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Monday, 18 February 2013

Walk 90 Worthing to Littlehampton

Walk   90   Worthing to Littlehampton (West Sussex)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 198 and 197
Distance: 10 miles or 15km.
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: Paths and pavement some beach walking if preferred
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Buses and a rail link.
The walk begins at Worthing Pier.

Many of us including Michael King now 78 who lived around here, remember this area from our childhoods.

The pier was built in 1862 and was an attraction until Easter 1913 when a disaster struck. Strong gales washed the decking away leaving the end stranded out at sea – this bit became known as Easter Island. Like many other piers it has been damaged by fire and fear of an invasion in the Second World War also meant that a hole was blown in it. This was repaired and the pier, including the theatre, is still popular. The annual ‘bird man’ contest, originally held at Bognor Regis, now takes place off the end of the pier. People compete with some bizarrely devised contraptions the end launch themselves off to see who can land furthest away.

For many centuries Worthing was a small fishing village. It became a popular resort in the 18th and 19th centuries when it attracted well to do people. At the same time it was also a popular haunt of smugglers. Oscar Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Earnest while on holiday here (hence Mr Worthing in the story) and in more recent times Harold Pinter, the playwright was a resident.

On the walk out of Worthing there is an ‘ecologically sound’ garden on the beach so well suited to its habitat that it doesn’t require watering. Continue to Goring Gap where farmland comes down to the sea road. This area is called Goring on Sea to distinguish it from Goring on Thames. Another Oscar Wilde connection here – Lord Goring appears in his play The Ideal Husband. Some trivia – the beach sounds of The Who’s album Quadrophenia were recorded here.

Continue the walk to Ferring which was an ancient village mentioned in the Domesday Book. It has a Norman church but the view from the beach is of modern buildings. A path then passes through the Kingston Gorse Estate. A severe notice ‘welcomes’ you. Several things are not allowed including cycling, picnicking or listening to the radio. I listened to the Radio 4 afternoon play and ate a sandwich – no path police on duty that day!

Near to Rustington is a large impressive building facing the sea. This is a convalescent home owned by the Carpenters’ Company – an ancient trade guild. Built in 1897 it was designed as a place where working men could recover from sickness or injury. The area was once home to an American air base but is now mainly large estates of modern housing. More trivia – Flanders and Swan’s famous 1950s song ‘I’m a gnu’ contains the line: ‘I had taken furnished lodgings down at Rustington on Sea”.

The walk ends at Littlehampton with its modern harbour-side development. The unusually constructed East Beach CafĂ© is a good place for refreshment and a look out to sea. Like many settlements along this coast the town started out as a fishing community, then became a popular resort and now has a variety of modern housing stretching back inland. The walk continues alongside the River Arun back into the town – look out for the plaque on a rock which gives a recipe for a local delicacy – Hampton Oysters.

Snaps show: Littlehampton Harbour; ecological beach, Worthing; Worthing Pier entrance; Ferring; Convalescent Home, Rustington; 'footpath welcome' notice to Kingston Gorse Estate.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Walk 89 Brighton to Worthing

Walk   89   Brighton to Worthing (West Sussex)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 198
Distance: 11 miles or 17km.
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: Paths and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Several buses and a rail link.

The walk begins at The Palace Pier on Brighton seafront.

Brighton was once a village called Brighthelmstone dating back before the Domesday Book was written. A Dr Russell from Lewes promoted the resort when he published his 1750 book about drinking seawater and bathing as cures for diseases of the glands. It also became the place to be when it gained the patronage of the Prince Regent, later to become George 1V. A visit to the Brighton Pavilion, which he had built, is a must. If you enjoy small chic shops The Lanes is the place to go. Brighton became a city in 2000 as part of the centenary celebrations.

Walking westwards along the promenade the rather sad site of the wrecked West Pier dominates the sea view. This was built in 1866 and was closed in 1975 and then virtually destroyed by two fires in 2003. Discussions have been going on about redevelopment but it seems unlikely that anything will happen.

Look out for the impressive Grand Hotel. This became infamous for a while in the 1980s when the IRA exploded a bomb during the Conservative Party conference causing death and injury.

Several Regency squares are set back from the sea both in Brighton and a bit further along in Hove. Here large lawns separate the beach from the road. Further along is a lagoon with small sailing boots.

The walk between here and Shoreham is not great; a lot of light industry and main road with much of the seafront not visible. At Southwick there is a beach and lighthouse which provide a brief respite. Known as Shoreham Harbour or Kingston Buci lighthouse, it was built in 1846 and is now automatic.

The walk continues along the main road to Shoreham by Sea. Look out for the unusual pub signs in the high street one of a boot (Duke of Wellington) and a buccaneer figure carrying a crown representing the town’s smuggling past (Crown and Anchor). The town was established soon after the Norman Conquest in the 11th century. St Mary de Haura church also dates from near this time and is worth a visit.

In 1917 the Navy constructed two massive sea docks as part of a system of forts in Shoreham Harbour. The idea was to have a huge anti submarine net hung from them. However, it was not completed and was subsequently broken up.

Walk down to the harbour/River Adur frontage and cross the wooden bridge to Shoreham Beach. This area was once called Bungalow Town and included converted railway carriages for holiday accommodation. It has now been completely redeveloped with modern housing. Walk through the roads to the beach and follow the paths westwards to South Lancing.

The beaches along here are stony but you can walk along paths or the road. In the distance, to the right behind Wydewater Lagoon, is Lancing College. This was built in Gothic style in 1868 and is a fee paying private school for 13-18 year olds.

A feature of this part of the walk is the large green area, it lies between the beach and the road and is very popular in the summer.  Further along on the opposite side of the road is Broadwater Park which features go kart racing, mini railway, lake and pitch and putt golf course.

Small fishing boats are pulled up on to the shingle at East Worthing and fresh fish was on sale from some of them when I walked past. Look out for the building with a square clock on the roof. This was presented by children at the time of the Festival of Britain in 1951.

The architecture along Worthing’s main four mile sea front is mainly a mixture of Georgian and Victorian. The interesting domed building is a restored Edwardian cinema. Worthing is renowned for its bowls tournaments.

Continue to the pier where this walk finishes.

Snaps show: a Regency square in Brighton and Hove; The River Adur looking northwards at Shoreham; pub sign in Shoreham; The Grand Hotel, Brighton.