100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 84 – Bobby’s

There was a period of time when shops in Bournemouth town centre were closing left, right and centre and the place was at risk of becoming a ghost town. Luckily, places like The Avenue and Bobby’s have helped ensure that the town centre remains a fun place for a bit of retail therapy, as well as entertainment, eating and drinking.

Bobby’s Department Store is located in Bournemouth Square in what, until a few years ago, was Debenhams Department Store. Already struggling to attract customers, Debenhams closed down during the Covid lockdown and didn’t reopen.

Front of Bobby’s
Front of Bobby’s

History of Bobby’s

Bobby’s originally opened in 1915 and traded for almost 60 years before becoming Debenhams in 1972. In recent years, it had become rather sad and delaminated, before finally closing its doors to the public in 2020. It was subsequently purchased by property group Verve who brought back the original name and plan to restore the building to its former glory. Verve’s stated goal is to create “A multi-functional destination, centered around beauty, health, food, drink, art, culture and community.”

Rear of Bobby’s
Rear of Bobby’s

Th building is being redeveloped in phases, with the first phase, consisting of ground and first floor retail outlets and the second floor art gallery opening in September 2021. A year later, the second phase; the lower ground floor retail outlets and a tunnel linking the store to the Gardens were opened.

Bobby's by Lucanart
Bobby’s by Lucanart

Ground Floor

  • Bobby’s Beauty Hall
  • DRGNFLY Sushi & Champagne Bar
  • Franco Manca Pizza
  • Ice Cream Parlour
  • In-Time Watch & Jewellery Repair
Bobby's
B for Bobby’s

First Floor

  • Flaming Nora’s
  • South Coast Makers
  • The Enchanted Little Village
Bobby's
First Floor

Second Floor

  • Giant Gallery
Giant Gallery
Giant Gallery

Lower Floor

  • Born to Bloom Florist
  • Ivyline Inspired Living
  • Paw Prints Boutique
  • Wild Roots

Tunnel

There is a second entrance to Bobby’s via a tunnel from the lower floor to the Gardens. This newly renovated area now boasts a set of six paintings of iconic Bournemouth buildings (including Bobby’s itself of course) painted by local artist Lucanart. The tunnel also has a history section telling Bobby’s story and displaying artefacts discovered during building work.

Bobby's Basement
Bobby’s Tunnel

Events

One thing that sets Bobby’s apart from the average department store are the wide range of events offered in store. From pop up markets to crafting workshops for adults and children. A list of upcoming events can be found here.

Bobby's Wishing Tree
Bobby’s Wishing Tree

Future plans

Plans for the next phase include a food hall, roof top restaurant, bar and garden. One thing I love about coming here is that the phased refurbishment mean that that each time I visit, there is something new to enjoy. This sense of anticipation is heightened by the pop ups, events and changing exhibitions at Giant Gallery.

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 83 – The Avenue

There has been a lot of change to town shopping centres such as Bournemouth over the past few years. Many stores, such as the former Beale’s and House of Fraser Department stores now lie empty. Two local inititiaves which have bucked the trend are housed in former department stores; Bobby’s (was Debenhams) and The Avenue (was Bealesons).

The Avenue Bournemouth
The Avenue

The Avenue is located in Bournemouth’s main pedestrian shopping street (Commercial Road). It can also be accessed from the rear via Avenue Road, which runs alongside The Gardens. When I first started coming to Bournemouth in the 90s, this indoor shopping centre was a lively place, but over time footfall has dropped and units become vacant. Now, to quote from The Avenue’s own website;

The Avenue at Christmas
The Avenue at Christmas

“The Avenue is being re positioned as a place where local independents will mix with bigger brands. A coffee come bike repair shop will provide the only covered café in the town centre. There will be offices, event spaces, a giant TV screen for public screenings and in due course a roof top bar and places to live.

The Avenue Abandoned Escalator
The Avenue Abandoned Escalator

Instead of being places to simply buy stuff, town centres need to offer something more interesting and meaningful. Four smaller spaces have been created specifically for smaller independents.”

The Avenue Abandoned Escalator
The Avenue Abandoned Escalator

The process is only just beginning, but The Avenue is slowly starting to transform into something a bit different to your everyday high street shopping experience.

High Street Stores

There are still some high street names in situ:

  • HMV
  • Sports Direct
  • The Perfume Shop
  • The Works

Independent Stores

In addition, there are an array independent shops:

  • Beauty Park
  • i Accessorise
  • jewelworx
  • Lead Out Coffee and Bikes
  • Saltrock
  • Simons Leather

Pop Ups

My favourite thing about The Avenue are the Pop Ups. According to the Avenue’s philosophy: “Pop ups provide opportunity for new ideas to be trialled, vintage clothing, street food, food markets and themed events all provide reasons to visit.” For me, as a local, I love visiting The Avenue and Bobby’s to see what’s new since my last trip.

Lucanart Stories of the Sea
Lucanart Stories of the Sea

Lucanart – Stories of the Sea

At the rear of the complex, from now until Christmas, you can see ‘Stories of the Sea’; the art and photography of local artist Miroslav Lucan, aka Lucanart.

Lucanart Stories of the Sea

Not only can you admire Miroslav’s work, but the man himself is likely to be on site if you want to have a chat, buy some merchandise or even just admire that magnificent moustache.

Miroslav Lucan
Miroslav Lucan

As well as the completed work on display, you can see Miroslav working on a new maritime themed piece.

Lucanart Work in Progress
Lucanart Work in Progress

Loading Dock

The complex’s former loading dock has been repurposed as a multi function event space with plans for a rooftop bar overlooking the Gardens. The Loading Dock hosts events like the South Coast Makers Market

Loading Dock
Loading Dock

It’s some way off reaching completion, but I look forward to visiting The Avenue in 2023 to see how the development is progressing. Plus, of course, do some shopping and see what’s going on in the pop ups.

100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 82 – Christmas Tree Wonderland

Introduction

Bournemouth’s annual Christmas Tree Wonderland is a trail including replica Christmas trees from cities around the world, other festive illuminations, plus ice skating, a Christmas Market and Alpine Bar. It runs from Mid November until the New Year. Since we moved to Bournemouth, it’s become part of our family Christmas tradition to take a wander round the gardens enjoying some of the decorations. Below are some musings on and photographs of Christmas Tree Wonderland. It peters out before the end, basically because I’m too lazy to walk the whole trail.

BMTH XMAS
BMTH XMAS

Orientation

The illuminations stretch all the way from the sea front, through the gardens to the Square, then on up to the Triangle and along Old Christchurch Road as far as Lansdowne Road. I have covered the entire route on running club Christmas sessions, but it is quite a trek (in the region of 3 miles in total). To limit walking too far, we usually stick to the first 25 or so items on the the trail. It’s also worth noting that the recommended route; starting at the pier and working its way through town, involves quite a lot of uphill walking.

Christmas Tree Wonderland Trail

1) Pier

Starting at the pier (which nobody actually does unless they’re Poseidon or the Man from Atlantis and have just waded in from the sea). It is apparently lined with 60 Christmas trees. When we went, only one was lit, which was somewhat of an anti-climax. But, seemingly feeling the need to compensate for the lack of illuminations, the sun provided a spectacular sunset.

Bournemouth Pier at sunset
Bournemouth Pier at sunset

2) Walk Through Bauble (Pier Approach)

This year’s illuminations focus heavily on that Insta moment, with an abundance of walk through ornaments. The first of these is a bauble on Pier Approach.

Walk Through Bauble and Observation Wheel
Walk Through Bauble and Observation Wheel

3) Snowman Simulator

There is often a simulator on Pier Approach. Usually it’s a Red Arrows simulator, but for the festive period we have a Snowman simulator. The mind boggles. Is it the same simulator? Did The Snowman have a maximum speed of 645 MPH? Did James have to withstand gravitational forces of 7G? My kids would have been terrified of this ride when they were little. Next…

Snowman Simulator
Snowman Simulator

4) Kyiv tree

New for this year is the blue and yellow striped Kyiv tree.

Kyiv Tree
Kyiv Tree

5) Smugglers Cove

The Mini Golf Course has been given a a festive makeover, because everyone knows pirates love Christmas. Why are pirates so obsessed with Christmas? Because they aaarrrr!

6) Wheel

Santa seems to have got himself stuck on the big wheel. If you want to take a look at the illuminations from up high, this is your chance.

Festive Observation Wheel
Festive Observation Wheel

7) Giant Reindeer (Bournemouth Gardens)

Moving into Bournemouth Gardens for more festive illuminations. The giant reindeer has been around for a few years, but I think this is his first appearance in the gardens, he’s usually further up.

Giant Reindeer
Giant Reindeer

8) Seattle and Sphere Tree

Likewise, the Seattle Tree has been part of Christmas Tree Wonderland for a while now. This year it looks like it’s had a tree baby!

Seattle and Sphere Tree
Seattle and Sphere Tree

9) Giant Boot

New for 2022 is the giant boot. When we went, it was switched off.

10) Liberty and Teddy Tree

Also new and also in darkness when we visited. Has Bournemouth Council not paid its electricity bill?

11) Rockery Installation

Outside the Pavilion Theatre, the rockery has been transformed into a magical waterfall of lights. This is one of my favourites. Beautiful to watch but takes rubbish photos.

12) Colour Changing Tree of Light

The colour tree of light is, unsurprisingly, a tree. With lights. That change colour. I love how the lights reflect in the river.

Colour Changing Tree of Light, Warsaw Tree and Lucerne Tree
Colour Changing Tree of Light, Warsaw Tree and Lucerne Tree

13) Warsaw Tree

The pink Warsaw Tree is a Wonderland stalwart. It is next door to the Lucerne Tree.

14) Lucerne Tree

Lucerne Tree and Warsaw Tree
Lucerne Tree and Warsaw Tree

15) Bethlehem Tree

The Bethlehem Tree comes complete with its own nativity scene.

Bethlehem Tree
Bethlehem Tree

16) Picnic on the Piste and LED Light Stone Trail

We missed this one completely.

17) 5m Etoile Tree

18) Polar Walk

The polar bears are fenced in so not particularly photogenic, unless you are a fan of fences.

19) Curtain of Light

20) Trees of Light (Westover Road)

Just outside the gardens are the Trees of Light. This doesn’t form part of our lazy pootle round the garden route, so here is a photo from a more energetic running club outing.

Tree of Light
Tree of Light

21) Bournemouth Wonderland Tree

This 20 metre high walk through Christmas tree is adorned with 30,000 LED lights. There is a regular sound and light show (every 30 minutes from 4pm until 9pm). There are a number of different themed performances from Classical music to 80s pop to children’s favourites.

Bournemouth Wonderland Tree
Bournemouth Wonderland Tree

To be honest, the poor old Wonderland Tree has seen better days; a big panel of LED lights were out leaving a brown rectangle in the midst of the display. Here’s a photo from 4 years ago of the tree in its full glory.

Bournemouth Wonderland Tree
Bournemouth Wonderland Tree

22) Cluster Trees

A cluster of small trees.

23) Ice Rink

The Ice Rink is open daily from 10.30 am to 11 pm. It is necessary to book in advance for a one hour slot. Tickets cost £13.50 for adults, £12.50 for concessions (teenagers, students and senior citizens), £11.50 for children under 12 or £44 for a family of four. A skate aid costs an additional £5. If, like me, you find skating all a bit stressful, you can unwind at the Alpine Bar. Or just avoid altogether.

24) CTW Sign

The CTW Sign isn’t at the top of the gardens as indicated on the map, but at the other end overlooking the pier.

Bournemouth Christmas Tree Wonderland
Bournemouth Christmas Tree Wonderland

25) Christmas Market (Bournemouth Square)

In the Square you will find the Christmas Market and another Alpine Bar.

Bournemouth Christmas Market
Bournemouth Christmas Market

26) 5m Grand Vega Tree (Commercial Road)

Continue up past the market onto the pedestrian precinct in Commercial Road for the Grand Vega Tree.

Grand Vega Tree
Grand Vega Tree

27) Romance Arch and Swirls (The Triangle)

The Romance Arch and swirls are another Instaworthy photo op. I’m not sure what the swirls bring to the Christmas party?

Romance Arch
Romance Arch

28) Santa (Old Christchurch Road)

A giant Santa sits watching shoppers go about their business in the town centre. And this is as far as we got before (a) getting tired and (b) running out of time on our car parking.

Giant Santa
Giant Santa

29) 5m Tree and Presents

30) Drop Lighting (Horseshoe Common)

31) Tree Lighting (Lansdowne Roundabout)

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