As we only had a short time to explore Bournemouth we decided a walking tour would give a good overview of the history of the town and the lie of the land then we could explore further by ourselves. So today we caught up with John from Bournemouth Walking Tours, even though it was off season he agreed to meet us and show us around.
We met up at the Tourist Bureau situated near the Bournemouth Pier, sadly the signs are not updated to find the Tourist Office but just head to the Peir and you can;t miss it.
Bournemouth takes its name from the mouth of the river Bourne. Not that it’s much of a river probably closer to a creek. These days the River Bourne is contained by a concrete drain as it trickles through the centre of Bournemouth. It is surrounded by parklands and gardens so a nice way to enjoy the city.
Bournemouth surprisingly is quite a young town. The first house was built by the Tregonwick family in 1809. During the 1800’s people headed to the beaches to escape the smog of the cities like London. It was also the start of an era when people believed that sea bathing was good for health. Lewis Tregonwick speculated that he could cash in on this new craze. He purchased land around Bournemouth from the Tapp family and built a number of villas. Pines were planted so the smell of pines would permeate the air as it was believed that the smell was good for the lungs.
In the mid 1800’s a lung hospital was built specialising in TB, consumption and other lung diseases. Patients would walk along the Bourne stream through the park to the beach. The pathway was named Invalids Walk, but these days it’s been renamed Pine Walk.
First hotel the Royal Bath, formerly just the Bath Hotel was built in 1838. For a number of years the Bath Hotel was operated by Merton Russell-Cotes and his wife who travelled extensively. They decorated the hotel with their art and artefacts collection.
In 1901 he built the nearby villa for his wife’s birthday and moved his collection in there. The villa is now known as the Russell-Cotes Museum.
Bournemouth’s Claims To Fame
Although Bournemouth is relatively young it has a few claims to history. From the Madeira hotel near the pier Marconi sent his first wireless message to Isle of Wight.
Writer of Frankenstein Mary Shelley, is buried in the St Peter’s church graveyard
Author JRR Tolkien and his wife stayed at Mirimar Hotel, at Eastcliff. They loved Bournemouth so much that they retired there, Tolkein’s wife enjoying the fact she was a celebrity and accepted into the towns social circles. Tolkien died in Bournemouth in 1973 whilst visiting friends and is buried in Oxford.
Like most coastal resort towns Bournemouth has a pier. The pier dates from the 1880’s and during the early to late 20th century it was the scene of many pantomimes. Great comics and vaudeville acts played shows on the pier. With the changing face of tourism, such as cheap holidays abroad the seaside shows wound up. These days the pier has the usual funfare with the chances to win money, and lots of games. There’s also a zip line which runs from a tower on the end of the pier to the beach. The Pier Theatre houses a restaurant with occasional shows. The nearby Bournemouth International Centre is the scene of larger shows such as bands and conferences.
The local council is currently spending 3 million pounds of a facelift along seafront with a further 70 million to be spent. It should be interesting to see what the result is.
Connecting the beachfront with the town centre is the Pine Walk. It follows the Bourne stream into the centre through the lower gardens which are supposedly Britain’s largest rock gardens. In the upper gardens pines surround the gardens of palms and flower beds. It’s a lovely place on a sunny autumn day.
John guided us through the town pointing out the best places to get a view of the town, the cheapest cafe’s, and the best places to eat. We got a real locals perspective of living in Bournemouth.
After our tour we spent the afternoon exploring the town. It really is a beautiful town to visit offseason.
The park was filled with Squirrels busily getting ready for winter and we spent a bit of time watching their antics.
We were lucky enough to discover a vintage car rally. They were stopping off at Bournemouth on their way north. The crazy car enthusiasts have a time trial in the lower gardens. After dark the cars line up for a lap around the gardens beds, in the dark? Old MG’s, Minis, BMW’s, Porsches, Peugeots, Morris, Astons, and many other old cars were tearing around the park. It was just insane and we loved it.
Bournemouth was the perfect place to stopover, a lovely city with lots of interesting history.
Tomorrow we head to France from the ferry at nearby Poole and start our European adventure.