So it had finally come down to this, a relatively simple jaunt down to the beach and a walk along the promenade of a popular seaside destination in order to complete my walk around the coastline of Great Britain. By some fluke, my numbered trip report I noted was to be 360! Quite coincidental and not planned, but appropriate, although I had done more than 360 reports due to the extra reports required in my Use of Ferries decision.
I had spent the night in the back of the car due to a mix up of my hotel booking. I had slept in the back of the car many times before, especially in the north of Scotland. However, then I had a pillow, a sleeping mat and a four season sleeping bag – I had none of these and it was incredibly uncomfortable and cold as I tried to get some sleep. I had very little sleep as I continually checked my watch for the time and reverted to watching the Lighthouse out on the Hurst Castle Spit, do 4 flashes then wait 6 seconds before repeating the sequence – it passed the time for a while. I had set my alarm for 05:00 when I could at least begin to get ready and do the slow drive over towards Sandbanks.
With the dawn just beginning to arrive I set off down the winding road into Milford -on-Sea and then on to the residential area of Sandbanks, where good street parking was available. After parking up I walked for about 100m to the bus stop and caught the 07:16 #50 bus to Bournemouth Station. Here I caught the 08:03 train to Christchurch. By 08:40 I was heading out from Christchurch Station along the B3059 towards Southbourne on the outskirts of Bournemouth. After crossing the River Stour, I followed its banks eastwards to where it emptied into Christchurch Harbour. I was heading towards Hengistbury Head on a thin sliver of land that enclosed Christchurch Harbour. At just 36m high Warren Hill stands out from the surrounding terrain and after making a circular walk around the old pools, previously used for the extraction of Ironstone I head towards its top. From Warren Hill I have have superb viewpoint looking across to the Purbeck Hills above Swanage and along the long sweeping coastline of Poole Bay and Sandbanks where my walk will end.
I drop down from Hengistbury Head and head towards the start of the promenade at Southbourne, which I will remain on until the finish. Its easy going and like many promenades up and down the country I have walke, it makes for swift progress. I pass the first of two piers, the first being Boscombe, an unattractive concrete creation. Two kilometres on and I arrive Bournemouth Pier, more traditional and very busy. Loud music blares out from large speakers and a beach volleyball match is underway. This certainly seems to be the more popular part of Poole Bay. The end is in sight now and at 12:45 on 12th September 2021 I walk through the Sandbanks Hotel car park and cross over the B3369 to complete my walk around the coastline of Great Britain! I ask an elderly gentleman to take my photograph. No fanfare, just a slightly underwhelming feeling, but an inward warm satisfying feeling that I had linked up all those tiny footprints to complete a walk of 6678 miles. As in previous challenges like completing a National Trail, climbing all the Munro’s and Corbett’s, the moment for me is never euphoric, just fulfilling. I did contact Radio Shropshire last week to announce I would be completing the walk this weekend, but they never got back to me.
So I have a couple of thoughts that I would like to share:
- A big thanks to all those people, particularly my wife who have supported me in this endeavour. To all those “Coasters” who are in the process of walking the coast including Ruth Livingstone, Tony Urwin, Jon Combe, Helpful Mammal, Paul Hills and James Wearmouth – thanks for your advice and good luck and a safe completion. To my friends on Scottish Hills, where I posted all of my Scottish Trip reports.
- A popular and common question is “What is your favourite part of the Coast”. To which I answer that I don’t have a favourite coastal walk, because, besides the scenery there are so many other factors like mind set, health, injury, weather, company, bad incidents (like some idiot drivers) which all affect how I feel. I also do not mind walking through industrial areas. There were a few standout experiences which I did enjoy namely walking across Morecambe Bay with the tide out, walking around Cape Wrath, walking through 16 miles through residential streets from Woolwich to Gravesend and my final walk in Scotland.
- Another question is “what are planning on doing next?”. Well there are about 6 reports along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path which I have yet to write up. When I did this section many years ago, I had a pretty poor digital camera, So I may do these sections again. I am also keen to complete the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail.
- I will probably make a few further posts on this blog to update the position on the Bowls and Platters which I am still preparing and finishing. A number have already been sold. So more of that in the future.
Meanwhile a final thanks to all my subscribers.
Distance today = 12.5 miles
Total distance = 6,678 miles