For this walk rather than continue from Sandford where I got to last time I decided instead to start from Holton Heath railway station and walk from there to Sandford, where I would resume my walk around the Poole Harbour Trail.
This was for two reasons. The first is that the Poole Harbour trail heads some distance inland in places on this walk, and along major roads and I wanted to see if I could find a better route. In addition there is an area of access land on the coastal side of Holton Heath station I was keen to explore.
I drove to Christchurch station and took the train around to Holton Heath, which takes around 30 minutes. It’s a nice journey giving good views of Holes Bay, around the back of the harbour. I arrived at Holton Heath around 11:30. Despite the attractive sounding name of the station it is in fact on the edge of a Trading Estate and therefore not quite what you might expect.
First I turned right along the access road from the station where the road is blocked off for through traffic with concrete blocks, for some reason. I continued up to the roundabout and followed the road to the right through this dreary trading estate, which had more activity on a Saturday then I expected. I followed it up to the roundabout at the far end of the road. Here tracks are marked on the map heading off into the area marked as Holton Heath Nature Reserve. Sadly they were all blocked off with fences. I was hoping it might be possible to walk on this land, but sadly not it seems.
So I had to return the same way, through the dreary trading estate and back towards the railway station. Just before the railway station is a level crossing, which I hoped would give me access to the area of access land south of the railway line. However this was blocked with a sturdy locked gate warning that is was private. So I headed back onto the station platform, to see if I had missed some way off the platform that would give access to this area, but there was no way off the platform other than back the way I came (or by train!). The next place it looks like you can cross the railway to the west is at Keysworth Crossing, near Sandford. However this is not marked as a right of way and heads into the private land of Keysworth Farm, which from Google Streetview looks more like a private drive to a stately home than a typical farm track. I’m left to concluded that the public has access to this land if you can get to it, but no legal way to actually get onto the land in the first place. Most odd.
So having wasted half an hour taking dead ends, it was time to begin the walk. I followed the road north from the station this time, Station Road. This was actually a road despite being signed as a footpath on the right and again round the edge of a slightly industrial area, but unexpectedly there was also a church and what looks like some possibly ex-military buildings. By a widening of the road, I could turn left on another footpath, this one heading properly over the heath. This was a pleasant path initially through coniferous wood but soon opening out into proper heath. It was an easy walk underfoot too with this part of the heath having kept fairly dry.
The path soon opened out into more open heathland which was beautiful, and I imagine is even more so with the heather in flower. To my right though was some sort of odd concrete construction. I’m told it is an old World War II anti aircraft tower, which has been left behind.
The path onwards soon left the open heath, crossing a little stream via a bridge and continuing ahead through more coniferous woodland. When this ended I was back, briefly, to open heath on the left but now the houses of Sandford off to my right. It was then back through more coniferous woodland until the path emerged, at the Sandford Labour Club. Here I turned right and followed the rather posh road north to the busy Sandford Road, which came as a bit of a shock to the system after the peaceful walking I had had so far.
Here once I had managed to cross the road, I turned left and reached the bus stop where I had ended the last walk and was now back on the Poole Harbour Trail. On the official web site this is walk 5 and there are two PDF files here and here giving directions and a map. Interestingly, the author of this walk also wants to get a route closer to the harbour here by claiming a track (I think the one I tried, and failed, to follow east of the station) as a right of way. There is some detail on the website here.
However for now the walk must head inland. So I retraced my steps of the last walk along roads to reach the oddly named Great Ovens Hill. At a junction I rejoin the main route of the Poole Harbour Trail and fork right on a good track over Gore Heath.
As before the walk varies between open heath and coniferous woodland. After the difficulties with paths on the last walk, this path is very easy to use and also well used by joggers, several of which pass me.
The path passes some boggy areas, but remains dry underfoot. It is a very enjoyable section of the path with fine views over the peaceful heathland. Although it has to be pointed out, I’m quite some distance from the coast here and I opted to follow this path because it was meant to be a coastal walk!
In a mile or so I reach the end of this section of heathland and a junction of paths, where I turn sharp right with the Poole Harbour trail. This heads through more coniferous woodlands but soon leaves them and becomes a track between fields and soon more or less a road. After about half a mile this comes to a road where I turn left by a house and follow this to Organford Bridge. By the bridge I join a busier road to cross the Sherford River and then fork off to the right on a much quieter road, passing through open fields either side of the tree-lined road.
I soon passed Organford Country Park on the left but this is now what you might think but rather a caravan and campsite. I don’t think the public can just wander in. After a little over half a mile along this road came to the part of the walk I was dreading.
There are no footpaths in this area, and this road ends as the busy A35. This is the main trunk road west from Bournemouth and Poole and hence really busy. On top of this, it has no pavement making for a rather unsafe walk. I turned right initially following the grass verge or the edge of the road, but a rare gap in the traffic allowed me to cross to the north side of the road. There was a bit of a layby, perhaps an old bus stop which allowed me a brief respite from the traffic, but it was soon back to the edge of the road to the notorious Bakers Arms roundabout. This is a traffic black spot, particularly if coming from Wareham and Swanage, where there are often long queues to get onto the roundabout.
Thankfully there was not much of a queue and what there was slowed the traffic down. I was relieved to be turning left off the A35 onto the B3067. Best of all it has a pavement, at long last!
I soon pass the Bakers Arms pub on the right, after which the roundabout is named.
Further along there are some thatched cottages adding a bit of character. Further along there is another thatched cottage which looks newly built – nice to see someone making an effort to build buildings in keeping with their surroundings. I soon reach the curiously named pub, The St Peters Finger, at the centre of the village of Lytchett Minster.
Here I think I can take a short cut. The road beside the pub, Old Watery Lane is marked as “other route with public access” on the map. It leads to the A35 (here a dual carrigeway) and the Poole Harbour Trail follows Watery Lane on the other side of the dual carriageway. This avoids around 1 mile of road walking and looks like a good plan. Whilst it does mean I have to cross the A35 I’ve crossed dual carriageways before on foot and am confident I can find a gap in the traffic. So I set off down the road. As the houses end and the road narrows there is the first hint that things are not going well – it is signed as a dead-end (I expected that) but also a sign says the A35 Pedestrian Crossing is closed ahead. I decided to press on, but soon the lane lives up to it’s name. It is indeed watery. So watery that it is flooded and I can’t get through without wet feet. Whilst I can see the A35 ahead it’s too far for me to try wading the water, so reluctantly, I have to conclude the sign was right and I can’t get through.
So re-tracing my steps I resume my walk along the B3067. I soon pass the rather large and impressive church on the left.
Beyond it there is a private school whose drive goes off to the left. It is a one-way track used to access the school and signed as no entry here for vehicles, there were no signs indicating private. I was keen to get off the main road and wondered about following it, but having already wasted time trying to take a shortcut via Watery Lane I decided to stick to the main road (and official route) of the path this time. It was a rather tedious stretch of the path really, with the road quite busy but at least lined with trees for much of the way. It was a relief to soon reach the bridge where the road raised up to cross the A35. Just over this I could turn right on the much quieter (and oddly named) Policeman’s Lane. When this road turns off to the left, the Poole Harbour Trail forks off to the right on another track (Watery Lane) that soon turns left to head south back towards the A35. I am not really clear of why it takes this route since if you look at the map, it goes around 3 sides of a square and the road I am on is the 4th side, so I could take a shortcut. But I wonder if there is something good to see that means there is a reason why the path has been routed down these tracks.
So I head down them but conclude the answer is no -there is no obvious reason to come down here. Both Watery Lane and the track it meets, Slough Lane are littered with huge amounts of fly tipped rubbish. A sure sign I am approaching a large town, sadly. I do wonder how much of this could be avoided if Councils would take it for free. As it is, it often gets dumped on quiet roads like this and the Council end up removing it anyway.
At the end of Slough Lane I am back on a road and soon approaching the urban fringes of Upton. I follow this road to the main road and follow it through Upton. The Poole Harbour Trail then follows this road for around half a mile, which is rather tedious. I can then turn off onto Lytchett Way and follow the path ahead as the road turns to the left, to go on a rather dirty path between the backs of houses. This brings me out onto Furzey Road where I turn left and at the end of this road right, back onto Lytchett Way, finally heading down to marsh beside the harbour.
It is a relief after all this road walking to finally see some coast!
The path makes it’s way behind houses along the inland edge of this area of marsh and then joins a surfaced path in a recreation ground. The path goes around the edge of this, turns right and heads onto a second area, this one part of Turlin Moor. The path then turns right and finally follows the edge of the harbour.
It is beautiful and is a welcome contrast to the miles of road and urban walking I have done so far.
Although the tide is out the mud is wet, reflecting the blue sky so it still looks quite attractive.
This is a nice stretch of the path, but at the western end of Turlin Moor the path is squeezed in front of the houses again.
I come to a little quay where boats are clearly launched from.
This marks the point where I leave the coast again and head inland along roads and urban paths, though an area of not very pleasant looking housing. I pass a couple of 1970s looking blocks of flats and then there is a path off to the right. This is because the next barrier to cross is the railway line and this is the first crossing. I go over the metal bridge over the tracks and the path changes again.
I am now in one enormous caravan park, Rockley Sands. The path is initially tarmac straight ahead between all the caravans but they end rather abruptly at Ham Common. There is a fine view ahead as I’m back to a pocket of countryside again. There is a lake ahead and the open waters of the harbour beyond it.
The path goes around the western edge of this lake, then down steps to reach the beach. Yes a beach, for the first time since I left the mouth of the harbour at Shell Bay. Despite the distance into the harbour I am here, the harbour is very sandy so there is still a good beach, presumably the reason why the caravan site is here.
I can now follow the beach east. As I do so the beach becomes more sand and less shingle and I soon come to a pier by a car park.
I walked out onto the little pier and looked east. Although the Poole Harbour trail heads back to the road here it looked like you could get along the beach. Sadly the way was blocked by a large fence which spreads along way out to sea, to stop you walking past. It looks like it again might be military.
So reluctantly again I had to head inland, away from the coast. The path goes inland of this boat yard and then turns right past a private estate around a marina where each house has it’s own mooring. Clearly the demographics have changed a bit since Turlin Moor, I am now in Hamworthy, and it is posh.
Soon after this the Poole Harbour Trail turns right and follows Lake Road which soon heads east, past some large houses. Around 300 metres off this there is a path off to the right, down to the shore. The Poole Harbour trail sticks to the road though, but I decided to take this path to get down to the shore. Each of the houses here has a jetty at the back, presumably as mooring for your own yacht (perhaps it is no surprise that the luxury boat builder Sunseeker is based in Poole?).
I managed to make my way along the shore, going under or around each of these piers until I reach a sandy beach backed by beach huts, a sign that I am now in Hamworthy Park.
I’m pleased that I have found a better (or at least more coastal) route at last, even if it is only for a short stretch! I now make my way along the beach with fine views out into the harbour and Brownsea Island visible ahead.
I continued along the beach until I reached the end and then soon, the end of the park. There was time for one last view of the harbour, as the sun was beginning to set. Beautiful.
I was hoping I might be able to continue along the good path approaching the commercial part of the harbour at Hamworthy and get along there, but it was a dead-end. So I had to head back parallel with the railway line on my right and some posh flats beyond to the road where I could cross the railway line.
The railway line here is freight only and I think disused now. It serves Poole Port, but they no longer use it. Despite this, Poole Council want to build a new bridge over this disused line to link to the said posh flats (Harbour Reach Development). The website suggests it should be finished by now. I wonder if it has been. It a lot of money to spend to cross a disused railway and a save a 400 metre walk.
Once over the railway line at the level crossing a little further west I continue on the road back to the B3068. Here I turned right. I am now approaching the commercial port of Poole at Lower Hamworthy. From here Brittany Ferries run a traditional ferry service to Cherbourg whilst Condor Ferries run a fast ferry link to the Channel Islands from here. Presumably as a result of the traffic these and the freight operations generate, a new bridge (the Twin Sales bridge) was built to cross the harbour here so there are now two bridges connecting Poole and Hamworthy. The new lifting bridge has had quite a number of problems though, including getting stuck open and even part of the road surface falling off when it lifted! Indeed a sign warned this bridge was closed as I walked past, so I stuck with the old route of the A350 ahead which soon turned left to cross to Poole Quay via the older blue swing bridge. By now it was getting dark, so I didn’t linger in Poole to take photographs but headed straight for the station.
From here I took the train back to Christchurch. This walk is not the best bit of the Poole Harbour Trail it has to be said and I hope the designer of the walk is successful in getting a better route closer to the harbour. As it is, the later parts of the walk around Turlin Moor and Hamworthy and the earlier parts over the heath are quite pleasant, but there is a lot of road walking around Organford and Lytchett Minster and on busy roads which make the middle section rather tedious.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. You could use the train to Holton Heath as I did, or take the bus to Sandford.
First the train. South West Trains run trains from London Waterloo to Weymouth. Most trains that stop at Holton Heath serve the following stations : London Waterloo – Clapham Junction – Basingstoke – Winchester – Southampton Airport – Southampton Central – Brockenhurst – New Milton – Christchurch – Pokesdown – Bournemouth – Poole – Hamworthy – Holton Heath – Wareham – Wool – Dorchester South – Upewy – Weymouth. Trains run hourly Monday – Saturday to Holton Heath but do not stop at Holton Heath on Sundays or after around 8:30pm in the evening.
The bus route is Purbeck Breezer route 40 : Swanage Bus Station – Langton Matravers – Kingston – Corfe Castle – Stoborough Green – Wareham – Wareham Station – Sandford – Holton Heath – Organford – Lytchett Minster – Upton – Poole (Bus station). Hourly Monday – Saturday. Once every 2 hours on winter Sundays, hourly on summer Sundays.