The beaches of Boscombe and Bournemouth

Before I start on the ‘B’s I have to share with you the two ends of Milton-on-Sea. The east end shows off its traditional beach huts. The west end has ‘new beach huts’; 21st century beach huts with parking above.

Hmmmmm. What do you think? I know which I prefer.

So the road goes up and over the cliffs until it drops down to Friars Cliff. Now this is a wonderful place for family holidays. The pebbles begin to drop away and the beach becomes super sandy. The beach huts are a class above their ones I’ve seen so far on this trip. One is for sale for a cool 15k if you have money to spare. Even beach huts need a lick of paint and some tarting up if you’re gonna be seen enjoying the summer on the beach.

I love this image:

Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday comes to mind.

Anyway, on to Boscome before hitting Bournemouth. Both are very similar with their promenades, their sandy beaches, their piers; yet they are very different in character. School was out in Boscombe with a procession of young children racing down to the beach on their scooters, their bikes, their skateboards, all in beach gear and yelling at each other while older siblings showed off acres of tattoos that covered every bit of exposed flesh which must have cost an arm and a leg (you see what I did there, clever eh?)

Maybe this is summed up by the incident that occurred at the ice cream shack at the entrance to the peir. The mum in front of me had 3 young kids. She was being really patient trying to get them what they wanted. The first in line got a single cone and started to tuck in while mum was sorting the others out. A long lick unsettled the scoop which plummeted to the ground. Her little face crumbled and she tugged at mum’s dress. Mum looked down and without breaking her dialogue picked up the ball in her right hand and placed it back in the cone with a squelch. ‘It’s been on the ground’ I started to say in my middle class tones. Mum and child both shrugged their shoulders and carried on with their previous tasks of licking and ordering and ignored me completely. Oh well. Now Bournemouth.

Bournemouth beach was really heaving and school was out here as well. But it had a completely different feel. The kids were older and in much larger groups. Barbies and cans arrived in copious quantities. The guys had all between working out in that part of the gym that builds muscle tone ( I’ve never been there, I have to say) and carried two different types of six packs. The girls had torn every bit of clothing and huddled in groups away from the sand applying makeup so they could emerge from their huddle as painted insects, each convinced that she was the main bee of their little hive. Every inch of beach was covered with beautiful bodies all posing and secreting hormones. The pier was almost empty, only a small trail off more mature punters made their way to the far end for a pint and some fish and chips.

I rather liked the pier and the beach huts. The youngsters seemed to ignore these symbols of more mature beach activity. I felt safe here with the normal people who ignored all the posing that was going on around them and just enjoyed making a cup of tea and reading a book.

Home tomorrow, with some lovely images, all with glorious blue skies, and rather a red face!


Taking Southampton’s Waters.

Today it’s up the east side of Southampton Water and down the west side. My first ¬†port of call (did you like the way I did that – ports and all that!) is Hamble-le-Rice. What a name; it sounds so historical. This is reflected in its narrow cobbled streets that don’t seem to have changed for centuries. Along the banks of the River Hamble it provides moorings for a huge fleet of very classy ¬†yachts arnd sailing boats. At high tide the vessels can escape the clutches of the village by entering the main channel and heading out into the Solent and the open sea. I rather liked the village itself and its sense of timelessness.

Heading up the Water I hit the city of Southamton. The banks of very channel, every creek, every tributary, every part of the estuary have disappeared into new developments of tall, classy & classy apartment, I’m sure with a suitable amount of social housing, and high end office blocks.

Industry and commerce have stood their ground on the banks. The docks, numbering at least 20, claim ownership of much of the waterway. Other industries fight for space – huge container parks, parked cars awaiting exportation, an oil terminal, a power station, cruising and ferry terminals, cranes and piles of containers hog the skyline, despite the efforts of picturesque boats trying to hide the sore.

Down the west side of Southampton Water is the small gem of a town called Hythe. Its cobbled, traffic free streets give it a charm, exaggerated by the grey hair of visitors and locals alike. Its main claim to fame is its passenger ferry across the estuary to Southampton which has been operating since the mid 16th century. The ferry is reached by a long pier, maybe about 500 metres in length, that struts out into the main channel. To help with the walking a small line runs beside it and a small engine and carriages runs up around down the pier. My luck is in.

Calshot lies right down the bottom of the estuary. A rather grand collection of beach huts line the pebbled shore.

Sadly a barrier stops exploration of the point with Calshot Castle in the distance. However the map on the gate shows that it is now a Activity Centre with a velodrome and a dry ski slope. The castle was built by Henry VIII in 1540. During the war the buildings housed the workshops that built the Sunderland sea planes. The radar is still working and aid the cruise liners and cargo ships as they negotiate their way up the Solent.


South’s sea and Port’s mouth

I spent the night on Hayling Island and in the morning explored its delights before heading back onto the mainland. The beach is like the rest of this coastline – wide, steep, noisy, with large, large pebbles to make sitting out almost impossible unless you rent a deck chair, along with the wind break, which together will make your beach time bearable.

This is where the only bridge joins the island to the mainland. So English with the tide out.

So it’s back up around then down to Southsea. This is the coastal part of Portsmouth, which faces out onto the Solent and the Isle of Wight. Now Southsea is somewhere I would come back to. There is a touch of class about the place and so much going on. Just past the Model Village is South Parade Pier, the winner of the Pier of the Year Award 2018, whatever that means.

The whole town seems to be ready to welcome Jo Public for holidays and breaks.

There is so much history. You can wander into Henry VIII’s fort, built to defend the naval dockyards, which, in turn were built by his father in 1494. The Palmerston forts were built out in the Solent to deter Napolean from invading.

At the end of Southsea Esplanade the creaking iron girders of Clarence Pier stands tall at the passing of all vessels into and out of Portsmouth harbour. Its trusses are edged in rust and it seems so frail and fragile that even a stiff breeze would reduced it to a pile of matchsticks.

The hoverport is next door.

Then out is up into Old Portsmouth and the old naval dock yards. Locals will find any patch of stones and sand to soak up the rays. The 18th century fortifications provide very effective wind breaks.

Then it is not a short passenger ferry ride across to Gosport but a longer drive up and around and down to the town which has grown up at the east end of Stokes Bay.




Bognor Regis – is there something in the name?

Well, I saw the forecast and saw there were five days of super dooper, wall to wall sunshine coming our way, typical, as the schools go back. Still, never to waste a gift horse, and particularly a sunny one, I thought I would catch up on my coastal tour. You may remember that I left you just to the east of Brighton. Well I am picking up the trail in Bognor and travelling westwards.

All I remember about Bognor is that I spent a weeks holiday at the Butlins there eons ago, when my sister in law at the time worked for the company. It must have been in the 80’s. My family still have the ‘spacehopper’ beach towels which are as thin as tissue paper now and show how cutting edge my holidays have been in the past! Well not a lot has changed in the town. A few of the apartment blocks head been spruced up a bit, there was scaffolding on the top floors of some buildings and gangs of men were painting and sawing in an effort to get the kiddies play areas ready for the season.

The esplanade, (what is the word for that flat bit that lines the beach?) was almost deserted. The sun was out but the ocean was in a bad mood. Snarling, it enjoyed throwing its full force of pebbles up the beach and then cackled menacingly as it dragged them back down below the surface. A few families huddled under coats and scarves and forced their way along between the gusts. The tea shacks, with their aluminium tables, are spread out at 100 metre intervals to provide shelter for the brave to get through their ice creams or quickly cooling paper chooks of tea. I expect the arcades will be doing a good trade today.

Then there is the pier. At least I think it’s a pier. It must be the stubbiest pier in the whole of the UK. It must be a pier because there were a handful of guys fishing from the end. I went exploring and made a bit of a boo boo. Climbing up some iron steps I thought I would climb up 3 more and take a piccy of the town. This I did and when I turned around there was a guy standing at a corner watching me. I smiled, no response. I nodded, no response. Then he said in a very gruff voice – “the bottom of your boots will be covered in green paint”. I stood wooden, stayed silent, squinted my eyes. I realised he had just painted the three steps in a light green colour. I apologised and rapidly moved to my exit only to look down and see the print of the soles of my boots clearly marked out on the metal platform of the pier. There was little I could do except quicken my pace and made a very hurried departure out of town before he asked me to clear it all up. I don’t think there is a lot in Bognor to draw me back; not even my work of modern art.

From Bognor I have driven to Selsey and followed the pebbly, ne stoney, beach around the headland to the Witterings. There is no real break in the beach, nor in the mixed housing that lines the way around.



Madiera’s best fish restaurant is just so Smart

Being an island in the middle of the Atlantic, seafood is hugely varied and very popular, although cattle are reared on the island supplying excellent beef to restaurants and hotels.

Fish is landed at THE fishing village, Camara de Logos. This is a small community, with a nest of local bars lining the grey stoned harbour. It takes an effort to apreciate the grey, volcanic sands and cliffs that make up the rather scruffy coastline around the village.

However, the village centre is shared by parked cars, fishing boats, dried fish, olocal buses, cruise buses, tourist buses, cafe tables & local card schools.

Just down from the hotel is a small parade of quality restaurants. The pizza restaurant is just that. The Mexican Steakhouse its exactly that but such excellent fillet. Having gorged out on steak and a bottle of red Mr Bossman brings out his homemade bevvy. Made with honey it has got quite a kick. He boasted that my bed would ‘bounce with sex’ after sinking a few glasses of his nectar. I think it also made him blind as he guessed me to be 58.

The fish restaurant boasts to be the best on the island. Quite an accolade but true – huge portions of wonderful fish & sea food. Our waiter, Artur, King Artur, as we called him, worked for 7 years in the ‘fast food industry in Oxfordshire’. If you know Oxfordshire you will know the chain of fish & chip shops called Smarts, who it turns out is a Greek. It seems that families from Madeira work in his chain which can be found in every market town in the county. On a Sunday they would meet up in Summertown to play footy. What a small world.

It is back home later today. I’ve enjoyed this peaceful, calm island where life is slow and the locals friendly. The coastal strip is holiday territory but the core, the spine of the island reminds me of the mountains of Europe where you can walk and trek and cycle and off road. Just beware – everywhere is up, and a steep up.



Exploring Nuns’ Valley

Most if the touristy accommodation is around the west coast of the island. In fact almost all the hotels and apartment blocks are here. So come with me on the bus to see inland Madeira and explore the mountains. First stop is a view point at 300 metres where the city is spread out below us. 200,000 live on the island with 150,000 in Funchal. You get a real feel for the landscape with the housing spreading up the ridges stopping just short of the tree line.

From the coast it looks like the central spine of Madeira is always cloaked in thick, thick cloud. This journey spends time up in the clouds but it only rarely hides the powerful landscape of towering eucalyptus trees, craggy rocks around outcrops, and sharp peaks and ridges. The next stop is at 700 metres in a small local village with few airs and tourist graces. The sun pierces the cloud to highlight small farms and rich terraces. The locals too what all locals do in rural areas the world over. They sit around chattering together and putting the world to right, they get to market, in this case on the local bus, and travel back home with their baskets bulging and they show off their new clothes and that new hataround their best purchases.

The final stop is high up at 1,000 metres where the facade of a hotel peers through the cloudy gloom overlooking the bends and loops of the Scalextrix track of the village below. The road meanders and slaloms around the houses spread out on its play mat with the toytown cars crawling up the gradients and rushing down the bending hill sides. Now this would be the place for egg rolling.

Egg rolling in Funchal

It’s Easter Sunday. The day starts with a visit to the supermecardo to purchase eggs and felt tips. Only four survive the boiling but that is enough as all are transformed into characters from a Agatha Christie novel: who will be battered to death on the hillside?

Where to find the right hillside. I wanted to roll down through the banana plantation but I was outvoted. Now wouldn’t this make the best course?

It was a bus trip into town to find the right gradient. A quick exit is required as the park overlooking the harbour flashes by. The gradient is good. Our 4 friends are released from captivity and line up ready for their destiny.

Together they are propelled down the slope.

With youthful enthusiasm they bounce down around each other and all reach the bottom undamaged. The grass is soft and rough, like a mossy rug, able to withstand Atlantic weather throughout the year so no real obstacle for Madeira’s raft of eggs. The process is repeated with the same end – no fractures, no damage, no breaks. Sadly two become hidden in the bushes below. The exercise is repeated with the last two. On this last run they too head for cover and lie undamaged but free. The gardeners will be surprised to find 4 boiled eggs hiding in their bushes. A calming exercise which sums up the day.

From here it is a short promenade down to the harbour for a coffee and then into town before grabbing a bus home.