133. East Wittering to Sidlesham Quay

August 2005

For this walk I’m continuing around the Manhood Peninsula to another harbour, this time Pagham Harbour, the last of the harbours for a while that I have been mostly walking around since Gosport. But I was looking forward to this walk having enjoyed the western part of this peninsula so much last time.

After my slow journey via the A286 last time I stuck to the A3 and got stuck in the expected heavy traffic at the Hindhead cross roads (now, thankfully a thing of the past thanks to the new tunnel). So it took me almost two hours to reach East Wittering, being the peak summer season, but I did manage to find a parking space again, in the same car park I used the previous time.

Once again it was a glorious sunny late summer day, perfect for a coast walk in fact and the beach was busy as a result.

The coast at East Wittering

Thankfully the tide was out as there is no footpath here so I could head down to the firmer sand near the shore line.

The coast at East Wittering

I soon took my shoes off to walk in the edge of the water. I love doing this, it keeps my feet cool and I find it so refreshing. If I’m feeling tired I find stopping for a few minutes and going for a quick paddle makes much of the tiredness go.

I could look back for my last views of the Isle of Wight as I suspected once I rounded the corner at Selsey I would not see it again.

The coast at East Wittering

Although there are groynes along this stretch of beach the tide was far enough out I could walk past the end of them on the coastal side. At some point I moved from East Wittering to Bracklesham but it was hard to tell where one place ended and the next started.

The coast at Bracklesham

Soon I had reached the end of Bracklesham and a digger had been to help clear some of the shingle and keep the track free that leads inland to a caravan park.

The coast at Bracklesham

Once I’d passed this I was away from both the caravan park and car parks so the beach was soon quiet with just a few other people walking (mostly dog walkers) but few people sitting on the beach this far up.

The coast between Selsey and East Wittering

Soon the strip of sand was becoming narrow as the beach is now pebbles nearer the shore line. In places I began to get areas of pebbles and shingle which were harder going. But at least it was possible to walk along the shore, as I now find myself, for the first time on this blog, writing about a stretch of coast that I walked that no longer exists!

The coast between Selsey and East Wittering

I first became aware of this thanks to a fellow coast walkers blog. In fact they may very well have been the last people to walk this way!

At the risk of upsetting the Ordnance Survey here is an extract from my Ordnance Survey map (dated 2001) showing what the coast looked like then. (I hope the OS won’t mind but since the land looks very different now I doubt it is much use to anyone).


Between the end of Bracklesham and the first caravan park on the west of Selsey is a beach, shown as a mixture of sand and shingle. This is where I walked. But if you take a look at the map now you will see that this beach no longer exists. Instead there is an extensive area of salt marsh stretching more than a mile inland.

What has happened is that a new sea wall was built inland and the shingle bank then deliberately broken, allowing the tide to flood in and creating a new area of saltmarsh. This was nominally a flood defence scheme but I suspect instead that some law (I suspect an EU law) had come into play. I’ve heard that if areas of marsh are destroyed as a result of development a new area of at least the same size must be created. I suspect this is what this scheme was really for. I’ve seen this elsewhere.

The area has now become an RSPB reserve called Medmerry Nature reserve. As you can see from the sign on Nics’ blog there were supposed to be new rights of way created presumably to allow you to walk around it. This hasn’t happened. The map on the RSPB website shows that there is a gap in the new paths that have been created at the north of the range whilst negotiations are happening with the Environment Agency over access and creation of a car park.

I can’t say I’m too keen on this. Now I am nearing London much of the coast is developed. This makes areas which are natural and undeveloped more precious but here an undeveloped area has still been changed and the beach walk I followed has been lost.

If you are planning to walk this part of the coast it looks like you will now have to divert on the footpath from the holiday camp at Bracklesham to the village of Earnley then another path from there to Earnley Gardens (just south of Almodington), then follow minor roads around to Oakhurst Farm and then footpaths back to the coast. I estimate though that this diversion is nearly 6 miles as opposed to around 2 miles along the shore line. I only hope the new England Coast Path will do something about this long diversion!

So back to my walk I continued along the lovely beach soon with the first buildings of Selsey visible ahead.

The coast between Selsey and East Wittering

It was around here that the tide coming in meant that I had run out of sand to walk on and instead had to walk on the pebbles which was hard going.

Running out of sand near Selsey

Since I now also had to climb over the groynes I headed to the top of the beach where I was looking over the large caravan park at the western edge of Selsey. I didn’t know a lot about Selsey other than the late astronomer Sir Patrick Moore lived here.

The beach west of Selsey

I crunched along the shingle bank and was surprised to see a lovely old windmill just inland (it is marked on the map but I hadn’t been checking it). Ahead the coast changed a little too some low (and very soft looking) cliffs had formed so I was now following a shingle path along the top of this, a public footpath.

Windmill at Selsey

The beach at Selsey

This soon ended at the road but I was able to make my way along the shore still around various defences built to protect the town above.

The beach at Selsey

Soon I reached the B2145, the end of the road as it reaches the sea. There is a car park and toilets here so not surprisingly on such a nice day the beach was busy again. There were families having fun, pensioners in deck chairs and even someone painting. It was nice to see everyone having fun.


There was now a path again along the shore and I followed this to the southern most point of the peninsula, Selsey Bill. Perhaps because of Portland, I always associate somewhere with Bill in the name as having a lighthouse, but it did not here.The coast was beautiful though, the sea had a wonderful turquoise to it and was beautifully clear. Rounding the corner I was very much back in a residential area again with now just houses behind the beach and the beach quieter as a result. Ahead I could see the Lifeboat station at Selsey which is built out to sea and accessed via a pier.


Now I was facing south east and protected from the prevailing winds it looks like the beach here might be building up as grasses and other plans were starting to colonise the shingle at the back of the beach. As I neared the lifeboat station there were numerous little boats moored up on the shingle. I wondered what they were used for. There were a few ropes around some of them but they looked to small to be practical for fishing, at least not commercially.

Selsey Lifeboat station

I passed under the pier out to the lifeboat station and there were lobster pots adjacent to some of the boats. Perhaps that explains it I guess they do not have to go out very far for these.

Selsey Lifeboat station

Thankfully I had a promenade to follow all the way to the end of Selsey. I could now make out large areas of the Sussex coast beyond, I could certainly see Bognor and I suspect Littlehampton, too.

The beach at Selsey

The sea was shallower now with sand banks forming. At the end of Selsey I continued on a path along the back of the beach and then followed the beach for a short distance where I could pick up another footpath heading to Norton Priory.

I had now reached the next harbour, Pagham Harbour.

Pagham Harbour

From Portsmouth I’ve passed several large harbours – Langstone, Portsmouth, Chichester (and all it’s branches) and now Pagham, but this is the last for a while. Only around a mile ahead I could see the first buildings of Pagham, but I would have to walk a lot further than that to get there, as I had to go around the harbour.

The tide was still a long way out and the harbour was mostly marsh and mud rather than water. Thankfully there is a good footpath along the raised bank around the south side of the harbour, so I could follow that. Unlike other harbour I have passed this one does not seem to be used. It does not look to be deep enough for boats and is mostly full of marshland and grass.

Pagham Harbour

I could soon see the houses of my destination, Sidlesham Quay a little further ahead around the harbour.

Before I got there though there was another channel of water. This is marked as Ferry Channel and presumably was kept as a navigable channel to allow a ferry to run across the harbour (long since stopped, sadly, I couldn’t find where it used to go, but probably Pagham).

Ferry Channel, Pagham Harbour

The path continued past the calm waters of this channel as far as the main road to Selsey. I briefly joined this to cross the water channel. Once on the other side I can turn right and follow a track along the shore. This is not marked as a right of way but is a permitted route and follows the route of the old Selsey tramway.

Sidlesham Quay and Pagham Harbour

Selsey never had a train service but instead a tram ran along the harbour from Chichester to Selsey but this closed in 1935. It must have been a lovely ride but then if it still existed I wouldn’t be able to walk here!

I followed this for about half a mile to reach Sidlesham Quay. This was clearly a historic place as the houses were lovely. It was probably once quite busy too, but it was very quiet now. At the quay too I was also quite pleased to spot a sign for the onwards footpath which goes around the rest of the harbour, but that would be for another day. It was too far to continue to Pagham, so I planned to finish here at Sidlesham Quay.

Sidlesham Quay

Sidlesham Quay

From Sidlesham Quay I followed the minor road for about 10 minutes to reach the B2145. Here there was a bus stop. From here I planned to take the bus to Chichester and then another bus from Chichester back to East Wittering. The bus was supposed to be every 30 minutes (it is now more frequent). But I stood at that bus stop for 40 minutes and not a single bus arrived. After a frustrating wait I took a rash decision when a bus finally arrived but going in the other direction (to Selsey). I took that back to Selsey and decided I would walk back along the beach to East Wittering as I’d have to change buses in Chichester anyway.

I didn’t know how long I would be waiting and even if the bus came right now I would have at least an hour to get back to East Wittering. I reckoned I could walk it in about 90 minutes. In hindsight this was a mistake. The tide was now in and it was a difficult and exhausting trudge back along the shingle to East Wittering. I should have carried on waiting for the bus. I think it took about 2 hours in the end!

The coast at East Wittering

Still despite my transport frustrations this was a lovely walk. Good sandy beaches, a perfect summers day and plenty of interest to see along the way. The coast was varied with shingle beaches, sandy beaches a couple of towns, the lifeboat station and boats at Selsey and finally a nice walk around peaceful Paglesham harbour. Though it is best done when the tide is low.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. It is necessary to change buses at Chichester bus station to get between Selsey and East WIttering:-

Stagecoach bus route 51 : SelseySidlesham – Hunston – Chichester Bus Station – Chichester Cathedral. Every 15 minutes Monday – Saturday. Every 30 minutes on Sundays. It takes around 20 minutes from Sidlesham to Chichester.

Stagecoach bus routes 52 and 53 : Chichester Cathedral – Chichester Bus Station – Birdham – Bracklesham (52) – West Wittering (53) – East Wittering – West Wittering (52) – Bracklesham (53)–  Birdham – Chichester Bus Station – Chichester Cathedral. These buses run a circular route from Chichester to East and West Wittering and back again. The 52 goes to Bracklesham and East Wittering first whilst the 53 goes to West Wittering first. To get to East Wittering it is best to just take the first bus, there is only 1 minute or so difference in the journey time. Between them these buses run 4 times an hour Monday – Saturday and twice an hour on Sundays.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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2 Responses to 133. East Wittering to Sidlesham Quay

  1. owdjockey says:

    Hi Jon, a shame that bit of the beach has been lost. I would not hold out too much hope in the local route planners for the ECP resolving this. In fact, I have been rather disappointed, not only in their progress to date but after recently walking the section in Cumbria, they seem to have taken the easy way out in just following the local NCN route, when an easier coastal alternative was available.
    Hopefully this saturday, I plan a BIG day in walking between Bowness-in-Solway to Gretna to “fill the gap” which will give me a continous coastal from Poole to Arrochar. Cheers Alan (owd Jockey)

  2. jcombe says:

    Enjoy your walk on Saturday. I walked from Carlisle to Gretna Green station a few weeks ago. I was very grateful for the minor road next to the last bit of the M6, it was rather odd having the motorway traffic so close yet being on a quiet road. I’ll be interested to hear if you try to follow the path out to Demense Marsh. It’s marked as a circular path but although there is no onward right of way on the map there is a track marked on the map with a couple of footbridges. I did wonder if you could follow it to Esk Boathouse but I’m afraid I wimped out of trying it so interested to hear if you do!

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