From the Car Park
Park in the Hengistbury Head car park. Before setting out, check the times of the Land Train displayed on the far end of the Visitor Centre building.
Above the Beach
From the car park, head straight for the far end of the Double Dykes (an Iron Age defensive bank, cum dockyard wall).
Past the Coastguard Radio Station
When you reach the coast, turn left on to the metalled road, and follow this up on to the top of the headland. From here it is a gentle down-hill stroll, past the old coastguard lookout (now a radio station) and the Quarry Pond to the far end of the head.
Down the steps
From here, take the steps down to Mudeford Beach. At the bottom of the steps, turn right if you want to visit the Long Groyne (very uneven and slippery, treacherous in bad weather).
If not, turn left and head down, past the loos and some of the most expensive sheds in the country, to the Land Train Halt.
Alternatively, if you donʼt mind clambering over rocky groynes, you can walk along the beach. The Land Train Halt is about 50m north of The Beach Café, so cut through to the landward side when you get there, or just before.
The Beach Café is opposite the Ferry Pier (ferries to Mudeford and Christchurch Quays) and had (at the time of my last visit) like so many others in this area plunged up-market calling itself the Beach House Restaurant. It sells the usual mix of Italian, Spanish and Mexican fare that passes for posh these days. (Iʼve not eaten there, so I may be doing them a disservice, itʼs just that it used to be such a nice Beach Cafe).
Fortunately the adjoining shop sells cups of tea, a limited range of soft drinks, sandwiches, etc.
Mudeford Land Train
Unless you are feeling very energetic (or are too late in the day) catch the Land Train back to the Car Park. If you are feeling energetic then you can either return along the beach, or there is a path hugging the southern edge of Christchurch Harbour that is not too difficult to follow.
The Land Train, has been known locally as the Noddy Train for many years. However due to heavy-handed legal action by Enid Blytonʼs copyright holders, Chorion, who decided to register Noddy as a trademark, this is no longer used as its official name. It runs everyday except Christmas, weather permitting.
Look out for the over-grown slag heaps from the open-cast ironstone mines hidden in the undergrowth on the left of the track.
The name Hengistbury does not appear until the 1600s, prior to that the area was know as Headnesbury, that is the headland (head) in and area of land that sticks out into the sea (ness) with a hill fort (bury) on it.
The ironstone doggers, which you can see embedded in the cliffs, were removed from the foreshore in such numbers in the first half of the nineteenth century that there was a real danger of Hengistbury becoming an island or being swept away altogether. Fortunately, the Long Groyne and other sea defences brought the erosion under control.
It remains to be seen how long this will last, given current Governmentʼs policy of not spending money on sea defences and 'letting nature take its course'.
Note: Signs to the Solent Meads Golf Course are far more numerous and easily spotted than the ones to Hengistbury Head. Aim for the golf course and miss; always a good philosophy, in my book.