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.