What am I thinking! I totally forget to mention that even though Bob and I don’t excatly follow the tourist trail when we are travelling, and even though we much prefer to talk to the people and see and do things that tourists often miss, on our way around the south coast of England and before we visited with Charles Dickens in Portsmouth, we went to Bournemouth. Our intent was to see the Bournemouth Seafront, the long Pier, and the amusement strip on the beach that so delighted the Victorians and the Edwardians, and which still delights many people today.
In Bournemouth, we parked the car above the beach, and took photos of some of the old hotels which had been built in Victorian and Edwardian times to accommodate the hoards of holiday-makers.
We turned away from the grand old hotels to take in the beach and sea-views.
Then we walked to the West Cliff lift.
There are three cliff lifts at Bournemouth Beach, the two historic lifts at East Cliff and West Cliff—both of which were built and began operating in 1908, and were originally hand-operated by a driver but are now operated by machine but still have a driver—and the third lift at Fisherman’s Walk which was built in 1938, and links the beach to a cliff top café and children’s play area. The lifts are counter-balanced by means of a cable, as one lift goes up the cliff, the corresponding lift comes down the cliff. Yet they are not classified as elevators a such. Rather all three lifts are actually funicular railways– even though they are pulled up the cliffs by means of a strong steel rope, they also operate on tracks. In fact, all three lifts are officially classed as light railways. Each of these three lifts are run by two operators, a “driver” in the top booth and an assistant in the bottom booth. These lifts are located along the promenade, either side of Bournemouth Pier, and allow easy access up and down the cliffs. The West Cliff Lift links the seafront with the Bournemouth International Centre which is the South Coast’s premier venue for entertainment shows and exhibitions.
Unfortunately, when we were there one of the three cliff lifts was not operating, it was under repairs. Other than that, Bournemouth’s famous cliff lifts operate every day between Easter and the end of October. Bob and I were there at the right time. We took the West Cliff lift, paid the driver one English pound and forty shillings each for the one-way trip, and rode down to the beach in style. We discovered that not only do these lifts offer easy access from the beach to the cliff tops, they also offer stunning views of the coast. We pointed our cameras every which way, taking as many photos as we could in the time it took to get down to the beach.
Since Bob is totally “railway mad”, and since I simply could not pass up the chance to live a little history, and do what the Edwardians and hundreds of other people have done since, and after we had walked and walked and then walked some more along the beach and along the long Bournemouth pier, and after we had seen as much as our allocated time and the season would allow, we took ourselves back to the lift, again paid the operator one English pound and forty shillings each, boarded the Edwardian funicular carriage, and travelled back up the cliff to the top.
I should point out that these lifts are not exactly fast moving, nor are they at all comfortable to ride in. One gets tossed and jolted about a fair bit… it’s almost a bruising experience…
At Bournemouth, Bob and I lived a little of history past, and experienced it in the present. It was and still is a wonderful feeling to know that we did all that. Yet now I wish that we had taken a little extra time to ride all three lifts, the East Cliff and West Cliff and the Fisherman’s Walk lifts, for I have since read that on 24 April this year, 2016, there was a landside. Half the East Cliff fell away and engulfed the East Cliff lift’s rail and the carriages. This lift suffered irreparable damage, and now runs no more.
I snipped this picture of the Bournemouth Cliff slip from an English newspaper: