Visit to Poole – trip down memory lane
I lived and worked in Poole 1977 – 1983 and other than brief visits, the last being 25 years ago, I have not been back since.
When just over a year ago Mrs B asked me where in the UK I would like to visit, I told her the Lake District. When recently asked the same question, I answered Poole, another place of happy memories.
So on Thursday morning we set off in our hired car (as our own car was not up for the trip) for the just over three hour, 160 mile journey from Southend to Poole. The journey was remarkably smooth, being mostly dual carriage way and on arrival we did what we normally do – check out some of the high spots, starting with a breath-taking view over Poole Harbour and then to what was to become my wife’s favourite place – Poole Quay. Comparing with 39 years ago, there had been big changes but also much that brought back old (mostly good) memories. Poole was always a tourist attraction, but this time it was a lot more in your face (sign of the times) and along with pay to park at most tourist attractions. But first we needed to check into our guest house – Blueshutters, which once again we found from looking on Booking.com, and it proved to be an excellent choice. Its location is Parkstone, which is going toward Bournemouth, but we resisted the temptation to visit there, despite it being an attraction too, as there are less memories and our own time was limited.
Friday was our big “trip” day, when I was given permission to organise one to take in as many old memories as I liked. I decided on the “harbour” tour that first took us across the Sandbanks ferry over to Shell Bay, where we could see the iconic Old Harry Rocks and then and onto Swanage. I had in mind to stay a while in Swanage, a quaint town loved by my late mother. But we were at the height of summer and not much available parking wise, and besides too many people for my liking – so we kept going and onto Corfe Castle. There we did stop a short distance from the Castle and went for a short country walk, which if we had kept going would have led us to the Purbeck Hills, a favourite walking place back in the day, which as with my beloved Lakeland fells I could only view this from a distance due to disability, but remembering my many past walks.
So we continued our round the harbour tour via Wareham, another old favourite, and because we had time (having missed out staying in Swanage) it occurred to me that Upton Country Park was on the return route, and that was where we headed. Back in the day, when I worked with some of the young people in the church, we often took groups of youngsters there, and it was also a place I walked and ran. What we were presented with did have a wow factor, and maybe was my favourite place to visit on our trip. I noted this nice park with its pleasant features had, in the forty year since last visiting, been thoughtfully developed beyond measure and is a model of what can be achieved. We were only able to cover a fraction of what was on offer and were so glad we made this last minute, inspired choice.
Then it was back to Poole Centre via Hamworthy and the house I once lived and Oakdale and the church I once attended (but not Creekmoor and where place I once worked (Plessey) had, so I was told, been replaced by a school). And then back to the Quay, and having found a suitable, non extortionate nearby multi-story to park. What we saw on the Quay typified the changes we were witnessing. No Poole Pottery (a place my mother liked to visit back in the day) but the Jolly Sailor was still there. A lot of nearby luxury accommodation (and a luxurious looking marina) but what struck me was the area had become a tourist magnet compared with what I remembered. One touristy attraction was a number of round the harbour boat trips, one of which we took advantage of, covering the water in and islands around the harbour where I once sailed my boat. We enjoyed our fish and chips after and walking leisurely along the Quay, and spending several minutes by the Quay edge watching the world go by and boats come in and out. We returned back to our hotel, exhausted but satisfied with what we achieved.
Next day (Saturday) and in deference to my wife, we returned to the Quay car park and decided on a walk around the High Street and onto the shopping centre (I brought a hat, she brought a bag – the only take back home from our Poole trip). I confess, there was little I could recall there from back in the day, other than the level crossing (that open / shut at least three times when there). I was pleased to see a group of Malayalee Pentecostals doing open air ministry – evidence that in line with much of the UK Poole was now much more multi-cultural to how I remembered it. Our next trip down memory lane was Compton Acres – a beautiful garden with great variety near Sandbanks, which we thoroughly enjoyed, including sitting down at various junctures along the well-defined route. We decided to return to the Quay via another golden oldie favourite – Poole Park after a trip around Sandbanks. We did little more there than watch the world and boats go by. We debated eating out but couldn’t find anywhere particularly enticing and ended our day again worn out, happily eating nibbles back in our hotel room.
The one thing we did not do, besides not eating out, was to visit the beaches. When considering Bournemouth, which we decided to not visit as it did furnish too many memories, and right up to Swanage, along the coastline in-between, this is full of fantastic beaches that were attracting many / most of the visitors to the area. So on Sunday, we arose early and had an excellent breakfast, talking to the lovely Millie who cooked it and knew everything it seemed about Poole. When we told her, we hoped to be back, she dropped the bombshell that Blue Shutters was about to close for good (and be turned into a house of multiple-occupation), yet another victim it seems of Covid lockdown. We thanked her for our stay and went on our way to attend the church (Longfleet Baptist) I was very much involved in when I lived in Poole. But before that, and with time to spare, we headed again for Poole Park, parking our car in the Park, and did some on foot exploration before heading off for church.
Longfleet is where I had many of my memories, especially of people associated with the church. We arrived early and were warmly welcomed. It was good to meet up again with Barbara and Stan, who joined the church three months before me (45 years ago) and had been active in it (Stan still plays the organ) ever since. We enjoyed the time of worship and talking to folk before and after. It was good to catch up with news of some of the folk associated with the church, who I knew when I attended. Sadly, what was a growing concern back in the day, with a lot of younger people, is no longer the case and the dwindling congregation were more elderly. I was told the church that Longfleet planted on the nearby, expanding Canford Heath estate had since closed, as had the church that had planted Longfleet – Poole Baptist. But I felt the folk were warm and sincere and doing their best to maintain a witness. I was glad we went.
And so it was, our trip had ended and it was back to sunny Southend on another smooth event free journey, enjoying driving our hired Toyota Hybrid. Toward the start of our journey, we went by the New Forest and was reminded, along with miles of sandy beaches, a fantastic harbour where I once sailed, the Purbeck Hills where I once roamed and beautiful countryside I once walked, Poole is a fantastic location in which to settle. If things were different and knowing what I now know, I couldn’t help thinking about Longfleet, currently without a minister, and that I would love to have 30-40 years taken off my life and return as the minister of the church – the potential for growth is enormous as is the need for the gospel. As for whether we will return to Poole, who knows? Mrs B is up for it, with our walks along the Quay, eventually leading into the Park, being her highlight. For me, besides returning to my old church and meeting old friends, I would love to explore Upton Country Park.