Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Sussex Coast Walk Day 6 Littlehampton - Worthing

Look and Sea

Another Sunday morning jaunt this week and I have to confess I wasn’t especially looking forward to this section of walk.  I have previously walked this stretch of coast, during the foot and mouth crisis a few years ago when it was one of the few areas locally that weren’t off limits to walkers.  That should give some hint as to the terrain of this walk – largely urban fringe and quite heavily developed.  Some walks are memorable, some are unpleasant and some are just blah.  This walk is definitely in the latter category since I remembered very little of it for a few years ago! However, if I am to complete this walk along the Sussex Coast, I will have a few more uninteresting stretches mixed in with the best coast walking the country has to offer.
Banjo Road

I took the train to Littlehampton and passed by the derelict Steam Packet pub once again and followed the road down alongside the River Arun.  There are still a few obviously port-related buildings along the road although they are slowly being replaced by gentrified apartments like a lot of other waterfront locations around the country.  A little further down the road and I passed between two of the blocks of apartments to find myself on the harbour wall.  The development along Littlehampton riverfront isn’t bad, although I’m not sure I would like to live at ground floor level as I am sure there is a tendency for passers by to peek inside.  I had a hard time restraining myself and although I am naturally nosy, I’m sure I’m not the only one!
Beach Cafe

As part of the development, the community of Littlehampton acquired the Look and Sea Centre, a tower that houses a café, lookout tower and museum of seafront life.  It’s quite popular with my children and is a pleasant place to while away an hour or so.  Adjacent is the RNLI station that also looked as if it might have been part of the deal.  The lifeboat crew were busying themselves about the place, taking advantage of time away from their normal day jobs.  It’s hard to believe that this is a hobby for most of them!
Convalescent Home

At the south end of the riverside was a more traditional mix of terraced houses, cafes and small businesses largely closed on a Sunday morning.  There used to be a ferry that ran across to West Beach from here but I think it has now stopped as there was no signage.  A little way past where I took the ferry terminal to be (according to my map), the leisure facilities for Littlehampton began.  For such a small resort, the town of Littlehampton is actually quite well served for leisure facilities.  I passed by a very still boating lake and then an amusement park, apparently in rude health with a log flume and big slides in evidence.  At the light beacon on the shoreward end of the breakwater I turned left and headed east along the seafront.
World Speed Record

In some respects the walking today is a little monotonous, since the whole length of the walk is alongside a shingle beach.  However, given that I was doing a relatively short stretch it was bearable and there were other diversions en route, not least the activities of the large numbers of people out on this hot morning.  Littlehampton Seafront, although fairly short is very pleasant and the area behind the beach is largely given over to green space, giving the seafront a fairly open feel.  It was mostly quiet as I passed by although the beach itself was thronged with dog walkers and the promenade had many runners on their morning jogs.  I passed the café and could smell them preparing to open for the day, although the shutters were firmly shut.

Just past the café and the promenade meets the main road heading towards Rustington.  This is not an especially pleasant section, although about ¼ mile along the road I passed the magnificent Convalescent Home built in late Victorian times and still serving its original function.  Staying there would definitely help me feel better!
Stripy Beach Hut

Shortly after the road makes a sharp left into Rustington village centre and the coastal path then heads along a series of greenswards for the next couple of miles.  Almost unnoticed just past this point is a memorial stone placed there by Rustington Parish Council commemorating the world air speed records which were set offshore here just after World War II.  Even as a local I had not been aware of this little piece of local and international history.
Ferring Beach

In between greenswards, I came across an activity that was rather unexpected when I discovered a coffee morning going on at the back of a nursing home.  It was well supported although the bric a brac on offer didn’t hold much interest to me.  As I continued I came across the first of the greensward signs for the day.  Many of these open areas are still privately owned and although the footpath cuts across them, the open areas actually form part of the privately owned estates adjacent.  Their usage is obviously closely guarded for each different one I crossed demanded that visitors must not camp, cycle, use a radio, play ball games etc, in fact do almost anything that might be construed as fun!  Consequently most visitors were sedately walking along like me, or were sitting around on park benches looking like they were too decrepit to do much else.  As I headed east the housing on the landward side of the path became more and more ostentatious, with great big mock mansions and huge hedges surrounding them.  Many of these estates can only be accessed using private roads, adding to the exclusivity of the area.  In fact the footpath is pretty much the only public access that actually exisits.
Beach Garden

Then the footpath ran out at the end of Rustington!  From here there was a half a mile trudge along the shingle bank past the yacht club and it was a stark reminder of how awful this surface is to walk on.  Luckily it is quite a short stretch and soon I picked up another path on the Ferring greensward.  By now the early morning sunshine had given way to a sea fret which was billowing in from time to time, with watery sun trying its best to burn it off. 

Before long I reached another café, the Bluebird at Ferring.  It was doing a brisk trade, with many customers sitting outside enjoying a late breakfast.  Almost all the beach huts alongside were shut up though, rather strange for a hot midsummer Sunday.  The section of walk from here into the Borough of Worthing was thronged with walkers, all enjoying a Sunday morning stroll along the tarmacked path that serves as the access for the seafront houses.  On the way into Worthing I passed by a pillbox, complete with plaque advising that it was a type 26 (whatever that is).  The pillbox appeared to have been vandal proofed, for although complete it had no windows, suggesting that it is no longer in its original state (or how else would it have been useful?)
Goring Gap

Around the corner and I arrived at the edge of Worthing.  Immediately the feel of the seafront was different, with the green space immediately behind the beach being publicly owned and as such filled with people already playing ball, enjoying picnics etc.  Unfortunately, the down side of all this activity is that there was a lot more litter in evidence.  Unfortunately in my professional capacity I am acutely aware of the problems and sensitivities of the litter left behind by visitors here.  Seeing how people abuse public space, I can understand entirely why the private landowners along the coast from where I have just come from have adopted the attitude they have.
Sea Lane Cafe

The Goring end of Worthing seafront is pleasant and makes for easy walking, passing along tamarisk lined paths until I reached Sea Lane Café.  I know this to be an absolute goldmine and with good reason, the food is good and the location cannot be beaten.  Even on a rotten day it can be quite exciting watching the waves crash in on the beach below while you quaff a coffee.  Today was no exception as it was heaving even though it was well before lunchtime. Almost as soon as I passed Sea Lane Café, the beach huts began.  There are a large number of beach huts in Worthing, predominantly white in contrast to the three colour scheme that seems to operate in Arun.  Walking along behind the huts feels a liitle strange, like being divorced from the sea and I was pleased when I reached West Parade and the beach huts ended.  My final action on the seafront was to take a close look at the Waterwise Garden.  This was put in as a joint project by the Council and Southern Water a few years ago to promote the idea of gardening with less water.  It’s an interesting little area, but not for aficionados of shingle plants, since many of them are not native!  A list of plants can be found at
Waterwise Garden

I decided to leave the seafront via Marine Gardens and save the rest of Worthing seafront for the next section of walk.  All in all this was nothing more than a pleasant stroll, not terribly exciting but not nearly as deadly boring as I had remembered.  Probably worth doing as only this short stretch as trying to push on might be just too much urban fringe walking all at once!


  1. thank you so much. we are relocating to littlehampton from liverpool and we are well used to walking by the sea around here [the wirral peninsular and the sefton coastline [my favourite] for example. so I was keen to get an idea of the walking area round our new place. It doesn't sound as 'wild and wuthering' as we like but I am sure we will adjust in time. I saw a group of yellowhammers behind a beach hut in Rustington in the early 80s and have never forgotten the joy I got from watching them feed on some seed someone had thrown down for the birds.I had previously only seen them in books! So naturally I want to go back there and see if they are still around... jo hardy

  2. Hello Jo,
    Welcome to Sussex! I hope you enjoy many happy years here. Yellowhammers are a reasonably common sight around here. As you will see from my Sussex Coast Walk series, this isn't the most exciting stretch, but there are some areas that are worth visiting it you want something a bit wilder. The best sections of the coast are those around the coast to the south of Chichester, or west of Eastbourne, or east of Hastings. These are all more in keeping with what you are after.

    Thanks for your visit and comment - hopefully you will find a few routes from my blog to inspire you? Check out Worthing Wanderer 2 as well - that is where I am hiding now.