Just a few short months ago I introduced y’all to the ‘hood I call home, Ringwood. I’d set off around the town hunting for ancient relics to try and find something older than the 400 or so years than Kim G produced in Boston. I succeeded, but then Ringwood is a particularly ancient corner of an ancient forest in an ancient land. But I have moved. So Ringwood is no longer my hometown. My new residence of Westbourne is nowhere near so ancient. Indeed, the local area celebrated its bicentenary in 2010. Who’d a thunk it? There I was half way round the world celebrating the bicentenary of Mexico’s independence, when all along the big party was going on right here.
Westbourne is described as ‘affluent’ by Wikipedia. It’s certainly the affluent part of the Bournemouth conurbation, although not quite as wealthy as Sandbanks, which is just down the road and home to a selection of the famous, not so famous but always filthy rich. Walking around Westbourne town centre, you’ll notice a certain London like feel to the place architecturally. The shops suggest a diverse range of residents – a hearing aid retailer sits opposite a baby fashion boutique. There’s a Marks and Sparks supermarket. And a Bang and Olufsen electrical store. If I ever win the lottery, I’ll be straight in that store to buy one of their fanciest televisions for my new pad in Sandbanks.
There’s even an old fashioned type of store that has pretty much gone the way of the blacksmith, ironmonger and hardware store. It’s locally referred to as a ‘bookshop’, and it has ornate lettering from a bygone age on the shop front which tells its age. I’m lead to believe that if one steps inside the shop, you’ll find bound leaves of paper with printed words on them. There are no Kindle shops to speak of in Westbourne. There is a top quality butcher though.
Naturally, in between each retailer sits a coffee shop. Costa Coffee and Starbucks are both represented. But true to it’s economic reputation there’s a plethora of fancy independent coffee shops and Mediterranean style eateries. There is also a Tesco convenience store. True to the town’s form and the capitalist push into the 21st century, our little Tesco supermarket occupies a church. The gallery above, and the other galleries on this page, contains a mix of both my own photos and historical snaps that abound on the interweb.
Westbourne might not have the historical background of Ringwood, but it trumps my old town comfortably from a cultural standpoint. There’s a piece of Westbourne that we all have shared in. I assume so. You all have read Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde or Kidnapped haven’t you? They were written during Robert Louis Stevenson’s time in Westbourne, at his home in Skerryvore. The house was destroyed by German bombs in WW2, but you can still visit the site and see the foundations. Also in the grounds is a stone model of a lighthouse. It’s a replica of what was (maybe still is?) the tallest lighthouse in Scotland, built by a member of his family. The lighthouse, like his home in Westbourne, was called Skerryvore. Stevenson wasn’t the only famous author linked to the area. Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, is buried in a church graveyard just a few minutes walk away. Along with her husband’s heart.
There are good walks to be had in any direction from our home. On one side we have Bournemouth Gardens, a thin strip of park that extends from Bournemouth Pier all the way to Coy Pond, with a fancy war memorial in between. A garden isn’t a garden in England unless you have at least one memorial and a minimum of a half dozen benches with memorial plaques to someone who once loved sitting there.
If one should choose to walk the opposite direction, you’re at the beach in about five to ten minutes. Depending upon your pace. In summer the golden sands of Bournemouth are covered in a mass of burning human flesh that is popularly known as ‘sunbathers’, who leave used disposable barbecues and other associated litter to the huge annoyance of the locals. In winter the beaches remain a popular destination for walkers. Many of whom bring their dogs to splash in the waves, chase sticks and leave their own little presents for the summer invaders to find.
And that’s my new home town. Hope you enjoyed this short stroll around it. Next stop….Mexico City? One day, one day….