In previous articles we have looked at the 5 largest settlements in the ceremonial county of Wiltshire. This time it is the turn of the stunning coastal county of Dorset. Famous for its Jurassic Coast, rich in fossils and geological delights, as well as its rolling countryside and pretty villages. Interestingly, Dorset is one of the few counties in England not to be home to a city but its towns still have more than their fair share to offer. The first part of this article focuses on the profiles of the two largest towns, Bournemouth and Poole.
Bournemouth is a town located in the south eastern corner of Dorset, near the border with Hampshire. Estimates for the population of the town itself lie at around 168,000 but it is certainly the biggest settlement in the county. These days it forms the largest constituent part of its eponymous borough and unitary authority, as well as the South East Dorset conurbation alongside the adjoining towns of Poole (to the West) and Christchurch (to the East). This conurbation which also encompasses nearby towns such as Wimborne, Ferndown and New Milton (in Hampshire) is the main focus of settlement in Dorset with a population of around 400,000 in total.
Whilst being best known as a tourist destination the town has a well developed service and, in particular, financial service sector which provides much of its employment opportunities. There is also a large, and growing, university in the town with over 17,500 students attending although many of these live and study just over its boundaries with neighbouring Poole.
Bournemouth is one of the most prominent seaside towns in the country owing in part to its seven mile long sandy beach and south coast climate and is now also a popular retirement location. In fact as a relatively modern town it grew extensively and rapidly during the Victorian period from a only a handful of buildings on the mouth of the small River Bourne, due to its suitability as a resort in particular. Now it also offers plenty of entertainments, at venues such as the Bournemouth International Centre and the pier, in addition to surf, down the beach in Boscombe, vibrant nightlife and relaxation, in the extensive Winter Gardens in the town centre.
To the west, Bournemouth melds into the harbour town of Poole. Only slightly smaller than its neighbour with a population of around 138,000, it is the second largest settlement in the county. Although a unitary authority in its own right, it also contributes a very significant chunk of the South East Dorset Conurbation. Poole has developed a mixed economy due to its location on the northern edge of Poole Harbour, (arguably) the second largest natural harbour in the world. It has a thriving service industry and is a key transport hub, with a regular ferry services across the channel, as well as a manufacturing centre famous in particular for yacht building and Poole Pottery.
The town is a popular tourist destination for those attracted by Brownsea Island (the birthplace of cub scouts) with its famous red squirrels, the sandy beaches of Studland and Sandbanks each side of the harbour entrance, or the water sports opportunities in the harbour and Poole Bay. In fact the waters of the harbour regularly play host to sailing, water skiing and wind surfing events amongst others, whilst the beaches are popular with those playing volleyball and kite surfing (not to mention sunbathers). Other attractions in the town include the largest arts centre outside the capital at Poole Lighthouse and the shops and restaurants around Poole Quay. Indeed the desirability of the area is illustrated by the fact that Sandbanks is home to some of the most expensive real estate on the planet, ranked by some behind only London, New York and Tokyo.
In the next installment, we’ll focus on the remaining three towns that make up Dorset’s top five.
© Stuart Mitchell 2012
If you live in or around the Bournemouth and Poole area and are looking for legal advice you can visit Solicitors Bournemouth.
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