Dorset walk around Tuckton and Tolstoy

River Stour looking towards Christchurch from Tuckton Bridge

River Stour looking towards Christchurch from Tuckton Bridge - Credit: Archant

Edward Griffiths follows in the footsteps of Count Vladimir Tchertkoff and his exiled Russian intellectuals who set up their home and revolutionary printing press in Southbourne

In 1897, a group of Russian exiles fled from Czarist oppression to England. Their leader, Count Vladimir Tchertkoff, was a former favourite of the Imperial Russian Court who had enjoyed the considerable wealth afforded by his position. When he befriended the reformer and novelist Leo Tolstoy this all changed, and the Count began speaking out against the inequalities of the Czarist state. This didn’t go down well with the authorities but, because of his former high office, he was given the choice of exile or police supervision. He chose exile, at first moving to Essex, with his wife Anna, his son (also Vladimir), his mother the Countess Elizabeth, his father Count Gregory, and about 30 professors, doctors and journalists. He set up the Free Age Press at Hill Farm in Purleigh.

During the period of their former wealth, his mother had bought a holiday residence called ‘Slavanka’ in Belle Vue Road, Southbourne - which in those days was in Hampshire. Tchertkoff thought the pine-scented air would be better for Anna’s delicate health so they all moved to nearby Tuckton. His Free Age Press took over an abandoned waterworks building in Iford Lane where they printed many of Tolstoy’s forbidden works and pamphlets which they shipped back to Russia.

In 1908, Count Vladimir, Anna and his mother were allowed to return to Russia. When Count Gregory was executed during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the Countess fled back to ‘Slavanka’ where she died, aged 91, in 1922. She is buried in Christchurch Cemetery. Her son died in Russia in 1936.

Urban development has changed much of the local landscape since those days but, as we explore the area, we’ll be walking where this extraordinary group of exiled Russian intellectuals walked and we’ll see where they lived and worked.


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• Distance: 4½ miles (7.25km)

• Time: 3 hours

• Exertion: Easy. Mostly urban, virtually all level

• Start: Tuckton Bridge (Grid Ref: SZ149923). Park Wick Lane Car Park off Tuckton Roundabout

• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195

• Public Transport: Yellow Buses 1c from Bournemouth and Poole

• Dogs: On leads on roads

• Refreshments: The Harvester, Tuckton Bridge for lunches and bar meals, and the Old Bridge Tearooms for teas.

The walk

1 Starting at Tuckton Bridge, walk past The Harvester to Tuckton Roundabout and turn right into Tuckton Road. Past right Riverside Lane and left Danesbury Avenue, take right Iford Lane. On the left bend, take the ‘River Stour Walk’ down into trees and along the 400 yards path above the River Stour, with the New Age Press buildings appearing ahead. Up the end steps, turn right and pass the Old Waterworks/Printing Works on your right. Continue along Iford Lane, passing the right tennis club and sports fields and going under the railway bridge. Reaching the junction with Seafield Road and Saxonbury Road on your left, the most likely position for Tuckton House and its 10 acres of grounds was about 100 yards back along Saxonbury Road on the left. Tuckton House was sold for a Nursing Home in 1929 but was sold again in 1965 to property developers who demolished it to make way for the bungalow estate.

2 Reaching right Old Bridge Road, turn down past the caravan park and Old Bridge Tearooms to Iford Bridge over the River Stour. Cross the bridge and all of the extensions over the flood plain and Barnard’s Mead. Join Barrack Road, continue past the roundabout and take left Gardner Road. At the end, go through the gateway into Christchurch Cemetery, consecrated in 1857. Turn right along the main Tarmac drive. Just before the avenue of blossom trees, look left for the ‘broken pillar’ tomb about 50 yards away (head for this to find Countess Elizabeth Tchertkoff’s tomb-slab to its right below a large tree). Rejoin the main drive and continue between twin chapels. Through the Lodge entrance, turn right into Jumpers Road back to Barrack Road.

3 Turn left. Keep straight on, past the roundabout with right trading estates and over the railway bridge, to Stour Road traffic lights. Turn right and walk along Stour Road back to Tuckton Bridge where you started. This time, keep straight on at Tuckton Roundabout into Belle Vue Road. Keep following the pleasant tree-lined road up past Belle Vue Crescent and several other joining roads for about ¾ mile. On the right after Avoncliffe Road, the Home for Senior Living is on the site of ‘Slavanka’. The house was sold for a Christian Conference Centre in 1921 but the Countess lived here until she died on 25 January 1922 aged 91. See the stone laid by the Countess in 1921 in the low wall. Then, return to Tuckton Bridge where you started.


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