Thursday, 2 April 2009

Sussex Coast Walk Day 3 West Wittering - Sidlesham

East Head
This is extremely hot off the press! I have never actually posted an entry on the day that I completed the walk, but today is a very unusual day since I have been left on my own for two weeks while my wife and children are away visiting grandparents. I spent the morning taking them to Heathrow Airport and on my way back I took a detour along the coast to spend the afternoon/ early evening cracking on with the next section of this project.

Wandering Through the Sand Dunes
The practicalities of getting to the start are relatively straightforward for this section. Park the car at the visitor centre car park at Sidlesham (on the Selsey Road) and get the bus into Chichester and then on to West Wittering. After the highs of the last section, where the best parts exceeded my expectations, the next leg of my journey along the coast started promisingly enough when I spent well over an hour roaming around the sand dunes of East Head. I have to confess that I was completely unaware of their existence before planning this walk and up to now I thought that the only sand dunes in Sussex were to be found at the end of my walk, in Camber. These were a pleasant surprise then and begged to be explored.

Wittering Beach Huts
The path actually circumnavigates the spit, but when I got to the furthest extent away from the mainland I decided that I would take the boardwalk back through the middle of the dunes, rather than follow the shoreline. It was worth it, as I enjoyed the rush of the wind through the marram grass and marvelled at the contorted shapes of some of the stunted trees that has actually managed to grab a toehold on this most unsteady of environments. According to one of the information boards the spit was once an east-west continuation of the coast but it has now been swept back into the mouth of Chichester Harbour. For more information about the dunes see .

Cakeham Manor
Before leaving West Wittering I inspected the beach huts, which were a mixture of the tired and brand new. Unlike many locations they were surprisingly sober coloured, with most of them still plain wood. One caught my eye, which was lurid pink and it certainly stood out from the crowd. The car park behind the beach huts was surprisingly busy given that it was not yet school holidays and I took the opportunity to dive into the cafe that was nice and quiet today. I'll bet during the summer, both cafe and car park are heaving so I made a mental note to get here early if I want to come then. The beach was wonderful and even of a day that was only about 15 degrees and with a brisk breeze, I couldn't help but be amazed at how many youngsters were catching the early season rays with only their Speedos or bikinis on.

Railway Carriage Home
The early promise of the walk evaporated very quickly after West Wittering Beach. From here it was getting on for six miles of the dullest stretch of coast I have ever had the misfortune of walking. Take my advice, if you are not a completist, do the section around West Wittering as a circular walk and then skip the rest of the coastline until you get to Selsey. East Wittering and Bracklesham were very dull places and the coast was completely dominated by a great long line of mostly characterless houses, which I am sure are fabulous to live in as they all have wonderful sea views and some have private beaches. For those of us that do not live there however, they do nothing for the appeal of the place. Even beyond the houses, the walk is no better as it follows a featureless shingle bank all the way to Selsey. I'm afraid that by the time I got to Selsey I had had enough shingle for one day and contemplated getting the bus back to Sidlesham. There were a few things that kept me going; one was the tower of Cakeham Manor just outside East Wittering, some houses that had been built up from a starting point of a railway carriage and was Medmerry Windmill just outside Selsey itself.

Medmerry Mill
The view of Selsey from the seafront wasn't a great deal better than East Wittering and Bracklesham and I soon got the sense that Bosham did indeed shine like a beacon among these rather dull neighbours. However, the windmill and a bit further along the coast the lifeboat station rescued the place and gave it a bit of character. It was very reminiscent of the station at Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, although looked in rather finer fettle. By now time was dragging on and I was anxious to reach the car before the sun set.

Selsey Lifeboat Station
Losing the daylight now was a bit annoying as the next section rekindled my enthusiasm for the day and made me wish that I hadn't wasted so much time on that dratted shingle! The way ahead entered the world of Pagham Harbour, kind of a Chichester Harbour in miniature. The old familiar sounds of seabirds were with me once again and the whole place had a rather golden light about it now that the sun was fading. I vowed to come this way again when I have better light and more time. Maybe the next section of this walk shoudl be from Selsey to Bognor rather than Sidlesham to Littlehampton as I have planned.

St Wilfred's Chapel
It wasn't all seabirds, as I took the trouble to dive in and have a look at St Wilfred's Chapel in Church Norton. This is clearly the remnants of a much larger church and allegedly the rest of it was transported to Selsey in the 1860s as a ready made answer to the spiritual needs of the burgeoning population there. By contrast St Wilfred's stands in a very large graveyard but not apparently near any settlement. Next door are the earthworks of what was once a Norman Castle, but now only imagination (or the information board) can help picture what it once looked like. I couldn't hang around too long unfortunately for now the sun was getting quite low and I wanted to reclaim my car at Sidlesham, about a mile and a half away.


  1. We always used to go to West Wittering as children - your first two pictures are exactly as I remember it, sandunes, pine trees and very few people about. Happy memories.

    And have you worked out which of your walks is the one where Simon and I first went out?

    Rosie x

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  4. Ok you got me - is it Whitstable?