Today’s run was to Poole, which is in Dorset, not far from its more famous neighbour, Bournemouth. It sits on the side of a large natural harbour within which lies Brownsea Island, today a resort but made famous by Robert Baden-Powell who initiated the Boy Scout movement by holding the first Scout camp there in 1907.
As usual, Tigger sped off to catch the early train leaving me to follow in due course. I was ready to leave well before 8:30 when I was hoping the workmen would arrive to fit the new staircase, as explained in yesterday’s post.
At 8:50 I was still waiting and becoming increasingly anxious. I had to go to Waterloo first, and then take a two-hour train journey and I could feel the day slipping away. I called Partners on the phone and asked to speak to the team concerned. Sorry, came the answer, customer services are all in a meeting so I can’t get a message to them.
This was the last straw. I took a look outside to see whether anyone had arrived but there was nobody. I wrote a hasty note, stuck it to the doorbell buttons and left. They would have to manage without me. I thought about taking a cab and saw one with his sign alight, waiting at the traffic lights. By the time I reached a position where I could hail him, however, he had gone.
I continued towards the Tube station, keeping a lookout for a cab but saw none. I dived into the Underground… You need either two or three tube trains to get to Waterloo from the Angel, depending on which route you take. I elected to take the Northern Line south to Elephant and Castle and change to the Bakerloo Line.
I deliberately refrained from checking the time during the journey as this would serve no purpose and only make me more anxious. At Waterloo, the exit from the tube station brings you to the high-numbered platform end of the station. My train was due to leave at 9:35 and the clock showed 9:33. I had to go to the far end of the departures board to find information about my train. It was shown to leave from platform 7. I was sure I had missed it but took to my heels, sashaying around the rush-hour people who seem to wander around in a daze. I fumbled for my ticket to work the automatic gate. The train was still there with the guard standing beside an open door. I ran for the door and leapt aboard, then collapsed in the first available seat. Time: 9:34.
After a moment or two I recovered my wits and realized that I was sitting in First Class. I walked to the next carriage and found a good seat in Standard class. My nerves were still jangling as the train pulled out and started its journey.
The day started dull and it looked as if rain was coming but as we speed through the countryside, the sky lightens. We halt at Woking and pass through Basingstoke without stopping (which, I think, is the best way to treat Basingstoke). Now the weather gods seem to be squabbling over whether to make it sunny or cloudy. First one wins, then the other. As we approach Winchester, we are told that we have lost time owing to “emergency speed restrictions in the Wimbledon area”, and as we leave the station, we are running 9 minutes late.
Our train arrived at Poole at about 11:45 and I took the above photo from the pedestrian bridge on my way to the exit where Tigger was waiting for me. We took a bus to the town centre in search of… yes, I’m sure you have guessed: lunch!
I always stop to photograph this rather noble looking building. Today it is a Wetherspoon’s pub called the Lord Wimbourne, but it was built in 1887 as a free library, a gift to Poole from a John J. Norton Esq. This is a reminder that the Victorian Age, though one of industrialization was also an age of great philanthropists. It is a pity that in our age, the former seems too often to have triumphed at the expense of the latter.
A mystery attaches to this building. The white plate you can see below the leftmost front-facing window declares this to be Lagland Street but, in fact, Lagland Street is elsewhere and this is North Street. There is probably a sensible explanation.
We walked along the High Street which is a pedestrianized shopping street. I approve of this and wish there were more, especially in the centre of London. Although the usual retail suspects are well represented, there is also a fair sprinkling of more individual shops to add interest to the walk.
Here is an example of the latter type. Army surplus stores are not rare, of course, but, on the other hand, not many inhabit such intriguingly decorative premises as this one.
On a wall nearby, we saw these two pretty floral-patterned tiled panels, though some insensitive person had spoilt one by attaching what looks like a flag holder.
This striking building is today referred to as the Guildhall but when it was built in 1761, it was designated a “Market House”. This is because the end of the ground floor (to the right in the picture) was then open so that market trading could take place within.
These elegantly curved staircases lead to the upper floor which was originally used for offices of Poole Corporation and the debating chamber. Since then, the building has been used to serve many different purposes and today houses the Registry Office.
This well preserved commemoration plaque explains in gratitude who funded the building of this handsome and useful structure.
Even older are these splendid old almshouses built sometime during the reign of Henry V (reigned 1413-22).
According to the plaque, itself dating from 1904 and an historic document in its own right, the almshouses were purchased by the Corporation in 1550 and have been maintained by them since then. They have been housing deserving poor for nearly 600 years.
The fine old custom house was built in 1813 to replace an earlier one. It was needed when Poole was a thriving port, receiving goods from this country and abroad and exporting the famous Poole pottery clay. No longer needed for its original purpose, the Custom House is now a cafe-bar and restaurant.
Poole Museum (the photo shows the old part) occupies a 19th century quayside warehouse. It was provided in 1890 by John J. Norton, who also gave the town the free library (see above). The museum, including the new part, extends over several floors and gives a good survey of the history of Poole from Roman times. If you are tall like me, however, you will probably get tired of bending to pass under the low beams. These are padded but I still managed to bang my head painfully.
Clay mining has long been an important – and dangerous – industry in Poole. The clay is still being exported today and we saw in the quay a ship being loaded, a ship registered in Delft in the Netherlands, no less!
The Quay, once a busy port, is still home to craft of all sorts from pleasure yachts to working boats. It’s also a pleasant place to stroll or sit and watch the world go by.
There are cafes and restaurants of all kinds, too, and – unsurprisingly for a port – more pubs per square yard than you would find in most town centres.
Out in the bay is Brownsea Island. We did think of taking a ferry to the Island but decided that it would take too long. We’ll try to visit it another time. Brownsea Island for ever links Poole to Robert Baden-Powell and the Boy Scout movement that he founded.
Baden-Powell himself, at least in effigy, sits on the quay, casting an avuncular gaze out across the water. He is perhaps supposed to be remembering Brownsea Island and the first scout camp.
As the sun declined, the temperature dropped and we felt we should start back. Nonetheless, we found time to stop off for tea and toasted tea cakes before returning the the railway station!
The journey home was uneventful as there is a good train service between Waterloo and Weymouth (a couple of stops beyond Poole) with a train every half an hour or so.
When we reached home, however, a strange sight awaited us…
Despite my not being there, the workmen had obviously been able to gain access and they had ripped out the diseased stairway and the cupboard full of fungus in the basement. A new staircase was lying on its side in the corridor, ready to be installed… at some point.
We managed to see quite a lot of what Poole has to offer but by no means all of it. Like any town with a long history behind it, Poole contains interesting historic vestiges and fine old buildings. The museum exhibits provide a set of hints to get you started but it is also fun just to stroll around and be happily surprised at what jumps out at you here and there.