If you had wanted an afternoon cruise from Bournemouth Pier on Sunday 12th July 1953 you would have had to choose between three different paddle steamers and three different trip options.
First away from the pier at 2.15pm was Embassy to Lulworth Cove and Grand Channel Cruise along the beautiful Dorset Coast back about 6.45pm. Fare 7/- (£10 in today’s money). At this stage in her career Embassy was sometimes rostered for these long coastal cruises including to Lulworth Cove although she never landed passengers there and didn’t have the necessary gate cut in her bulwark forward to accept the Lulworth landing gear.
Consul, Empress and Victoria which all called at Lulworth after the War had pretty solid bows to run up onto the beach but Embassy’s was cut away abaft the stem to make space to house her bow rudder so it was not thought wise to deliberately put her bow up onto the beach in case it caused damage to the bow rudder.
However Embassy did sometimes go inside the Cove as you can see from the picture above. Look closely and you will also see that Captain Cook has just rung “full astern” to stop her before backing out again. There is that tell tale astern wash just starting to emerge from the forward part of the port paddle wheel.
The distance from Bournemouth to Lulworth Cove is 20 nautical miles so with an 11 knot cruising speed through the water Embassy was not pushed for time on this cruise. This was a leisurely cruise along one of the most picturesque coastlines anywhere in Britain.
At 2.30pm Emperor of India was due away for an “Excursion to Totland Bay, Isle of Wight” giving one hour ashore, returning at 5.30pm and due back 6.45pm Fare 7/6 (£10.55 in today’s money).
The passing scenery on this cruise is less attractive than along the Dorset Coast with the then Hampshire Coastline fairly low lying with even the high bit at Hengistbury Head not being that high or that spectacular particularly when viewed from a distance of a couple of nautical miles out at sea. However, the Needles are a different story. Steaming up towards them is ever a magnet for the eye.
Totland Bay itself has a delightful charm to it. There is nothing there really except the pier and the beach and the cliffs but they lend a quiet and tranquil ambience to arriving on the Isle of Wight by paddle steamer. It has always seemed to me, from my first visit there in 1960, that however up or down I might be feeling, I always felt a little better just for being in Totland Bay.
Also at 2.30pm Monarch was scheduled to leave for the 45 minute run across to Swanage. Fare 4/6 (£6.33 in today’s money).
I like this cruise passing the entrance to Poole Harbour and the Old Harry Rocks and the cliffs along to Swanage Bay. And Swanage itself is such a nice little town with a sort of genteel aura about it. It was much loved by Enid Blyton who put a lot of the town and the surrounding countryside into her children’s books. Her Kirrin Castle is based on Corfe. Whispering Island is Brownsea and PC Plod in the Noddy books had his origin in Constable Chris Rone who Enid used to see walking around the village in Studland in a rather plod like fashion.
We could have stayed on Monarch and come straight back without going ashore and arrived in Bournemouth at 4pm or we could have gone ashore for a couple of hours and re-boarded herfor the trip back at 5pm.
If we had wanted more time to explore Swanage then we could have waited until 6pm and joined Embassy which made a call there on her way back from her Lulworth Cove and Channel Cruise on the leg to Bournemouth.
Then, if we had wanted even more paddle steaming (yes please in my case) in the cool of the evening then we could have joined Monarch at Bournemouth at 6pm for her run back to Poole via Swanage or waited for Embassy and Emperor which were both due away at 6.45pm for the direct sailing back to Poole.
Three different paddle steamers on the same afternoon from Bournemouth Pier. Three different paddle steamer cruise options on the same afternoon from Bournemouth Pier. So much lovely scenery to see. So much fresh and salty sea air to breathe in – a little slice of paradise really.
Kingswear Castle returned to service in 2023 after the first part of a major rebuild which is designed to set her up for the next 25 years running on the River Dart. The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust is now fund raising for the second phase of the rebuild. You can read more about the rebuilds and how you can help if you can here.
This article was first published on 12th July 2021.