Friday, 8 January 2010


More or less wherever you live in this country it is possible to escape the urban areas and get out into the open spaces. We Mudhoppers are fortunate in our location as the choice of escape is wide-we have within very close proximity the sea, countryside, hill ranges, woods, the New Forest, heaths, in fact whatever takes our fancy at any given time is there within a very short distance. But this is the first in a series of posts about a place which is, literally, right outside our front door; Holes Bay, a more or less neglected backwater in Poole Harbour. For many years it has been used as the dumping ground for old boats and the evidence of this is in the wrecks which are rotting or rusting away in parts of the shoreline. Also in places around this shoreline are the reed beds which collect all manner of flotsam, jetsam and old supermarket trolleys-all of which is never cleared away and create a constant eyesore. When the tide goes out this bay virtually empties (apart from a main boat channel through its centre) exposing vast areas of mud which, on a hot day, proclaims by its odour the amount of pollution that was at one time discharged into it mingling with the usual acrid smell of backwater mud. In short: look beyond the waste and it is a beautiful place, largely undeveloped, a haven for wildlife plus it is possible to walk around practically the whole of it-a walk which takes a couple of hours or so, starting and ending in the town, but which will take you through ever changing scenery along the way.

The walk proper starts where the Old Town ends, level with an area which used to be the only landward entrance to Poole. Now overdeveloped with the type of buildings which conceal the borough's 'Historic Town' claim, there is suddenly a great sense of space as you look out over the bay which dominates your vision. Close to are the lumps of Purbeck stone jumbled down to the waters edge (evidence of where you are stood being reclaimed land) with sporadically spaced concrete blocks. These latter house the pipes which drain water into the harbour and, though not pretty in form or structure, they are very popular with the seabirds. It is not unusual to see a pair of Swans leading their Signets here to feed and they are also attracting the ever increasing numbers of Little Egrets-until recently a rare sight in the harbour. Like the Swan, the Little Egret stands out as magnificent looking creature. There is something about pure white birds in the natural environment, contrasting vividly with Mother Nature's grubby reality, which is breathtaking. The Little Egret, of course, is a close relative of the Heron-a bird whose numbers in the harbour have been decreasing over recent years. Why this is so is uncertain, but we would not mind betting that the rise in Little Egret numbers has something to do with it-they are showing the Heron up for what it truly is: a joke bird which Mother Nature plonked onto the planet for our amusement. Y'see, the Heron is the epitome of gracefulness, whether in flight or stood at the water's edge feeding. Until, that is, it opens its beak at which point all gracefulness flies out of the window. Its cry can only be likened to the sound that Rod Stewart might make if he was to be suddenly garroted whilst in the throes of expelling a particularly reluctant turd from his body.

Where were we? oh yes, Holes Bay. This first part of the walk is like treading between two worlds: on your right are four lanes of main commuter route with houses and factories laying beyond. To your left the wide open space of the bay where everything moves at a slow peaceful pace and which causes you to forget whatever else is around you. When the tide is up the V shaped ripples of the larger fish disturb the water close to the shore whilst the sand eels-their prey-panic in the shallows creating the illusion of the water boiling as they thrash about. The Gulls are overhead to take advantage of the ease with which they can pick off this small fry, screaming at and squabbling with each other constantly as they do so. It is a place which never sleeps; we walk along this part of the bay day or night when we need a good leg-stretch and there is always something happening on the water. A mile further down the path it climbs over the Waterloo-Weymouth railway line and shortly after that it veers around the top of the bay taking us away from the busy road and into another world, one with a Victorian scandal and a Local Legend.

More to come in Part Two.

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