Saturday April 17th 2004
West Wittering to Selsey
We managed an early start today with the 7.37 train from North Camp. All the trains and buses were on time and we were at Chichester soon after 9.00. We noted the shop front in Chichester bus station that is boarded up after the dreadful accident a few weeks ago in which a man was killed when a bus failed to stop at the kerb. Our bus arrived on time and we soon found ourselves back at The Old House at Home pub in West Wittering. We could not quite remember the route we had taken from the shore last summer but with the help of the map and an obliging lady in the churchyard we found Snow Hill in the end. We had stopped last time at a quay called Roman Landing, a little to the north of Snow Hill.
The path south from Snow Hill was easy to follow and in a few minutes we had reached the southern end of the peninsula and could see and hear crashing waves at last. As we approached the sea wall we saw a sign warning bathers against the strong currents. We have walked round the tops of harbours, first Portsmouth then Chichester for so long that to be back beside real rolling waves was a delight. The sea was rough as it was very windy, pleasant at first but to become a problem later in the day. We turned left and followed the path beside the sea with a long car park on the left serving the beach at West Wittering. There were a line of rather bedraggled beach huts as we walked further along.
Soon we reached a row of beautiful, very exclusive houses all of which had fantastic views of the sea from their balconies and picture windows. They had back gates out onto a wide grassy path. They obviously suffer from the sea in winter because there was a ditch running along the back of the path crossed by many different bridges to reach the houses.
Eventually our path ran inland and we stayed inland for a short while as we were almost in East Wittering and needed to find a loo and some food. The loos in the car park were locked because they had been damaged but the car park attendant unlocked the disabled one for us and also gave us some advice about good places to eat. We found a café in East Wittering and had a drink and bought some sandwiches to take with us. We also visited Tesco and bought pasties and fruit and a packet of Fruit Allsorts, a new version of Liquorice Allsorts (without the liquorice) which we decided we didn’t like. Then we headed back to the seafront at East Wittering.
From East Wittering to Bracklesham the walking was a mixture of shingle and concrete with a diversion slightly inland behind some houses. The beach had obviously been strengthened over the winter by the addition of loads of pebbles, some of which were heaped up rather too high! At Bracklesham we found a car park, shops and loos and we stopped to have lunch on a bench. The wind had become much stronger and was beginning to make life a little difficult. We had set out wearing plenty of clothes but could really have done with some gloves as our hands were very cold. We watched two boat loads of divers trying to load themselves and their equipment into rubber dinghies which was proving very difficult as the waves were tossing the boats about so much.
We had to make a big decision at Bracklesham. We knew that the next stage of the walk was going to be difficult. It is three miles to Selsey over shingle with no way out as there is no road or even path heading inland. We consulted the maps and guide books and decided that we were feeling fine and would tackle this last section as it would be great to get as far as Selsey. So we set off over the shingle and were surprised to see a Land River appear on the embankment ahead of us. The tide was going out and we scrambled down the shingle beach to walk along the water’s edge for a while. However the bank is so steep it is impossible to see any landmarks above so after a while we went back up. The top of the bank had become a quite different surface to the one we were expecting. It would seem that a lot of work had been done on the sea defences and the bank was solid with a gravel top, much easier to walk on than the shingle. This explained the Land Rover which was easily able to drive along on that surface. The only problem with it was that it went on for miles and became very tedious.
As we could see a long way we had been intrigued by something catching the sun quite a way in front of us. When we arrived, it turned out to be three helium filled party balloons still tied together and very faded. We decided that they had probably come from the Queen Mary 2 which had sailed on her maiden voyage to America the night before. However, they had probably come from a birthday party on the Isle of Wight! Another one further along had French writing on so maybe they had come across the Channel.
The wind was very strong by now and making the going hard. After a while we scrambled down the landward side of the bank and sat on the grass at the bottom for a break. We then carried on along the track at this lower level which was partially sheltered from the wind and much warmer. Eventually we had to climb up again and lost the gravel track so the final lap into the caravan site at West Sands was extremely hard work over stones and against the wind.
On the other side of the caravan site was Selsey and we navigated through the caravan site and along a sandy path to the cliff tops, seeing a historic windmill which had now been surrounded by the funfair of the caravan site. At the end of the low cliffs we followed a path past some houses to the main road and the bus stop! We walked the few yards from the bus stop to the seafront to take the final photo and had five minutes to say goodbye to the sea before the bus came. We were lucky with the trains coming home and caught fast ones all the way. Glyn picked us up at Ash at the end of the first of the new season’s walks.
Time at Roman Landing – 10.15. Mileage at Roman Landing 1.35
Time at Selsey – 3.50. Mileage at Selsey 10.40
Miles 9.05 miles
Running Total 90.5