NESTLING on the edge of the New Forest, Christchurch is an award-winning town steeped in history and wonderful architecture.

Having been historically within the county of Hampshire, it became part of Dorset in the 1974 reorganisation of local government.

Sandwiched between two rivers, Christchurch was formerly known as Twynham – a fort built on the orders of Alfred the Great against the Vikings.

Christchurch grew as a trading port throughout the 9th century and Christchurch Castle was constructed it the 12th century to reinforce the town’s defences, but was later destroyed during the English Civil War.

Smuggling flourished in Christchurch during the 18th and 19th centuries.

During the Second World War the town was heavily armed against expected invasion and in 1940 an airspeed factory was established which manufactured aircraft for the Royal Air Force.

Christchurch is twinned with Christchurch in New Zealand, and has existed in one form or another since the Iron Age when the area between the river Avon and the river Stour was used as a trading point and safe mooring for visiting traders.

Today the traders may be a little different, but throughout history the town has adapted to suit the era and keeps up to date, while still retaining its historical roots.

Christchurch is also famous for its 900-year-old Priory. With its unique Norman carvings and blind Romanesque arches, it is the longest parish church in the land. The older part of town provides a fantastic array of restaurants and specialist shops, plus a selection of museums and monuments reflecting the social and natural history of the area.

These include the Red House Museum and Gardens, and the spectacular ruins of Christchurch castle.

Highcliffe Castle, a magnificent Grade 1-listed mansion set in attractive cliff-top grounds is located nearby.

Today Christchurch has a traditional, quintessentially English feel to it with a modern edge; achieved through its fashionable shops in the High Street and Saxon Square Shopping Centre, and contemporary bars and restaurants.

Many historical landmarks including Place Mill, near the bandstand on Christchurch Quay and Christchurch Castle in the town centre, have been preserved as part of the borough’s rich heritage. There are many sites to explore with popular history and ghost walks, boat trips from The Quay, and tours of the crumbling castle sitting next to the picturesque bowling green.

Bournemouth Airport – which first opened as RAF Hurn in 1941 – is located within the borough at Hurn, commercial flights began in the late 1950s.