Why walk? The benefits of walking
Walking is a great form of exercise, it is free and available to everyone. Even low-impact exercise offers great benefits for your health. Walking regularly will help strengthen your heart and can reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. Research shows you may also be less likely to develop type two diabetes and 20% less likely to develop certain cancers, such as colon, breast and womb. If you’re looking to lose weight, regular and consistent walking can help you shed the pounds in no time, especially if you start including hill walks and moving at a faster pace.
Other benefits include body toning and mood boosting and walking outdoors is also a great opportunity to get your daily Vitamin D fix. Walking has also been found to help prevent dementia and avoid brain shrinkage and preserves memory as the years go by.
So, if you’re looking to start your walking journey, here are some walking ideas and routes to enjoy whilst taking in the natural beauty that Bournemouth and the surrounding areas have to offer.
Walking on the beach
The prospect of Bournemouth and Poole’s 12 miles of sandy shoreline and promenade is surely enticing enough to make you want to start walking. The golden sandy beaches, the fresh sea air and the sounds of soft waves will instantly lift your mood and make you feel more relaxed.
The health benefits of walking on the sand are unique and amazing. Walking on sand requires more effort and energy than walking on flat and hard surfaces because your foot moves around in the sand and the muscles and tendons need to work even harder. You will also be burning more calories than you would if you were walking at the same pace on a hard surface.
Walking on sand is a lot more enjoyable than walking on hard pavements or the treadmill, so there is a good chance you may automatically walk further. It also puts less pressure on your joints, knees and feet than pounding your feet on a harder surface.
If you’re after a short stroll on the beach then walking barefoot is fine but if you’re planning longer distances, wearing appropriate shoes will help avoid sore tendons and shin splints. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen, take a bottle of water with you and wear a swimming costume so when it gets too hot, you can always jump straight into the water!
Walking the dog Dog-Friendly Beaches
Walking your dog at the beach is both enjoyable and relaxing. The fresh sea air helps us absorb oxygen better due to the healthy negative ions in the air, this in turn helps us sleep more soundly. These negative ions also help with eliminating stress and improving overall mood. Apart from feeling relaxed, you are also absorbing vitamin D, which is important for maintaining healthy bones and teeth.
There are several beaches in Dorset where you are permitted to walk your dog on or off the lead. It’s also a great opportunity for your pet to socialise with other dogs. On some beaches, you can take your dog all year round, while others are restricted. In Bournemouth you can walk your canine friend between Alum Chine beach office (groyne 3) and the border with Poole’s first beach, Branksome Dene Chine, any time of the year. You can also take your dog to Durley Chine beach between groyne 5 (Middle Chine) and groyne 7, on the west side of the main Bournemouth Beach.
You can move further away from Bournemouth’s main beach towards Boscombe to the Fishermans Walk beach, where dogs can be walked between groyne 32 and groyne 41 on Southbourne beach. This area is a lot quieter than Bournemouth and Boscombe beaches and is popular with families and locals.
If you live a little further away from Southbourne, you can head towards Hengistbury West or Mudeford Sandbank, which adjoins Hengistbury Head, Mudeford Quay, situated at the entrance to Christchurch Harbour and Steamer Point in Christchurch.
In Poole, you can walk your dog on Sandbanks beach but only from the western end of Sandbanks beach to Haven Point. You can take your dog to Harbour Lake all year round, which is situated between Rockley Park Holiday Park and Hamworthy Park. Hamworthy Park beach, which is also non restrictive and Harbour Rockley Sand, situated off Napier Road near Rockley Park.
Bournemouth Pier to Boscombe Pier
If you fancy a 30 minute walk (1.5 miles), then walking from pier to pier is a great way to enjoy the beach and the fresh sea air while burning some calories. Once you get to Boscombe Pier you can relax and enjoy lunch or a drink at the Harvester or Urban Reef restaurants or one of the beachfront kiosks.
Bournemouth Pier to Sandbanks (Poole)
A walk from Bournemouth Pier to Sandbanks beach will not take you as long as you might think, although you do need to spare 2 hours and 20 minutes if you’re planning a round trip! This 3.5-mile walk offers endless, beautiful seaside vistas along the beach. There are no hills to tackle and the promenade is flat all the way along.
You’ll encounter several restaurants and cafeterias on your way to Sandbanks if you fancy lunch or a coffee break, including WestBeach, Chineside and Vesuvio. In the summer, you may also pass beach weddings being held in beautiful marquees, on the clifftops and on the lawns of various hotels. Between Bournemouth and Sandbanks there’s a restaurant café called Branksome Beach and once you get to Sandbanks you can pop into the popular Sandbanks Beach Café sitting pride-of-place on the award-winning Sandbanks beach.
Bournemouth Pier to Hengistbury Head
The walk to Hengistbury Head takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes to cover the 5.4 miles from Bournemouth Pier. There’s the Bistro on the Beach café 2.5 miles into your walk (49 minutes in), where you can stop for lunch or a drink. Once you reach Hengistbury Head, you will find the Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre. There is also a land train if you fancy taking the weight off your feet with an enjoyable ride down to Mudeford Sandspit (or you could always walk!) A seafood café called the Beach House is right by the prestigious beach huts down here and there is also a ferry terminal from Mudeford Sandbank across to Mudeford Quay.
Fishermans Walk to Bournemouth Pier
Fishermans Walk beach is one of Bournemouth’s four blue flag holders, recognised for its high standards of cleanliness and water purity. If you’re parked on the road, you can get to Fishermans Beach by strolling down through the Fishermans zigzag path, situated between Boscombe and Southbourne Overcliff Drive. The walk from the Fishermans Beach to Bournemouth Pier is about three miles and would take around an hour. If you fancy fuelling up before your walk, you can stop at Cafe Riva for breakfast, lunch or a cooling drink.
Bournemouth Pier to Swanage
This sounds like a very long walk… well, it definitely is! If you’re the hiking type and fancy a four-hour hike (the trip includes a crossing on the chain ferry) then this one is definitely for you. It is a 10.9 mile journey with breathtaking views of Bournemouth’s blue flag beaches and Studland and Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve. It takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes (4.1 miles) to reach Sandbanks Ferry terminal from Bournemouth Pier on foot.
If you fancy a bite to eat while waiting to board the ferry, close to the Terminal you’ll find a cafe on Banks Road called The Haven Ferry Café and Takeaway. The ferry from Sandbanks to Shell Bay Terminal in Studland only takes about 10 minutes.
Once you get to the other side, if you’re heading towards Swanage, then you will need to continue walking on Studland Beach until you reach the very end; this walk is 53 minutes long (2.7 miles). Behind the beach there are several paths that lead to the Studland Heath Nature Reserve and a natural lagoon called the Little Sea. Once you get to the end of the coast path, you will find the National Trust Visitor Centre, public toilets and cafe. There are also plenty of hotels and B&Bs to choose from if you fancy staying the night.
A short walk away you will come across Studland’s Police Post, a small thatched cottage. Once there, note the sign pointing towards the coast path and Fort Henry. Follow the sign and once you get to the top of the cliffs, Fort Henry comes into sight – a Grade II listed World War Two observation bunker.
Continue along the coast path until you come across the Bankes Arms pub. If you fancy a drink and some refreshments, this is a great place to stop. Now, you will need to continue down the road and turn into Manor Road. You should come across displays about the South West Coast path, the walk up to Old Harry Rocks and Handfast Point. Continue following the path until you get your first view of the striking Old Harry Rocks – two chalk sea stacks located at Handfast Point, on the Isle of Purbeck.
Continue walking towards Ballard Point, where you can stop to admire the stunning views of Old Harry Rocks, The Pinnacles, Studland and Bournemouth beaches. Keep following the path until you reach some steps down onto the beach. You can walk along the beach to Swanage if the tide is low and continue along the promenade until you reach Swanage town centre. Swanage is situated at the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast. The small but pretty town has a lot to offer including various visitor attractions, historic buildings, blue flag beach, sporting and leisure activities and plenty of shops, restaurants, pubs and tea rooms.
Walk along the Chines
There are five Chines in Bournemouth: Branksome Chine, Branksome Dene Chine, Middle Chine, Alum Chine and Durley Chine.
- The largest Chine in Bournemouth is Alum Chine, where you’ll find Argyll Gardens, a tropical garden situated at the bottom of Alumhurst Road. If you’re planning to drive there is parking available on West Overcliff Drive. Alum Chine was named after a small mine established in 1564 to extract alum and copperas. While walking through the gardens you will find a suspension bridge that was built in the early 1900s. Local historians believe that this was the bridge from which Winston Churchill fell in 1892. It is said that Churchill tried to jump from the bridge to an adjacent fir tree before losing his grip and falling 30ft to the ground. He was unconscious for three days and bed bound for three months and the rest is history…
- Branksome Chine attracts many different bird species and is a long woodland walk between Penn Hill and Branksome Chine seafront.
- Branksome Dene Chine is situated between Branksome Chine and Alum Chine.
- Durley Chine is located on the West Overcliff Drive and has a popular Blue Flag beach for families with young children and adults alike.
- And last but not least, the Middle Chine is one of the smallest of all Chines, halfway between Durley Chine and Alum Chine, off West Cliff Road. It is a short pleasant walk that leads to the West Undercliff Promenade.
All Chines lead to the beautiful sandy and award winning beaches where many dog owners can take their pets for a walk at the dog friendly beaches along Alum Chine and Durley Chine.
Try Power Walking! Take your walking to the next level
If you’re looking to take your activity up a notch, then perhaps you should try power walking! It’s a steadier, brisker type of walking with pronounced arm movements and wider footsteps.
Your health will really benefit from this type of walking as it is a form of aerobic exercise since you put more power into your arms and legs by moving them faster. You will also be improving your posture by walking more upright with your chin parallel to the ground and toning your abdominals by gently pulling your tummy muscles towards your spine. Landing on the heel of your foot first helps you walk faster and tones your leg muscles too.
Power walking is becoming an increasingly popular because it is a low impact exercise, therefore you will not be putting any strain on your joints. So go on, head to Bournemouth’s beautiful promenade and get power walking!