Poole Bay

Introduction

This area lies between Swanage to the west and the entrance to the Solent to the east.

This area is most notable for Poole Harbour, a huge natural harbour, offering sheltered paddling among its islands. The area to the east of Poole harbour consists of beaches backed by the towns of Bournemouth and then Christchurch, punctuated by Hengistbury Head and Christchurch Harbour. To the south, Handfast point offer a more exposed day out, visiting the chalk cliffs and 'Old Harry'.

Times of high water

The tide in this area exhibits a 'high water stand', the tide remaining near its maximum height for some hours. This is especially pronounced within Poole Harbour, where high water is so extended and ill-defined that tidal streams are referenced to low water instead. Given how shallow much of the Harbour is at low water, this anomaly means that kayakers can make use of more of the area for longer.

Christchurch Harbour: High water is 2 hours and 10 minutes before high water at Dover (Sp), 1 hours and 40 minutes before high water at Dover (Np). There is a high water stand of 3 to 4 hours

Swanage: High water is 2 hours and 35 minutes before high water at Dover (Sp) 1 hours and 20 minutes after high water at Dover (Np)

Tidal streams

Tidal streams in Poole Bay are generally weak, with flows only significant at headlands and in harbour channels.

Christchurch Bay: Streams are weak within Christchurch Bay, away from Hurst beach at the east End and Hengistbury head (and the entrance to Christchurch Harbour) at the west end.

Offshore Christchurch Bay: The east going stream begins at 4 hours and 35 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The west going stream begins at 1 hours and 30 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The flow reaches a speed of 1 knots at springs. Flows are weak inshore away from the headlands.

Christchurch Harbour entrance: Known as 'The Run'. Flow can vary unpredictably with average rates of 3 to 5 knots with up to 7 knots on the ebb.

Hengistbury Head: Around Hengistbury head and over Christchurch ledge, The east going stream begins at 4 hours and 45 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The west going stream begins at 1 hours and 30 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The flow reaches a speed of 1 knots at springs. A groyne forms a tide race.

Poole Bay: Streams are generally weak within Poole Bay.

Poole Harbour entrance: The east south-east going stream begins at 1 hours and 20 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The west north-west going stream begins at 5 hours and 50 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The east south-east going stream reaches a speed of 4.7 knots at springs. The west north-west going stream reaches a speed of 3 knots at springs. The out going stream does not become strong until 2 hours and 25 minutes after high water Portsmouth.

Poole Harbour: Flows in Poole Harbour vary in a complex manner and it is well worth consulting chart 2611 which gives a lot of detail. By way of an overview, the flood stream runs for 5 hours and the ebb runs in two segments totalling 7 hours 30 minutes, with a short period of slack or even mild flood between.

Channel east of Brownsea Castle: The tide runs north from 35 minutes after high water at Portsmouth reaching a speed of 2.1 knots. The tide runs south from 2 hours 55 minutes before high water Portsmouth reaching a speed of 1.9 knots. Better information is available on the chart.

Old Harry: Tide flows swiftly around the point at Old Harry Rocks with a race forming. The race deserves respect if a swell is running. Beware also the wake of the Brittany Ferry.

There may be eddies near the point.

About a mile NE of Old Harry: The north north-east going stream begins at 6 hours after high water at Portsmouth. The south south-west going stream begins at 2 hours before high water at Portsmouth. The north north-east going stream reaches a speed of 2.1 knots at springs. The south south-west going stream reaches a speed of 1.9 knots at springs. Inspect tidal diamond for details of irregularity.

Eddies at Ballard Point: Eddies may form at Ballard Point

Swanage Bay: Streams are weak. They set round the bay in the direction of streams on the points.

Notes

Ferries and other large craft use Poole Harbour - keep an eye out for them if you are in the vicinity of the main channel, both within and outside the harbour.

Chain Ferry across Poole Harbour entrance: A chain ferry operates across the entrance to Poole Harbour. It is advisable to hug the shore, ideally along the south side of the entrance. The ferry exhibits a black ball above the control cabin when it is about the leave the slipway.

Access/Egress

River Stour, Mayors Mead: (SZ 156 923) g Pay and Display car park by public slipway. Usable at all states of the tide. The car park can become busy in summer.

River Stour, Wick Lane: (SZ 156 922) g Public slipway. Possible to drop boats here, but no nearby parking. Public car park 400 metres west 'Christchurch Riverlands'. Usable through most of the tidal range.

Christchurch harbour, Mudeford Slipway: (SZ 183 917) g Pay and display parking by slipway. Parking £6.00 for 24 hours, launch fee of £10. Busy in summer. Not usable at lowest part of tide.

Avon Beach: (SZ 188 921) g

Ilford Old Bridge: (SZ 138 935) g Ilford Bridge is the tidal limit of the Stour. Parking and access on river right.

Sandbanks beach: (SZ 046 877) g Easy access across the beach. Pay and display parking.

Knoll Beach: (SZ 035 835) g Large National Trust pay and display car park with easy access. Avoid Middle Beach to the south as the carry is much longer and steeper.

Inside South Haven Point: (SZ 033 861) g Limited roadside parking and a carry to the water.

Baiter Park: (SZ 020 901) g Large car park.

Lake Pier: (SY 984 904) g Large car park and relatively easy launch after carrying down a steep grass bank. Less ideal at low water. Home of Poole Harbour Canoe Club.

Redcliffe Farm: (SY 931 867) g

Wareham Key: (SY 923 872) g There is always sufficient water to paddle from here, but the trip is best at local high water. A Saturday market fills the Quayside car park.

Suggested trips

Trips in this area typically involve exploring Poole Harbour, Handfast Point or both.

Old Harry: The trip out to Handfast Point to see the stacks, arches and chalk cliffs can be fantastic on a sunny day. The paddle is fairly straightforward, with just a little stream on the corner at Old Harry. Obviously, in worse conditions the trip could become more serious! Launch from Swanage or Studland for a short paddle, or from the Poole area for a longer day out.

Poole Harbour: The harbour provides a sheltered location, for suboptimal weather or less experienced groups. However, it is worth being aware of where the main channels are and keeping an eye out for large vessels if near them. Many variations are possible, often involving a loop around Brownsea Island, exploring the islands to the south and west. Lake Pier is a good start point. If you can get hold of a copy of chart 2611, you'll find it very helpful.

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