360. Christchurch to Sandbanks – Poole – The Finish!

So it had finally come down to this, a relatively simple jaunt down to the beach and a walk along the promenade of a popular seaside destination in order to complete my walk around the coastline of Great Britain. By some fluke, my numbered trip report I noted was to be 360! Quite coincidental and not planned, but appropriate, although I had done more than 360 reports due to the extra reports required in my Use of Ferries decision.

I had spent the night in the back of the car due to a mix up of my hotel booking. I had slept in the back of the car many times before, especially in the north of Scotland. However, then I had a pillow, a sleeping mat and a four season sleeping bag – I had none of these and it was incredibly uncomfortable and cold as I tried to get some sleep. I had very little sleep as I continually checked my watch for the time and reverted to watching the Lighthouse out on the Hurst Castle Spit, do 4 flashes then wait 6 seconds before repeating the sequence – it passed the time for a while. I had set my alarm for 05:00 when I could at least begin to get ready and do the slow drive over towards Sandbanks.

With the dawn just beginning to arrive I set off down the winding road into Milford -on-Sea and then on to the residential area of Sandbanks, where good street parking was available. After parking up I walked for about 100m to the bus stop and caught the 07:16 #50 bus to Bournemouth Station. Here I caught the 08:03 train to Christchurch. By 08:40 I was heading out from Christchurch Station along the B3059 towards Southbourne on the outskirts of Bournemouth. After crossing the River Stour, I followed its banks eastwards to where it emptied into Christchurch Harbour. I was heading towards Hengistbury Head on a thin sliver of land that enclosed Christchurch Harbour. At just 36m high  Warren Hill stands out from the surrounding terrain and after making a circular walk around the old pools, previously used for the extraction of Ironstone I head towards its top. From Warren Hill I have have superb viewpoint looking across to the Purbeck Hills above Swanage and along the long sweeping coastline of Poole Bay and Sandbanks where my walk will end.

Early morning crossing over The River Stour at Christchurch
Walking along the banks of The River Stour
Heading for Warren Hill on Hengistbury Head
Looking across Christchurch Harbour to Mudeford and yesterdays walk
Looking across Poole Bay to Swanage and The Foreland
The Coastwatch lookout tower on Warren Hill
The trig point and toposcope on Warren Hill
Looking across to Christchurch
The route ahead and end of my walk along Poole Bay
Sandstone outcrop on Warren Hill

I drop down from Hengistbury Head and head towards the start of the promenade at Southbourne, which I will remain on until the finish. Its easy going and like many promenades up and down the country I have walke,  it makes for swift progress. I pass the first of two piers, the first being Boscombe, an unattractive concrete creation. Two kilometres on and I arrive Bournemouth Pier, more traditional and very busy. Loud music blares out from large speakers and a beach volleyball match is underway. This certainly seems to be the more popular part of Poole Bay. The end is in sight now and at 12:45 on 12th September 2021 I walk through the Sandbanks Hotel car park and cross over the B3369 to complete my walk around the coastline of Great Britain! I ask an elderly gentleman to take my photograph. No fanfare, just a slightly underwhelming feeling, but an inward warm satisfying feeling that I had linked up all those tiny footprints to complete a walk of 6678 miles. As in previous challenges like completing a National Trail, climbing all the Munro’s and Corbett’s, the moment for me is never euphoric, just fulfilling. I did contact Radio Shropshire last week to announce I would be completing the walk this weekend, but they never got back to me.

On the promenade at Southborne with Bournemouth in the distance
The impressive Chalk cliffs of The Foreland and Old Harrys Rocks with Swanage visible
Quiet sandy beaches at Southborne
One of the three cliff railways I observed
Boscombe Pier…hmmmmmm?
I think this cliff railway is no longer in use
Bournemouth Pier
Ferris wheel in Bournemouth
Beach volleyball match underway
Entering Poole
Heading westwards towards Sandbanks
Looking back eastwards with Hengistbury Head in the far distance
The last 300m!!
And so it here it ends!!

So I have a couple of thoughts that I would like to share:

  • A big thanks to all those people, particularly my wife who have supported me in this endeavour. To all those “Coasters” who are in the process of walking the coast including Ruth Livingstone, Tony Urwin, Jon Combe, Helpful Mammal, Paul Hills and James Wearmouth – thanks for your advice and good luck and a safe completion. To my friends on Scottish Hills, where I posted all of my Scottish Trip reports.
  • A popular and common question is “What is your favourite part of the Coast”. To which I answer that I don’t have a favourite coastal walk, because, besides the scenery there are so many other factors like mind set, health, injury, weather, company, bad incidents (like some idiot drivers) which all affect how I feel. I also do not mind walking through industrial areas. There were a few standout experiences which I did enjoy namely walking across Morecambe Bay with the tide out, walking around Cape Wrath, walking through 16 miles through residential streets from Woolwich to Gravesend and my final walk in Scotland.
  • Another question is “what are planning on doing next?”. Well there are about 6 reports along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path which I have yet to write up. When I did this section many years ago, I had a pretty poor digital camera, So I may do these sections again. I am also keen to complete the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail.
  • I will probably make a few further posts on this blog to update the position on the Bowls and Platters which I am still preparing and finishing. A number have already been sold. So more of that in the future.

Meanwhile a final thanks to all my subscribers.


Alan Palin




Distance today = 12.5 miles
Total distance = 6,678 miles



10 thoughts on “360. Christchurch to Sandbanks – Poole – The Finish!”

  1. Wow well done Alan. Hopefully I’ll be making a post like this (but probably not for a couple of years) and thanks for the kind comments and thoughts at the end too.

    I know that area well in fact I walked up to the top of Hengistubry head with my sister on what I suspect was the day before you did this walk (Saturday 11th September) and took a few photos. If I had gone on Sunday I might have bumped into you!

    The cliff lift you pictured that is closed is closed due to a landslip that damaged the tracks a couple of years back. Whether the Council will repair it or not I don’t know (I suspect not). You can see the kink in the track it caused in your photo.

    The “Welcome to Poole” sign you took a picture of used to be the boundary between Hampshire and Dorset (Bournemouth and Christchurch were moved into Dorset in 1974, they were Hampshire prior to that) and later the boundary between the Borough of Poole and Borough of Bournemouth. The boroughs of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch were combined into a new unitary authority (BCP Council) a few years ago. It was a pretty controversial at the time. There was a referendum about it in Christchurch, organised by the Council where the vote was 84% against the merger into a Unitary authority, but the residents views were ignored and it happened anyway.

    It looks like you missed out going to the end of the sandbank (Mudeford Sandbank) at the end of Hengistbury Head. It’s quite an interesting place. The beach huts there change hands for over £200,000 in fact one of them there was put up for sale in the last couple of weeks for over £500,000 (yes, half a million for a shed on some sand!). They command a high price due to the fact sleeping in them is permitted but still, prices have gone crazy in the last few years.

    The owners of the hotel at Sandbanks beside the ferry (where you ended) want to pull it down and replace it with a very large block of flats. It will be a real shame if that happens as the public will be denied access (the bar and restaurant at the hotel overlook the harbour and are open to non-residents and you get a lovely view). It’s not the prettiest from the landward side, but I think it’s quite nice when viewed from the harbour. The new block of flats, if it happens, will be very out of place. I must admit I did wonder if you might have stayed at the hotel there to celebrate the end.

    I don’t like it when people ask me what my “favourite” bit of coast is. Too many to choose from and as you say can be quite variable depending on weather and other conditions (for example St Ives is lovely outside the summer but hell in summer, you can barely move due to the crowds).

    I know you have done some other big projects in the past like the Munro’s so I imagine you will find another big project to do, I hope to read about it! I finished Offa’s Dyke Path last year (I started it in 2018) to complete a walk around Wales (more or less, I know it doesn’t entirely stick to the border) and made a start on Hadrian’s Wall earlier this year (another trip booked for October to make further progress on that) so that I hope I can then have walked around all of England, Wales and mainland Scotland (again, I know Hadrians Wall doesn’t exactly follow the border, especially on the eastern end, but still), at least once I finish the coast of mainland Scotland.

    Though it will likely be a couple of years before I finish I have already had thoughts on what to do next. I have missed many of the Scottish Islands so I hope to go back and do some or all of those, perhaps 1 or 2 islands a year. I might well do Northern Ireland too. I walked the Causeway Coastal Way there a couple of years back (passes the Giant’s Causeway) which was excellent and I later found there is a path (The Ulster Way) that goes all around the coast (and the land border with Eire) so it shouldn’t be too hard though there were warnings a lot of it is on roads and not that safe so we’ll see. Sadly it sounds like access for walking in Eire is not that good (I had wondered about doing that too, but hope to do the parts with a proper coast path, like Dingle even if not all of it).

    I will probably also walk some or all of the coastlines of other countries (I actually already did the coast of the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Gibraltar and Monaco). Coastal walking is my favourite! To that end, I had actually booked and paid for a trip to walk all of the coast of Belgium (it’s not that long) over one of the May Bank holidays last year. Of course all the Covid restrictions the Governments either side of the channel put in place put an end to that (and I had a long, but ultimately successful, battle to get my money back from the hotel there and Eurostar for that trip). I had hoped to do it instead this year but all the restrictions still in place, and the now extremely limited Eurostar schedule make it much more expensive (needs at least an extra overnight stay), along with having to take a load of expensive Covid tests either way and the risks of getting stuck there to “isolate” if any of them are positive mean it won’t happen this year either. On the plus side I have made more and longer trips to Scotland this year than originally planned (due to other holidays getting cancelled due to travel restrictions) meaning I have made better progress than expected there (I should now get as far as, or possibly beyond Oban this year and have already done much of the Ayrshire coast too so will have the coast south of Oban, Kintyre and the south western parts of Scotland I’ve not done left to do).

    Anyway I’m rambling on now. Well done and I hope to follow you on any future projects you might undertake.


    1. Hi Jon, I was in Donegal the other day, and there is a long distance route called the Wild Atlantic Way that goes right up the west coast of Ireland to the border at Muff. I don’t know how well laid out it is though. I always fancied doing Ireland after the UK, but I haven’t researched it much. I drove around the coastal route from Belfast to Derry a few weeks back and it is a stunning coastline.


  2. Hi Jon, thanks for that really interesting and comphrensive reply. I should say I did Offa’s Dyke in 2000 and it is a walk that I may do again. I will also return to Scotalnd to do some of the islands, maybey not complete coastal walks. Also I did Shetland in 2013 , so the Orkneys deserve a visit at some time.

    Mean while I will keep an eye open for yours and others blog reports. I have also offered to join Tony Urwin on a couple of Wales Coast sections when he gets around there.


  3. Wow!!! Many congratulations on completing the coast, Alan. What an adventure and such a massive achievement. I know it’s common to feel a bit flat at the end of it. Andy Phillips felt quite down, I think, after he’d finished, and he started going round again, but only to the interesting parts and to do the sightseeing he didn’t do first time round. I don’t think he got very far, as first football and then covid got in the way! Anyway, I’m sure you’ll find plenty more walking projects and hope you’ll be blogging about them too. Going to miss your coastal posts.


  4. Congratulations Alan! It made me smile to read about the cold night in the car. Very fitting to finish it with a rough night. Often the most memorable. I can relate to your feeling of warm satisfaction, although, of course, not in respect of this particular achievement. I will be reading your blog for some years to come as I follow in your footsteps…into the bogs and beyond!


  5. 👏👏Congratulations Alan!
    A fantastic achievement, that is still so far off for me! The feeling of satisfaction and achievement must be huge. I guess a long rest is due now, but I’m sure you’ll have itchy feet again soon. A 2nd lap is probably not that great an idea though – the motivation would be lacking as soon as it got a bit grim! I look forward to reading about your future exploits as well. I always fancied Ireland as well, as my girlfriend is from Derry and the Northern Irish coast is stunning, and Donegal too, but that’s just too far off to contemplate at the moment. Good luck anyway!


  6. Well done and thank you so much for this! I have enjoyed it, especially as you approached our neck of the woods on the last leg… I hope look back with overall pride at what you achieved and the info you shared has been really helpful. If it not to cheeky, I’d like to be directed to Shotley Gate area (in Suffolk I think) I haven’t always found it easy with wordpress to jump to an area… Enjoy a little rest up


  7. Hi Mapsmith, yes I am no big fan of WordPress…..but its free! To be fair indexing the walks although chronological is something I need to sort out. So i’ll probably add an additional tag/ category based broadly on county/admin/ regional lines. Meanwhile, the walk you are after is No 284. Freston to Manningtree on 21/08/2019 so you can get to it by the date. Cheers Alan


  8. Missed this at the time but belatedly – bravo! Congratulations on completing your circumperambulation of our island! A shame we never did meet properly on our respective travels, even though we were in exactly the same place several times.

    With respect to having a favourite part, I agree with you entirely. There are just so many factors that come into play and a location that would enthral you at one time, might leave you utterly unmoved on another, according to hunger , fatigue, dampness and so on.

    Anyway, well done! I still have now finally resumed from where I left off in 2019 but I have a long, long way to go before I can write a similar post to yours. The whole eastern side of GB, in fact.

    If you do decide do Hadrian’s Wall, I would be very interested to read about that; it’s something I’ve also vaguely mused over for the distant future…


  9. Hi Mammal, yes you are right, it would have been great to have met. Really looking foward to the continuation of your walk, which I hope is soon. The good news is you have done the tough bit i.e. the West Coast and you are now almost working yourself south and therefore closer to home. Hope to see your restart soon. Thanks for the post. Cheers Alan


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