Silicon Beach Bomo - Orientation Guide| Boscombe

— Bournemouth's east-end, slightly down-at-heel 'bohemian' district.



Boscombe is Bournemouth's east end, with the usual 'social problem' connotations of that term.

 

Historically, Boscombe was an upmarket area, which has since fallen on hard times. Today its streets and houses can appear rather bleak and charmless, but since the 70s downturn (when the drug scene first appeared), it has nonetheless attracted arts and crafts types because of its cheaper residential rents. Considerable work has been put into turning its fortunes around, with many community events, forums etc.

However, in the meantime, with regular headlines like the one pictured right, steel shutters down over the closed-up shops, and every 4th shop seemingly either a charity shop, betting shop, tattoo parlour, off-license or fast-food takeaway, there are constant reminders that problems of alcohol and drug addiction are ongoing. (Addicts are sent down here by clinicians from all over England, and there are over 50 unregulated rehab or 'half-way' houses hidden around the district.)

For those not arriving by vehicle, the initial entry point for the area from London is Pokesdown Railway Station, officially named Pokesdown For Boscombe. The main problem is that it receives too few passengers to qualify for investment (as the photos right show). This includes a lift or ramp, so people with suitcases or pushchairs as well as the disabled, struggle to get off the platform up to street level.

Nevertheless, Pokesdown Stn makes a useful starting point for our exploration. Our route is fairly straightforward: head SW down the main street, Christchurch Rd [alias the A35], to the pedestrian precinct, looping back via its adjacent arcade and shopping centre.

Pokesdown itself is a neighbourhood characterised by antiques shops, with few cafes, those shown on Google Maps being nearly all takeaways.

 

However, it is worth noting there is a smaller, developing 'hub' nearby in the opposite direction: SE from Pokesdown Station down Seaborne Rd to Southbourne, the main route for buses heading E. For anyone interested in it, around Southbourne Grove is a growing assembly of shops, cafes, restaurants etc within walking distance of Pokesdown. (Parkwood Rd provides a shortcut to the NW, bypassing the Pokesdown Station end to come out by the Pokesdown/Boscombe boundary.)

 

Our recon route is SW along the main road, with some optional sidetrips (the grey lines are pedestrianised streets).

Keeping to our main-street route of Christchurch Rd, only a few steps from Pokesdown station is Montys Lounge, an upmarket bar-restaurant serving gourmet burgers etc. Opposite is The Bell pub (for a time called The Seabournes), a redbrick local. As you continue W, a series of Asian restaurants appear: but these all seem to be takeaways, with the exception of The Good Earth and Chok Dee. Farther along, Marco Polo is an established Italian restaurant.

As we move W from Pokesdown towards Boscombe, locally-owned cafes begin to appear: The Kitchen, The Coffee House Cafe, The Sandwich Box & Cafe, Cinnamon Corner Cafe, Le Munch, the Little Pickle Deli Cafe, and The Crooked Book [they also sell 2nd-hand books].

Pictured: A sandwich lunch and ginger/mint-leaf tea at The Crooked Book

A possible sidetrip: On the block before the pedestrian precinct starts and N of the main road there is a municipally-run shared co-working space called 'By The Sea', based in the redbrick Old School House, hidden away in a mews between Haviland and Gladstone Rds [see map above], with desk space available by the week or month. (Initially promoted grandly as "a cultural and digital industries hub," its 3 rooms are the last sad relic of the doomed Bournemouth Centre for Community Arts, which the Council managed to dismantle despite a long campaign to save it.) It's not on Google Maps but Factory Studios nearby is, also listing 'digital coworking space' for hire. There is also a proposal for a Pokesdown creative hub.

As we get into the heart of downtown Boscombe just before the pedestrian precinct, there are more Asian restaurants: Abduls Indian & Bengali Cuisine, the Indian Paradise, and a Portuguese one, Tuga Copos, which is not to be confused with Tuga across the road, a small Portuguese deli cafe. Zaza does Indian cuisine. Thai's Smile is, obviously, a Thai restaurant. Mello Mello is a bar. The Sir Percy Florence Shelley (named after the poet's son, who built Shelley Manor nearby), is a Wetherspoon gastropub on a former cinema site. Misso Misso is an Asian "noodle bar".


Boscombe Library sits on the cross street [turn L] which marks the E end of the pedestrian precinct. The Cafe Boscanova [pictured, at the right] is at the start of the precinct, which along with the Sovereign Centre mall, was built as part of Boscombe's 1990s urban regeneration. (Vehicle traffic is diverted up Ashley Rd, around the bus station/multi-storey car park/shopping centre.) Weekly markets and other civic events are held on the precinct.

Also on this block are Cappuccino's family cafe, Poppins cafe, and The Green Tara cafe, all with some outside seating, and the Sovereign Centre mall SE entrance, with a coffee shop in the main concourse. Farther along is the entrance to the Royal Arcade, a relic of the district's Victorian heyday when it was an upmarket suburb. There is a cafe with some terrace seating [Caffe Point, formerly Planters] near the W entrance opposite Aldi. (The Arcade is L-shaped.)

Right: The W entrance to the Victorian Royal Arcade, where Caffe Point has terrace seating. You can continue up here N [turn left] across the alley into the adjoining newer and larger shopping centre, the Sovereign Centre's T-shaped mall, whose main concourse continues on E to the bus depot, with two coffee shops en route.

 

Continuing on the now pedestrianised final block N at the top end of Sea Road takes us to on the corner where Charcoal Grill 2 stands. Down here are The Waffle On Cafe, Marco's Deli, and on the corner where the Twisted Teapot cafe was, a new bistro is opening. Down Roumelia Lane opposite is Rosie's Cafe.

Pictured: The pedestrianised precinct at the top end of Sea Road, where it meets the main shopping precinct opposite the entrance to the Royal Arcade. (Mouse over photo to see 2nd image.)

 

Left: Looking W from the top end of the pedestrian precinct with the 'Tardis' old-style police box centre and The Art Cafe at far left. (The police box was put up in 2014 as a tourist attraction and to deter crime: its phone connects to the police station.) Following a recent trend in civic planning, the corner is now a designated "shared space." This means the traffic lights etc have been removed and the road junction is almost invisible.

Boscombe's "downtown" area ends a block beyond the pedestrian precinct, around Crescent Gardens (a grassy area long popular with street drinkers), and the municipal/police/youth services 'community hub' being refurbished opposite.

In this block, where Christchurch Rd again becomes the main road, on the N side is Merryweathers fish n chips cafe, Eastern Eye restaurant, and the J@M Internet cafe. (Deacons pub is listed in Google Maps along here but closed down in 2009 after a gangland trial; this was the site of the first pub in the area.)

On the S side of the street is Chaplin's Cellar Bar, a club which also does lunch [smart casual dress code]. There is also "@ The Internet Cafe" and Casa Carlos Cafe [formerly Cafe Romeo].

At the far W end of the block (at the W end of The Crescent) is Koh Thai Tapas restaurant. That's as far as "downtown" Boscombe goes. Walking a couple more blocks W along Christchurch Rd will bring you to the top of Boscombe Chine Gardens, The Clock Cafe there, and a park pathway SE to the seafront at Boscombe Pier. (See below for more details.)

Finally, Boscombe does have a seafront area and pier, but it is a fair walking distance from the main street [at least 20-30 mins], whichever route you take. The most direct walking route is probably down Sea Road, though a more 'green' route would mean walking W to Boscombe Gardens and down the chine. There is also a 'woodland walk' route farther E, parallel to Woodland Avenue, starting where Wolverton Rd meets Christchurch Rd and continuing all the way S to Boscombe Overcliff Drive near a zigzag path leading down to the beach.
The seafront landtrain also now detours up via Sea Road hourly onto the pedestrian precinct, heading down again via the Boscombe Gardens chine. The much-heralded Boscombe Surf Reef proved a fiasco and was soon closed, but the money raised for the Boscombe Spa regeneration project it was part of led to the dilapidated pier being refurbished and other improvements. The Urban Beach cafe-bar is there in the Overstrand building, with outdoor seating on the sun-deck, as well as upstairs balcony in the restaurant. In the Pier entrance building is the Reefside Surf Café. The Neptune on Undercliff Road is a Harvester pub-restaurant. There are also 42 new-built "beach pod" chalets which failed to sell due to the failure of the surf reef, and are sometimes available to hire by day or week.

The landtrain [hourly Ap-Oct, weekends only in winter] has its terminus on the pedestrian precinct by the Tardis police box, returning to Boscombe Pier down Boscombe Gardens to the W.
   

Left: The main area covered by our route. Click on the screenshot to go to Google Maps satellite view. Note that some of the cafes etc pinpointed may no longer be there. (Our own recon tour described above was made in Dec 2015, though some photos are earlier.)

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