Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Sussex Coast Walk Day 1 Emsworth - Bosham

Emsworth Pond
While completing the last section of the South Downs Way along the Seven Sisters my mind turned to what walking project I would like to tackle next. I am a big fan of coastal walking and although my long term goal is to complete the South West Coast Path, I realised that I have never actually walked large sections of my home county coast. One of the reasons for this is that there is no ‘official’ path that follows the Sussex Coast, and indeed long sections are very urban in nature which probably puts a lot of people off thinking about this coast as being a prospect for a route. Nonetheless there are footpaths along most of the coast and in a bid to get to know my county better I thought I would give it a go.

Pod Housing
The route is varied in nature and starts in the tidal harbour of Chichester, winding round the salt marshes and various creeks before heading out along open coast to Selsey Bill. Then Pagham Harbour has to be negotiated before heading through a succession of holiday resorts until Brighton where chalk cliffs take over for 20 miles or so. Some more holiday resorts follow between Eastbourne and Hastings before sandstone cliffs. Finally I would negotiate the Levels around Rye before the coast heads into Kent and Dungeness. All in all it is a route of about 120 miles.

Thornley Marshes
The start of my walk would be the small and picturesque town of Emsworth, which is not actually in Sussex but Hampshire. It is a convenient place to start as both the West Coastway Line and 700 bus pass through the town, very handy if like me you plan to do the walk in stages on day trips. It also marks the end of the Solent Way, the path that negotiates most of the coastline of Hampshire and which I had previously completed.

This was a contrasting walk from the last I had completed in that weather conditions were benign and fairly mild. Spring definitely seemed to be around the corner although spring bulbs were a bit behind schedule, given that it was now the end of February. The path left Emsworth around the Slipper Mill Pond, which was once used to help drive a mill now long since closed. I then passed a marina full of very expensive yachts and some buildings that I could only describe as ‘living pods’. They were oddly boxy places on stilts, which probably looked quite cutting edge when built but now horribly dated. The path then headed out towards Thornley Island along a sea wall protecting the land inside from sea incursion and preventing Thornley form actually being an island now. A few hundred metres I passed what looked like a drainage channel on the left, but what was in fact 'Great Deep'; once the waterway that separated the island from the mainland and now reduced to a reed filled channel.

Views out across Langstone Harbour were quite spectacular although the noise from the nearby A27 rather spoiled the tranquillity. I also encountered the first of many information signs put out by the management board of Chichester Harbour. These were among the best I have seen and showed lots of information about the harbour history and wildlife. More information about Chichester Harbour can be found at http://www.conservancy.co.uk/. Eventually I reached a very high metal fence and gate denoting that I had reached the army base which now occupies the southern end of Thornley Island. It was slightly intimidating accessing the coast path beyond, but when I pressed the buzzer for access a very courteous soldier took a few details about my identity and wished me a safe and enjoyable walk.

Thornham Church
Once inside the gate I felt a little like I was being watched all the time, but to be honest this was probably more a result of my paranoia rather than being based on fact. The path itself was fairly unremarkable as it wound its way around the southern end of the map, but that is not to say that it was not enjoyable and devoid of interest. All the interest really lay offshore, with hundreds of birds living their lives in a fairly food rich environment. On Hayling Island opposite, some rook scaring devices were set off sending a flock of several hundred geese honking and flying away in panic which created quite a spectacle. A little further on I was joined by a different flying noise as a couple of microlights buzzed around overhead. Along the coast were also some poignant reminders of army life, as I passed several benches that acted as memorials to soldiers that had died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Chidham Peninsula
Eventually I came to Thornham church, one of the few buildings that remained from before the occupation by the armed forces. It was by now receiving restoration works funded by landfill tax money. After another mile or so I reached the perimeter fence once again, which pleased me no end as I prefer walks without the fear of being watched at all times. This time I merely had to state that I was leaving and the gate was buzzed open for me. On the opposite side I could see the Chidham Peninsula, which seemed a long way away but would be the next section of coastline that I would have to tackle. This wasn’t as big as Thornley Island, but would delay my progress eastward. As I headed around the coast I reached Thornham marina, once again full of expensive looking yachts. At this point although passing my halfway point for the day after six miles or so, I was less than one mile from the start. How I love coastal walking!

Clearing Skies
The stretch from Thornham Marina to Chidham beach was pretty boring if I’m honest, but just as my spirits were sagging I dropped down onto the beach from the sea wall. For a short stretch I walked along the shingle and the Itchenor Creek came into view, offering much more interesting views. I climbed up on to the sea wall again at Cobnor Point and headed up the side of Bosham Creek. The views across to Bosham Village were superb and by now the monotone grey skies which had stubbornly refuse to move earlier in the day were no giving way to the odd breaks of sunshine and giving fantastic lighting conditions for photography. I practised a few different shots of Bosham Church across the water using different camera settings and got some fairly decent results considering that I am a point and shoot type of photographer.

Bosham Church
Eventually I reached Chidham Lane and conscious of the time I decided that I had had enough of sea wall walking and headed along the lane to meet the A259. It was lucky that I did for shortly after arriving at the bus stop the hourly 700 bus arrived and I had the short ride back to Emsworth without having to wait ages!


  1. If you have been inspired to walk this part of the planet then you could join in the Festival of Harbour Walks 11-14 May or head off on your own with a copy of A Walker's Guide: Chichester Harbour £4 both from Chichester Harbour Conservancy. For more details call 01243 512301.
    Ali B

  2. Thanks Ali B,
    I personally will pass because I have to work then unfortunately! I hope that I have inspired one or two people. I am keeping my fingers crossed for the weather on my next day walking around the harbour next week.

  3. Hey Paul, Sorry I've not replied on Facebook, I'm visiting my parents in Devon and my mobile phone tethered to my Mac for Internet access is patchy!

    Really enjoyed reading this, decided to duck off on the 259 at Chichester yesterday on my drive down the South Coast rather than hurtle along the A27 to Havant. I was surprised how nice a couple of the villages looked and I might well end up doing this walk myself!

    Also that last photo is lovely, dramatic sky! I'm finishing my Saturday write up today and so long as I get the washing up tackled (it's Mother's day hehe) I will start on Monday too. Anyway, this ia a fab blog Paul! Good stuff :)

  4. Thanks for your kind comments (blushes). I've looked at this as a possible walk for some time but was always tempted by ridges and high places. I'm really pleased I gave this a go - was inspired after my rather stop-start trip along the Solent Way and wanted to carry on. This particular day made a really interesting change and not too far from home. Have now completed day 2 on a much sunnier day. Will have this ready hopefully later this week for you to read!

    Have a great time down in Devon!