Mudeford and the Avon Beach just over the Hampshire border, the county of which it was once a part, is not quite what it at first might seem.
Situated at the entrance of Christchurch Harbour, with small craft weaving through the narrow channel, against the tide, it is peaceful, sedate almost, with the air of a small fishing harbour popular with visitors, seeking a stroll, fresh air without the burden of the exclusivity and millionaire reputation of Bournemouth or Sandbanks. Whilst it is comfortable, retirement country, stretching from Highcliffe in the east, it’s change in fortunes is often overlooked.
It’s a great place to walk along the strand from Highcliffe the 1.80 miles to the facilities at Avon Beach, with it’s now rather more upmarket ‘ Noisy Lobster ‘ restaurant, fish and chip, coffee, shop and toilets ideally situated to suit all tastes. Whatever the weather, it’s always popular with visitors.
I’ve visited Mudeford since I was a child, but have never ventured on the ferry to the other side or walked to Hengisbury Head and have always wondered what the beach hut visitors enjoy about their experience. At the beginning or end of season, or bracing days – they huddle inside and even around the entrances, clutching hot drinks and reading avidly.
Ravaged by the fierce storms a couple of years ago, many beach huts were destroyed and had to be replaced in the coastal protection and regeneration works which followed. Walking along the promenade, the locked wooden huts have always seemed to me to be an acquired taste. Most are padlocked as you pass by and are painted in various shades of blue, with minimal facilities, on the outside they resemble large garden sheds. Facing the Isle of Wight, they are beloved by devotees, mainly elderly couples seeking quiet days by the sea.
Any thoughts that beach huts are cheap and cheerful, are quickly dispelled, by recent sales, when these mostly basic structures, come up for sale. They are quickly snapped up. Reached from the Mudeford Quay ferry, or from beyond Hengisbury Head on the Bournemouth side, the beach houses on the other side of water regularly make six figures, the latest example selling for £270,000. Some have basements, fully fitted interiors, even have toilets and are more of a home from home, with the benefit of very exclusive views right on the beach.
Googling ‘ The British seaside holiday ‘ reveals that no longer are these a basic no frills, cheap alternative. The recent spirit of nostalgia, has elevated these structures into an estate agent’s dream, high on their list of desirable properties, particularly at Frinton-on-Sea; Bournemouth and here at Mudeford and Avon Beach, turning the coastline into part of Dorset’s ‘ Gold Coast. ‘
NOTE : Car parking is available on Mudeford Quay; Avon Beach ( Free in Winter / early spring. £4.50 for 4 hours upper car park; £5.50 at the beach car park ); and several other locations and at Highcliffe. )
Words and Pictures : Tony Knight photography & MEDIA