Bournemouth Coast Path
The Bournemouth Coast Path, devised in 1985 by walking writer Leigh Hatts, follows the English coast from Milford-on-Sea in western Hampshire to North Haven Point at the entrance of Poole Harbour in eastern Dorset, linking the end of the Solent Way with the beginning of the South West Coast Path National Trail.
The path generally follows the tops of the low cliffs that run along most of this part of the coast, but makes several diversions inland to get around a number of bunnies and chines -- ravines that have been cut into the cliffs over thousands of years by small streams.
The new E9 European Coastal Path, which runs for around 5000 km from Estonia to Portugal, also covers this stretch of the coast as part of its English leg from Dover to Plymouth, but takes the more direct route along the beachside promenades below the cliffs. I chose the Bournemouth Coast Path over the E9 with the expectation that the clifftop route would offer more spectacular and varied views.
The Bournemouth Coast Path is not currently waymarked and the route is not shown on Ordnance Survey maps, so the book Exploring the Bournemouth Coast Path by Leigh Hatts is an essential companion, though it describes the walk in a west to east direction, while I walked east to west.
The stretch of coast covered by the path was very sparsely populated until early in the 19th century, though there is evidence of human settlement since prehistoric times. From 1810, when the first home was built at Bournemouth, the population grew steadily and when the railway arrived in 1870, that growth accelerated. Today much of the area is quite densely populated, particularly on the second half of the walk, where the towns of Christchurch, Bournemouth, Poole and surrounding areas have a combined population exceeding 400,000. Despite Bournemouth having almost 170,000 people and Poole having around 130,000, neither have so far gained official designation as cities. This hasn't stopped the citizens of Bournemouth from being named the happiest in the UK in a recent survey.