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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.

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