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Geographical location and history
Christchurch is a borough and town in Dorset on the English Channel coast, adjoining Bournemouth in the west, with the New Forest to the east.
The borough has a population of 44,869 (according to 2001 figures), of whom a significant proportion are comfortably off senior citizens (33.1% of the population are of retirement age). Indeed, the area of Highcliffe on the borough's eastern boundary possesses the highest percentage of elderly residents in the entire United Kingdom (70%).
The town centre is dominated by Christchurch Priory and the High Street with its squares and parades containing shopping
facilities. Christchurch forms part of the south east Dorset
conurbation along with Bournemouth, Poole and adjacent areas of East
This medium-sized priory and market town is generally regarded as a conservative, slow-paced and popular tourist and retirement destination "where time is pleasant" (according to the town's official description). The older part of the town, dominated by the Priory Church (the longest parish church in England), dates from Saxon times and still retains its Saxon street layout. It is an interesting mixture of picturesque walks, quaint houses, restaurants, public houses and coffee shops, some of which date back to smuggling times.
The town was originally a Saxon settlement called Twyneham (which gives the town's central school its name), from "betweon eam", which meant (the settlement) between two rivers.
During Saxon times the harbour was one of the most important in England as it was easily reached from the continent and boats could enter the harbour and travel up the river Avon all the way to Salisbury. The sheltered harbour and easy access to neighbouring towns also made the area popular with smugglers, culminating in the "Battle of Mudeford" in 1784 between Customs & Excise and the smugglers(visit The Black House smuggling landmark). There was a Saxon mint (coin) in "Twynam" until just before the Norman Conquest.
The rivers Avon and Stour both enter the sea in Christchurch Harbour.
The harbour is a large protected salt marsh protected by a sand bar at the entrance. The harbour is only accessible to shallow draught boats due to the sand bars at the entrance. The entrance, known as the Run, has Mudeford Quay on one side and the sand bar on the other. Considerable tides flow here, up to 6 knots during spring tides (view tides). The harbour is a protected wildlife refuge and is home to large populations of swans, waders and other bird life. On the south side the harbour is enclosed by Hengistbury head which was the site of the earliest settlement here dating back to the Neolithic. The landward end of the headland still has the bank and ditch built about 2000BC to protect the settlement
Information has been sourced from the wikipedia encylcopedia. The full entry for Christchurch can be found on the;