100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 80 – Watch Premier League Football at The Vitality Stadium

With its 11,300 capacity stadium on the outskirts of a town of half a million inhabitants, AFC Bournemouth may well be considered to be punching above its weight in the English Premier league along with the footballing giants of Manchester United or Chelsea. To put it into perspective, AFC Bournemouth has an annual wage bill of £29 million compared to Manchester United’s enormous 217 million. Put another way, AFC Bournemouth spends as much money on its entire squad as Manchester United spends on one player (Cristiano Ronaldo).

Nevertheless, AFC Bournemouth have found themselves in the Premier League for 6 of the past 8 years. As the Vitality Stadium is so small, actually buying a ticket to watch a game is quite difficult. But tonight is the less popular Carabao Cup (formerly the League Cup, but now renamed after some sort of water buffalo?!) so I am in luck. And for a mere £15, I have a ticket for the third round match against Everton.

Bad hair day
Perfect weather for football

I say I am in luck, it’s actually been raining and blowing a gale all day, so I’m not particularly looking forward to standing outside for a couple of hours. It’s an evening kick off, so I have time to go for a run first. I think my hair sufficiently indicates the strength of the wind!

Vitality Stadium shrouded in rain
Vitality Stadium shrouded in rain

After dinner, I wrap up warm and set off for the stadium in nearby Kings Park in Boscombe. It’s only a mile from home, but my ticket is for the stand furthest from my house. As I approach the car park, the flood lights are happily highlighting quite how heavy the rain actually is. I manage to stand in an enormous puddle so now have wet feet to add to my woes.

AFC Bournemouth Shop

First stop is the shop to buy a fridge magnet. The shop is absolutely heaving. I think it’s more a case of people wanting to keep dry than actually purchase things. Magnet obtained, it’s time to brave the elements once more to queue for security and then pass through the turnstiles.

Vitality Stadium
Vitality Stadium

It takes longer than I’d anticipated. Mainly because women can only join one particular queue to be frisked by a female security guard. Also partly because every now and again, someone gets stuck in the turnstiles. Finally I am through and into the foyer which houses food and drink concessions, toilets and lots of TV screens. I make it to my seat, soaked from the waist down, with 7 minutes to spare before kick off.

AFC Bournemouth warm up v Arsenal
AFC Bournemouth warm up v Arsenal

The advantage of such a small stadium is you feel so close to the action. Unlike other football stadiums I’ve been to, you’re much nearer to the pitch and the players, it’s a much more intimate experience.

AFC Bournemouth v Everton
AFC Bournemouth v Everton

Luckily I made it to me seat just in time, as it’s only 7 minutes into the match, with people still trickling into the stadium, before Bournemouth score.

Watching AFC Bournemouth
Watching AFC Bournemouth

By half time it’s 2-0 and I’m practically dry and can enjoy the second half in a little more comfort. The stand itself is covered, I’m only wet because I walked to the ground through a cloud burst. There is some parking at the ground, but most people opt to walk or take the bus to Boscombe or train to Pokesdown and walk through the park. From what I can see, the main issue with parking appears to be the enormous amount of time to get out of the car park after of the match.

AFC Bournemouth v Everton
AFC Bournemouth v Everton

As we approach the end of the match, there’s a slightly tense moment as Everton score. It’s now 2-1. Bournemouth has managed to lose from two goals up in their last two matches, so there’s a lot of mumbling of ‘here we go again’. But it’s not third time unlucky and we round the evening off with two more goals for a 4-1 victory.

AFC Bournemouth v Everton
AFC Bournemouth

Time to make my way home along with the thousands of others spilling out of the stadium. And possibly a beer to two to celebrate – once I’ve put my fridge magnet on the fridge, of course.

Fridge magnets
Well dressed Fridge

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 79 – Bournemouth Pavilion

Bournemouth Pavilion is a theatre at the bottom of Bournemouth Gardens close to the sea front. The 1920s Art Deco theatre providing year-round entertainment. Built in the 1920s, this vintage theatre retains its original and elegant styling and is home to touring West End stage shows, Opera, Ballet, Pantomime, Comedy and concerts houses a wide range of shows; plays, music, dance, comedy and the annual pantomime. But to be honest we usually go for a fix of musical theatre, with opportunities to see touring West Shows as well as well as local productions.

Bournemouth Pavilion exterior
Bournemouth Pavilion exterior

Getting There

The theatre is easily accessible by public transport with a bus stop right outside the entrance in Westover Road serving several buses (1, 2, M2, 33, X1, X2, X3) however it is a one way road, so there isn’t a corresponding stop on the other side of the road, so after the performance you need to turn left and walk towards the town centre.

Bournemouth Pavilion interior

Parking

Being situated in the centre of Bournemouth although accessible by car and with its own 185 space car park. However, finding a space can be difficult (especially on a sunny day) due to the proximity to the beach. Parking is also expensive costing £3 an hour for most of the year (£1.90 from 1 November). The last show we attended lasted 2 hours 49 minutes, so even if you parked very shortly before curtain up and pretty much sprinted out of the building after the encore, you’d be hard pressed to get away with paying less than £12 to park.

Bournemouth Pavilion Foyer – Calendar Girls

Facilities

Like most theatres, there are bars for your pre/during/post performance refreshments. Unlike most theatres, you can choose to take your refreshments on the terrace overlooking the sea. You actually also get quite a nice sea view from the ladies’ toilets. You may also get a good view from the men’s toilets – I haven’t checked this out!

Bournemouth Pavilion Terrace
Bournemouth Pavilion Terrace

Performances

We visited most recently to see The Addams Family Musical put on by the excellent local company; BBLOC (Bournemouth & Boscombe Light Opera Company). It’s the 5th time I’ve been to a BBLOC musical since I’ve lived here. I have also attended touring West Shows. To to be honest, BBLOC could give your average west end performance a run for their money.

Bournemouth Pavilion – Priscilla Queen of the Desert

The Addams Family

The Addams Family is no exception, and we really enjoyed the show, which was well directed, choreographed and performed by a great cast and live orchestra.

Bournemouth Pavilion – The Addams Family

With a seating capacity of 1500, the theatre is large enough to to create a great atmosphere but small enough to feel intimate. We opted for the matinee which was pretty much sold out. Photography was prohibited during the performance, so here is a picture from the BBLOC Website.

The Addams Family

After the show, the cast, still in full costumes and make up, traipsed across the road to KFC for inter performance refreshments, which probably didn’t look too out of place as it was Halloween!

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 78 – Poole Beer Festival

Tonight we’re off to Poole Beer Festival. This annual festival, organised by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), is being held for the 23rd time. The event takes place at St Adhelm’s Centre in Branksome, just 3 miles west of Bournemouth, on the main (A35) road to Poole. It would, theoretically, be an easy place to drive to. But who drives to a beer festival? The M2 Bournemouth to Poole bus stops right outside the centre. Particularly convenient at the end of the night with not too far to stagger to get home.

Poole Beer Festival
Poole Beer Festival

The festival runs over four sessions; Friday and Saturday afternoon and evening and costs £10. This gets you entry to the event, a programme, souvenir glass plus two half pint beer tokens. On Saturday evening, this also includes live music.

Poole Beer Festival - Beers
Poole Beer Festival – Beers

The choice of beer is pretty impressive, boasting over 85 cask ales, plus bottled and keg beers, ciders and perries to choose from. Unfortunately, as we opted for Saturday evening, the final session, when we arrive, are were already a lot of empty barrels.

Poole Beer Festival
Poole Beer Festival

Having perused the extensive menu, I set forth for the cider section. The cider had been particularly popular, so my first choice; Tutti Frutti (sweet exotic cider with cherry and pineapple) is not available. On to my second choice; Cherry Cider, also finished. Third choice; Stormy Lemonade (Sweet retro cider with a lemonade tang), none left. And finally, fourth time lucky, a pint of Dorset Strawberry Sunshine (with New Forest Strawberries).

Poole Beer Festival - Wringing out the Cider
Poole Beer Festival – Wringing out the Cider

It is a similar story with the beers, but finally we have our drinks and find a seat in the marquee, to enjoy our beer/cider whilst bemoaning the reduced choices available. Once alcohol has been imbibed, we find in hilarious to complete the ‘beer of the festival’ slips for our first, second and third choices of drinks, none of which we have actually drunk. Well, it was funny at the time…

Poole Beer Festival
Poole Beer Festival

According to the programme; “If you are lucky enough to have Saturday evening tickets, you have the chance to experience the one and only one man band extraordinaire that is Andy Smooth.” That’s some build up. Turns out Andy Smooth has a guitar and sings covers. But he sings them well, so we enjoy his set before returning to the marquee for another drink.

Poole Beer Festival - Andy Smooth
Poole Beer Festival – Andy Smooth

By now, even my fourth choice of cider has finished and I’m not keen on real ale, so I commit a cardinal beer festival sin and purchase a bottle of lager, which goes into my souvenir glass so I don’t look like a saddo drinking lager and a real ale festival.

Poole Beer Festival -  Beers
Poole Beer Festival – Beers

The end of the evening is nigh. The event finishes at 11 pm, so I depart just beforehand to catch the 10.56 bus back to Bournemouth. They must be anticipating some leftovers at end of the evening, as on the way out I spot an advert for a ‘Beer and Hymns’ church service on Sunday evening. Unsurprisingly, there are lots of other people at the bus stop, none of them particularly sober, which makes the journey home all the more entertaining. Overall, we had an enjoyable evening and shall be back next year, but at a session earlier in the weekend.

Beer and Hymns
Beer & Hymns

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 70 – Canford Heath

Introduction

Canford Heath on the outskirts of Poole is the largest area of heathland in Dorset. The 850 acre site is situated approximately 6 miles north west of Bournemouth. It is home to snakes, lizards, dragonflies and birds and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Criss-crossed with trails and with its elevated view it make for a pleasant outing.

Canford Heath
Canford Heath

Getting There

Just north of Poole and close to Turbary Retail Park and the entertainment complex of Tower Park, Canford Heath is easily accessible by car and public transport. There are several entrances to Canford Heath, including at Gravel Hill lay-by and on Culliford Crescent and Francis Avenue. There is no actual car park, however there is free parking available on many of the surrounding roads. Buses No 18 from Bournemouth and 5/6 from Poole stop at The Pilot next to the heath. The bus stop is named after the adjacent pub, so handy if you work up a hunger/thirst during your exertions on the heath.

Canford Heath Map

Trails

There are trails running through and around the edge of the heath which make for a lovely scenic walk/run with views across the heathland to Poole Harbour and beyond.

Canford Heath Trail
Canford Heath Trail

Trails are also suitable for cycling, although a little bumpy for my liking. Note that I am, in fact, a wuss.

Canford Heath Trail
Canford Heath Trail

We chose a lovely autumn afternoon to take a walk around one of the trails.

Canford Heath
Fire damaged trees

The area was devastated by a large fire earlier in the year, but is starting to regenerate. The russet tones of the autumnal foliage have started to creep above the charred black embers below.

Canford Heath
Autumn Colours
Canford Heath
Autumn Colours

On a good day, you can see right across to Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island with the sea glistening on the horizon.

View from Canford Heath
View to Poole Harbour

In the other direction is Tower Park with its distinctive water tower and the equally distinctive Parkstone water tower further to the left.

View from Canford Heath
View to Tower Park

Note: Dogs must be kept on a short lead between March and July and under close control at all other times of the year.

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 77 – Kingfisher Barn

Kingfisher Barn is a Visitor Centre in the Stour Valley Nature Reserve, a two mile stretch of riverside footpaths on the north-west edge of Bournemouth. The reserve is abundant with flora and fauna with over 400 species of plants plus plenty of wildlife, such as kingfishers, otters and dragonflies.

Welcome to Stour Valley Nature Reserve
Welcome to Stour Valley Nature Reserve

Visitor Centre

The Visitor Centre provides maps and other information plus refreshments (drinks, cakes and ice cream). The centre opens daily from 10 am. There is plenty of free parking adjacent to the centre.

Kingfisher Barn Visitor Centre
Kingfisher Barn Visitor Centre

The centre is also home to a wildlife garden and pond. It organises a range of activities for children and adults throughout the year. For adults there are guided walks, the chance to learn new skills such as willow weaving plus opportunities to volunteer with tasks such as hedge laying. For children there are guided walks, activities such as pond dipping and craft sessions on offer.

Kingfisher Barn Wildlife Garden
Kingfisher Barn Wildlife Garden

From here, there are a series of three trails you can follow along the banks of the River Stour.

Stour Valley Nature Reserve
Stour Valley Nature Reserve

Dragonfly Trail

Take the path from the Visitor Centre to the riverside, then turn right to follow the Dragonfly Trail. This 1.2 mile long loop heads east along the river and back through the aboretum. Here, you may encounter one of the reserve’s 17 species of dragonflies/damselflies.

Stour Valley Nature Reserve
Stour Valley Nature Reserve

Pollinator Trail

Take the path from the Visitor Centre to the riverside, then turn left to follow the Pollinator Trail. This 3.5 mile long loop goes west along the river as far as Cherry Tree Nursery and back through wildflower meadows which provide nectar for pollinating insects.

Stour Valley Nature Reserve

Butterfly Trail

An extension to the Pollinator Trail is to continue along the river for the 4 mile long Butterfly Trail, this turns and returns to the Pollinator Trail via the Paddock. Here, you may encounter one of the valley’s 28 species of butterfly.

Stour Valley Nature Reserve

The Owl Trail

The trail from the river bank to the car park is lined with carved wooden owl sculptures.

The Owl Trail
The Owl Trail

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 75 – Saltwater Sauna

The Saltwater Sauna is a Finnish sauna in a trailer located on Sandbanks Beach, 4 miles west of Bournemouth. Sandbanks is at the end of the Prom, so easy to reach on foot or by bike. It is well served with public transport (the 50 Breezer bus stops here) and there is a large Pay & Display car park, although it is a very popular spot in summer and spaces can fill up quickly.

Saltwater Sauna on Sandbanks Beach
Saltwater Sauna on Sandbanks Beach

The sauna accommodates up to 8 people, depending on your booking type. Bookings open 3 weeks in advance and sell out very quickly. You can opt to reserve the whole sauna for 65 minutes, which costs £75 for up to 8 people or for 35 minutes, where the booking limit is 5 people and costs £50. Alternatively, you can book a 65 minute individual slot which costs £15, where you will share with up to 5 others.

Saltwater Sauna
Saltwater Sauna

According to the website, the sauna provides stunning views to the sea through a panoramic window where you can enjoy stunning sunrises from the comfort of a luxury beach-side sauna. It recommends 10-15 minutes in the sauna before a dip in the sea and repeat… Sounds amazing!

Saltwater Sauna
Saltwater Sauna

I was really looking forward to my sauna experience earlier in the year, but a positive Covid test the night before meant I wasn’t able to attend. Today, I finally got round to my first seaside sauna and we (my daughter, her boyfriend and I) set off on our cycle towards Sandbanks.

Saltwater Sauna
Saltwater Sauna

We arrived, and after a briefing, were able to enter the sauna with the other three people who had booked the 9 am slot. It’s quite intimate with six in the sauna, but as everyone is in and out to the sea all the time, this only happened once at the very beginning. After that, we staggered our sea dips and were able to stretch out on the steamy pine and enjoy the view of the sun rising over the bay.

Sauna with a view
Sauna with a view

It’s much more fun that the traditional sauna/cold shower/sauna routine; descending from the sauna, then running across the sand for a dip in the sea. Our one hour allocated time passed really quickly and all too soon the attendant was knocking on the changing room door (a bit like an episode of Mr Benn) and it was time to leave.

Saltwater Sauna
Saltwater Sauna

The company currently has two further permit applications pending to place more saunas along the Bournemouth coast. I really hope they are successful because (a) I really enjoyed my sauna and would love to do it again and (b) it’s a 13 mile round trip from my house and my daughter made me cycle and I was exhausted!

Cycling to Sandbanks
Cycling to Sandbanks

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 76 – Run Bournemouth

Run Bournemouth is a series of running races over a variety of distances which takes place annually in early October. On Saturday, there are children’s races in the afternoon with distances from 1 kilometre to 5 kilometres, depending on age. This is followed by the Supernova 5k in the evening. On Sunday, there is the Supersonic 10k and the Half Marathon, which isn’t super anything.

End of Bournemouth Half Marathon
End of Bournemouth Half Marathon

Supernova 5k

The Supernova 5k starts at 7 pm, just as the sun is setting over the bay, which is always a sight to behold as you stand nervously in the toilet queue even though you just went to the loo before leaving home.

Bournemouth sunset
Bournemouth sunset

Runners are all issued with head torches. Many also opt to dress up with neon clothing and flashing lights. As darkness descends, the race starts and runners set off along the Promenade. The course consists of a 2 km stretch from Bournemouth Pier to Boscombe Pier, then turns and heads back to Bournemouth.

Bournemouth 5k
Setting off along the Prom

The run culminates with a circumnavigation of the pier before finishing on Pier Approach.

Bournemouth 5k
Bournemouth 5k

This year, the Pier was illuminated with rows of purple lights, which added to the spectacle.

Bournemouth Pier in purple
Bournemouth Pier in purple

Saturday’s races all start and finish in the same place (Bournemouth Pier) which makes transport logistics simple. Plenty of buses stop nearby in Bournemouth Square. There is a Pay & Display car park next to the start, which costs £3 an hour – incentive to run faster?!

End of Bournemouth 5k
End of Bournemouth 5k

Supersonic 10k

The Supersonic 10k starts at Hengistbury Head, 5 miles east of Bournemouth, then after a short road section, turns and descends onto to the Prom and heads to Bournemouth, taking in both Boscombe and Bournemouth Pier along the way.

Bournemouth 10k
Bournemouth 10k

This is a scenic route, with the majority of the race along the seafront. Although it can involve running several miles into a headwind. Perfect for kite surfers, less so for runners.

Bournemouth 10k
Bournemouth 10k

Half Marathon

The Half Marathon starts and finishes in the same place as the 10k, but goes up and down the clifftop and the prom a bit more.

Bournemouth Half Marathon
Bournemouth Half Marathon

To be honest, starting and finishing in two different places is trying. There is no way to reach Hengistbury Head by public transport. The race organisers run an (expensive – £9!) event bus between the start and finish. This is only useful if you are (a) made of money and (b) near the start or finish to begin with. But if like me, you live in between the start and finish, you need to get a bus to the bus, which isn’t ideal.

In addition, the road is closed long before the race starts causing large traffic jams and making access to the start difficult. Plus, the car park is used for portable toilets so there’s nowhere to park. We opted to get a lift to the start, got stuck in traffic, and missed the start. The traffic was so bad, that even though we left what we thought was plenty of time, we ended up having to get out of the car and run to the start. When the gun went off, we were still in the queues for the toilets.

End of Bournemouth Half Marathon
End of Bournemouth Half Marathon

Frankly, after running 13.1 miles, the last thing I wanted to do was walk (hobble) the half mile up the hill to catch a bus home again. Why the race can’t start and finish in one place is a mystery to me. In future, I shall stick to spectating from the end of my road, which doesn’t involve four buses, £12 in bus fares or any form of hobbling.

Watching Run Bournemouth
Watching Run Bournemouth

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 74 – The Black Cherry Theatre Cafe

The Black Cherry is a theatre themed cafe/bar in Boscombe. I’ve been meaning to go for a while now, and finally got round to it tonight.

The Black Cherry
The Black Cherry

Getting There

The suburb of Boscombe is a couple of miles east of Bournemouth. The Black Cherry is in the centre of Boscombe in the pedestrian precinct in Christchurch Road, next to Sainsburys supermarket. It is easily reached by public transport with buses 1, 1a, 1b and M2 stopping at nearby Boscombe Bus Station. To drive, head for Hawkwood Road where there is ample Pay & Display parking to the rear of Sainsburys (£3.50 for 4 hours). You can then walk through the supermarket, or the adjacent alleyway to reach the Black Cherry. The venue is easy to spot as the front has been decorated with a theatrical cherry theme by local artist LucanArt.

The Black Cherry
The Black Cherry

Inside, the space has been split into two by a curtain. The front area contain the cafe/bar where you can sit and enjoy pre show drinks and a meal if you so wish. The menu is predominantly pizza. If you choose to eat, a package ticket including tickets, drinks and pizza is available.

The Black Cherry Bar
The Black Cherry Bar

At the rear, behind the curtain is the performance space. It’s quite small, but I found that added to the intimacy. Having lived in London for years and gone to many West End performances where I was in a different time zone to the actors, this was a whole new experience to get so up-close-and-personal with the performers.

Sleeping Lions
Sleeping Lions

The play we went to see was called ‘Sleeping Lions’ by Tom Derrington. I’m going to do something I don’t usually do and merely cut and paste a synopsis of the play: “The invitations have been delivered, the party games are ready, the table is set and the balloons are up. But where are all the children? Mum Katie is convinced that her precious son Leo is the most popular boy in the class but Dad Max has discovered something that tears him apart. Other parents whisper conspiratorially at the school gates and plot to keep their children away. So, whose version of the truth is real? As the parents wait for the birthday party, the clock ticks and tension builds to an unbearable climax. Funny, raw and profoundly moving, this incredible award winning play is guaranteed to take you on a roller coaster of emotions.” I’m not going to say any more, except that there was a lot of rustling at the end as people rummaged in bags and pockets for tissues. Go and see it if you get a chance!

The Black Cherry hosts theatre, music and comedy evenings. It also holds classes is acting, singing, dance and art. Or you can just go for a drink and something to eat. It’s a great little venue and I shall definitely be back for another bite of the cherry…

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 73 – Arts by the Sea

Arts by the Sea is Bournemouth’s annual arts festival. Held every autumn, it consists of a mixture of art installations, music, dance, theatre and all manner of other performances. This year, the weekend long arts extravaganza was rounded off with a parade on Sunday evening.

Arts by the Sea 2022
Arts by the Sea 2022

2022 – Play

I’ve been to Arts by the Sea several times, but this year was something else. I was amazed how busy it was, with people queuing for over an hour to enter the Luminarium. My theory is that since everything was closed during lockdown, people are now more intent on going out and enjoying themselves when they can. My friend thinks that it’s because it was free and due to the cost of living crisis, everyone is skint.

Arts by the Sea 2022 Logo
2022 Logo

This year’s theme was Play. The theme certainly made the event even more popular for families with young children and there was plenty of laughter and squealing to be heard around town as the young (and the old) enjoyed watching, listening to and interacting with the various projects.

Arts by the sea Parade
Carnival Parade

The Luminarium

This year saw three main installations: The Luminarium is a ‘pneumatic sculpture’, consisting of a labyrinth of inflated shapes, which you can climb into to enjoy a display of light and colour. It looked pretty cool, but I’ll be honest, I’m not the most patient person. We went on Saturday, saw the length of the queue and decided to skip it. On Sunday, we went again hoping it would be less busy. They had closed the queue because it was too long. It was a bit like the Queen’s coffin all over again. In a upside down bouncy castle in Bournemouth.

The Luminarium from the outside
The Luminarium from the outside

I don’t usually post photos I haven’t taken myself, but here is one similar to what I might have taken inside if I was a more patient person with a more British attitude to queuing.

The Luminarium from the inside

The Nectary

The Nectary consists of large flowers hanging from a gazebo in the gardens. They emit bee sounds, thus inviting visitors to ‘immerse themselves in nature as they mimic a pollinating insect moving between giant glowing flowers’. It was particularly popular with small children and there was plenty of giggling every time the bee noises started up. The illuminated flowers looked particularly striking after dusk.

The Nectary by day
The Nectary by day
The Nectary by night
The Nectary by night

Airship Orchestra

To quote the organisers, The Airship Orchestra is ‘a mystical tribe of otherworldly characters beamed from the night stars, skin streaked with galaxy and voices like stardust. Visitors are beckoned inside the formation to bathe in volumetric sound and rhythmic light pulsation’. The installation’s large inflatable figures, which emitted sound and light, were very popular with small children (and adults!) who were keen to bounce on the giant Weeble-like figures, causing them to wobble and blink with their LED eyes. I did actually hear one mother tell her child off, saying: “It’s Art. You mustn’t touch it!” Which I thought was a bit sad. Isn’t that kind of the point?

Airship Orchestra by day
Airship Orchestra by day

Again the Airship Orchestra really came into its own after dusk when the illuminations and blinking eyes were more distinct.

Airship Orchestra by day
Airship Orchestra by day

Carnival by the Sea

As already mentioned, the weekend culminated in a parade consisting of musicians, dancers, flag bearers and giant puppet figures. The puppeteers, volunteers from the local community, were great at making their puppets interact with the crowd, waving and high fiving and so on. When I tried to take a photo of an Indian puppets, it bent over and patted me on the head, which scared the living daylights out of me.

Pupeteer
Puppeteer

The carnival was fun and very popular, particular the puppets. It was a fitting way to round off a great weekend of artsy entertainment. Hopefully, the parade will reappear bigger and better on next year’s programme.

Puppeteer
Puppeteer

Other Attractions

Press Play

Press Play, a display of sound and light on the Town Hall, was supposed to get the weekend off to a spectacular start on Friday evening. Unfortunately, the weather was atrocious and it was more a matter of press pause as events had to be postponed or brought inside. This meant that I missed Press Play, which was a shame as I saw pictures later online at it looked amazing. I don’t usually post photos I haven’t taken myself, but here is one similar to what I might have taken if it hadn’t rained causing the schedule to be changed, which I subsequently misread…

Press Play

In addition to the big installations, the town centre, gardens and prom were filled with a mixture of singers, musicians and other performers, skateboarders, a mobile disco and much more.

Previous Years

2017 – Plastic Beach

The first year I came to Bournemouth, in 2017, the theme was Plastic Beach, focusing on the the need to recycle more single use plastic which all too often ends up on our beached. This saw such events as people dressed in rubbish wandering round the gardens. And a large bottle was built on the beach made from plastic bottles retrieved from the sea.

2017 - Plastic Beach
2017 – Plastic Beach
2017 - Plastic Beach
2017 – Plastic Beach

2020 – Journeys

Not surprisingly, 2020 was a scaled down affair, due to Covid, but there was a festival. The main installations were well spaced out across Bournemouth and Poole, so we tried to fit as many as possible into our own journey; a Sunday morning run.

2020 – Journey

The year was not without controversy; The Windbreak by Cold War Steve was two sided, with a ‘hopeful’ side and a ‘dark’ side. The dark side featured, among other things, a naked Boris Johnson chasing a pig. This did not go down well with the local (Conservative) council and in the end, only one side was displayed!

The Windbreak's Hopeful side
The Windbreak’s Hopeful side

I don’t usually post photos I haven’t taken myself, but here is one similar to what I might have taken if the work hadn’t been censored by the council.

The Windbreak – censored version

2021 – Connect

2021 coincide with me starting a new job and I spent the weekend in a darkened room, remembering why I’d previously already decided to retire! Then ventured forth in search of wine. But for those who were inclined to spend their weekend in a more cultural, less alcohol fuelled manner, the theme was Connect.

How I spent so21

2023

Details for 2023 are yet to be announced. Watch this space, as they say…

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 72 – Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum

The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum is situated in the former home of Merton and Annie Russell-Cotes. The Russell-Cotes were Victorian travel bloggers. The couple travelled the world writing about their trips and collecting souvenirs along the way. I have been making scrapbooks of my travels since the age of 10 and am quite proud of my collection, but the Russell-Cotes were in a whole different league.

Russell-Cotes Museum
Russell-Cotes Museum

Where I bought a postcard, or perhaps a fridge magnet, they purchased a statue or an oil painting. In fact, they collected so many souvenirs on their travels around the globe, that in 1901 Merton had a house purpose built, not only as a residence, but also to house their collection.

Russell-Cotes Garden
Russell-Cotes Garden

Upon their deaths, the house and its contents were bequeathed to Bournemouth council. Their former home remains home to their prolific collection of art and other souvenirs of their travels and is open to the public as an art gallery and museum. The collection boasts around 50,000 pieces.

View from the house
View from the house

Orientation

The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum sits on the East Cliff, overlooking Bournemouth. It is a short walk from the town centre, or can be reached from the prom via a ramped walkway.

View from the house
View from the house

Opening Times

The museum opens Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am until 5 pm. Once a month, a themed Museum Late evening, from 5-8, focuses on an element of the vast collection.

Paper Dress
Paper Dress

Entry Fees

Entry costs £8.50 for adults (£4.50 for children and concessions). There are special prices for families and annual passes.

Japanese Armour
Japanese Armour

Gardens

Before you even enter the museum, there is plenty to admire. The view for one. And the gardens. And indeed the house itself, with its castle like turrets from where there are even more impressive views across the bay to the Purbecks and the Isle of Wight.

Russell-Cotes Garden
Russell-Cotes Garden

House

Once inside, you can visit the original Victorian house plus four adjoining galleries built later to house more of the couple’s collection. The house itself is a work of art. It consists of three floors with a grand staircase and stained glass ceiling.

Ceiling

Morning Room

In this room with a stunning, used by Merton and Annie for their breakfast and relaxation, the best pieces of the museum’s collection is on display. This includes Spray by a former teacher from Bournemouth College of Art, Harold Williamson.

Spray

Moorish Alcove

My favourite room is the ornate Moorish Alcove, with a striking bust of Ira Frederick Aldridge in character as Othello. Aldridge is believed to be the first black Shakespearean actor.

Moorish Alcove and Othello
Moorish Alcove and Othello

Gallery 1

Adjacent to the house is the first of the four galleries, commissioned by Annie in 1916. Pride of place here goes to an enormous oil painting of Mary and Joseph’s flight into Egypt entitled Anno Domini.

Anno Domini
Anno Domini

Gallery 2

The second gallery contains pieces collected by Merton (ie; a lot more boobs). I loved the (fully dressed) Thames Embankment, although even here a naked water nymph puts in an appearance.

The Thames Embankment
The Thames Embankment

There’s also the morbidly beautiful sculpture of The Princes in the Tower. It depicts the bodies of Princes Edward and Richard, who are believed to have died in the Tower of London after being held captive by their uncle, King Richard III.

The Princes in the Tower
The Princes in the Tower

Special Events

In addition to the monthly Museum Late evenings, the museum organises a range of activities throughout the year, such as activities for children during the school holidays and seasonal events during Christmas and Halloween. This year, the gallery is celebrating its centenary. A series of sixpence days have been held, with admission costing the original price of sixpence. The final sixpence day takes place on 1st December.

Elephant
Elephant

I tried to convince my daughters that they should do a similar thing with my travel collection when I die, but they tell me they’re going to make my scrapbooks into a bonfire and burn me on it.

My funeral pyre
My funeral pyre