Press Release August 2002
If you leave Bournemouth and hug the coastal roads to the east, all will eventually lead to Hengistbury Head, Mudeford Sandbank and Christchurch Harbour. You know when you have arrived at Hengistbury Head as all support for modern transport stops. The road simply ends and you are faced with a circle of tarmac. The only option it gives you is to about-face and find a parking space. From this point on, elements of times past return as your transportation options regress from four wheels to your own two feet, a bicycle, the ferry or the local train (more of that later).
First thing you notice is the lack of the usual coastal paraphernalia. This place doesn't seem to need amusement arcades, mini fairground rides or a troupe of dancing girls to keep your attention (although you may find the odd pixie). This is a whole other world complete with its own diverse habitat, history, community and evolutionary process. This diverse sphere and its many facets has been flattened out and layed in front of you - ready for exploration. It is an extraordinary place.
Local people are totally aware of the magic this place has. They proudly take family and friends into this beautiful land and have a knowing smile as newcomers 'ohh' and 'ahh' at the breath-taking views. Holiday makers forget all the arguments they had on the way down, lovers remember their first kiss and Aunt Madge may actually get out of the car and have a look around instead of gazing through the windscreen. That's the effect this place has on people - a little time for reflection, a little peace and a vista to suit all. The stress of everyday life soon ebbs away and time seems to stand still (or at least slightly 'stiller') for a while.
Hengistbury Head serves as a natural viewing platform and social gathering place and has probably done so since the year dot. The whole kingdom of Christchurch and Mudeford can be seen clearly and in the far distance you can catch sight of Swanage, Bournemouth, The New Forest, The Isle of Wight and the English Channel.
The area surrounding the base of Hengistbury Head features the widest variety of ecology in the smallest possible place. Ancient woodland, salt marsh, open sea, the beach, Christchurch Harbour and Mudeford Sandbank are all within immediate reach. In fact, you can take the train. The train is slightly more than a tractor, slightly less than the Flying Scotsman but a train it is. It chuffs through open marsh and shady woodland until journeys end on the sandy spit that is Mudeford Sandbank - serene harbour on one side and open sea on the other.
The sandbank stretches out from Hengistbury Head and it's entire length is populated with beach huts. These wooden buildings are slightly more than huts, slightly less than houses and all are cosy homes to those choosing to live amongst the magic - at least for some of the year. And speaking of magic, those wishing to join this serene community with a hut of their own will need to conjour up something of a miracle as availability is very much in the negative and prices are astronomical.
The huts vary in style and decor and most are occupied by laid back people doing not very much at all - with the exception of one. This particular hut is one of the busiest on the Sandbank and is occupied by Tim Baber, a seasoned hutter with a wealth of local experience and family roots which reach into the early days of the sandbank.
Tims hut is crammed full of images and files relating to the area historically and he has an avid interest in issues affecting the local community in current times. All this activity and energy needed an outlet and in 1998 a newsletter entitled The Mudeford Sandbank News was produced "in-hut" in an attempt at giving everyone access to this mountain of information.
The Christchurch Harbour Chronicle and The Hengistbury Head Times soon followed and all three are still going strong today. Both visitors and residents can buy the seasonal publications which cover anything from the cost of a hut to the history of the Noddy train or folklore and ancient legends. Anyone with their own archive material or views can pass them on to Tim who edits and compiles all the information - second nature to a Chartered Librarian.
All three publications now have even greater reach thanks to online representation in the form of a website (www.msbnews.co.uk) which went live in the summer of 2002. Hut owners and local residents can now keep up to date with all the latest news and keep in touch with the community via the message board and news page.
People who have visited the area (or plan to) can find information of all kinds or view complete back issues of all publications. This mine of information is also available to the media who often visit this fascinating location to do reports, research or filming.
Tourists can sometimes overlook or not find this place during their holiday, but it's no matter. The area stands up on its own and is well tended by those who love it. Commercialism and the need for the tourist pound is not a priority. This particular gem will remain long after the sand has covered the name of the last visitor.