Monday, 2 January 2012

A Stormy Walk at Hengistbury Head

Today, January 2nd, was a Bank Holiday in England. An extra day off for many people, before they return to work after the Christmas and New Year festivities. When the day dawned clear and fine, we decided to drive down to the sea for a walk. We felt a need for the brightness of the sea after days of dull, grey cloud and hours of heavy rain.

Hengistbury Head is a hill of sandstone that forms the southern promontory of Poole Bay. On one side of the Head is the sheltered water of Christchurch Harbour, where the Rivers Avon and Stour meet to flow into the sea. The other side of Hengistbury Head is buffeted by winds and waves on the open sea.

We walked southwards along the lane that borders Christchurch Harbour. The bulk of the headland shielded us from the worst of the cold wind. It was a perfect afternoon for a brisk, invigorating walk. It seemed as though half the population of Bournemouth had the same idea as us. I have never seen the usually peaceful lane so crowded with families, dogs and children trying out new bicycles and scooters after Christmas!

Warren Hill, the sandy headland of Hengistbury Head.

Across harbour waters to The Run at Mudeford, where the water of two rivers rushes through a narrow gap into the open sea.

The traditional Noddy Trains were plying their way backwards and forwards along the harbourside lane. For local children, a ride home on the Noddy Train is a great incentive for a good walk down to the beach.

A new cattle pound and a crush have been built beside the meadows in the lee of the hill. A small herd of Shetland Cattle are being employed as conservation grazers , to try to retain the specialised salt meadow flora of this grassland.

The lane is a safe place for new Christmas bicycles and scooters to be put through their paces!

On the sheltered harbour mudflats, small wading birds gathered to feed.

A smart Mudeford Beach Hut, complete with solar panel.

A fenced-off area of fresh water pond and bog, where Natterjack Toads are said to breed.

Climbing up the hill onto the Head, we looked back along the line of beach huts on Mudeford Spit. The beach was thronged with people and dogs, all enjoying the wilder wind and a fine stretch of sand.

Away from the wind, a sheltered copse of mixed woodland is home to native birds and a welcome place to rest for migrating flocks.

The steps to the top....

...and views of the wild sea below the Head, where storm clouds were gathering over the English Channel. White horse waves leapt across from the west and breakers crashed against stone groynes.

At the western edge of the Isle of Wight, the chalk Needles jut out into the Channel.

Incoming storm clouds over the Purbeck Hills, across Poole Bay.

The flooded Victorian ironstone quarry on the top of Hengistbury Head.

"Precipitation within sight..." over the suburbs of Bournemouth.

Across the sea to Swanage Bay.

Christchurch and St Catherine`s Hill under threatening cloud.

Crashing surf, sizzling and rushing up the sand of Southbourne Beach.
We were buffeted by freezing winds as we walked down the path, between gorse bush and maram grass, towards the beach.

Sun, yellow sky and storm clouds over Poole Bay.

Eroded sandstone by the path.

A last look at wild skies and seas, just before sunset, and just before rain and hailstones pelted down from grey winter clouds and sent us rushing across the grass, inland and towards shelter.


Karen said...

Gorgeous. Wish I could spend a Christmas there and take in all those sights. It was a federal holiday here in the States, too, but I spent it sorting out clothes to take to the Salvation Army. I probably should have walked the watershed trails instead.

helen tilston said...

I enjoyed reading about your walk very much. The images are spectacular.
I bet you were all ready for a warm pot of tea on your return.

Helen xx

Rowan said...

Lovely photos - I enjoy walking by the sea in winter though I don't often get chance to do it. Those wild winds have reached us here in the north overnight along with heavy rain.A contrast to yesterdays blue skies and sunshine:)

Bovey Belle said...

Oh that was LOVELY - nearly as good as being there! You took some really super photos - especially the storm gathering ones. I'm sure your walk blew the cobwebs away : )

Kath said...

I was just going to say the same as Jennie. I loved the shetland cattle I have not seen them before. And the Noddy train, how my son would have loved that when he was small.

Crafty Green Poet said...

what a beautiful walk! It's nice to see the natterjack breeding ground protected and the conservation grazing too.

Happy new Year! (We get an extra Bank Holiday today too up here in Scotland!)

Goosey said...

My daughter went up to the highest spot on Hengistbury Head on New Years morning to see the sun rise on a new year. She didnt stay up the previous midnight but had breakfast of croissants and bucks fizz up there. No sunrise to speak of but they joined a family and there dog .....great way to see a new morning of a new year. Your walk and pictures are lovely.

Toffeeapple said...

A marvellous walk, thanks for taking me along. I could almost smell the sea. It is a beautiful area.

Mum said...

Thank you for the walk. We couldn't get out today because of severe winds and rain.
Love from Mum

Aunt Jane's Attic said...

Lovely piccys of the ponies, hope to visit the New Forest again in the Spring, only got as far as Castle Point to do shopping with daughter! Julie xxx

Isabelle said...

Lovely! Makes me feel that I should get further away from home than I usually do (though Bournemouth would be a bit far from Edinburgh).

The Seat Bottomer said...

Fantastic photos. We were walking along Baiter at about the same time as you were on Hengistbury, we got drenched by that cloudburst in your picture! Wish I'd have had my camera, (forgot it again) there was the most amazing rainbow over Whitecliff. x

Yolanda said...

These photos aea gorgeous. I am so glad I found your blog and I hope you have a wonderful new year.

Helen said...

Lovely photos, thank you so much. These brought back memories for me of a time, many years ago when I lived and worked in Southbourne, and used to walk regularly at Hengistbury Head, and visit Mudeford. Great. I'll pop in again to visit from time to time.

Dartford Warbler said...

Thanks for your comments and welcome to new people who have just found my blog!

Pierre BOYER said...

Lovely walk...
Thanks a lot,
Best regards from France,