Thursday, 6 August 2009

Sussex Coast Walk Day 8 Shoreham-by-Sea to Brighton

Shoreham Harbour
Another ten days passed before I was able to get out on the next section of the Sussex Coast, in part due to the weather. I actually completed the whole section from Worthing to Brighton as originally intended today, finishing at the bottom of West Street rather than perhaps the more natural finishing point of the Palace Pier (I know it’s called Brighton Pier these days, but I’m a traditionalist and have always known it as Palace Pier). This due to the deterioration in the weather, which threatened to dump a large amount of rain on me at any time.
St Mary de Haura Church

I shall ignore the early section of the ride in this report, which was covered in detail last time. In truth I didn’t linger for any part of it, wanting instead to get to Shoreham as quickly as possible so that I could properly explore the onward section. The weather at the start of the ride was almost identical to the last time out, with a stiff breeze at my back (helping progress considerably!) and clear sunny conditions (although a fair amount of sea spray hampering distance views beyond Brighton from Worthing).

Shoreham Lighthouse
At Shoreham I ignored the beach this time and crossed the footbridge once again. Most walkers tales describe the awful route along the A259 from here into Southwick but since I was on my bike once again I decided to try out the relatively new signposted route for bikes through Shoreham. This passed around the old church of St Mary de Haura and gave me a good look at the town, which was pretty quiet in this early evening. I sat and waited for the crossing gates to open for what seemed an age before continuing my journey on the north side of the railway, which seemed rather odd as I was by now about a mile from the sea. The route initially took me through various Council housing estates full of bored looking kids not sure what they should be doing other than ‘hanging out’. It was then through a very large allotment site, by now bulging with all sorts of tasty looking produce before more housing estates. At the edge of Southwick I headed back towards the coast road so I could take a look at the lighthouse.

Shoreham Harbour
Believe it or not this is the first ‘proper’ lighthouse that I have come across on my travels along the Sussex Coast and it has been here since the 1840s and was refurbished in the 1980s as it was showing its age after 140 years of solid service! The lifeboat station next door is under construction and is beginning to take shape. There must be a major refurbishment programme going on in the RNLI since this is one of a few construction projects involving the organisation I have come across recently. When finished it will apparently look like the artists impression on the website at

Southwick Beach
I continued along the coast road into Southwick and upon reaching Shoreham Harbour I ventured over the locks of the port on to the eastern spit which formed at the mouth of the Adur. Road access to the spit exists only from the Brighton end so by vehicle to get to the other side of the locks is about 6 miles by road, rather than a couple of hundred metres on foot. Looming large ahead of me was Shoreham Power Station, a relatively new building that although big is less than half the size of the old coal fired plant that I remember at this site when I was growing up. A history of the old brick built plant (that resembled a smaller version of the famous plant in Battersea) can be found at

Hove Lagoon
The port at Shoreham is still relatively busy, in comparison to the inactivity nowadays at Littlehampton and even at Newhaven (still to come). Aggregate traffic still uses the port and a couple of these ships were berthed not too far from the locks, which control the water level in the port. There are still quite a lot of fishing boats using the port as well as the inevitable pleasure craft. As a pedestrian it is quite difficult to get any good views of any but the closest ships, since most of the wharves are off limits and surrounded by some very tall metal fences.

Hove Beach Huts
On the spit I turned right initially to take another look at the mouth of the River Adur and the eastern breakwater. This is a great vantage point for views eastwards and Beachy Head could be picked out quite readily. Ahead of me the blue skies were slowly being replaced by some threatening clouds, which gave some interesting light in the late evening sun. After lingering for awhile getting some lungfulls of fresh sea air and enjoying the view I pressed on along the very depressing port road towards Hove. In truth the section from Shoreham so far had been pretty industrial and not exactly the prettiest part of Sussex. I was glad I was cycling and not walking since it enabled me to press on more quickly.

Angry Sky in Brighton
Eventually I reached Hove Lagoon after detouring round a few large houses on the seafront itself. These are owned by among others, Norman Cook (aka Fat Boy Slim), Nick Berry (once of Heartbeat and Eastenders) and Heather Mills. They guard their privacy quite closely (and who can blame them), with lots of ‘private’ signs up to make sure you don’t accidentally think their drive is part of the esplanade. The Esplanade is quite a surprise changing the coastline almost instantly from working port to pleasure coast. The promenade is wider than many roads but rather disappointingly this end is prohibited for cyclists, even though it is quieter than closer to Brighton and considerably wider than other sections of coast where cycling is permitted.

Hove Bandstand
The lagoon was built in 1930, originally for sailing model boats but is now a watersports venue, especially for training on various pleasure craft including dinghies and windsurfs. Some of the shelters looked as if they could do with being refurbished, both around the lagoon and on the seafront. Maybe the presence of Heather Mills new café next door to the lagoon will attract some public finance as well as visitors to this far end of Hove seafront.

Queen Victoria
On the way in towards Hove the seafront got generally busier and as well as the great long line of ubiquitous beach huts, other attractions such as small children’s rides etc started appearing. I passed the very shabby looking King Alfred Centre, supposedly due for replacement (although I’ve heard that for most of my adult life) and then on past the large blocks of flats that are unusually built on the south side of the coast road.

Brunswick Square
Once I had got beyond these Hove Lawns opened up ahead of me and were absolutely thronged with people playing all manner of ball games and exercising. Teams of people were doing circuit training and jogging activities and I watched with fascination at this spectacle, which I am pretty sure is unique in Sussex. One group of lads in particular caught my eye, for they appeared to be playing a game of football that was black people against white people! I have never in my life seen that before and was particularly amused by the fact that the white men played without shirts.

Edward VII Memorial
At the end of the lawns my attention turned to architecture. Hove seafront is one of the grandest in Britain and was deliberately planned and built all around the same time. On the seafront itself is the very fine looking bandstand, now looking resplendent following its renovation. Interestingly (although I didn’t know it at the time), the official unveiling of the restoration took place the very next day, so you could say that I got a sneak preview! More information can be found at

West Pier in Happier Days
On the landward side many of the seafront apartments were glowing in the sun and against the dark skies behind looked absolutely stunning. They were a photographer’s dream, although my shot didn’t really do them justice, partly because of my vantage point on the wrong side of the road. As I headed more into the city I passed the wreckage of Brighton’s West Pier, once the finest pier in Britain and the only grade 1 listed. Since it burned down a few years ago it has gained a new lease of life as a starling roost and interesting structure for photography (try Googling images of the old place!). It will allegedly be replaced by the Brighton i360, a tower that will be as high as the pier was long. In these days of credit crunch, I shall believe it when I see it! See more at
Remains of the West Pier

On the landward side are the great monolithic hotels, the red coloured Metropole (where I have stayed, and very nice too!) and the more famous Grand, scene of one of the IRA’s greatest outrages when it was bombed in 1984, killing several prominent political figures and narrowly missing the Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher, during the Conservative Party Conference.
Grand Hotel

Just past the Grand and I headed up West Street to catch my train back to Worthing. I enjoyed my evening cycle trip and was glad that I had explored this part of the coast using two wheels rather than two legs. The next section is along the cliffs towards Newhaven so I think I be back to walking then!

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