Monday, 1 August 2011

Harebells at Hengistbury Head

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.


Karen said...

No wild flowers to be seen here in North Carolina, except for the ubiquitous Queen Anne's Lace which is everywhere. Our purple martins have raised their broods and are long gone from the marina down the street.

So how lovely to see your wildflowers blooming and your sand martins flying there where mine is all empty spaces and extreme heat.

ChrisJ said...

A wonderful walk with a myriad of vistas. I love harebells and heather!

Anna at the Doll House said...

I have never been to Dorset, so, I have really enjoyed coming along on your walk. The Run has fascinated me the most, especially all the cabins or beach huts that appear to lie at almost sea-level.


Bovey Belle said...

What a lovely walk - nearly as good as being there! I shall have to go up on the mynydd to see if the heather is out yet.

Last winter did for our dragonflies - none survived in the wildlife pond, and I have only seen one in the garden this year, and one the other evening on the way through the lanes to our neighbour's. A few damselflies about, but nothing like the usual numbers. It makes you wonder how everything survived when we had the last cold spell back in Dickensian times, when the Thames used to freeze over.

The Harebells were stunning - they are one of my favourite wild flowers, but we don't get them around our valley.

The Weaver of Grass said...

What a lovely walk. I can almost smell the sea air. I must say that harebells are my favourite flower of early Autumn - there is nothing to touch that clear, lucid purply-blue. I really enjoyed the walk from the comfort of my arm chair!

Crafty Green Poet said...

what a lovely place to walk and such a wonderful display of harebells

Share my Garden said...

Oh, how I would love a beach hut - if only they would knock a few noughts off the price!
Harebells are my favourite wild flower, I've never seen such a prolific display.