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The Dorset walk — And now for something completely different

Matt Wilkinson and Pat Sheehan LRPS find unexpected pleasures where Poole and Bournemouth meet

When our revered editor suggested a walk in the Poole/Bournemouth conurbation, I thought that he had finally gone over the edge. Walking mostly on pavements or tarmac paths, never out of sight of buildings or sound of traffic, surrounded by people – it didn’t sound to me like a Dorset walk. Yet by the end of the walk, I had to admit that he had a point. I was surprised by how much greenery I had been through and there was much of interest on the route. I might not like to do it every month but if part of our county’s appeal is its diversity, then a route like this has its place.

It starts by following the Bourne stream down through the gardens of Bournemouth, passing such diverse features as a restored water tower originally built in 1885, the town’s cenotaph and the Bournemouth Eye, a tethered balloon which takes tourists up for a bird’s eye view of the town and the coast. Throughout the gardens are unusual trees and plants which defy identification by those more accustomed to the familiar trees of the countryside.

The stretch along the beach provides not only ozone and a view across to Purbeck and Old Harry but the constantly changing cliffs on the right. Then it is up the wooded Branksome Chine, leaving via the archway which used to stand at County Gates when it was indeed the boundary between Dorset and Hampshire and which has been restored and re-erected at the head of the chine.

Only at the end of the walk do we have to resort to pavements and about 150 yards of noisome and noisy Poole Road. Massive viaducts on this section of the walk are a reminder that both the L&SWR and the S&D ran lines into this part of Bournemouth, some of which survive as the yards by Branksome station.

Distance: About 5¾ miles
Start: On Coy Pond Road at the southern end of Coy Pond, Poole. OS ref SZ067923
How to get there: From the Liverpool Victoria (formerly County Gates, then Frizzell) roundabout at the western end of Wessex Way, head west towards Poole on Poole Road. Take the second turning on the right, Bourne Valley Road. At the roundabout, turn right under the viaducts into Surrey Road. At the first lights turn left into Branksome Wood Road, then first left into Coy Pond Road. Coy Pond is on the right in about 300 yards.
Maps: OS Outdoor Leisure 22 (New Forest) and 15 (Purbeck & South Dorset); OS Landranger 195 (Bournemouth & Purbeck). A street map of Bournemouth and Poole may also be useful.
Refreshments: There are places providing different types of refreshment throughout the walk, although some of those in the Lower Gardens and along the beach may be seasonal.

1.    Immediately opposite the southern end of Coy Pond, go down some semi-circular steps and continue straight ahead to cross a bridge. In front of a laurel and holly ledge, turn left. Cross a road and continue for about 75 yards, at which point turn left and cross the stream on a bridge. Turn right and continue along the path with the stream on the right. The path becomes a boardwalk, at the end of which go straight ahead over a muddy patch onto a grassy path alongside the stream. Where the path opens out, bear left to a paved path and turn right to cross a road on a slight right-left dog-leg. Join a paved path on the other side of the road and take the first fork on the right, then bear left in front of a bridge to go past the water tower. Stay on the main path alongside the stream until it reaches a T-junction with another path, where turn right.

2.    Go straight across a road and continue along either a paved path or the grass alongside, the stream still being just on the right. Go under Wessex Way and turn right then left round some tennis courts with the stream severely channelled to the right. After the tennis courts continue straight ahead down the path or along the greensward with the stream, now running between more relaxed banks, still to the right. Pass the War Memorial and continue downstream, bearing left to the paved path on the left. Follow this up into the Square, bear left to cross the road, then right across the very centre of the Square. Leave the Square in front of Debenhams and walk down a slope into the Lower Gardens. Walk straight down the Lower Gardens, with the stream now on the left. At the end of the Lower Gardens, go under a flyover and walk down to the beach to the right of the pier. Turn right and walk for 1½ miles along the beach or the seafront promenade to Branksome Chine.

3.    Turn right and walk through the car park up to the road. Turn left and in a few yards cross the road at the lights. Continue straight ahead into Branksome Chine Gardens and follow the rather brackish stream straight up the chine. Where the stream disappears to the right, climb the steps and turn right at the top. Pick up the stream on the right and continue up the chine, crossing briefly to the other bank where necessary. Shortly after passing a cemetery on the left, go straight across a road and through a narrow gap in the trees, bearing right almost immediately and then continuing straight ahead, staying in the woods and following the only path of any size. Cross another road by a busy junction and take the right-hand of two paths through the wood. Follow it until the road to the right becomes a track with a double row of posts across it. Cross onto the track and follow it across a road onto a continuation of the track which runs up the right-hand side of some tennis courts.

4.    Leave the garden by the County Gates gateway and at the main road, turn right into St Aldhelm’s Close. At the end of the road continue straight ahead on a path and at the end of the path, straight ahead on a road. Cross busy Lindsay Road by St Aldhelm’s Church and continue along St Aldhelm’s Road to Poole Road. Turn right and walk to the first set of traffic lights. Use these to cross the road and turn immediately left into Bourne Valley Road. Follow the road as it goes under two railway bridges, then bears right and leads down to a roundabout. Go straight across, still in Bourne Valley Road. At the top of the road bear right into Coy Pond Road, walk straight on under the railway bridge and take the next on the right, Havelock Road. At the end of this cul-de-sac, go down some steps and turn left with a stream on the other side of some grass on the right. Follow the wall on the left and the path will lead you to the semi-circular steps at the start of the walk and to your car.

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