Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Sussex Coast Walk Day 2 Bosham - West Wittering

Bosham Church

Today was a very different prospect to the last foray on this walk. There was not a cloud in the sky and the weather was fine and warm, rather fitting for it was my birthday! The weather had actually been fine and warm for a few days and I was pleased that it persisted for a bit longer. I started the day by driving over to West Wittering and parking in the village. I took the bus into Chichester and couldn’t believe my luck when my onward bus to Bosham was right next door at the bus station waiting for me! It made the two bus journey surprisingly short and within half an hour I was getting off the bus and getting on my way.

Bosham Waterfront
Of course my luck couldn’t completely run for me since it was a bit of a walk back along a busy road to get to the start point, but hey ho who was complaining on such a wonderful day? Today’s walk would be taking me around the Bosham peninsula, back to Fishbourne and then making my way around the last of the inlets of Chichester Harbour before getting to West Wittering. As the crow flies I only achieved about two miles, but on the ground this section would be 13 miles. Don’t you just love coastal walking?

Tidal Warning
Once off the main road I immediately entered a different world, back to the mud flats and sounds of sea birds. Within 20 minutes I was in the village of Bosham, although not until I had traversed a little tricky section caused by some building work being carried out on one of the waterfront properties, which had officially closed the waterfront path. Luckily it was low tide so I went by using the beach. I lingered for a short while in the village and had a quick gander at the church. Strangely it looked a lot more ordinary up close than it did from a distance, where it forms the centrepiece of one of the most famous views in Sussex and is included in every pictoral guide of the county.

Murky Causeway
From the church I descended to the waterfront road, where a number of hapless motorists have over the years lost their vehicles to the tide, which washes over the road. Now there are copious warnings alongside the road warning people of the danger but I’ll wager that we’ll read about another incident soon enough in the local paper and have all the locals sniggering behind their hands.

Bosham View
I took the shortcut across the end of the harbour and then headed down the road from where all the landscape photographers do their stuff. I have to admit, it really is a great view and I can see why people don’t get tired of it. After a few hundred metres I left the road and carried along a footpath not unlike the one I had followed over at Chidham, now across the water from me. Eventually I reached the ferry hard, from where I could take the Itchenor Ferry if it were a summer’s day. Being March, it wasn’t running despite the fantastic weather. Instead it would be almost three hours before I would reach West Itchenor, by following the coastal path around the last of the inlets, the Chichester Channel.

What immediately followed was a rather annoying stretch of road walking of almost three kilometres. After only a few hundred metres I encountered a load of contractors digging up the road laying new water pipes. This was the first of many encounters I had with workmen, for it seemed as if the whole area was gripped by a building boom, credit crunch or no credit crunch. There was certainly plenty of money being invested in this part of West Sussex.

Merging Into One
I was relieved when I finally left the road, although to be fair it wasn’t too busy and the delivery drivers who were plying the lanes did give me a wide berth and in some cases slowed down for me, a rare instance of good manners I thought. The path along the western side of the Chichester Channel was non-eventful and a little dull although the views across to the Cathedral were good. Surprisingly although I got much closer to the city, I never got a better view of Chichester. At the head of the channel on the outskirts of Fishbourne was an interesting little section of path as I first wandered through a section of very high reeds and then came out to what looked like it was once another of those mill ponds that I had become accustomed to seeing. This one was particularly picturesque though, and with no hint of the mill that once stood here. On the other side I followed a short little canal that now acted as a water feature for the adjacent bungalows (and was obviously very prized).
New Foliage
Unfortunately the next little section of path was rather spoiled for me as I had to endure the pungent smell of the adjacent sewage works. This was a heady mixture of human effluent mixed with some kind of hideous perfume obviously being introduced to somehow mask the aroma. It didn’t work! I think the pooh smell on its own probably would have been more pleasing. Otherwise it was a fairly lacklustre stretch and I was starting to get a bit tired. My spirits were lifted when I reached Dell Quay and I was able to circumnavigate the boat yard. Here I found that the local farmer had kindly joined a Defra scheme that enabled walkers to roam on a permissive path through his piece of land. For me that was great for it meant that I could continue walking along the water’s edge rather than across a field a few hundred metres inland. It wasn’t the only favour he did me, the path also went through Saltern’s Copse, a delightful piece of woodland alongside the water.

Skirting Chichester

The next boatyard I reached at Salterns was enormous and I could immediately see where many of the boats that race around during Cowes Week are berthed. Some were for sale and I was surprised that there were a few at a reasonable cost, although I’m sure that berthing costs are pretty steep. One caught my eye in particular; it was a fairly small boat that was registered in New York. I wondered whether it had in fact been sailed here. It wasn’t going very far now though as it was on the back of a trailer. Saltern’s Lock, the entrance to the open sea also served as the end of the Chichester Canal, where goods were once ferried the short distance up to the city (and maybe a short excursion for the future?).

Chichester Harbour
My spirits were definitely lifted by this sudden change of terrain and the next few kilometres to West Itchenor was rather a strange combination of delightful water’s edge routes, through very expensive housing estates and across a very dull section of farmland. Eventually I reached West Itchenor village, a delightful place and with a rather similar character to Bosham, but without the picture postcard views. The main street went down to the water’s edge and I could see that work was being carried out to get the ferry ready for the summer season. The village itself was full of visitors, mostly old people and probably locals enjoying themselves without all the nuisance of families around cluttering up the place.

Itchenor Jetty
I left the village now looking at my watch with a little worry. I had promised to be home by 4pm and time was cracking on. There is nothing like a deadline to keep me on track, but I still had three miles left and stopping constantly to take pictures was slowing me up considerably. I have to be honest and say that the next stretch of coast was my very favourite of the whole of the Chichester Harbour stretch. It was lonely, like earlier sections but much more attractive as the coastline was occasionally dotted with woodland, giving a little extra to the outward views. I passed a volunteer work party restoring some of the footpath, but otherwise had the next three miles to myself, with only the sound of geese and seagulls as my constant companion.
Harbour Cruiser

As I neared West Wittering I also got a sense of how big Chichester Harbour actually isas views of the Bosham and Chidham Peninsulas and Thorney and Hayling Islands opened up. It was not quite journey’s end for Chichester Harbour, but I definitely got the full value of the views on such a sunny day. It was disappointing when I had to leave the coast and head back to my car, but the last three miles of this walk definitely left me wanting more.

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