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Poole Heritage Cycle Route

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Without tea or pub stops, the route is around a one hour cycle, or a 3 hours walk. We hope you will take time to enjoy the heritage along the route, and explore beyond the sample of sites mentioned in this leaflet.

Follow the Penny Farthing signs along the route

Upton Country Park provides a good place to start your heritage trip, either arriving by bike on the Trailway/Roman Road, and the Hamworthy cycleways, or with the bike on the car. Refreshments can be obtained at a kiosk at the rear of the house. Toilets are located at the Heritage Centre and car park.

We start at Upton House, an early 19th century mansion which is a Grade II listed building set in over 100 acres of woodland, parkland and shoreline. This was built for Christopher Spurrier, one of Poole's "Merchant Princes" and MP for Bridport. The wealth of the Spurriers came from the Newfoundland trade which was based on salt cod. This trade went into decline at the end of the Napoleonic wars and in 1830 Spurrier was declared bankrupt. It is said that he even lost the family silver in a bet on a maggot race. Subsequent owners included the Doughtys and the Llewellyns.

Near the Heritage Centre you can glimpse the gravestones of a pet cemetery amongst the flower beds.

Ther Heritage Centre has interpretative panels on the flora and fauna of the lovely gardens. Close by is the Roman-British farm, an archaeologically correct reconstruction of the sort of building that might have stood here 2000 years ago. This area is used by schools as a centre for educational activites. 

Down to the Town  

Returning up the drive you now cycle through a wooded area and along the shores of Holes Bay passing Pergins Island. Originally this was known as Longfleet Bay, Parkstone Bay being called Holes Bay until the 19th century. Soon the Old Town becomes visible on low ground projecting into the great Harbour. The Tudor antiquary Leland said of Poole that "it standith almost as an isle in the haven".

Approaching the town, the Victorian houses to the left, on the Sterte Esplanade show the historic shoreline, these are built on land reclaimed when the railway arrived. To the right were the old timber wharfs, most how replaced. You will also see the national works for the RNLI.

Along the (long gone) Northern Defences

We enter the town under the Towngate Bridge, next to the railway station. The entrance to Poole used to be defended by a dyke and fortified gate around here. These defences withstood the Royalist forces throughout the Civil War when Poole was staunchly for Cromwell and Parliament. Once we get to Harbourside Park, on a clear day the Royalist stronghold of Corfe Castle can be seen nestling into the Purbeck Hills across the harbour.

Moving along North Street one is faced with the impressive bulk of Beech Hurst built for Samuel Rolles in 1798.

We enter Green Road and Emerson Road and emerge on the edge of Poole Harbour itself. This great harbour, one of the largest in the world, lies at the heart of Poole's history - it is from here that Poole traders, pirates and smugglers left to make their fortunes.

Harbourside Park (Baiter)

Turning right at the end of Green Road, the cycle route leaves the road and you can explore the open land of Harbourside Park. Historically, Harbourside Park was a narrow peninsular. The ancient maps of the area show a windmill on Harbourside Park and town archives refer to a store house for gunpowder at a safe distance from the Old Town.

There was also an isolation hospital in use until 1936. A cycleway continues towards Poole Park, Westbourne and Bournemouth, but we retrace our tyre treat at the foundations of what may have been the powder house.

At low tide, the outline of the first public swimming poole can be seen. Built in 1890, salt water and tidal, it was replaced by one in Poole Park in the 1930's and more recently in 1974 by the Dolphin Swimming Pool in Kingland Road.

Fishermans Dock

Returning towards the town we pass through the hard of Fisherman's Dock. Here are the modern inheritors of a tradition that goes back over 2000 years. Opposite is Brownsea Island off which an Iron Age log boat (date 300 BC) was discovered in 1964.

Next we pass Poole Old Lifeboat Station built in 1882. It now houses the retired lifeboat - the Thomas Kirkwright - which served Poole from 1939 to 1962 and participated in the Dunkirk evacuation. Close by is a memorial plaque to the United States Coastguard, a flotilla of which was based on Poole Quay during World War II saving many hundreds of lives.

The Quays

Soon we are on Poole Quay a delighful mix of historic pubs and warehouses punctured by narrow alleys. Ahead rises the towering modern sculpture "Sea Music" by Sir Anthony Caro. Opposite are the boatyards and Quays of Hamworthy, reminding us that poole is still a working port. A contra-flow cyclelane takes us along the New Quay to the bottom of the High Street. Ahead of us lies the third Poole lifting bridge built in 1927.

Shortly after Sea Music, between the Harbour Office and magnificent Custom House , we turn right into Thames Street. We immediately pass between the ancient Town Cellars on the right and the King's Hall of the King Charles on the left. Once this was one building - the longest medieval storehouse known in Northern Europe. The Town Cellars are now part of Poole Museum where you can learn more of the story of Poole.

Mansions of Old Poole

(Please do not cycle on the pavements of the Old Town)

Thames Street takes us into the heart of Georgian Poole. If we pause at the junction with Church Street we can see a group of building that form a testament to the prosperous days of Poole's dominance of the Newfoundland trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. This trade saw goods and men shipped from Poole across the Atlantic. Off Newfoundland the most prolific fishing grounds in the world were exploited for millions of cod which were dried and salted. Poole ships then took the salt cod to the West Indies to feed the slave plantations and to the Catholic countries of southern Europe. Back came wine, salt and olive oil to the port of Poole. Vast fortunes were made by families such as the Lesters and the Slades who built West End House.

Turning right to go up Church Street we have St James Church on the left. This was built in 1820 to replace a medieval chuch. Inside the structure is supported by giant pillars made up from the trunks of massive pine trees bought back from Newfoundland. On the other side of Church Street is the old Church School bombed in the Second World War.

Church Street is a delight of Georgian domestic architecture with occassional medieval buildings such as St George's Almshouses with origins in the 15th century. We pass seamlessly into Market Street (now a one way street). Facing Market Street is the Guildhall, an elegant Georgian building of 1761. Originally arches under the Guildhall were open and the ground floor used for market stalls. The impressive room above was used for Council meetings and courts. In the Nineteenth Century this building was even used by a farmer as a store room.

We fork right at the Guildhall steps and follow the side of the building to the corner of the main road. This is the site of the assassination of Alderman Horatio Hamilton , a onetime mayor of Poole, shot by a discontented water pilot in 1886. The sunken garden to the right contains the town maypole - a modern revival of an old Poole tradition.

Leaving the Old Town

Crossing the main road with care (New Orchard), and left into Dear Hay Lane, we see ahead the Blue Boar pub once the home of the Adey family of wine merchants.

Bearling left of the Blue Boar we go up Market Close passing the Lodge of Amity on the left - home of the oldest Masonic Lodge in Dorset. Further up the Close, on the right, is Sir Peter Thompson's House - Dorset's finest Georgian town house built in 1749, and used as the Town Hall before 1923.

Turning left into Love Lane takes us down to busy West Street. Be careful as you cross here and when you cross West Quay Road. We pass alongside the headquarters of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, RNLI, an honoured Poole resident.

West Quay Road takes us back to the cycle track back to Upton House. We hope you have enjoyed this glimpse of Poole's rich heritage.