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 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 45 – Boscombe

Boscombe Beach

The suburb of Boscombe, a mile to the east of its more illustrious neighbour Bournemouth doesn’t always get a good press – in the past it’s been voted one of the ten worst places to live in Britain. Most visitors head straight for the beach and don’t get to see what else Boscombe has to offer. So what is there to see, if you can be prise yourself away from your beach towel?

Visit the beach

Boscombe Beach
Boscombe Beach

Obviously, Boscombe Beach is the town’s top attraction. In the middle of a ten mile stretch of golden sand which runs from Sandbanks to Hengistbury Head, it is the perfect location to enjoy the sea and sand. If you want to get more active, there is also surfing, bouldering and beach volleyball available.

Take a wander along the pier

The renovated Victorian Pier is a lovely place to take a walk and admire the view across the bay; on a good day you can see the Isle of Wight and Old Harry in the Purbecks. In addition, there is a series of music themed activities (anyone for a verse of ‘I do like to be beside the seaside?).

The Red Arrows over Boscombe Pier
The Red Arrows over Boscombe Pier

Stroll through the Gardens

Boscombe boasts some beautiful gardens; accessed just behind the pier are Boscombe Chine Gardens. Here, you can enjoy the floral displays, play more crazy golf or get a drink at the cafe. For children, there’s a water themed play area.

Boscombe Chine Gardens
Boscombe Chine Gardens

To the east of the pier are Boscombe Cliff Gardens. In addition to the pretty Italianate gardens, you may also spot goats grazing on the cliffs below.

Boscombe Cliff Gardens
Boscombe Cliff Gardens

Follow the Arts Trail

Commissioned to tempt beachgoers into town, is the Boscombe Arts Trail. Walk up Sea Road from the pier to the pedestrian precinct and you will spot seven sculptures by Dorset artist Andy Kirkby.

Boscombe Arts Trail
Boscombe Arts Trail

Admire some Street Art

Boscombe has its fair share of street art. Take a wander around, see what you can spot, or follow my trail which covers all the works I’ve come across. In addition, work by the same artists can be spotted in several of the shops and restaurants in the town.

Boscombe Street Art
Boscombe Street Art

Go shopping

In addition to the pedestrian precinct, which houses most of your usual high street shops, there are two arcades. The modern Sovereign Centre mostly contains more chain stores. While, in the Royal Arcade, you can find more quirky independent shops. There is also a popular market in the precinct on Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 am to 5 pm.

Boscombe Sovereign Centre
Sovereign Centre
Boscombe Royal Arcade
Royal Arcade

Take in some live music

The O2 Academy Bournemouth is actually in Boscombe. This Victorian venue has been entertaining people since 1895. It hosts many top name artists – past performers include the likes of David Bowie and Led Zeppelin. A current What’s On list can be found here.

O2 Academy - Stiff Little Fingers
O2 Academy (Stiff Little Fingers)

There is also plenty of live local music on offer at the more intimate Chaplin’s Cellar Bar.

Chaplin's Cellar Bar (The Wessex Pistols)
Chaplin’s Cellar Bar (The Wessex Pistols)

Go to the theatre

Sir Percy Shelley used to live in Boscombe and had a theatre built adjacent to his home to entertain himself and his guests. This has been refurbished and opened as The Shelley Theatre, hosting live performances, films and other events. It hasn’t yet reopened post-Covid, but hopefully, will be able to do so soon.

Shelley Theatre
Shelley Theatre

Alternatively, for a mix of entertainment, there’s The Black Cherry; a theatre themed Café/Bar. It hosts a variety of theatre, music and comedy performances.

Watch Premiership Football

Kings Park has plenty of activities on offer. It is the home to AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium, who return to the Premiership in 2022. If football isn’t your thing, there’s also a skate park, bowling, cricket and an athletics stadium. On Saturday mornings, parkrun takes place here. If AFC Bournemouth are at home, you may run past a player or two…

Vitality Stadium
Vitality Stadium

If you don’t fancy any sporting endeavours, just take a walk around the park. Unlike the more formal gardens in the town, areas have been planted with wildflowers which look spectacular in spring/summer. There is also a nursery where you can buy surplus stock grown for the council gardens.

Kings Park
Kings Park

Eat some great food

There are plenty of great bars, cafes and restaurants. If you’re at beach, try Urban Reef. In town, there are lots of options, like Chaplins, which has a formal restaurant (Modern Times). Alternatively, order from the bar menu and eat in the beer garden which boasts an unusual mural; a man with a living beard.

Chaplin's
Chaplin’s

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 41 – Boscombe Beach

Boscombe Beach is just down the road (literally – it’s quite a steep road) from the centre of Boscombe. The beach is divided into Boscombe East and Boscombe West by the Pier.

Boscombe Beach
Boscombe Beach

Getting There

Boscombe is 1.5 miles along the Prom from Bournemouth. It’s a pleasant stroll/cycle, or it can be reached on the land train. There is a beachside Pay & Display car park (approximately £2.20 an hour). This fills up very quickly at peak times; a better option is to park at the Park & Ride in King’s Park. This costs £5 per day and includes the complimentary shuttle bus, which runs every 15 minutes between 9 am and 6.45 pm and stops right next to the Pier. (Note; the Park & Ride does not operate if AFC Bournemouth are playing at home).

Land Train at Boscombe Beach
Land Train passing Boscombe Beach

Boscombe Pier

Boscombe Pier is a lovely place to take a stroll and admire the view across the bay to the Purbecks and the Isle of Wight.

Boscombe Pier
Boscombe Pier

Lifeguards

There are two Lifeguard points, one situated either side of the pier. They are manned from 10 am to 6 pm. Boscombe East is in operation from 9th April to 25th September and Boscombe West from 28th May to 4th September.

Boscombe West Lifeguard Tower
Boscombe West Lifeguard Tower

Food and Drink

There are several dining options on the beach itself, plus plenty more on the way up the hill into Boscombe and in Boscombe itself. There is also a kiosk selling junk food and beach tat at the end of the pier (the owner nearly ran me over during a boot camp once, not that I bear a grudge or anything).

Beach Diner

Urban Reef

Urban Reef has an an inside section – a cosy place to eat and enjoy a sea view when it’s cold/windy. However, in summer, most of the action spills outside. There’s also a wood fired oven takeaway pizza service.

Urban Reef

Harvester

There is a Harvester (The Neptune) serving typical Harvester food right opposite the pier. I’ve never eaten here, but I guess it’s pretty similar to other Harvesters, only closer to the beach. It has some outdoor seating.

Harvester on Boscombe Prom
Harvester on Boscombe Prom

Prom Diner

The Prom Diner is, not surprisingly, a diner on the Prom. It also has an ice cream kiosk. Currently, there is an additional area on the beach itself, called, wait for it…. The Beach Diner. Here, you can order and a man will bring it across the road to you Abbey Road style. At least it reminds me of Abbey Road every time I cycle past and nearly knock him over, because in the previous six years I’ve lived here, nobody has ever used that crossing…

Prom Diner
Prom Diner

Other Facilities

Boscombe Beach also has public toilets and public barbecues. In addition, there are plenty of activities available if you prefer your beach time to be action packed. There are some boulders for climbing on (very popular with selfie lovers), volleyball courts, table tennis tables and Sorted Surf School, which offers surfing and SUP lessons plus surfboard, SUP and kayak hire.

Boscombe Prom
Boscombe Prom

Bournemouth Air Festival

One of my highlights of the year is Bournemouth Air Festival and Boscombe Beach is my favourite locations for watching the action, especially the Red Arrows who appear from behind the cliff top to dive and soar overhead. It pays to get there in plenty of time, though if you want to claim a sport on the beach.

Red Arrows arriving at Boscombe Beach
Red Arrows arriving at Boscombe Beach

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 40 – Manor Steps Beach

Between Southbourne and Boscombe is another Blue Flag Beach – Manor Steps Beach. This doesn’t have as many facilities as its neighbours, but it benefits from being in between suburbs, meaning it can be much quieter than the beaches further along the coast. If it’s just beach that you’re after, then it doesn’t disappoint.

Manor Steps Beach
Manor Steps Beach

Getting There

Manor Steps Beach can be accessed from the cliff top via Manor Steps Zigzag. There is free roadside parking on the Overcliff. Buster’s Beach Bus stops at Shelley Park near the top of the Zigzag. In addition, the Land Train, which runs along the Prom, also stops at Manor Steps.

Manor Steps Beach
Manor Steps Beach

Lifeguards

There is an RNLI Lifeguard Station on Manor Steps Beach, which is manned from 10 am until 6 pm between 9th July and 4th September.

Lifeguard Tower at Manor Steps Beach
Lifeguard Tower at Manor Steps Beach

Food and Drink

There is a kiosk style cafe with some outdoor seating.

Kiosk on Manor Steps Beach
Kiosk on Manor Steps Beach

Bournemouth Beach Lodges

If you want to holiday really close to the beach, it is possible to stay at Manor Steps Beach at Bournemouth Beach Lodges. These 24 beach hut style dwellings sleep up to six people for between £350 (midweek off peak) to £1440 (one week at peak times).

Bournemouth Beach Lodges
Bournemouth Beach Lodges

Other Facilities

There are public toilets on Manor Steps Beach.

Manor Steps Beach
Manor Steps Beach

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 39 – Pier to Pier Swim

As Bournemouth has two piers just 1.4 miles apart, a popular challenge is to swim from one pier to another – either just for the sake of it or as part of an organised event.

BHF Pier to Pier Swim
BHF Pier to Pier Swim Finish

Each year the British Heart Foundation puts on the Pier to Pier Swim. Billed as one of Europe’s biggest charity swimming events, it takes place over a weekend with the opportunity (weather dependent) to attempt this challenge in a supervised environment with plenty of lifeguard support. And a lift back to the start.

BHF Pier to Pier Swim
BHF Pier to Pier Swim – watching the action from Boscombe Pier

This year’s event took place over a weekend of glorious sunshine and perfect swimming conditions; flat sea and warm (for England) sea temperatures. There is a choice of a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning start time, with participants setting off in waves.

BHF Pier to Pier Swim
BHF Pier to Pier Swim

Having toyed (very briefly) with idea of entering, I went to watch on Sunday morning. Evidently, there are plenty of people less wussy than me, as there was a good turn out, together with plenty of spectators (deliberate or otherwise) – the beach was absolutely heaving.

Private Pier to Pier Swim Start
Private Pier to Pier Swim Start

Very different to last year when the weather was totally different and the route had to be changed to swimming in a small square because it was deemed too unsafe to complete the full course. Some friends were so disappointed they didn’t get the chance to swim between the piers, that they arranged their own private mini pier to pier swim event. I attended as logistical support (walking along the beach, carried clothes, towels and a picnic, which we had on the beach afterwards).

Private Pier to Pier Swim Finish
Private Pier to Pier Swim Finish

If you think swimming 1.4 miles in the cold water of the English Channel is a jolly good idea, entry details can be here. Alternatively, organise a swim of your own. The con, of course is that it is unsupported if you get into trouble and you end up 1.4 miles from where you started, without any clothes. The pro is that you can select a weather appropriate time slot and choose which direction to swim in, according to the current. Better still, omit the swim and skip straight to the picnic on the beach – works for me!

Post Private Pier to Pier Swim Breakfast

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 35 – Boscombe Chine Gardens

Boscombe Chine Gardens

Boscombe Chine is one of four chines along the Bournemouth coast. A chine being a deep, steep-sided ravine originally formed by a river flowing through to the sea. The Chine runs down to the coast just to the west of Boscombe Pier. It can be accessed from the bottom (opposite the pier), the top (A35 – Christchurch Road), the west side (East Overcliff Drive/Manor Road) or from a small alleyway on the east side (Boscombe Spa Road).

Welcome to Boscombe Chine Gardens
Welcome to Boscombe Chine Gardens

Getting there 

To reach Boscombe Chine from Bournemouth, it is a pleasant walk/cycle along the prom or the overcliff. Numerous buses pass along the A35 stopping at the top of the chine (1, 1A, M2, X3). In addition, Buster’s Beach Bus stops at the bottom of the gardens. The land train also passes through the gardens.

Bottom of Boscombe Chine Gardens
Bottom of Boscombe Chine Gardens

History

During the Victorian era, when the area first began to attract tourists, it was decided to transform Boscombe Spa (so called after the mineral spring which existed at the lower end of the Gardens) into a fashionable coastal resort. To that end, it was decided to turn Boscombe Chine into a ‘splendid garden’. Work began in 1868 to create a ‘pleasure grounds’ to include walks, croquet lawns, a rustic bridge and a lodge. The original lodge still stands in the northwest corner of the Gardens.

Boscombe Chine Lodge
Lodge

Development of the gardens continued and included building paths, planting beds and construction of a model boating pond, tennis courts and a tennis pavilion.

Boscombe Chine Gardens
Boscombe Chine Gardens Flower Bed

Over time, the area became run down and for fifty years the Gardens were in decline. Eventually in the 1990’s they became a no go area notable for their anti social behaviour and as a hangout for druggies.

East entrance to Boscombe Chine Gardens
East entrance to Boscombe Chine Gardens

In recent years, the gardens have experienced a facelift and become a pleasant place for local and visitors to spend some time. The spa spring is long gone. More recent renovations have included the replacement of public tennis courts with mini golf, filling the model boating pond to create a water park and the replacement of the rustic bridge with a concrete structure. Since 2007, thehe Gardens have been awarded a Green Flag Award which recognises well managed parks and green spaces.

Boscombe Chine Gardens Bridge
Bridge across the Chine

Key to the gardens’ transformation have been reinstating the beautiful flower beds.

Boscombe Chine Gardens Flower Beds
Boscombe Chine Gardens Flower Bed

Boscombe Chine Gardens consist of formal flower beds, less formal borders, grassy areas and a selection of mature trees. A variety of trees grow along the banks of the chine and provide habitats for wildlife. There is a wildlife quiz trail along the pathway with information about the plants and animals found in the gardens. 

Boscombe Chine Gardens Flower Beds
Border containing Lilies

Squirrel Café

At the top of the gardens is the council run Squirrel Cafe. The café is on the upper flor overlooking the mini golf course, offering an opportunity to enjoy a drink and a snack with a lovely view across the gardens.

Boscombe Chine Gardens Cafe
Squirrel Cafe

Mini Golf

A beautifully landscaped 18-hole Mini Golf Course is open daily throughout the summer from 10 am to 5pm. A round of golf costs £5.80 for an adult.

Boscombe Chine Gardens Mini Golf
Mini Golf Course

Water Play Area

I don’t usually take much notice of children’s play areas as I don’t have any children, but this is a really cool water themed one with a water wheel and chutes which send the water to different levels. I shall bear it in mind as a place to take my grandchildren (when I have some).

Boscombe Chine Gardens Water Play Area
Water Play Area

Other facilities include a ball play area and public toilets.

Boscombe Chine Gardens Ball Play Area
Ball Play Area

Note that the central path through the park is pedestrian (apart from the land train) but that cycling is permitted on the paths to the eastern and western edges of the gardens.

Boscombe Chine Gardens
Central Path

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 33 – Globe on Tour

Today’s slightly surreal experience is a trip to Boscombe’s multi storey car park to watch a Shakespeare performance. Boscombe hasn’t got the best reputation; renowned for being a bit of a druggie hangout, so heading to the top floor of the car park isn’t usually a thing I would consider.

Sovereign Centre Car Park
Sovereign Centre Car Park

However, today it is hosting a group of actors from The Globe, for an outdoor production of Julius Caesar. So, armed with a folding chair and a waterproof jacket (this is England, after all), I set off for the car park.

Set of Julius Caesar
Set of Julius Caesar

Obviously it starts raining just as I depart. But it’s not too bad, and there is an awning over the seating area. Upon arrival, I am shown to my seat. Or rather, I’m shown to where to put my seat – I have my seat with me.

When you’re 5”3 and the guy in front of you isn’t

I love the idea of using the top of a car park for cultural events and the idea of the Globe doing a regional Tour. But the problems are thus; first, I’m not very tall and I find myself behind a couple of pretty hefty blokes, so my view is somewhat obscured. At least in a proper theatre, I have the benefit of my seat being raised from the row in front. Next, are the acoustics. The performers aren’t using microphones. I understand that this is a deliberate attempt to make the show more authentic. But to be honest, the A35 was significantly less busy in 1599 and Shakespeare didn’t have to compete to be heard over biker gangs on a jaunt to the seaside. I really have to concentrate to hear and that gives me a headache.

Killing Caesar
Killing Caesar

In addition (and I suspect this is more the fact that I didn’t listen in English lessons at school, rather than parts of the performance being drowned out by motorbikes and seagulls) I struggle to follow the plot. For example, one woman keeps deviating between a posh English accent and a Jamaican accent. At first, I can’t work out if she’s a posh English woman pretending to be Jamaican or vice versa. Or why there would be a Jamaican trying to kill Caesar? We’re about an hour into the show before I realise she is playing two parts! I think there’s another man doing the same swapping between a northern and southern English accent, but I’m not entirely sure. It hasn’t helped my headache any.

Removing Caesar's Statue
Removing Caesar’s Statue

The car park is complete with bar. By the time we reach the interval, I could really do with a drink! But I have driven because I couldn’t work out a safe way to cycle carrying a camping chair. So I have to make do with a soft drink and an attempt to move my chair behind someone less substantial.

Car Park Bar

On the whole, I enjoyed the performance. I hope they continue to put events on at the Sovereign Centre, preferably with microphones. In the meantime, I won’t be going to any more Shakespeare performances without googling the plot in advance…

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 28 – O2 Academy

The O2 Academy Bournemouth is actually in Boscombe. This Victorian venue has been entertaining people since 1895. A bit like a cat, it seems to have had nine lives, having served as a theatre, circus, music hall, disco and now mainly as a live music venue.

O2 Academy - Front
O2 Academy – Front

Boscombe is a suburb a mile or so to the east of Bournemouth. It is easily reached by bus, with the venue just a few minutes’ walk from Boscombe Bus Station. The train station is a bit further away (approximately 15 minutes walk). There is plenty of parking at Hawkwood Road (pay & display).

Elephants parading through Boscombe

The O2 Academy started out as the Grand Pavilion, famed for its circus, with the elephants parading along the high street and even taking a dip in the sea. Then, in 1898 it became The Boscombe Grand Theatre – primarily a music hall. In 1905 it became the Boscombe Hippodrome and then in 1956 the Royal Ballrooms – a dance hall.

Packed Hippodrome in 1908

In 70s and 80s, it operated mainly as a night club. Plenty of big names performed here during this period. David Bowie for £1 anyone? In 1982, it underwent a major refurbishment and reopened as The Academy, with the questionable claim to fame of hosting the UK’s first Karaoke bar. In 1997, it became The Opera House, and disco ‘Slinky’ became one of the UK’s top dance clubs.

Ticket to see David Bowie in Boscombe

After another refurbishment, it reopened in 2007 and became the O2 Academy shortly afterwards, focusing on live music, with Florence and the Machine first up to perform.

O2 Academy - Stiff Little Fingers
O2 Academy (Stiff Little Fingers)

It has hosted many top name artists – past performers range from Laurel and Hardy to the likes of David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. We went to see the slightly less famous Stiff Little Fingers. Nevertheless, it was a great night in an impressive venue.

O2 Academy (Stiff Little Fingers)
O2 Academy (Stiff Little Fingers)

During our visit (in March 2022) the audience was restricted to the ground level, with the upper tiers being cordoned off. The hall has a grand yet informal atmosphere and great acoustics. Unlike a lot of venues I’ve visited, the queues for the bar and toilets were short and drinks were reasonably priced.

O2 Academy - Side
O2 Academy – Side

In addition, there are plenty of nice places to eat and drink in Boscombe to make a night of it. We had a great meal before the gig at nearby Thai Smile, with one of the support acts sitting at the next table. Drinking beer sitting next to a former Sex Pistol. There’s one to tell the grandchildren. Except I don’t have any grandchildren and if I did, they probably wouldn’t know who the Sex Pistols were…

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 19 – Park Yoga

Covid Day 6 and finally a negative test and I am released from self isolation. Sunday used to be Long Run Day, but as I am out of breath just putting my pants on, a run isn’t on the cards just yet. Instead, a gentle 10 minute walk to the local park for some Park Yoga.

Park Yoga takes place at several parks throughout the Bournemouth area. Organised by Park Yoga; Bournemouth Central Gardens (9.30), Slades Park (9.30), The Quomps Christchurch (9.30) and Upton Country Park (9.30). Organised by The Parks Foundation; Shelley Park (10.00).

Park Yoga is a charity that provides free outdoor yoga sessions on Sunday mornings at parks around the UK during the summer months (May to September). The Parks Foundation is a charity devoted to enhancing Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole’s parks and green spaces for everyone to enjoy. All classes are free, but a donation to the respective charity is encouraged.

Shelley Park

I have tried yoga before, not successfully; my daughter and I attended a rather cliquey class, where the instructor stood at the front calling out the moves and when we didn’t know what to do, those around sniggered and gave us disparaging glances, so we did a runner. Unfortunately, we forgot we had left our shoes in the gym and had to run back in, claim our shoes and do a second runner. Park Yoga sessions are advertised as being suitable for beginners of all ages and abilities, so I’m going to give it another try. One thing’s for sure – if it goes badly, I certainly won’t be able to do a runner!

Yoga in Shelley Park

I have chosen Shelley Park for my first class. Shelley Park is in Boscombe, in the grounds of Shelley Manor. The Manor was built for Percy Florence Shelley, son of Mary Shelley the author of Dracula. Worried about his mother’s ailing health, Percy thought living by sea would be good for. Unfortunately, she died before the house was complete.

Yoga in Shelley Park

For a cold, windy day, attendance is much higher than I’d expected. This time, the instructor is much more explainey (not a word, I know) and leads the moves with explanations. Just the the gentle return to exercise I need after my own bout of illness. A walk home along the cliff tops rounds off a pleasant morning excursion. Next week, I may be back, I may try a class in a different park, decisions, decisions…

Shelley Park