Bill Howell visits the picturesque coastal waters near Poole and Bournemouth.
It was cold. It was grey. It was Walsall in winter. It was half-term. The kids were restless.
We’d got three days to kill and there didn’t seem to be an endless supply of options.
Never mind, it’s always sunny on the south coast – isn’t it?
Three monsters were strapped up in their seats and we were on our way with boiled sweets on our tongues and hope in our hearts. The weather was to follow us every mile of the way.
Boscombe Bay was being battered by high winds and swirling rain but it was far from miserable.
The beach stretched far and wide on the horizon, the sand was a darkened gold and the sea smashed into the shore filling our lungs with fresh salty air.
There was tonnes of stuff to be getting on with. More than you comfortably shake a stick at.
Europe’s first artificial reef, just over a mile from Bournemouth Pier, is the only one of its kind outside Australia and New Zealand.
And best viewed from the comfort of a deck chair inside a snug Surf Pod.
Designed by Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway – creators of the iconic Red or Dead fashion brand – the Pods have electricity, hot and cold running water, and French doors leading onto private balconies, from which, below, dozens of foolhardy surfers scurried for the freezing waters as if basking in the heat of Brisbane Bay.
Lunch called. And on the promenade sits Urban Reef a restaurant run by Mark Cribb and his wife Fiona.
“It’s not rocket science, but it is good”, they boast. It’s actually better than that.
The 90-seater sun deck may have been redundant here but upstairs we sat with views that romantic painters would crave for.
I tucked into my homemade New Forest beef burger, topped with three Dorset cheddars.
Jennifer tucked into beer battered white fillet served with hand-cut chips and mushy peas. Her fish was bigger than a boat.
The highlight, for me at least, was a hot buttered rum and cinnamon cocktail, which sent me out into the near-dark with a warm glow. Like a Ready-Brek kid in the 1970s. Stomachs full, it was time to relax for the evening, and this is where another treat was in store.
We took the keys to our luxurious two-bedroom apartment Ocean Blue, in Seaward Avenue, Southbourne (courtesy of Bournecoast Property Agents).
At times a variety of mod-cons made the rooms feel like you might be at the deck of the Starship Enterprise – particularly the kitchen. Thankfully Jennifer was a handy Lieutenant Uhura – without the red mini-dress and boots. With an unashamedly modern exterior, the look inside was one of simplistic elegance.
The kitchen appliances included a built-in chilled wine cabinet and an espresso coffee machine.