Saturday, July 25, 1998

Walk 1 -- Bognor to Littlehampton

Ages: Colin was 56 years and 78 days. Rosemary was 53 years and 220 days.
Weather: Sunny and hot with a refreshing breeze blowing in from the sea.
Location: From Nyewood Lane, Bognor Regis to Littlehampton ferry.
Distance: 7½ miles.
Total distance so far: 7½ miles.
Terrain: Flat, some along proms and some beach walking.
Tide: In.
Rivers to cross: No.1, the Arun at Littlehampton.
Ferries: No.1 across the Arun at Littlehampton; cost 50p each.
Piers: No. 1 at Bognor Regis.
Kissing gates: No. 1 at Middleton.
Pubs: ‘The Crown’ in Littlehampton where we drank Banks’s Mild.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: Through a play park at Felpham because they were bringing in tons of huge rocks by ship to stop coastal erosion and had cordoned off the prom. Also along a Close behind some houses at Middleton because the tide was in which meant the sea was right up to the sea wall.
How we got there and back: We walked from home down Nyewood Lane directly to the sea, and then we started the trek.
At the end, we came back by train from Littlehampton Station.

At last we have started our walk around the coastline of Britain! We took a couple of photographs of ourselves outside the front door using the tripod and timer on the camera, and Colin managed not to trip over as he dashed round to stand next to me and grin inanely at the red flashing light. He packed the tripod in his rucksack, we said ‘Goodbye’ to the cats (because no one else was there to say ‘Goodbye’ to) and we set off. As we walked down Nyewood Lane we passed an old lady, and I wondered aloud how old and decrepit we will be when we eventually finish this marathon walk.
On to the prom, and we got out the tripod and camera again to take a couple of photographs of us actually starting the trek. As we passed the yacht club we saw that it was their annual open day which may explain why several yachts were out on display at the top of the beach. We discussed how both of us have always wanted to learn to sail, but we can spare neither the time nor the money so we probably never will now. We both have far too many other things we want to do with our lives, like walking round Britain for a start!
As we approached the pier we discussed the state of it. It is only possible to walk along about a third of it because the rest is unsafe, and very ugly it looks too. There used to be a little theatre on the end, and a small jetty so that paddle steamers like ‘The Waverley’ could stop to pick up passengers. But then it was destroyed by a storm in 1965 which left a piece of the end free-standing, and in the intervening years it has been left to deteriorate. The end became such a danger to passing swimmers / canoeists / jet-skiers that it was blown up in 1994. In 1998 a bid for lottery funds to do it up failed, so its future is still very uncertain. It houses a nightclub—Sheik’s. This was frequented by most of the troublesome kids I taught at school although they were all underage.
We forgot to walk along it! We are so used to just walking past it that it wasn’t until we got home that I realised that we have already broken rule 6. Ah well, rules were made to be broken! We both diverted to the toilets at the Regis Centre, and Colin got mildly annoyed because I insisted on retracing our steps to the exact spot where we had left the prom. We noticed that there were a lot of day-trippers from London and a lot of promotions on display like sun factor cream, etc. Then I remembered that it was to be the carnival procession this very afternoon and we were walking away from it. (Our grandchildren told us the next day that it was ‘naff’, just rank after rank of pom-pom girls, so we didn’t miss much.)
At Felpham we had a good look at the sea defence works. A ship was beached on the shore and it looked as if it was split open. There were two more such ships out at sea. They were being used to bring in huge rocks to shore up the beach, and they deliberately open them at the bottom to let all the rocks fall out. They wait until high tide so they can get as far in as possible, and this one was waiting for high tide because it had got stuck and one of the other ships was waiting about a mile out to tow it off the rocks again! Later on we looked back from Middleton and saw it sail out, so they had been successful. Apparently it had been stuck there for several days. We had to divert through a play-park because the prom was closed at that point, and we walked a little along the Rife to a footbridge and saw some tiddlers.
At the other end of Felpham the prom ran out and we had to walk along the shingle. This was quite hard going in places, and my arthritic toe began to play up. I tried to ignore it but it slowed me down. I contented myself with the thought that this was all good practice for trekking in the Himalayas or Peru! The tide was right in by then, and suddenly the beach ran out as well when the sea came right up to the sea wall. We walked along a Close behind a row of houses, and tried an alleyway half way along it but the sea was still right up. At the end of the Close we regained the beach again.
There were a lot of new buildings as we approached Elmer, pukka houses with a sea view. I wondered how much they were selling them for! We sat on an odd rock on the beach to eat our sandwiches, overlooking the Middleton rock islands—sea defences for Elmer which were completed a few years ago. Apparently they work very well and there has been no more flooding on the Elmer estate since they were constructed. Colin mentioned that if we called on Cecilia we would probably get a cup of tea, and I said that would be very nice but we probably wouldn’t get away for an hour and she may well have all her family there anyway.
So on we went along the beach top path towards Climping. A couple rode their bikes towards us, and we both wished we were on our bikes because we were getting a little tired and hot, but that is against the rules! Climping Beach is becoming much more commercialised than I remember it when we used to cycle there from Arundel back about 1950—nine of us on seven bikes! It now has tarmacked paths through the woods, a toilet block, a shop in the car park and a large new building was going up. My Dad would turn in his grave, and so would Grandad!
In front of the sand dunes the beach is now very stony and difficult to walk on. My toe really played up, it is such a nuisance. A lot of people were lurking in the dunes, but Colin sounded disappointed that he only saw one naked man and one topless woman! We never hear much about Climping Beach these days, I think its reputation as an unofficial nudist beach is fading. We did watch a rescue helicopter fly along from the Bognor direction and let down a winchman at the end of the dunes. We think it was only an exercise, there didn’t seem to be any real drama going on, and we were convinced that they deliberately swung the winchman over all the nudists hiding in the dunes before pulling him up!
Behind the dunes is Littlehampton Fort, a NapolĂ©onic structure which is completely derelict and overgrown with brambles. It is fenced off and there is not much to see, but there is an information board about it. The other half of it used to be sited over the river on the mound where the funfair now stands—I never knew of its existence as a child although we used to visit this area (especially the funfair!) every summer from the year I was born.
The River Arun seemed very busy with lots of speedboats zooming in and out. They all looked spanking new, a lot of money about! Opposite was a huge crane and we realised it was bungy jumping! However, each participant wore a shoulder holster so they didn’t dive headfirst but jumped feet first. They didn’t go anywhere near the ground, either, so it didn’t look particularly spectacular—but I wouldn’t do it anyway! We walked along to the ferry which came straight across to us, a tiny boat with an outboard motor. I remarked that I’m sure we were rowed across when we were kids, and the ferryman said that they have only just given that up (liar!)

That ended Walk No. 1, we shall pick up Walk No. 2 next time on the east side of the Arun by the ferry. We returned home by train, having first slaked our thirst at ‘The Crown’ in Littlehampton town centre.

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