Sunday, July 09, 2017

Dyb, dyb, dyb, in coastal Dorset...

It would be fair to suggest that noting that I have been on a day trip to Poole today would not obviously be the prelude to a tale of enjoyment. You wouldn't rank Poole that far up the chart of non-attractions in Dorset, let alone on a regional or national scale. Perhaps that's fair, but not necessarily accurate. Yes, Bournemouth has beaches and seaside fun, Swanage has a certain quirky charm, and Lyme Regis has the romance of the French Lieutenant's Woman, amongst other things. Poole, on the other hand, has ferries to the Channel Islands and France - a place to connect rather than stop.

I'd never really been there, apart from a few days when I stayed at the then Holiday Inn to save money on the cost of a hotel in Bournemouth. I didn't actually explore Poole at all.

The railway station is not a great gateway to the town, surrounded by ugly concrete buildings, some of which are only too obviously derelict. And the route to the Old Town and the Quay is not as obvious as it might be, leading you towards an overpass of unfortunate ugliness. But stick with it, and you soon find yourself in the High Street, heading towards the waterfront.

Keep going, and you'll find yourself in amongst some rather more interesting architecture, before turning left at the museum and reaching the Quay.

Time for a boat ride. Get the Brownsea Island ferry, because whilst Poole itself is alright, it's when you get on to the water that you begin to appreciate the charms of its setting. Poole Harbour is the second largest natural harbour in the world, offering sanctuary to an armada of small boats, plus plenty of kayaks, jet skis and dinghies.

And then you get to Brownsea Island itself. Not huge, but big enough and nowadays maintained by the National Trust and the Dorset Wildlife Trust. So, what's special about Brownsea Island? It is the spiritual home of the Boy Scout movement, where Baden-Powell held his first camp for young men. Even today, Scouts, Guides and the plethora of age groups come to the island to camp and learn skills.

I was never a Scout. It wasn't really me, and the idea of camp never appealed. Lots of people would disagree with me on the subject though, and who am I to argue?

We could probably all agree, however, that red squirrels are a thoroughly good thing, and they're one of the many animals that live on the island - some two hundred of them, apparently. We didn't see any, because they tend to stay in the cooler upper branches on hot days.

There's an interesting visitor centre, a fine Victorian church and a decent little cafe, as well as some nice walking opportunities.

Once you've finished your visit, the boat takes you back to Poole by completing the circumnavigation of the three main harbour islands - Brownsea, Furzey and Green. It's a pleasant ride and you get to see the northern shore of the Swanage peninsula.

In the sunshine, it was all rather lovely, and an excellent day out. I've also spotted a potential hotel for Federal Conference in September...

I wonder what other surprises Dorset has been keeping from me?

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