Bournemouth EchoHarbour masters (From Bournemouth Echo)

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Harbour masters

Bournemouth Echo: Brownsea Island. Picture: Richard Crease, with thanks to Bournemouth Helicopters Brownsea Island. Picture: Richard Crease, with thanks to Bournemouth Helicopters

The definitive book of Poole Harbour is so bang-up-to-date that its printing was delayed to include the latest news.

When the story broke that Poole Harbour Commissioners were fighting back from the loss of the Barfleur and the year-round Brittany Ferries service with big plans, co-editor Bernard Dyer quickly commissioned another chapter.

The manuscript was sent off to Singapore after a two-day delay with the inclusion of the port’s master plan, future plans for an 800-berth marina and hopes to provide a support base for the proposed wind farm off the Dorset coast.

The Book of Poole Harbour edited by Bernard Dyer and Timothy Darvill claims to be the first book of the harbour ever published and it covers the period from its formation after the last Ice Age, around 6,000 years ago, to present day.

Covering 8,650 acres – with a 100 mile shoreline – of one of the most fascinating and beautiful places in Britain – it is of international importance for its landscapes and wildlife and has an amazing history.

This is relayed through contributions from 30 authors, many experts in their fields and a roll call of the regions local writing talent, historians and archaeologists.

Formerly a river valley which flowed through what are now the main channels of the harbour, the harbour was formed when rising water levels led to a breakthrough between what is now the Needles and Old Harry Rocks.

By the Iron Age it was a flourishing port and was to see Roman galleys and Viking longships sailing through its entrance.

Poole’s rise in importance and wealth was crowned by the trade in cod between Newfoundland and the Mediterranean and the town and harbour flourished between 1583 and 1815.

From pirates to flying boats, sailing boats to RNLI lifeboats, Special Boat Squadron to Sunseeker, the lavishly illustrated book is an encyclopaedia of harbour lore.

Packed with 400 photos and illustrations, the tome is divided into six parts dealing with natural development; man-made changes; settlements; industry; trade, transport and recreation and the future.

Does it answer the thorny question of where Poole stands in the order of largest natural harbours in the world? Well Professor Vincent May, who has been studying it since 1960, concedes it may not even be the second largest.

The handsome book is a Poole Harbour Heritage Project and a steering committee was formed under the chairmanship of Timothy Darvill, professor of archaeology at Bournemouth University.

“Whilst much has been achieved, it is apparent that much more still remains to be done,” said PHHP chairman, Bernard Dyer, in the introduction.

“Accordingly it is hoped that the book in its present form will not only encourage public interest in the harbour, but will lead both to general support and, for those who might wish to do so, to specific involvement in the continuing work of the project.”

l Published by The Dovecote Press, The Book of Poole Harbour edited by Bernard Dyer and Timothy Darvill costs £25.

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