2Hengistbury Head is a 35 metre high sandstone headland, approximately 1 kilometre in length. It stands half way between the entrance to Poole Harbour and Hurst Spit on the south coast of England. It forms the main division between Bournemouth and Christchurch Bays.
3Hengistbury Head forms a natural breakwater protecting Christchurch Harbour from the prevailing south westerly winds.A sand spit (this is a ridge of sand that runs away from the coast). forms the easterly perimeter of Christchurch Harbour. Beach huts located on the spit help to maintain its stability.Without Hengistbury Head it is probable that most of the town of Christchurch and all of Christchurch Harbour would cease to exist. Bournemouth Bay and Christchurch Bay would merge and become one.
4The mudflats in Christchurch Harbour are important for birds as they eat many creatures that live there. Many of the birds nest in the reeds around the harbour and this habitat is extremely important in supporting some migratory species from Africa!The Head is designated as a Public Open Space (P.O.S.) and a Scheduled Ancient Monument (S.A.M.), with important Stone Age and Celtic archaeology.Hengistbury Head has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (S.S.S.I.) along with most of Christchurch Harbour and the lowland marshes of Stanpit. (A marshland area at the junction of the rivers Stour and Avon).The Head is also a Special Area for Conservation (S.A.C.).
5Erosion has been a continuous problem at Hengistbury Head since the sea finally reached the cliff base a few thousand years ago.However, the natural defence provided by the Ironstones (Doggers), ensured that this erosion had been reduced over the last two thousand years.Unfortunately a number of man made events have taken place, mainly in the last 150 years (such as the removal of some Doggers) that have wrecked this natural equilibrium.These events have destabilised Christchurch Bay and although remedial action has alleviated the situation, continued erosion occurs at Hengistbury Head.
6Groynes trap Long Shore Drift material, helping to create a wider beach and thus reduce wave attack on the cliff. They do however cost £80,000 each and are therefore not the cheapest form of defence.To limit erosion groynes, gabions, and boulders have been sited at strategic points along the Head.The large Iron Stone doggers that had fallen to sea level from the eroded Upper Hengistbury Beds have provided the original natural defence against Long Shore Drift.
7Along with a set of new groynes either side of the original 1938 Long Groyne a gabion revetment (series of wire cages filled with stones) has been built to protect the weakest point in the eastern end of Hengistbury Head.The gabions placed at this point also protect the Double Dykes (an Iron Age defensive structure) from further extensive erosion by the sea.The gabions may not be the best visual choice and can be seen as a bit of an eye sore but they do stop the waves from washing away the precious beach / cliff material.
8Beach renourishment took place in 1989 with shingle dredged from the local area and off the Isle of Wight. Approximately 10% of this new beach material is lost each year due to Long Shore Drift. By the year 2000 little remained.Shingle is less prone to Long Shore Drift and reduces the overall loss of sand, but it does not solve the problem of coastal erosion and has to be repeated approximately every ten years. Although natural in its appearance it is not popular with the tourist who would prefer a sandy beach.
9At the Head one major problem is the tourist as well as the local resident. 1 ¼ million people visit each year bringing around 750,000 dogs and their mess!This causes mass trampling of precious vegetation and erosion of the cliff as the visitor looks over the edge.
10It has been suggested that to ‘move west’,would be the best protection for the Head. The aim is to move anything that attracts the locals / tourists, west, away from the Head itself.This would then reduce the Head’s erosion by human feet and the digging of dogs.It is estimated that the public are only willing to walk around 200 yards from their car or attractions. This will then keep them off the Head if the proposed plan is put into action.The Solent Meads car park is the targeted area. If the café and other attractions were moved closer to here, the majority of people wouldn’t walk on the Head and thus the erosion would be reduced.
11There are great advantages to this plan but it all comes at a cost, particularly on the local residents.The visitors may be felt to be too close for comfort as now the residential area would be opposite the Heads main attractions. The roads may be blocked, noise and litter increase together with pollution levels.The red arrow is marking the designated area where the facilities are proposed to be located with the possibility of the car park being enlarged and the café being rebuilt close by.
12The original car park near the café will have to be closed and the shutting off of the Broadway is an issue to be considered so that no one can travel down and park their cars on the verge.To further divert the tourists from wandering around the Head, the Noddy Train could be made to pick up and drop off passengers from the Solent Meads car park, thus stopping them from trampling across the Head.To help the public in their understanding of the Head, an Interpretation Centre could be located at the Hungry Hiker café site.A museum could also be placed here as the building is large enough to support both.But this will attract tourists and encourage them to walk over the Head and thus increase erosion.
13Are we willing to pay for these new facilities and help reduce the problem of erosion on the Head ?