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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 Café 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.

2 comments:

  1. This area is my home turf when I was a boy 65 years ago..I'm 78 now..Very very nostalgic feelings

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    1. I can imagine. My earliest experience was as a lad in the fifties visiting and getting sand in my mother's sandwiches. When I took my own children there was still sand - does not seem so sandy now!

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