The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Bournemouth by the numbers

With seven miles of sand, four blue flag beaches, three lifts and two piers, there really is only one Bournemouth. Joël Lacey took his camera to capture its beauty.

The view east from West Cliff showing the beach along to Hengistbury Head an hour or so after dawn on another perfect morning on Dorset's south-eastern coast

One of the great joys of living in Dorset is the presence of the sea. For some places, the sea’s proximity relates to a history of maritime trade or fishing. For one place, though, that proximity is about health and leisure. That place is Bournemouth and, although its history may not be as long and glorious as other places in Dorset, its beaches most certainly are.

There are seven miles of golden beaches in Bournemouth

In all, seven miles of sands run continuously from a point mid-way between Branksome Chine and Alum Chine at their western end and the border with Poole, to Hengistbury Head at the easternmost point as they approach Christchurch.

Although the piers are used much more as a promenade these days, rather than as a place for boats to decant holidaymakers from the sea onto land, they are a reminder of the days when paddle steamers used to ply their trade doing the latter

Perhaps surprisingly, as well as being the destination for hundreds of thousands of day-trippers and longer staying holiday makers, the south-facing beaches of Bournemouth can be a place of peace and tranquillity; they are also, less surprisingly, the jumping off point for all kinds of exercise-related activities from physical fitness boot-camps to wild swimming, surfing – with or without the waves being influenced by the surf reef – jogging and (in certain places and at certain times of year) dog-walking.
The south-facing aspect means that one can worship the sun from dawn until dusk and there is little one can do that is simultaneously as relaxing and invigorating as visiting the beaches in the very early hours of the morning to see the sunrise, then gently walking along a stretch of beach, far from the madding crowd, being warmed both by the walk and the rays of the sun. For a different kind of worship than that reserved for the sun, it is now even possible to get married on Bournemouth beach.

One of the lovely things about Bournemouth's beachfront is the care that is lavished on the beach huts by their owners. Even such a simple thing as the numbers of the huts have clearly both thought and individuals' craft skills put into each one of them; it is these personal touches which make this a community rather than a collection of brightly coloured sheds

For those who wish for a little less stress and excitement than a wedding and whose approach to beach living is a rather more sedentary one, or even who simply wish to avoid having to trek to and from the beach from a distance, there are over 800 beach huts, of which 260-odd are available to rent each year from £10-45 a day, or if one is feeling a little flush, the new beach pods can be hired for a whole year for £3650.
For those generally wishing to avoid over-exerting themselves, the land train and the beach’s sets of lifts and gentle zig-zag paths provide easy access and minimal effort to get either from one end of the beaches to the other, or from the cliffs to the beach itself.
The huts, along with a huge variety of B&B and hotel accommodation in the hinterland meant that, in 2012, there were some 580,000 holiday trips to Bournemouth, which brought in around £140,000,000 worth of revenue to the area. This is not the number of people who come to Bournemouth, but the number of trips, not counting the people. The Bournemouth Air Festival alone, for example, had an aggregate of 1.3 million attendees last year distributed along the beaches and perched atop the cliffs to watch the displays.

Descending to the beach with minimal effort is possible thanks to the cliff lifts

As much as Bournemouth certainly has its busy moments these days, it is worth looking back 212 years to when the only visitors to the area of heathland behind the beaches were smugglers and the revenue officers who pursued them. In 1810, two landowners bought 705 acres of land between them, and pine trees were planted to give Bournemouth the characteristic pine-scented sea air which was to turn it into a Victorian health resort in later years.
The contemporary definition of health is accompanied by the word safety. In beach terms, this is all to do with the cleanliness of the water and of the beach itself. This is marked by the awarding of blue flags of which, like Poole, Bournemouth has four (Alum Chine beach, Durley Chine beach, Fisherman’s Walk beach and Southbourne beach) while both Bournemouth and Boscombe beaches each have a Keep Britain Tidy Quality Coast award.

Yes, this is Bournemouth, not the set of Baywatch, on a beautiful summer's morning

According to the Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences at Southampton University, the cliffs of Bournemouth have been geomorphologically dead for a century; since the promenade was built in 1914, they have not been eroded as they would otherwise have been and so their sandstone has not been turned to fine golden sand.
The upshot of this is that, apart from that sand caught by the groynes, the beaches’ sand is heading east and now needs to be replenished by truck or by dredging from Poole Harbour. Bournemouth’s beaches may soon consist entirely of Poole sand.◗

The beach is a great place to be alone with one's thoughts first thing in the morning


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