Saturday, November 21, 1998

Walk 4 -- Shoreham to Brighton

Ages: Colin was 56 years and 197 days. Rosemary was 53 years and 339 days.
Weather: Brilliant sunshine with a cold wind coming in off the sea.
Location: From Shoreham Harbour to Brighton Palace Pier.
Distance: 11 miles.
Total distance so far: 34½ miles.
Terrain: Flat, mostly along roads and proms. Very boring.
Tide: In.
Rivers to cross: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: No. 4 at Brighton, the West Pier but we couldn’t go on it because it was being renovated.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: ‘The Evening Star’ near Brighton station where they brew their own. We tried their own Pale Ale, their own ‘Mild’, and a dark beer from Lancashire.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We caught a couple of trains to Shoreham-by-Sea and walked to the harbour.
At the end, we walked from Brighton Palace Pier to the station and caught a couple of trains back.

Again a bit of a break because ‘little’ things like looking after the grandchildren while their mother went on holiday (to the American Rockies, no less!), having short breaks in Shropshire, France and southern Spain along with weeks of absolutely dreadful weather sort of got in the way once more!

We began our walk from the footbridge at Shoreham harbour. We had to walk along a main road which wasn’t much fun, but every time we tried to turn off to walk nearer the water we ended up in some kind of yard and had to retrace our steps. We got to the lighthouse at the centre of the harbour and there we were able to walk along the water’s edge for a little way, but we soon had to retreat back to the road. We wanted to cross to the eastern harbour wall over some lock gates, but it was not at all possible so we had to go another two miles along the road. It was really depressing because we had heavy traffic on one side and tall buildings on the other.
At last! We came to the end of another tall industrial building and there was a pleasant lagoon and a road leading across to the sea shore. Then we had to walk back towards Bognor for another two miles past all this industrial stuff again. We decided that Shoreham is not walker-friendly and we won’t go there again!
We walked out on two walls, stone jetties at the harbour entrance, and watched a ship going out, then in and out—we thought it may have been testing the depth perhaps prior to dredging? We sat in a sheltered place in the sun and ate our sandwiches. We were a bit low because we had walked five miles by then and got precisely nowhere!
But the sun was still shining brightly, and once we were walking east again and could see Brighton and even the Seven Sisters in the distance we began to feel a lot better. Shoreham had one more card up its sleeve, though, poised ready to thwart us. At the far eastern end of the harbour is a row of houses at the top of the beach, and a notice saying Keep Out and Private Beach. Of course we took no notice because we know that in Britain there is no such thing as a private beach--you can own a beach, but everyone has right of passage below high tide level. But at the other end of the area was a high spiked fence leading from the buildings right into the sea—our way was blocked! The tide was too far in to get round the end, though I did start edging towards it wondering if I could try. The sea was quite rough with the wind, and I knew I couldn’t get away without at least a soaking—then Colin shouted. He had discovered that the gate in the fence was not locked. On the other side was a notice saying that the area is private down to low water mark, I’m sure that is not legal! Condescendingly they permitted us to pass by at low water (it wasn’t) but we must not loiter in front of the houses! So we loitered, then carried on. (Subsequently we discovered that the property belonged to the pop singer, Fatboy Slim. Does that make him any more important than the rest of us plebs?)
The rest of the walk was quite pleasant. The sun continued to shine brightly, and the waves crashed comfortingly on to the pebbly beach with lots of spray. We must have done our first county crossing somewhere along the way—we weren’t quite sure where—because Brighton is in East Sussex. More and more people were walking, cycling and even roller-blading along the prom because it was such a lovely afternoon. We looked at the derelict Brighton West Pier, but it has been closed for about twenty years ever since a ship ran into it in a storm and sliced it in half. However, it won’t be derelict for much longer because last summer they won a lottery grant to do it up for the Millennium and work has already started. (Bognor was very grieved because they failed to win a similar grant to do up their pier.)
We also passed an extraordinary sculpture—it was on the beach and looked like a bit broken off a giant egg. It was made of iron, and so it was quite rusty although it has only been there a few months. It cost the local Council a sum in the region of £20 000 to erect, so I believe—WHAT A WASTE OF PUBLIC MONEY!
We finished our walk just as we got to the Palace Pier, but we didn’t go on it because we were very tired and all Colin wanted to do was to get his hand round a pint!

That ended Walk no. 4, we shall pick up Walk no. 5 next time at the entrance to Brighton’s Palace Pier. We returned home by train having first slaked our thirst in ‘The Evening Star’ near Brighton railway station.

When converting this to digital in 2006, I noted the following changes on the Brighton scene. The sculpture is no longer there, only the base plate remains. That didn’t last long! Vandals set fire to the ruins of West Pier several times, as if they were determined it should never be restored. The sea did the rest, and now there are no plans to do anything with the skeletal remains. Bognor retains about a quarter of its pier after a storm disposed of a good length of it, and still runs the annual ‘Birdman’ contest each Summer. But it still didn’t get its lottery grant—I think they have stopped asking.

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