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Monday, 18 March 2013

Walk 92 Pagham to Selsey

Walk   92   Pagham to Selsey (West Sussex)

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

Map: L/R 197
Distance: 10 miles or 16 km approx.
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: Paths and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: 51 bus from Selsey to Chichester, 60/700 Pagham to Chichester

Start at Pagham and take the path that skirts around the edge of Pagham Harbour to Church Norton. This is a pleasant, peaceful walk with good views.

Pagham Harbour is 1000 acres of natural saltmarsh, lagoon and tidal mudflat. It is now a significant nature reserve with 200 species of birds, 340 varieties of flowering plants and even 13 species of woodlice. There was a harbour here from 1345 until 1875 but it became silted up and much land was reclaimed. However, in 1910 a combination of high tide and heavy rain punctured the sea wall and the water spilled back in.

To the south of Sidlesham there is walk along the main road before returning to the path. Look out for the old thatched cottage and the many geese.

At Church Norton is St Wilfred’s Chapel, it is still used and was open to visitors when I went. The main church which gave the settlement part of its name was moved to Selsey in 1865. A large graveyard provides evidence of a much larger population in the past.

On the approach to Selsey some conversions of old railway carriages are easy to spot. Look out for the plaque to Eric Coates who was inspired by the view back to Bognor Regis and composed The Sleepy Lagoon in 1930; this became the signature tune for the BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs.

The walk continues along the promenade to Selsey Bill, this low lying headland is the most southern point of Sussex and has eroded more in the last century than any other part of the UK. The famous Mulberry Harbours were assembled off Selsey. Sections of concrete were assembled, towed to the Normandy Beaches and used in the D Day landings of 1944.

Walk past the lifeboat station and pier to the beach at West Selsey. Here there are some strange looking conical stone structures on the beach – I have not been able to find out what these were/are for.

Selsey was the centre for a thriving mousetrap industry in Victorian times. They were taken by cart to Chichester and exported to countries around the globe – evidently they never wore out! A famous resident in the distant past was St Wilfred the patron saint of Sussex and one time Bishop of Northumbria. He was shipwrecked here in the 7th century and returned a few years later to found a monastery, which, because of the sea encroaching, was later moved to Winchester. A more recent resident of Selsey was the astronomer Patrick Moore.
Snaps show: two views of Pagham Harbour; St Wilfred's Chapel; Selsey Bill.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Walk 91 Littlehampton to Pagham

Walk   91   Littlehampton to Pagham (West Sussex)

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

Map: L/R 197
Distance: 11 miles or 18 km approx.
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: Paths and pavement some beach walking if preferred
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: regular buses from Littlehampton (700) change at Bognor Regis for 60 to Pagham.

Take the walk out of Littlehampton along the west bank of the River Arun then follow the path which runs along the edge of the golf course to Climping Beach and the small settlement of Atherington. From here to Bognor Regis access to some of the beaches is restricted as they are privately owned. If you walk below the high tide mark then (so I have been told) it is OK as this part is not owned by anyone. However, I tend not to do this having been bitten by a dog which was released by its arrogant owner in a similar situation.

Further along is Middleton on Sea. The village grew from a World War 1 sea base to become a holiday destination. Follow the road, promenade or beach along to Felpham with its brightly coloured beach huts and larger wooden structures (presumably used for holiday accommodation). William Blake the artist and poet lived here for three years (1800-1803) and the house is still there.

The walk progresses seamlessly into Bognor Regis, the first noticeable buildings are the tent like structures of the Butlins complex.

In the late 1780s, Richard Hotham, a well known London hat-maker, decided to create a new watering place to rival Bath and Brighton. He wanted to call it Hothamton but he died before this could happen and it retained the name of Bognor (which comes from the Saxon for ‘rocky shore’). Following a visit from King George V the resort gained its royal suffix ‘regis’. On his death bed he is said to have uttered “bugger Bognor” when told by his physician that he would be going back there to convalesce after his illness. Most buildings along the seafront are forgettable. Two exceptions are the impressive Royal Suffolk Hotel and The Royal Hotel.

Bognor pier has had a similar history to many others in the UK. It was built in 1865 and was 1000 feet long. From 1909 it had a large theatre, cinema, restaurant and 12 shops. In 1964/65 the sea end of the structure collapsed in a storm and in 1974 two fires broke out. In 1999 more serious storm damage occurred and the rather short structure is the one that can be seen today.

The walk continues out of Bognor Regis and on to Pagham. To appreciate the views, follow the path and then turn north along the narrow strip of land between the lagoon and Pagham Harbour. Many of the original beach dwellings are bungalows originally constructed from old railway carriages. A friend of mine used to stay in one of the carriages before they were converted when on his family holiday in the fifties/sixties.

The walk finishes at Pagham – mainly bungalow land although it dates back to the 13th century.
Snaps show: the two hotels on Bognor seafront; a view to the beaches near Middleton on Sea; Butlins at Bognor.