Monday, 23 June 2014

Climping Beach and The River Arun

Climping Beach

After our brief trip away our next walk was a bit closer to home and trying out one from our local edition of the Pathfinder Walk series.  This walk is no.4 in volume 66 (West Sussex and the South Downs). This was a day in which it felt like spring had properly given way to summer and it felt appropriate to include a stretch of coast in our walk.  This walk was modest in length but explores one of the few undeveloped coastal areas in Sussex between the two towns of Littlehampton and Bognor.

Prime Location
We parked at Climping Beach in the private car park by the beach (be sure to bring some money if you come).  The children were anxious to look at the beach although our route initially took us inland along the old road through the hamlet of Atherington and past the very attractive looking Baliffscourt Hotel.  This old place looks like it has a long history behind it but is in fact a bit of a sham since it was only built in the late 1920s.  It is a clever design though for it uses many features of genuine antiquity within the fabric of the building.

Black Horse
Walking along the road wasn’t the most pleasant introduction to this walk but fortunately it was the worst part and we got it over quite quickly.  Soon the shaded woods gave way to picture postcard houses and the Black Horse pub, which looks like a popular spot.  Just past here and we left the road behind, heading instead across fields towards Littlehampton. 
Atherington Cottages

The first field we crossed had a nice wide path cut through the crop suggesting that this was a popular route.  The crop itself was oil seed rape, which looks most untidy and tangled once the yellow flowers are all gone as they mostly had here.  This is big sky country for the terrain is very flat and the only views are really of the distant Downs and the very large gas holder that dominates the skyline of western Littlehampton.
Walking Through The Rapeseed

In between fields there was a profusion of wildflowers with some very large thistles and hedge woundwort not only catching our eye but also plenty of local bees too for the hedgerow was absolutely buzzing with life.  We crossed a couple of rifes that were pretty dry looking but would serve to drain the farmland and ensure that it is fit for agricultural use.  Some of the crops looked like they had had weedkiller sprayed on them, which was a bit odd.  Luckily we were able to give these sections a wide berth as we crossed to meet the old coast road that served Littlehampton.

Resplendent Poppy
Still called Ferry Road the history of the river crossing can be guessed at as despite its modest width the River Arun proved something of an obstacle for east-west traffic until the early part of the 20th Century.  Only then did a bridge get built across the Arun and when it came it was a huge iron swing bridge that certainly looked the part and yet by the 1950s it was already struggling to cope with traffic.  The road bridge was replaced with a fixed link to the north in 1973 and demolished altogether in 1980 and now is a much daintier looking footbridge across the river.  We walked over to the bridge to take a closer look and also across the River Arun.  Littlehampton is a much different place to when the original swing bridge was here as it no longer functions as a commercial port with all the wharves and yards replaced by gentrified housing.
Additional Crops

Our onward route took us down the road past mobile homes (very popular in these parts).  Any notion that this would be a quiet road now that it does not continue into the town of Littlehampton couldn’t be further from the truth.  The West Beach is very popular, possibly because it is quite undeveloped but also unusually for these parts it is entirely sand.  The road was therefore very busy as people headed off to the beach for one of their first summer visits.

Fieldside Thistle
When we reached the golf course our route took us along a path through thick hedgerows following what looked like some kind of flood defence as it was a raised bank.  This was a bit of a trial to walk along for it was very sticky with mud for much of its mile length.  Most of the way outward views were somewhat restricted by all the new growth but every now and again we got glimpses of a very busy golf course and views towards the Downs.  We also came across other walkers coming in the opposite direction and all were bemoaning the underfoot conditions.

Arun View
Eventually we came out on the beach and an unusually quiet section.  This part of the Sussex beach is most interesting from a historical point of view as for much of its length it still has plenty of wartime relics including tank traps and other concrete defences.  The authorities must have been acutely aware of its vulnerability during World War II.  Thankfully the defences were never tested so we’ll never know whether they were up to the job or not.

Golf Course
As well as the wartime relics there were also plenty of shingle plants on show and many were out in flower, although as a spectacle they were rather overshadowed by the pinks of red valerian.  This has flourished along this part of the Sussex Coast giving a good deal of colour to the landscape but perhaps stifling the growth of indigenous plants?

Fuzzy Verge
The walk along the beach wasn’t the easiest terrain and although the onward view towards Bognor Regis was most pleasing we decided to drop down to the track behind the beach.  This was rather easier to walk along but didn’t offer the views, which was a pity.  We did however get to see a family walking their horses and the girls enjoyed their encounter with them as they stopped to make friends.  Not far beyond this we were back at the car park from where we had started.
Back to Climping Beach

This was a pleasant walk but in truth it needs a really nice day to get the most out of it.  I am not sure how much interest there might be during the winter but in my opinion the wildflowers saved it.  Without them and the odd point of interest such as the Arun Bridge (which isn’t on the official route) and the beach the walk could be described as mildly diverting rather than full of interest.


  1. I love this area because you often get the beach to yourself

    1. Agreed - I have had that privilege a number of times