
Before the advent of the railway, the easiest way for visitors to access coastal resorts was by boat. The original Pier was a little wooden jetty constructed 1855-1856. The Golden Age of the Pier was 1900-1914. In 1909 roller-skating was a popular pastime and hard-wearing teak decking was installed on the Pier to encourage this new craze. In the 1930’s outdoor pursuits were de rigueur and a tanned physique was the must-have look, a fashion popularised by Hollywood movie stars. In 1934 and in response to public demand, a solarium was added at the end of the Pier.
4. Exit Pier, turn right, head uphill along East Cliff Promenade, continue until you reach the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, entrance will be on your left.
The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum is one of Bournemouth’s hidden treasures. Sir Merton Russell-Cotes and his wife Lady Annie moved to Bournemouth for health reasons. In 1897 Sir Merton commissioned architect John Frederick Fogerty to build the house as a gift for his wife. The pair had travelled all over the world and you can view their extensive collection of art, exotic treasures and curios. There is also a room dedicated to the actor Sir Henry Irving. In that room you will find rarities such as a handbag carried by actress Ellen Terry when she played Lady Macbeth and a skull used by Irving when he played Hamlet.
5. Exit Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, turn right, head back downhill a short distance and turn right into Bath Road South car park, cut across the car park, turn right into Bath Road, continue uphill. At St. Peter’s roundabout cross Grove Road, cross Gervis Road, turn right into Bath Road. Continue until you reach the Lansdowne roundabout, cross Meyrick Road, cross Christchurch Road, turn right into Holdenhurst Road, continue along Holdenhurst Road, enter the underpass at the next roundabout and follow exit signs back to Bournemouth station.