Bournemouth’s Grade II listed, Green Flag gardens run north from Pier Approach along the River Bourne for around two miles. They consist of three separate, linear gardens; the Lower, Central and Upper Gardens. The further north you go, the quieter and more informal the gardens become. A stroll around any or all of thee gardens will provide you with not only beautiful flora and fauna to admire, but plenty of other things to see and do; from the bustle of summer holidaymakers to the wonder of the festive Christmas lights, there’s always something going on in the gardens.
The Lower Gardens
The Lower Gardens are fairly small, running from the pier to the town centre. There are some beautifully planted formal gardens (currently sporting a Jubilee theme) and a rockery along the eastern edge adjacent to the Pavilion Theatre. In addition, there is also a host of other activities to fit into a walk round the Lower Gardens; mini golf, an aviary, outdoor art exhibition, bandstand, cafe and street food corner. Public toilets are also available.
The aviary has recently been refurbished and houses rescue birds. It is always open (not completely open, obviously, or the birds would fly away) and free. You don’t actually enter the aviary, but can wander around the perimeter and see the birds inside.
Stop at the Hedgehog Cafe for a drink/snack and watch the world pass by. The freshly fried doughnuts and churros are particularly good, although you may need to perfect an anti seagull eating technique to eat them successfully.
Street Food Corner
Just past Pier Approach is an area with two street food vendor pitches. From burgers to burritos to bratwurst – what will it be today? Don’t want to take pot luck? The pitch schedule is available on the BCP Council Website.
Christmas Tree Wonderland
In the winter, the Lower Gardens are transformed into a Christmas Tree Wonderland with an array of Christmas trees and other festive decorations, plus an ice rink.
The Central Gardens
Cross the road and you reach the Middle Gardens. These are also formally planted. Here, you can find the War Memorial, a pergola, tennis courts, a cafe and a children’s playground. There are also seasonal treats such as heather beads and a rhododendron walk.
The Pergola across a bridge was built in 1990 to commemorate the centenary of the Borough of Bournemouth.
This Grade II listed building was built in 1921 to remember the victims of WW1. It is guarded by two stone lions; one awake and one asleep.
Pass under the A338, through the Upside Gallery and you will find yourself in the Upper Gardens.
This formerly rather seedy area, where the A338 (Wessex Way) passes over the gardens, has been transformed by painting the support pillars with a variety of street art, thus creating the Upside Gallery. To read more about my visit to the Upside Gallery, click here.
The Upper Gardens
These are less formal gardens, with the river running through tree lined banks festooned with wild flowers.
You can cross the Upper Gardens via a series of pretty red bridges.
The Upper Gardens are split into three sections, separated by road crossings. The first section also contains a water tower fashioned like a castle turret.
Running alongside the third section is a rockery.
At the top of the Upper Gardens, you can cross the road to the Coy Pond, where you can follow a path lined with trees, including the quintessentially English Weeping Willow.
If you want to walk the length of the gardens, there is free roadside parking alongside the Upper Gardens. That is where I parked when writing this blog, which was rather confusing as I walked from north to south, then wrote from south to north.
For a more structured walk, try The Tree Trail, which takes you on a two hour circular walk from the Lower to the Upper Gardens and back, with emphasis on spotting some of the more noteworthy trees in the gardens.
Cycling is not permitted in the gardens themselves, but there is a cycle path running alongside them, which forms part of the Bourne Valley Greenway.