Pocket Britain

England's biggest natural harbour

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This section of Britain's south coast forms a large natural harbour that has been well-used throughout history. Ships have been sailing in and out of it for hundreds of years. In fact, archaeologists found an Iron Age long boat here over 2000 years old. From this small beginning, the harbour grew into being part of one of England's most important trading routes, particularly to North America. In more recent history, it was used by the Navy during World War II. Some ships left here bound for Normandy, to take part in the D-Day landings.
Today, Poole Harbour is neither a naval base, or an important trading post. It is still as popular as ever though, thriving in tourism. Unsurprisingly, the star attractions are the beaches. There are 11 kilometres of them, stretching past Bournemouth, and beyond. Each one has its own qualities, from the views of Hamworthy Park Beach to the peace and quiet of Canford Cliffs.
The undoubted highlight though, is Sandbanks Beach. This is a narrow spit of land that reaches across most of the harbour mouth. It has been consistently received the European Blue Flag award, guaranteeing its cleanliness. As this is such a beautiful location, the property prices here are sky high. In fact, Sandbanks has the fourth most expensive land value in the world! The properties lining the shore are worth several million pounds. You can take a very interesting walk along the harbour promenade, looking at these fairytale houses. Remember to keep your eyes peeled - some quite famous have made their home here!
Aside from spying on celebrities, many of the most popular activities around Poole Harbour are watersports. These include popular pursuits like windsurfing and water skiing, as well as newer hobbies like kitesurfing. Parts of the water are dedicated exclusively to sports like this, so you never need to worry about bashing into a ferry. There are plenty of watersports organisers around the coast, so it’s quite easy to get involved.
In the centre of the harbour you'll find Brownsea Island. This is almost entirely owned by the National Trust and run as a nature reserve. Its two square kilometres are full of interesting sights, from woodland to wildlife. You'll see a large population of deer, and several attention-seeking peacocks. This is also one of the few places in the UK to have an indigenous population of red squirrels. When King George made a visit here in the early 19th century, he said he had no idea that there was such a delightful spot in his kingdom!
In 1907, Brownsea Island was the location of Lord Baden-Powell's first-ever Scout camp. In 2007, Scouts from around the world came back here to celebrate their organisation's 100th birthday.
Next to the harbour is the town of Poole itself. This is part of the same urban conurbation as Bournemouth. Together, they offer all the facilities and entertainment expected of a British Seaside resort. These amenities, plus the quality of the beaches, makes this one of the best the nation has to offer.
Visitor Information
Poole Tourist Information Centre, Enefco House, Poole, BH15 1HJ. Tel: 0845 234 5560

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