For this walk I’m continuing around the back of Chichester harbour. Most of the harbour is in fact an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so this promises to be a good walk.
I decided to start from Emsworth again this time taking the path along the top end of Thorney Island and then heading around the two spits of land which jut out into the harbour, the first with the village of Chidham on it and the second Bosham.
I drove down to Emsworth and parked near the A259/B2148 junction. From here I followed the roads Slipper Mill Pond which is very calm on this grey overcast day.
I retraced my steps around the pond and then to the marina that I passed on the last walk. I continued behind the houses on stilts I commented on on the last walk, built around the marina. I followed the Sussex Border Path onwards from here over the neck of Thorney Island, pass the sewage works and Thornham Farm to end up on the eastern shore of Thorney Island and overlooking the harbour. There is a large marina on this side of the island too, and I could look back and see the boats there, though all was quiet today.
There was also a bit of a beach, mostly shingle but with a bit of marsh as well. I suspect it would get muddy very quickly if you went out into the water though I could see some children in the water a little further around. For the first time in many walks I was no longer on a long distance footpath, the Sussex Border Path now heading around Thorney Island an inland, but there is still a good footpath on the raised sea bank alongside the harbour so route finding turns out to be easy. To my left is marshland and the appropriately named Marsh Farm. Beyond I can see the tower of a church, Southbourne, perhaps?
The area I am walking around was I suspect once reclaimed land. Whilst not obvious from the map there is what looks to be the remains of a sea wall between here and just south of the marina on Thorney Island, now breached so the sea can flow in behind. A fisherman makes use of part of the shingle to fish from. As I head further away he looks rather isolated and I hope he knows whether the tide is going in or out, because it looks the sort of place you could easily get cut off.
The shingle beach to my right is becoming increasingly marshy now. I continue on the shore overlooking Nutbourne channel and then turning right onto the little peninsula of Chidham (I’m not sure if that’s its official name). Unfortunately I have only been on this peninsula for a few hundred metres when I come across an unwelcome sign. The path ahead is a dead-end as part of it is closed for repairs to the sea wall (as of a few days) ago lasting 3 months and there is “no alternative available”.
I check the map. It’s right. My alternative is to take a footpath inland to Cot Lane. There I could follow paths around to the eastern side of the peninsula. I could then walk around and back again or miss this part out. So I decided to do what I usually do when faced with a path closure (particularly at the weekend, when it is unlikely anyone will be working) and ignore it and carry on ahead.
My experience is that you can nearly always get through. I’m soon passing a boggy area to my left, suggesting the sea wall may have been breached. As I near Chidham Point there is another man fishing and more marsh off to my right.
The sea wall path is fine initially but to the left a large area of land has been dug out. There is indeed some work on the sea wall here but someone has put a few planks over the only slightly dodgy bit, where much of it has eroded away. So I’m safely past the closed part of the path.
The land to my right is marshy now and out in the harbour there are now a number of yachts around.
After a while the path along the sea wall seems to end and I drop down onto the beach, which is firm thankfully and rather nice, with trees behind the beach.
The tide is quite high but I can see areas of marshy grass sticking up through the water to my right, so it is clearly very shallow.
Ahead I come across another old bit of what I suspect is sea wall. This stretches out south west from Cobnor Rithe and has caused a large area of marsh on the landward side to form. Perhaps it was once land that has also been breached, it certainly looks like a man-made wall and there are also wooden posts, perhaps part of an old jetty or bridge?
I found a handy bench here and stopped for a quick rest, to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the harbour. I’m now well away from the noise of the A27 and all I can hear are the sea birds and the lapping of the water. Lovely. Soon it is back to the good sea wall path around Cobnor Point and I then turn left with the sea wall to head north around Bosham Channel. I can see the coast on the other side looks quite wooded.
The path turns briefly inland and then through the grounds of Cobnor House which mostly seems to consist of more parked up boats, one of which is in the process of being launched.
I have to head briefly inland around there before I can turn back to the coast by a wooden pier, used to launch more boats.
Now back on the sea wall I think it must now be about high tide, water laps at the marshes at the edge of the harbour wall and I can see the pretty village of Bosham on the other side of the harbour.
The land on my left becomes very wet too, with areas of marshes suggesting the sea wall is not quite water tight! The path is almost a causeway, now. Ahead there is a little inlet to walk around and then I’m back beside the harbour again.
I didn’t know much about Bosham, but I’m now almost opposite and it looks a lovely old village, with the church spire dominating the scene.
As I near I pass a disused jetty, just the wooden posts remaining and then have to head inland on some minor roads, past a few houses, one of which is thatched. Thankfully the road soon goes the coastal side of the houses so I have views of the harbour again.
I briefly have to join the road as the footpath ends, to head around the unamed little inlet at Chidham. But at the north end of this I can resume on a footpath along the sea wall again. To my left is a vast field of cabbages. I’m now approaching the top of the harbour and the A259 just east of Nutbourne. There are a couple of houses here that have a nice outlook but do look a little exposed to the water.
Sadly just past here the path along the sea wall ends and I reach the A259. This is I think the old A27 and whilst it is no longer the main trunk road it is still very busy, but there is a pavement. I have to follow the road for around 500 metres but can then turn right onto a footpath back to the sea wall path, now on the western side of the peninsula that houses Bosham.
I had considered ending at Bosham but it is not that late and I am not feeling too tired, so I decided to continue. It is again marshy but there is also a little bit of beach now. The path is a bit awkward ahead going the coast side of a brick wall. However there is soon a sea wall path again behind the houses of Bosham. Over the brick walls I can see the steeple of the church. The path goes past more moored up boats and soon reaches Bosham Quay.
There is a lovely time-less view here, with the village green backed by the church and some lovely and quite grand houses. Several families are having a picnic on the grass, it is restful scene.
At the quay itself there is more activity with some yachts being launched whilst the interesting boat house is raised out on stilts above the water. Bosham is clearly a popular place and there are plenty of people about now. I decide before I leave to head a little inland to have a look at the pretty church where there is what I suspect is an old mill race, crossed via a bridge. However there are several smartly dressed ladies standing outside the church and I quickly realise a wedding is going on, so abandon plans to look inside the church. Onwards I’m back on the quay and passing the old mill. It doesn’t look to be used any more and I can see the water flowing under it where the water wheel would once have been.
The path has now ended and my route ahead follows the road. Though it is a rather unusual road as it floods at high tide. In fact it looks like it has only just become passable again after high tide as most of the right hand side of the road is still flooded.
I think this might be one of those places that catches out motorists parking, unaware that the road floods. There is a pub with a little terrace overlooking the harbour which must be a lovely spot to sit and watch the action in the harbour.
A dead-end sign looks slightly surreal sticking out above the water! I soon path a sign that states what is obvious at the moment “This road floods at high tide”. The sky is getting rather black now as I look back to picturesque Bosham.
I suspect this is a scene that has not changed much in 100 years or more. The road continues with the brick wall protecting the houses on one side and the marsh and water of the harbour on the other.
As I feared there is soon a short but heavy shower. I keep to the road which follows around the little inlet south of Bosham Quay, now heading away from this pretty village. Thankfully the rain has now stopped and it stays dry for the rest of the walk. Heading away from Bosham I can enjoy the fine views of the village.
There is now a footpath just behind the road but the road is the most coastal route and there is not much traffic, so I stick to the road. There are a few more boats moored up as I near Southwood Farm and the marshy creek just beyond it.
I’m still on the road but a short distance ahead it turns off left to leave the shore, but there is now a footpath ahead. It’s a gravel path beside old railway sleepers piled up to form a wall and looks like it too might flood at high tide. There are a few isolated large houses now and a long jetty which presumably means boats can be launched at all states of the tide.
The path proves easy going and the channel between these two spits of land is now packed with boats. I’m now opposite the boat yard at Cobnor House I passed earlier.
Rounding the corner I soon have a decision to make. The footpath ends at a point where there is a foot ferry which crosses over to West Itchenor. I can then follow the coast here to West Wittering, actually on the sea rather than the harbour. My rules say I don’t have to walk around each and every harbour so I’m tempted by the ferry.
But I decided that having walked so much of the harbour it would be a shame to miss a bit out, so I decided to ignore the ferry and continue around this side of the harbour.
For those that do want to use the ferry it runs during weekends only during April, early May and October and daily from Mid May to the end of September, between 9am and 6pm. It is quite a remote place to have a ferry still I thought but the boat is also used to ferry mariners over to their moored up boats as well, which probably helps to keep the ferry viable.
I watch it coming with a couple on board and brings them right up to the shore. There does not seem to be a slipway at all, they have to get off onto the beach.
I can see another reason why the ferry might have been a good idea after all, as the footpaths have all ended and there is no access along the shore. I walk a little way but it becomes boggy so I have to head inland along the track to the ferry and then the road. I have a little over half a mile to walk along the road to Bosham Hoe. Sadly this is all private and there are no footpaths so I have to turn further inland to the junction near Lees Farm and then turn right along Old Park Lane, where there is one of those nice old wooden sign posts pointing out the various locations.
This has turned into a long walk and I’m getting pretty tired now, as the road walking is tiring on my feet. So I’m surprised to come across a bus stop on this remote road. Apparently there is a summer weekends only “Chichester Harbour Explorer” bus I could take (it does not run any longer), but there are only 3 buses a day and it’s nearly 2 hours to the next one. So that temptation passes! Inland crops are being harvested in the fields. At Church Farm I can soon leave the road and follow paths back down to the harbours edge once more, it is nice to get off the road. Over the fields I can now not only make out the water of the harbour but Chichester Cathedral ahead, a lovely sight.
The path is initially still a few hundred metres back from the waters edge of Fishbourne Channel which is, true to form, lined with boats. Thankfully ahead the path turns right and I’m back on the edge of the harbour, the familiar marsh alongside me again.
With the trees ahead I cannot make out any of Chichester other than the cathedral, which is higher than the other buildings, making it look quite isolated from here.
I’m soon nearing the northern end of Fishbourne channel and the path enters reeds, crossing a bridge and to reach the very pretty little pond in the village green of Fisbourne.
It’s a pretty village another which I suspect has changed little in the last few hundred years.
Rather than head inland immediately I continued on the footpath to the pretty and quite large church.
Fishbourne is an ancient place as there is the remains of a roman palace here. My mum used to work in a school and the school always ran a trip down to Fishbourne Palace each year which she usually went on so it is a name I know well, but I’ver never actually visited it myself. I then leave the church and follow the road through the centre of the village, then turn right along Salthill Road to the station.
Though it is a very basic and rather bleak station with just a couple of concrete platforms.
Thankfully the trains are fairly frequent so I only have about 10 minutes to wait for a train back to Emsworth. Despite all the hours I’ve spent walking it takes only a few minutes to get me back to Emsworth.
This turned out to be rather long walk and I’m grateful for the brief sit down on the train. This was not a classic coast walk in that as I was walking around harbours and alongside marshes rather than the sea and beaches. But it was a very enjoyable one taking in a couple of beautiful villages. Bosham in particular was a highlight and somewhere I’ve been back to a few times since. Despite the section of road walking I’m glad I opted to miss out the ferry and stick to the edge of the harbour as the stretch alongside Fishbourne Channel was very beautiful and I especially enjoyed the views over to Chichester cathedral.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk :-
Southern Railway trains from Portsmouth to Littlehampton : Portsmouth and Southsea – Fratton – Hilsea – Bedhampton – Havant – Warblington – Emsworth – Southbourne – Nutbourne – Bosham – Fishbourne – Chichester – Barnham – Ford – Littlehampton. Hourly Monday – Saturday. On Sundays runs hourly but to Brighton rather than Littlehampton. It takes 12 minutes to get between Emsworth and Fishbourne.
At peak times there are also direct trains to Fishbourne from London, on the London Victoria to Southampton route.