Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Sussex Coast Walk Day 7 Worthing - Shoreham-by-Sea

Heene Terrace
After a wet Saturday and an unpromising start to Sunday I was really pleased to see the weather perk up considerably during the afternoon so I could get out for another Sunday evening stint.  Unfortunately time was very restricted and so any prospect of a trip away from home wasn’t on the cards.  Lucky for me that the next stretch of coastal route could be started from home, but knowing that it would be pavement all the way didn’t tempt me to consider walking the route.  Instead I thought it would be good to try out the new(ish) cycle route from Worthing through Lancing to Shoreham.  I had hoped originally that this stretch would take me all the way to Brighton, but the second half of the route would have to wait for another time.
The Lido

I regained the coast at Grand Avenue, more or less where I’d left off a couple of weeks beforehand and did the law-abiding thing and cycled along the main road rather than the promenade.  Although the promenade is like the M1 for most of its length from Grand Avenue to the Pier, the Council has banned cycling following an accident involving a pedestrian a few years ago.  Various attempts have been made to restore cycling (and indeed many people still do cycle along there) but this has yet to be ratified.  I did not want to risk getting a ticket from a police officer, despite the fact that the promenade was quiet and my cycling would have been low risk.
Worthing Pier

It does feel funny taking pictures in your own town, but a couple of sights along the western end of the promenade should not be missed.  The first is the delightfully replanted Heene Gardens in front of some very grand looking flats variously called West Mansions, Heene Terrace (and a couple of other names that escape me).  The other is the Lido, a relic of what was once an outdoor swimming pool but which is now an amusement facility for small children (see website at http://www.theworthinglido.co.uk/ ).  Interestingly this was originally built as a bandstand and later became a lido, when these were all the rage.  Before closing as a lido it apparently housed a couple of dolphins for a year when they were rehoused from the Aquarium in Brighton.  The pool still remains under the floor allegedly so if fashion once again dictated it could once again resume this role, although it has not functioned for twenty years in this guise.
The Dome

A little further along the promenade is Worthing Pier and surely one of the best preserved in Britain.  On a fresh summer’s evening it looked in wonderful shape with flags fluttering in the wind and plenty of people wandering along its length.  The view from the end is pretty good too, with the Isle of Wight still just about visible in the west and Beachy Head in the east.  The other jewel of Worthing’s seafront is the Dome cinema, recently refurbished and a real survivor having been threatened with demolition not too many years ago.  Inside the old spirit of cinemas is still very much in evidence and could be quite a pleasant surprise for anyone who has grown up on a diet of multiplexes.  Despite these obvious attractions, Worthing seafront does not have the grandeur of other seaside resorts and has been a victim of some fairly awful developments (Grafton anyone?).  Fortunately some of the newer developments appear to be addressing some of these problems and the new Warnes development and forthcoming Eardley will hopefully restore some of the lost character.  From Splash Point just east of the pier it is a pleasant couple of miles ride into Lancing along the cycle path that was opened in 2003.  This has now been extended into Lancing, avoiding the need to use the dreaded A259 road at all until Shoreham-by-Sea.  The eastern end of Worthing is dominated by the soon to be demolished (allegedly) Aquarena swimming pool, which must have seemed ahead of its time when built in the 1960s but now sadly in desperate need of replacement.  The eastern end of the seafront is dominated by attractive terraced houses that lend a nice character to the area, in contrast to the seemingly endless blocks of flats that dominate the western end.
Beach Boats

The only gap between Worthing and Lancing is formed by Brooklands Park, a smallish pleasure park dominated by a pleasant lake where a train runs around.  There were few people there this evening as all the attractions had closed for the day, leaving only a few dog walkers and plenty of bird life swimming around.  A little further on and I reached Beach Green in Lancing.  This is a large recreational space behind the seafront and the subject of a local difficulty when the Parish Council discovered a number of concrete blocks under the surface a few years ago.  These had been put there as tank traps during World War 2 and afterwards buried.  Since then soil movements exposed them at the surface, proving to be quite a headache for the Parish, who had endless debates on what to do about them.  I understand that they are to be reburied rather than the disruption that would go with removal.  A good picture of what they once looked like can be found at http://www.northlancing.com/Community/Concrete%20Blocks%20at%20Beach%20Green/Blocks%20buried%20under%20Beach%20Green%20Lancing.htm
Lancing Beach Green

The beach at Lancing was thronged with kite surfers all taking advantage of the stiff breeze and the lack of other beach users.  Watching them whirl around was quite fascinating, although I wouldn’t have swapped places as I hate cold water!  The path alongside the green diverges away from the main road and soon traffic sounds are replaced only by sounds of the sea.  The continuation of Beach Green eventually leads into Widewater Lagoon, a piece of the sea now landlocked by the changing beachfront.  Looking at the topography of this part of the coast it is easy to imagine that the lagoon was probably much bigger originally, although the western end of it is now occupied by Golden Sands caravan park (which looks like it has seen better days, having several empty caravans and plots.  Some of the newer chalet type caravans look completely unfinished and give the park a bleak feel.

Widewater Lagoon however is a different proposition.  It now acts as a local nature reserve and unless you were to follow the coast path you may not even know of its existence since it cannot be seen at all from the A259.  It is a little haven for seabirds although there weren’t many in evidence as I passed.  At the eastern end of the lagoon, I passed into Shoreham-by-Sea although this is only an arbitrary boundary for the urban area is contiguous.  This end of Shoreham is called Shoreham Beach and has quite a different charater to the other side of the River Adur.  The Beach is basically a shingle spit although almost entirely built on since the 1930s when it first started developing from houses made out of spent railway carriages.  Now though it is hard to see any of these humble roots as many of the houses are getting ever bigger as they are redeveloped.  Some of them could even be described as ostentatious, with adornments such as observatories placed on top and enormous iron railings and verandas around them.  There is also the small matter of some road cycling along Beach Road, which comes as quite a shock after cycle paths all the way so far.  The coastal cycle route crosses the spit at the western end and crosses the Adur but I wanted to continue to the end of the spit to the mouth of the river.
Church of the Good Shepherd
At the end of the spit is Shoreham Fort, a derelict looking Napoleonic Fort which many people would like to see restored although the prospects don’t look that promising.  The beach at this point is at its widest and hosts some fabulous shingle plant communities.  When the community of Shoreham Beach was being set up it was originally colonised by arty types and many early feature films were made here apparently.  More can be learned abouyt Shoreham Fort at http://www.shorehamfort.co.uk/shoreham_fort_history.htm
Shoreham Fort

Across the water is the end of another spit that forms Southwick Beach.  Although tantalisingly close it actually isn’t on land as there is no bridge across the mouth of the Adur.  I had a quick squint at the lifeboat station, now being rebuilt after starring in the BBC TV show Ireland to Sydney By Any Means, when Charley Boorman used Shoreham lifeboat as one of his means of transport.  The station was demolished soon after and a new one is only a matter of months away. 
Lifeboat Station

Even on the landward side of the spit the ride back to the footbridge was a bit of a shock to the system as the brisk westerly wind which had been at my back all the way from Worthing was now suddenly in my face.  Luckily I tood advantage of the path alongside the new development at Emerald Quay to mimimise the wind and maximise the interest (Harbour Way is deathly dull!).  Nevertheless it was a bit of a slog to get to the footbridge and by now the light was already starting to fade.  I elected at this point to return home rather than press on the additional seven miles to Brighton and headed for Shoreham station.  I crossed the River Adur by way of the old concrete footbridge built in the 1930s to replace an earlier ferry.  It is now on borrowed time however, as it is due to be replaced by West Sussex County Council once funding has been secured.  For cyclists this is good news as it will form part of the coastal cycle route and they will be able to share the bridge with pedestrians (for now though cycling is banned).  See the plans at http://www.sustransconnect2.org.uk/schemes/project_detail.php?id=54
Adur Footbridge

Once across the bridge it was through the churchyard of one of my favourite churches, St Mary De Haura (of the harbour) now over 900 years old and on to the train.  A lovely ride, although I was disappointed not to make it to Brighton.  I think next time I shall do the whole thing when I have a little more time.
St Mary de Haura Church

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