a Historic Market Town in the county of Gloucestershire
in the county of Wiltshire
a Seaside Town in the county of West Sussex
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Hengistbury Head is formed from the southern flank of Christchurch harbour, it is a spit of approximately 2 miles of land, with a spine of low hills between mud-flats, and sand and pebble beaches. Not only is it an important archaeological site, but it provides a valuable wildlife conservation area between Poole Bay and Christchurch Bay.
The head once gave sanctuary to smugglers, its sheltered greeny/blue rock layers and double-dykes made it perfect for the landing illegal contraband which would then be taken by cart to various town's and villages both inland and along the coast. Evidence suggests that Hengistbury Head was used for smuggling right through the 18th century, until the law put an end to it in the 1850's.
Excavations in the 1970's pointed to the head being occupied continually from the Stone-Age to Roman times. Information boards give details of this period and of the numerous coins and pottery unearthed from differing periods.
Latter day history recalls Hengistbury Head being sold by Sir George Grey to Mr. Gordon Selfridge, who wanted to build a mansion on Warren Hill. His plans were thwarted due to the building constraints in operation at the time of World War I. Although his scheme never came to fruition there still exists the nursery garden he planted in the lee of the head west of the open cast mine. The garden was left to return to nature, and the land is now a tranquil bird sanctuary. In 1930 Mr Selfridge gave up his plans to build a grand residence and sold the Head to Bournemouth Borough Council. Since this time the head has been designated as a recreational place for use by the public.
Hengistbury Head has long suffered from damage caused by almost continuous erosion, the council have sought to put this right by the building of an access road and a number of pathways to enable visitors to enjoy exploring the area. A visitor centre and cafe have been built and a Noddy train runs from the visitor centre to the Island, although the walk is possibly more enjoyable.
This is a popular place for summer visitors, with many people making use of the beaches on the seaward side. There is little use of the harbour side of the head, but moorings can be found at the north end of the island.
Quaint beach huts now inhabit what was once a landscape of dunes. Interestingly, these little huts, wanted by no-one for years, are now sold for several thousands of pounds.
Visitors who climb the 118 feet to the summit of Warren Hill are rewarded with dramatic views of Christchurch Bay, Bournemouth Bay and across the Solent to the Isle of Wight. A nature trail follows the lower slopes through grassland and woods. The beauty of Hengistbury Head is undeniable, with a combination of shallow harbour, hills, heath, woodland, meadow, salt-marsh, freshwater-marsh, colourful rocks and trillions of tiny sandstone pebbles edging the shore, it is a magnet for thousands of tourists throughout the year.
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