Saturday, October 03, 1998

Walk 2 -- Littlehampton to Worthing

Ages: Colin was 56 years and 148 days. Rosemary was 53 years and 290 days.
Weather: Beautifully sunny at first with a slight breeze, but clouding over later turning a little cold.
Location: From Littlehampton ferry to Worthing pier.
Distance: 8½ miles.
Total distance so far: 16 miles.
Terrain: Flat, some along proms but mostly across greenswards adjoining the beach.
Tide: In, going out.
Rivers to cross: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: No. 2 at Littlehampton (short one), no. 3 at Worthing.
Kissing gates: Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 between Rustington and Goring.
Pubs: ‘Fathom & Firkin’ in Worthing where we drank Firkin’s ales.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None (whatever happened to the one that used to be at Littlehampton?)
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We caught a train to Littlehampton and walked to the starting point.
At the end, we walked from Worthing pier to Worthing station and caught a couple of trains back.

Our second walk, we had not intended it to be so long since the first—but ‘little’ things like looking after our grandchildren while their mother had a minor operation, and going to Canada for a month to visit my cousins and see pods of whales in the Bay of Fundy and off Cape Breton Island—sort of got in the way! We took the train to Littlehampton and walked down the east side of the Arun to start where we left off last time. As we passed a fish stall the owner, who seemed to have some stiffness in his hands, asked Colin to tie his apron for him. Colin obliged, was thanked, and we moved on. It was lovely walking by the River Arun in the morning light—it was busy with human activity (sailing boats) and swan activity (preening).
Our first concern was the Ferris wheel that I always remembered being at Littlehampton when I was a child—where was it? We could see no sign of it, and the funfair (which we always used to know as Butlin’s in the 1950s) was shut up for the season anyway. So we walked to the end of the little pier and looked at a boat or two sailing out of the Arun, probably to fish at sea.
Then we walked along the prom to Rustington, past Littlehampton Green where I was always told that my great-Auntie Mary ran a very successful guest house between the Wars. (I never knew her because she died about the time I was born.) We walked past the convalescent home, opposite which we always used the beach after the Second World War because Mum insisted it was ‘too crowded’ in Littlehampton. It may not look much, but I have so many happy memories of that beach—when I was a small child it was the height of bliss to be playing in the sea with my brothers and sisters just there on a hot Summer’s afternoon.
When we were children we used to spend our Summer holidays staying with our grandfather in Arundel (which we thought was heaven), and we would spend many happy hours on the beach at that spot. Our mother always insisted we caught the bus to what was then a lonely part of the beach because it was ‘too crowded’ in Littlehampton—but now I realise that it was because we were far away from the ice cream vendors and Butlin’s funfair which she couldn’t afford too often with eight of us! Whatever, some of the happiest moments of my childhood were spent playing on that beach with my family.

When the road turned inland at Rustington we carried on along a green, a wide strip of grass betwixt the sea and the houses, and we found there were a number of such greens between Rustington and Worthing. Soon we came across a plaque commemorating the breaking of air speed records over the sea at that point back in the 1940s and 1950s—a connection with Farnborough where I was born and brought up. My maternal grandfather was first employed at the Royal Aircraft Factory as a foreman pattern-maker in 1914, and he actually died at work in 1927—nothing to do with the work, it was peritonitis that took him off. By then the name had changed to the Royal Aircraft Establishment, or RAE as it was known locally. My aunt and uncle were already employed there when their father died, and my mother started work in the drawing office as a ‘computer’ at the tender age of sixteen only weeks after his demise. After two and a half years she met my father when he started his career there as a test engineer working on propellers and airscrews. Forty years later he retired as a Chief Experimental Officer after a distinguished career. He worked, among others, on the ill-fated R101 airship, the Comet disasters and the design of Concorde. I also worked at the RAE when I first left school, and Colin worked there from 1960 to 1966. We met on an outing organised by one of the many social clubs.
Colin was interested in the boating on Rustington beach. I remembered with fondness my eccentric great-Auntie Maggie who used to live in a tiny bungalow just back from the seafront until she died in 1968. She was a suffragette when she was young, and there were many wonderful tales about her. We thought she was great fun! However, she couldn’t cope with all of us children in her old age. When she met Colin she used to call him “the Joker” because she didn’t like to admit that she didn’t understand his jokes.

My arthritic toe was playing up and the walk was rather boring—Colin said he will be glad when this first bit is over and we can get on to some interesting coastline. He wondered about a structure out to sea, and while waiting for me to come out of the loo at Kingston he chatted to a man who conjectured that it might be an experimental oil rig. Could be right. One kissing gate was not a proper kissing gate as it had a latch, another presented difficulties because it was very tall and we had to purse our lips through the slats. Yet a third was broken, the gate leaning against a fence on its side so Colin got behind it so that I wouldn’t be disappointed—he’s a bit of a fool!
The sky clouded over so we sat on the next bench to eat our lunch before it got too gloomy. On we went although my toe was giving me hell! When we reached the beginning of the prom at Worthing, Colin walked along the top of the wall like a child. There were gaps with boards across, and he managed to balance across all the boards, but when there were gaps with no boards he got fed up with stepping up and down and so began behaving properly again.
There used to be a cycle path along the prom at Worthing, but it has been blacked out and ‘no cycling’ notices installed. Such a pity, there is nowhere safe for cyclists it seems. Apparently they took it away because the pedestrians complained, but they were stupid enough to put the cycle lane along the centre of the prom instead of at the side, so no wonder there was trouble!
We saw an open-top bus with pink and white balloons, and then we realised it was a wedding party. The bridal couple were on the beach having their photo taken, after which they ran across the road to a classic car with a chauffeur, then they drove off followed by the bus.
We walked along Worthing pier which is quite an impressive structure, and has a lower deck at the far end for fishermen. We avoided the ‘ping-ping’ sound of slot machines in the amusements because it did not

amuse us.

That ended Walk no.2, we shall pick up Walk no.3 next time at the land end of Worthing pier. We returned home by train having first slaked our thirst at the ‘Fathom & Firkin’ pub in Worthing town centre.

1 comment:

Bart said...


My name is Bart Vandamme and I am an aviation researcher from Belgium. I was very pleased to find a picture of the plaque at Rustington that commemorate the Speed record flights of Donaldson and Neville Duke. Can I publish this picture in my future book about the subject? Any memories about those times? Thanks Bart