Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Selsey Bill and Pagham Harbour


The girls seem to have the bug for walking, which is encouraging.  Given the choice of activity on a bright sunny Saturday they voted for a picnic and a walk – good girls!  We had a good day of weather ahead of us but a rather breezy one.  It was tricky to come up with a choice of walk that would suit the conditions but I came up with an absolute cracker down by the sea in the southernmost part of Sussex.
Broom in Flower
We headed down to Pagham Harbour visitor centre and had our picnic first.  This meant that we didn’t have to carry the grub which was a blessing.  We then togged up and headed around the coast path towards the small town of Selsey.  Pagham Harbour is an inlet of the sea that has long since ceased to be a true harbour as it has silted up so much.  It is a great place for bird watching though and there were plenty of enthusiasts about.  From the small visitor centre we headed around the inlet and across the course of the old Selsey Tramway that had once limped down from Chichester.  As a railway it was pretty short-lived, being built on a shoestring budget by the famous light railway builder Colonel Stephens.  The tramway was powerless to compete with bus services as reliability and speed was never its strong point.  Very little remains of the line apart from a short section of embankment alongside the harbour in the reserve.
St Wilfrid's Windows
We actually saw very little birdlife ourselves, perhaps because of the windy conditions.  All we saw was a swan family mooching about in the reeds but far too camera shy for us to get a decent picture.  Although birdlife was a bit scant the path itself soon turned into a riot of colour courtesy of the swathes of pink thrift, bright yellow broom and darker pink foxgloves interspersing every now and again.  It made for a delightful first mile or so around to the hamlet of Church Norton.
St Wilfrid's Chapel
We all caught up with each other at St Wilfrid’s Chapel in Church Norton.  This is now a disused church that resembles a cemetery chapel but was originally the parish church for Selsey until all but the chancel was removed in 1866 to form the new parish church that is more central to the modern town.  What is left of the chapel was rededicated to St Wilfrid, a Saxon Priest who did much to promote early Christianity to the area around Selsey.  The remaining part of the Chapel is also a Grade 1 listed building.
Sea Cabbages
We took a look inside and it was delightful.  The stained glass windows looked particularly radiant and we particularly liked their theming, with scenes of wildlife and historical events as well as the usual religious ones.  
Sea Kale Flowers

The churchyard was still pretty active, with a number of people coming to tend graves, many of which looked new and suggesting that this is not a holy place that has been pickled in aspic but is still very much in use.  Just outside though is a rather older feature that is probably overlooked by all but the most observant of visitors; a large motte and ditch from an early fortification.  This apparently once housed a Norman Keep but all trace of that has long since disappeared, leaving only the earthworks and an interpretive board to show how it must once have looked.
Bladder Campion
After our little detour into the church we headed back to the shore and found ourselves walking along a beach of sorts around the edge of the harbour.  The children decided that they would begin filming themselves in a documentary as they walked along this stretch of the shore.  There manner seemed very much like that adopted by presenters on Blue Peter; maybe some of the techniques had rubbed off on them?  When I played the footage back later much of what I saw was blue sky as they had failed to point the camera in an interesting direction as they spoke! 
Railway Carriage Home
At the far end was the large shingle bank that forms the spit across Pagham Harbourmouth.  We climbed up on top to finally see the view of the open sea.  Our view at the coast was astonishing – the shingle was covered in flowering sea cabbages.  The white flowers were quite the sight!  While there appears to no footpath along the seafront into Selsey from here the reality is somewhat different.  The seafront road doubles up as a footpath and as we headed in towards town we enjoyed the wide variety of buildings that have been placed here over the years to enjoy the extensive sea views.  In particular the homes built out of vintage railway carriages were particularly enjoyable.  
Eric Coates
The kids were very happy with their conversations behind us but by the time we got into Selsey though it was clear they were flagging a bit so we got them an ice cream to perk them up a bit.  Some sit down time acted as a pick me up and we walked along the seafront of the southernmost part of our County enjoying the boats bobbing on the sea by the lifeboat station.  Unusually because of the flat terrain around here the lifeboat station is housed in a building at the end of a lengthy pier.  This always provides good photo opportunities and on a sunny day like this it looked particularly good.
Selsey Lifeboat Station
Just beyond the lifeboat station we came across a group of people all huddling around something on the beach.  As we got closer we saw that it was a seal and we were a little concerned that it was being bothered by unthinking people.  We gave it a wide berth but later I discovered that the seal is a regular visitor to the shore and seems to be quite tame around people.  I suppose this is quite fitting considering that the name Selsey means ‘island of the seal’.
Heading out of Town
We were cut short in our trek along the seafront as part of the front is actually privately owned and we didn’t much fancy walking along the pebbles.  We debated whether we should get the bus the last couple of miles back but elected to continue as the girls still seemed happy.
Medmerry Mill
We skirted around through the streets before getting back to the seafront about half a mile further on.  Just past the coastguard station we headed out onto what passes as cliffs in these parts, although to be honest they barely qualify as they are only about 10 metres high.  The view ahead was now dominated by Medmerry Mill and beyond the Spinnaker Tower could be seen in Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight and the Palmerstone Forts that guard the strait between the island and the mainland also known as Spithead.
Sea of Yellow
We only walked as far as Medmerry Mill, a fine looking place that is not one of the more heralded windmills in Sussexyet deserves to be for it is well preserved. Perhaps the reason why this is the case is the surroundings it finds itself in.  This part of the Sussex Coast seems to be overwhelmed with caravans and the mill sits right in the heart of it.

Pagham Hide View
The onward walk from the Mill back to the nature reserve was a lot less pleasant than we had hoped for.  Initially the route took us around a few back roads before we finally managed to get back on a footpath that followed the course of the old Selsey Tramway for a bit (not that you would have known – it looked just like any other path!).  After some more road walking the path crossed several fields of very little note before we reached the car once again.  In hindsight we should have spared us all the last couple of miles of the walk back to the nature reserve.  It was far less interesting and rather further than the girls could comfortably manage.  Being the troopers they are though they managed to complete the walk though.  Next time I think we’ll use the bus for the less interesting part of the walk!

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