Dorset Walk: Christchurch
Matt Wilkinson and Dan Bold ring the changes with a shorter town walk
Published in September ’13
The old name for Christchurch was Twynham, meaning ‘between two rivers’ and it is between its two rivers, the Stour and the Avon, that most of this walk lies. It actually starts on the other side of the Stour, hence a slightly unexciting stretch before the centre of the town is reached, but it means that the route starts by crossing pretty Tuckton Bridge and ends with the adventure of going back across the Stour on the Wick ferry.
Christchurch holds its own with any of the other attractive and historically interesting towns in Dorset, and as well as the rivers, this short walk takes in a wooded garden named after one of the town’s benefactors, the bustling High Street, a ducking stool, the remains of Twynham Castle, the longest parish church in the country, a mill mentioned in Domesday and an area, now dry, whose weird name is thought to be an amalgam of ‘quagmire’ and ‘swamps’.
1 Walk down to the riverbank and turn left. Stay as close as possible to the river, passing to the right of the ticket office for boats and golf, and walk up onto Tuckton Bridge. Turn right, and on the other side of the bridge right again at the roundabout, into Willow Drive. The playing fields of Twynham School are on the left and the tower of the Priory straight ahead. Follow Willow Drive (not Willow Way, which goes straight on) as it bends to the left, becomes Sopers Lane and passes the main entrance to Twynham School.
2 Almost at the end of a recreation ground on the left, by some pedestrian traffic lights, turn right into Druitt Gardens and immediately take the left fork. At the next fork, go left again, then fork left once more along the side of Druitt Hall; the family of James Druitt, a 19th-century solicitor and philanthropist, gave their name to gardens and hall. Leaving the hall behind, walk down to the High Street, reaching it opposite Saxon Square. Turn right, then first left into Millhams Street and first right, opposite the Cloisters.
3 Take the first left into Ducking Stool Lane, whose name is explained by the replica ducking stool overhanging a side stream of the River Avon at the far end. The ducking stool was a form of punishment, usually reserved for women and especially scolds, in which the victim was dipped into the river. For crimes like witchcraft, the stool was dipped repeatedly – an early version of waterboarding. Turn right by the ducking stool into Ducking Stool Walk. Turn left on Castle Street and, immediately after the bridge,
right onto the path between the River Avon and its side stream.
4 This is the Wiltshire Avon, which rises near Devizes and flows through Salisbury, Fordingbridge and Ringwood. Immediately on the right are the remains of the Constable’s House, the Constable being an official of the Norman castle; the remains of Twynham Castle’s keep can be seen on the mound on the other side of the bowling green. Follow the path round, keeping the stream on the right. The path and stream bend to the right and pass Priory Quay on the left.
5 At the end of Priory Quay, turn right over a bridge and turn left for a few yards to visit Place Mill, dating from Anglo-Saxon times and now an art gallery. Return to the bridge and turn left to walk through a car park, a few yards after which, on the right, is the entrance to the grounds of the Priory. This magnificent church is larger than 21 of the English cathedrals and full of historical, architectural and human interest. Leave the grounds by the same entrance, turn left and, ignoring the car park, turn right and then first left round the end of a wall into Quay Road.
6 Walk down to the River Stour and turn right on a path which runs alongside the water, with the open area known as the Quomps on the right. Continue all the way to the end of the path, where it goes through a gap in the wall in front of the Captain’s Club Hotel. Turn left and cross onto the Wick ferry landing-stage. Having crossed the river on the ferry, turn right and after a bridge right again to walk alongside the river and so back to the car park.
Distance: About 2 miles.
Terrain: Flat, and almost all on pavements or made-up paths.
Start: In the pay-and-display car park on Wick Lane on the Bournemouth side of the Stour.
How to get there: At the Iford roundabout, where Christchurch Road and Castle Lane East meet on the western edge of Christchurch, take Iford Lane, signed to Iford. Go all the way along Iford Lane to a T-junction with Tuckton Road. Turn left and at the next roundabout go straight ahead into Wick Lane. The car park is in about ¼ mile on the left, after sharp left and right bends. OS reference SZ153921, postcode BH6 4LQ.
Costs (summer 2013 prices): The car park is 50p per hour. The fare for a one-way crossing on the Wick ferry is 90p for an adult and 50p for a child.
Maps: OS Explorer OL22 (New Forest), OS Landranger 195 (Bournemouth & Purbeck). However, a large-scale street guide such as ‘Bournemouth’ or ‘Dorset’ in Estate Publications’ ‘Red Book’ series may be of more use.
Refreshments: Christchurch is rich in restaurants, pubs and tea-rooms, several of which the route passes.