SWC walk 74 (backwards) - Barton-on-Sea to Christchurch or Bournemouth
Length: 12.6km (7.8 miles) to Christchurch
16km (10 miles) to Bournemouth
Toughness: 2 out of 10: mainly flat 9.05
train from Waterloo
(9.12 Clapham Junction
) to New Milton, arriving 10.45.
Buy a day return to Bournemouth (or Christchurch, if you definitely plan to return from there)
using the South West Trains £16 offer
- has to be booked in advance online
or bought in advance from a SWT ticket office - in both cases this can be done up to the day before.
The time has come, I think, to do a seaside walk using the SWT £16 offer and so I am taking a punt on the weather this weekend. (Sorry if this is also a slight clash with the second walk above, another long distance SWT expedition: but the SWT offer does not apply next weekend and who knows what the weather will be like in August).
There are excellent sea swimming
opportunities throughout this walk (or as far as Hengistbury Head if you are ending in Christchurch) and there is high tide for most of the walk (the Solent having double high tides due to the Isle of Wight). The beaches are sandy and gently shelving.
Just to be different I am also proposing that this walk be done in the reverse direction
to the one we usually take, that is starting in Barton-on-Sea
. Bear with me on this.....
It means that you have to start with a short bus journey
(go out of the station, turn left up the station approach to get to the main road, turn right on that, then right again into Westfield Road and get the X1 bus
from the left-hand side of the road at 11.00
, direction Bournemouth. In six minutes this bus gets to the coast at the Beachcomber Cafe, the usual end of this walk, but if you get off here you have a road walk of more than a mile to get around a landslip. So don't do that. Instead stay on the bus to "Naish Holiday Village"
(another 7 minutes) and get off there. You then find yourself at the head of Chewton Bunny (it is a valley leading down to the sea) and a path takes you down that for 800 metres to the beach.
You then turn right and walk along the beach. In one mile there are paths up the cliff to Highcliffe Castle
which can be visited, has a tea room (accessible without paying admission) and is pretty to look at even if you are not visiting. (If you want, you can even take the X1 direct to the castle.)
Returning to the beach it is another 1.5 miles to the mouth of Christchurch Harbour
where there are some lunch options including the Haven House Inn
right by the harbour mouth.
You then take the short ferry
across the mouth of the harbour to Mudeford Spit.
Here you find the Beach House Cafe
(a restaurant, but with pub style food) and you climb up onto Hengistbury Head
. Finishing in Christchurch
Once on Hengistbury Head there are written walk directions
to take you to Christchurch station (5km/3 miles), a pretty walk around the edge of Christchurch harbour. and up the River Stour. Follow Route #3 i
n the document, unless you want to be lazy and take another ferry all the way to Christchurch Quay (Route #4
). Tea options on route #3 include the Hiker's Cafe
just beyond Hengistbury Head, and also the Tuckton Tea Gardens
by the road bridge over the Stour. On the other side of the road here there is also a chain pub, whose name escapes me. It is then a dull 1km walk up suburban roads to Christchurch station. Trains back
from Christchurch are at 30 past the hour
and take 1hr 50 minutes
: they overtake the 13 past trains, which take 2hrs 25 minutes Finishing in Bournemouth
If you simply stay on the seafront after Hengistbury Head (you can still go inland a couple of hundred metres to the Hiker's Cafe
if you like), it is 4 miles to Boscombe Pier, the first of Bournemouth's two piers. This is an all-tarmac walk on a promenade and can get monotonous, though the beach is top notch. You can vary it by taking the clifftop path from time to time (nice views). There are cafes en route. The best way to Bournemouth station
(about a mile of road walking) is as follows: Just beyond Boscombe Pier, look for the zigzag path up the cliff. Climb this, and at the top cross the coast road and carry on up a path. This emerges onto a road: go straight down this, across a main road (Christchurch Road) and on down the road (Derby Road) for several blocks until you come to a T-junction. Here turn left into Southcote Road, and at the end of this veer right into St Swithun's Road which brings you in 100 metres to the main road, with the entrance to Bournemouth Station (with ASDA and a multi-storey car park to its left) straight ahead. The fastest train
back from Bournemouth is the 59
past (till 19.59
) taking 1hr 50 minutes
. Next best is the 22
past (till 20.22) taking 2 hours
. Ignore the 05 past, which stops everywhere and is overtaken by the 22 past.
The last practical train is the 21.12
taking 2 hours 10 minutes. The 22.12 stops everywhere and should be avoided.