Last Wednesday, I joined friends for a walk by the sea at Hengistbury Head, which is a sandstone cliff that protects the mouth of Christchurch Harbour from prevailing winds.
It was a grey, cool afternoon but a good temperature for walking.
Between the Double Dykes and Hengistbury Head itself, lies a flat field where an Iron Age town once thrived.
We climbed the Head and looked back towards Bournemouth, along quiet sandy beaches and across grey-green seas in Poole Bay.
The trig point and one of the many dogs we met, out exploring.....
The view towards the entrance of Christchurch Harbour, where the narrow strip of water, The Run, has deceptively deep currents and hidden sandbanks to test the sailors of small boats who are heading out to sea.
Northwards, is St Catherine`s Hill, with the town of Christchurch and the Norman Priory Church in the middle distance. New marinas have been built in front of the Priory Church, which many people feel have spoiled an ancient vista of marsh and church.
Walking along the clifftop path. The old coastguard station is boarded up and no longer manned.
Across the harbour lies the saltmarsh nature reserve of Stanpit Marsh, the village of Mudeford and the wooded hills of the New Forest in the distance.
The salty air and sandy soil on Hengistbury Head make it make a good habitat for heathland plants. Bell heather flowers alongside coltsfoot and harebell in rough grass.
Below the cliff edge, sand martins swooped and cried. Their young ones were learning to fly and feed before returning to their nests in holes burrowed into the steep sand cliff. Later in the summer, these lovely birds will fly south again, to winter in Africa.
...and a beautiful drift of harebells.
A hill of new gorse and heather overlook the harbour.
As we descended the path, the shining, almost ghostly, chalk cliffs of the Isle of Wight loomed out of a misty sea. The chalk Needles and the Needles Light can just be seen to the right.
We walked down through dense undergrowth, a haven for migrating and resident birds.
Around a corner was the old Quarry Pond. In Victorian times, Ironstone boulders were quarried here. Now, there is fresh water where wildfowl swim , where dragonflies and damsels dart and where waterlilies bloom.
We were almost at the end of our walk. The old black house watched over The Run and a myriad of small boats were moored in the sheltered harbour mouth.
A last view across the clifftop heath, to a grey-blue sky and a milky blue sea........
...before we climbed down the old sandy steps towards the beach.