Today our lovely chocolate labrador, Ronnie, was heading to off for a pamper. His regular dog walker, Louise, was taking him for a pedicure and bubble bath. That gave us the opportunity to explore a little further afield. First stop Christchurch.
To clarify the location, at the last count there were five towns called Christchurch in the world. Three of these are in the UK, one in America and, of course, New Zealand. The UK ones are one near Newport, Wales, one in Cambridgeshire and we are visiting the third one in Dorset. Through minimal research, I have decided that this one is the oldest and what the others are named after.
Just to throw this into the mix. I was christened at Christchurch as a baby and then married Jonno at Christchurch so the name has special significance to us, even though this was a church called Christchurch in Bexleyheath, Kent. There must be hundreds of these across the country.
This is the part where I have to “fess-up”. This historic harbour town was not always called Christchurch. Shock, horror! It was originally Twynham (meaning between rivers) and it was only when the huge priory was built here in 1094 that the name was changed to Christchurch. I still think it must pre-date it’s namesakes around the globe. Holiday traffic made our 30 minute journey into more like 45 minutes but we did manage to end up in a car park right on the waters edge of the harbour. A walk along the harbour to where the River Avon and River Stour converge was a pretty way to start our walk around the town. We passed an old mill (Place Mill), the ruin of Christchurch Castle and all the while the grand Priory loomed above us. It looks just like a cathedral and is certainly on the same scale.
We carried on along Ducking Stool Lane and were surprised to find a replica ducking stool. Mostly used to publicly humiliate and punish disorderly women and dishonest tradesmen. It is a chair on the end of a long beam that dunks the culprit into the river. Contrary to what I thought, it was rarely used for alleged witches and not usually to the point of drowning. I think that involved throwing the suspect into water with their left hand tied to their right foot and their right hand tied to their left foot. The guilty would float and the innocent would sink . If deemed to be innocent they would (hopefully) be retrieved by a rope around their waist.
The High Street was somewhat disappointing after our spending time in our local town of Lymington which has a lot of character. Our final stop was the Red House Museum which is a former workhouse. It was free to enter with a donation system. It was a great little museum with enthusiastic staff and really gave us an insight into the history of the town, including it’s notorious smuggling history.
Our tummies were starting to rumble so we headed to this Castle where we knew there was a cafe. It was a great little cafe with lots of outdoor seating overlooking the gardens. The Castle itself is currently having an overhaul so not many rooms are open but it is a very impressive building and has survived two major fires in the 50s and 60s. It’s celebrity claim to fame is that Harry Selfridge (of Mr Selfridge the TV drama) who established Selfridges in London rented the property from 1916-1922. His wife, Rose, set up a military hospital/convalescing camp in it’s grounds for soldiers of WWI. Harry Selfridge, Rose and his mother are all buried in HighCliffe Church cemetery not very far away.
Knowing that we were on top of a high cliff at Highcliffe we found the stairs that lead down to the sea and beach. In true British style there were some die-hards swimming and the windbreaks were doing their best against the sea breeze. We love nothing more than a long walk on the beach so walked towards the beach huts at Mudeford gazing across to the Isle of Wight. This great location has something for all ages and once the refurb is complete in 2019 a top tourist attraction.
Bathed and Beautiful
We had a lovely welcome waiting for us from the beautifully fragrant and handsome Ronnie. Even the cat, Lily, wanted to get up close and personal. All we wanted to do after our day exploring was put our feet up with a cup of coffee. Perhaps next time Ronnie can join us at the beach, although it may give him a had hair day.