16a. Poole – Sandbanks to South Haven Point

This was another walk around  an estuary undertaken because of my “Use of Ferries” undertaking. The difference with this walk was that Poole is my start and end point in walking around the coastline of Great Britain. I must admit completing my challenge by walking around Poole Harbour would not be as appealing as finishing on the actual coastline.

I opted to do this walk in a single day and while planning the route I could see that it would be a long walk but with little in the way of ascent/descent. I would be following the Poole Harbour Trail for some of the way, but there would be a considerable amount of urban walking through the Poole suburbs and along a busy main roads.

When I walk around estuaries I always try to park at the half-way point or near to the bridging point. I found a free car park at Sunnyside Farm used for the visitors to the Nature Reserve at Stoborough Heath. Unfortunately my early arrival at 6:15 in the morning was too early and the gates were locked. Not too bothered, I drove a bit further down the road and managed to find a spot on the side of the road. By 6:30 I was away, although it was still very cold. Most of this area of the Isle of Purbeck is heathland, with sandy soils, heather, small lagoons, bog and isolated Old Scots Pines coppices. I set off on a dirt track on a very grey, overcast and misty morning. I soon came to a field with a small herd of White Park cattle – a rare and ancient breed of cattle found predominantly in the UK.

After passing along footpaths, lanes and farm tracks I neared a large conifer forest that obscured the presence of the largest onshore Oil and Gas Field in Western Europe – Wytch Farm. Oil was discovered in commercial quantities back in 1973. With the clever use of directional drilling the range of the oil field is very extensive. Production peaked back in 1997 and has slowly dropped off with forecasts of only a few more years of Oil production and slightly more for gas. I managed to get a sight of the facility through the high security fencing. A little further on from the main site I was able to see a couple of “Nodding Donkeys” at a smaller location busily pumping oil to the surface.

Early morning on a misty Stoborough Heath
White Park cattle – a rare and ancient breed
Well camouflaged Sika deer

I picked up the Poole harbour Trail again; on Rempstone Heath I came across a small group of Sika Deer which watched me from a short distance away and did not bolt as most other deer do. The Trail twisted and turned and I soon heard the noise of traffic on the Ferry Road. The Trail path ran alongside the road across Studland to South Haven Point, where a ferry was just returning from Sandbanks. As a passenger you don’t have to pay the £1 fare when travelling to Sandbanks, but do have to pay if travelling in the opposite direction. The chain ferry was very busy with its load of cars and took just 4 minutes to cross the harbour mouth.

I set off along the pavement walking through Sandbanks, marvelling at the fact that Sandbanks has the fourth highest land value in the World! The sun, until now, had been hidden by an overcast sky, but was now beginning to emerge and it was getting much warmer. I followed the main road  around the coast into Poole itself. Even though it was Sunday morning there was a fair number of people out jogging and walking the dog. By the time I got to Quay at Poole Old Town I decided I needed a break. The opportunity of ‘bagging’ another Wetherspoons was offered with The Quay where I opted for a Veggie breakfast.

Looking down Studland Beach and the start of the South West Coast Path
The ferry arriving from Sandbanks
Heading for Sandbanks
The Quay at Poole Old Town

Rested and fed I set off along the Quay at Poole admiring the multi-million pound luxury motor Yachts berthed nearby. I crossed a swing bridge over the Back Water Channel and on along the main road through Hamworthy and Upton. I crossed over the busy dual carriageway of the A35 and continued and through the quiet village of Lychett Minster. After walking around the busy roundabout with the A35 I joined the dead straight road of the A351 for the next three miles. I was intrigued to out what was housed on my left behind high security fencing and obviously of some bygone era. I found out later it was in fact the old Royal Navy Cordite factory at Holton Heath, established  in 1914. After the Second World War, its role gradually diminished and by 1981 most the site was turned over to a Nature Reserve, housing and industrial units.

Luxury Motor Yachts
Crossing over the Back Channel swing bridge

I finally arrived at the picturesque market town of Wareham, having crossed over the train tracks close to the Station by means of a permitted crossing. I walked down the High Street, which was busy with a number of tourists and made my way to the South Bridge which straddled the River Frome. I immediately turned left after the bridge and followed the river for a short way on what was now the Purbeck/Hardy Way. Ay Redcliffe I headed away from the river along quiet lanes and through the village of Ridge. I continued onto towards Stoborough Heath where my car was parked. I must admit that after 26 miles I still felt ok, which was probably due to the low terrain and the sun remaining hidden for most of the walk.

Wareham High Street
Crossing the River Frome at South Bridge

Distance today =  26 miles
Total distance = 4,712 miles