For a while now Mudeford seems to have been talked about far and wide: photos and likes popping up on my Facebook page; articles in magazines and newspapers; friends raving about their visits.
As part of a series of ‘road trip’ posts I am going to be writing I decided to find out just what is making this pretty Dorset fishing village such big news. Where better to start than with a cuppa and a chat with Melanie, communications assistant for Christchurch and East Dorset councils? She’s about as knowledgeable a person as you could find around the area, having grown up locally and now raising a family in this beautiful part of Dorset.
I set off early on what can only be described as a wet, grey and windy Friday morning – never let it be said that I am a fair weather girl! As I made my way through Hampshire and into the New Forest I passed through quaint villages and changing countryside; there is something about the New Forest ponies that always captivates me.
We had arranged to meet for coffee in the Avonmouth Café, which is situated just minutes from the Quay and Avon Beach. Pulling up outside in the rain I was greeted by the welcoming sight of red-chequer-clothed tables through the windows and a pretty awning that – even in the rain – was inviting. Mel was waiting for me and once we had steaming cups of coffee in front of us we started to chat about what brings so many to Mudeford.
Renowned as being home to the most expensive beach huts in the UK, and just a stone’s throw from Christchurch, Hengistbury Head or a short boat trip to the Isle of Wight, Brownsea Island or Old Harry Rocks, you are simply surrounded by natural beauty here. Mel’s enthusiasm was contagious and chatting with Geoff who, along with his wife, owns and run the café, the sense of community was very apparent.
I asked what visitors enjoy best whilst in Mudeford; the answer was one that goes down well with any parent as it is (above all!) free: good old seaside fun, crabbing on the quayside – all you need is a line, bucket and bait! I know my kids would spend hours on the quayside happily waiting for a catch. Avon Beach and Friars Cliff Beach have both been awarded Quality Coast awards and having walked along them both I can understand why.
For water-sports enthusiasts there are sailing, windsurfing and kayaking sessions or you can just hire the kit and have a go. While there I chatted to two hardcore boarders – the rain certainly wasn’t stopping their fun.
A ferry service from Christchurch Quay to Mudeford Quay is highly recommended as the views of the coastline are stunning. I couldn’t do that trip as the weather wasn’t really permitting – however I did go down to the Quay to meet with Captain Paul Derham (if the name rings a bell he featured in the BBC3 series Invasion of the Job Snatchers). Paul kindly took me from the Quay to Mudeford Sandbank so I could have a stroll and take some pictures of the illustrious beach huts. Paul’s family have been in the area for over 300 years and it was clear how proud of the local area he is, as well as the Quay and all it offers. He probably thought I was slightly crazy taking photos in the rain and walking along the Sandbank, but I wanted to embrace as much as I could.
Once back on the Quay I had a wander around. The Fish Stall is one of Dorset’s foremost fish stockists and distributors and many of the acclaimed local restaurants order fish frequently from here. The fish made a colourful display and with live crabs and lobster on show the choice was endless. The RNLI are also based here on the Quay; Paul had told me all about the Mudeford Lifeboat fun day which attracts visitors from far and wide. This year it is on August 3rd; it’s in my diary already.
After my wander around the Quay I headed off to Avon Beach. The huts here are so impressive winding down nearly the whole length of the beach. While here I popped into the Noisy Lobster, newly refurbished only having opened its doors a few days previously. Warm and welcoming I settled down with a cup of tea in one of several different areas where you can sit and enjoy either a snack and drink, or something a little more filling. There is a lunchtime and evening menu with lots to tempt your taste buds.
After being suitably refreshed (courtesy of the Noisy Lobster!) I decided to pop over to Christchurch and parked up just behind the Quay. With boats bobbing in the harbour and the ever-present swans making a pretty picture, I was glad I did. I walked over to the historic Priory Quarter in the very heart of Christchurch. The Priory is stunning and I could have spent hours here, though sadly it was time for me to hit the road and head home.
Although the sun wasn’t shining on me that day and I felt a little more Bridget Jones than roving reporter, I had an extremely enjoyable time, met some interesting and informative people and will be repeating the experience very soon.
You of course don’t need to buy a beach hut; Dorset boasts an array of gorgeous holiday accommodation that you can make your very own for a week or so.
I have just given you a taster of what you can do on your visit; let the local experts share their knowledge – www.visit-dorset.com is packed with ideas and inspiration that will ensure you get the very best from your time in Mudeford.
Images of boats, carousel and ponies courtesy of Christchurch Borough Council.
Image of delicious fare to be found at the Noisy Lobster, courtesy of the Noisy Lobster!