On this walk I walked around Pagham Harbour and reached the first of many resorts along the West Sussex coast, Bognor Regis. I had again picked a lovely day to continue my coastal walk with clear blue skies throughout and it was pleasantly warm, but not hot. I was travelling from home and headed down via the A3 and A27 and parked on the road in Sidlesham Quay just south of the B2145 (Selsey Road) so as to minimise the walk back to my car from the bus stop at the end of the walk.
Sidlesham Quay is a pretty place with some historic brick buildings along the quay, which was presumably once a busy place but is now quite the opposite.
I followed the road south which soon meets the northern edge of Pagham Harbour. It looked to be fairly near to high tide since there was water in the harbour, but there were also areas of exposed mud.
Once the road turned to the left I could continue straight on along a footpath around the marshes at the north of the harbour. This initially ran along the raised bank by the harbour but after a while dropped down to the edge of the marsh where thankfully the ground was firm.
After about 1km the path turned to the left with the edge of the harbour. The land on my left is flooded and the harbour is on my right, it feels like I’m walking on a causeway. Ahead I soon come to a bit of a problem. It appears the path heads down to the marsh level and there is a new looking concrete section with some steps. The trouble is it appears part of it has washed away (perhaps the concrete did not set before the tide came in). I can make my way around it on the loose stones alongside but I suspect this is how the land floods at high tide.
To my right the harbour is now rapidly filling with water though I can see it’s shallow from the areas of grass sticking up through the water.
I soon turn left with the footpath to again feel like I’m on a causeway. This is Pagham Wall and to my left is what looks like a canal but is I suspect more to do with drainage than navigation. Thankfully this time, there is no breach in the path.
From the centre of the wall I can look out over the whole of the harbour. Unlike all the other harbours, there is not a single boat to be seen, I suspect it is now too shallow.
Inland too the land is very marshy with large areas of water and the nearest buildings only visible in the distance. Cattle graze the flat meadows behind the wall.
I soon reach the north eastern corner of the harbour and turn right. The path ahead soon improves greatly, being very wide it is like a walkers motorway and I’m seeing more people now, a sign I am getting close to a town.
Over to my left now is a large field and beyond what seems like miles of caravans. This probably explains why I’m seeing more people now! The path soon runs right alongside the caravans and then, once again, I have water on both sides.
This time the water to my left is Pagham Lagoon. I didn’t know much about this at the time and I’ve been able to find out little about it other than attempts were made to create a lagoon from the whole harbour but the walls failed. Perhaps this is part of it, I don’t know. There are however a few small boats in it and beyond I can see the first houses of Pagham.
The beach here is a shingle spit making up the western mouth of the harbour.
Here there is no path so I make my way around the back of the beach over the thick shingle, past another small area of marsh and then alongside the shore.
I then turn left to head for Bognor, with the sea on my right. It is hard-going at first but soon there are areas of sand near the shore that are easier to walk on.
It does not take long to reach the first houses of Pagham on the left. The houses seem to be built on the shingle bank with the sea on one side and the lagoon on the other, they seem very exposed.
Pagham is really a western suburb of Bognor Regis and the town really is very large. The town centre is nearly 4 miles away but I have already reached the edge and I will pass through Pagham and Aldwick before reaching the centre. The town also stretches for a good 4 or more miles on the other side, too but then almost all of the West Sussex coast is built up from here on.
This end of the beach is quiet though, with just a few people sitting on the pebbles and far more sea birds than people. I like the sound of the waves breaking onto the pebbles. Near the shore line it is not that easy to gauge progress because I can only really see the tops of a few houses above the beach (they mostly seem to be bungalows).
In a couple of miles though I can see the town centre ahead and the beach becomes lined with groynes which makes progress a bit more difficult. Thankfully they are mostly low enough I can step over them and the shingle and sand near the shore is now compacted so easier going.
At Aldwick there is a rock groyne backed by a sea wall but there is just enough room to get passed between the sea wall and the rocks and after that I can continue on the beach.
The beach is now busier, a sign I am nearing the town centre and there are a few little boats on the beach. I’ve heard September is the time of year that the sea is warmest and too my right by one of these boats I do see some people swimming. But I think it would still be too cold for me!
To my left it is clear I’m now near the centre of Bognor Regis. The road now runs along the back of the beach and behind that are gardens and hotels.
It was the Victorians that really discovered the coast as a place to visit. Bognor was originally a small fishing village. It was developed into a resort in the 1800s and grew rapidly once the railway arrived in 1864. It was the 1930s that perhaps the town reached it’s heyday. King George V was in poor health and it was though the sea air would do him good. He moved to the town to convalesce. As a result the King was asked by the town bestow the suffix Regis (meaning “Of the King”) onto the town, hence the name today, Bognor Regis.
I continued along the beach now with the promenade and beach huts at the back of the beach. Once the beach huts ended I headed up to the promenade for easier walking as I could then see the sea rather than the beach huts!
Whilst Bognor may be passed it’s prime there is still an air of grandeur as I passed an elegant looking hotel, The Royal Norfolk Hotel behind palm-tree filled gardens.
Ahead too I soon had Bognor Pier.In the Victorian era resorts clamoured for business and a pier was a key attraction for many. Not only did they attract steamers along the coast but they also provided a place for people to promenade and be seen and many also housed a grand theatre. Sadly many are now passed their best and this is certainly true of Bognor. The pier opened in 1865 and was soon extended to cater for steamers. However by the end of World War II (where the pier found military use) it was struggling. Storms caused the seaward end of the pier to collapse in 1965 and it suffered two fires in 1974. The remaining end of the pier fell into dereliction and more of it was lost in 1999. This was how the pier looked at the time I did this walk.
However it doesn’t look like that now as whilst the end was still in use when I took this photo (and proving popular with fisherman it seems) a further 80ft of the pier was removed 3 years later (in 2008) so the pier is even shorter today. In fact the current Ordnance Survey map shows the pier as disused though I don’t know if this is in fact the case.
I do however quite like a pier so I could not resist going for a walk along it. They also provide a fine view of the coast and the beach east of the town was proving popular with a fun fair setup at the back too.
At the end of the pier I could look out over the coast where I had been walking, though the mouth of Pagham harbour was now invisible in the haze.
Having walked to the end of the pier I headed a little beyond to take a photo of the pier itself. I’m glad I did as I had no idea it would become even shorter in a few years time!
Although a fairly short walk (it took about 3 hours) I decided to end for the day at Bognor as there is a station in Bognor and the next place with a station was Littlehampton, which was too far to walk.
As I headed to the station I reflected that once railway station was used by people to come for a weeks holiday from London. Now many of the south coast resorts are attracting commuters to London who make the journey every day. Presumably the attraction is living by the sea and cheaper housing, but it is not a journey I would contemplate (it must be at least 2 hours each way door to door for most). Having said that I do remember when I worked in central London there were a number of people making long journeys every day. I think the record in my office was a chap who commuted daily from Lichfield in Staffordshire, but we also had daily commuters from Bury St Edmunds and Southanpton.
I walked through the town centre to the station and from there I took the train to Barnham then changed trains for another train on to Chichester, which took about 20 minutes in total. As it was a nice day and I was in no particular rush I stopped for a little look around the cathedral and grounds, which was lovely.
From there I headed for the bus station and took the bus back to Sidlesham Quay. Fortunately unlike my experience last time it ran on time.
Rather than head straight home I drove on to East Wittering to spend some time relaxing on the lovely beach there (it was more appealing than the pebbles and shingle in Bognor), which was a nice way to end the day. I was surprised how busy it was. It was also nice to see horses being ridden in the edge of the sea, I suspect the horses were enjoying it as much as the riders.
This was another good walk. The paths around Pagham harbour were (mostly) good and there was a lot of wildlife to see. I was able to stick right alongside the coast throughout and there was virtually no road walking. Beyond the harbour I had expected a very urban walk. In fact as I managed to stick to the beach for most of the walk I was not really aware the town was there until near the end of the walk. The beach walk though was a bit hard going at times and it is a shame to see that Bognor Regis is rather run down. I hope that the pier can be saved.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. Although I used the train it is easier to use the bus as it is more frequent and often faster. You need to change buses at Chichester bus station. A Day rider ticket is the cheapest ticket if you are making a single journey from Bognor to Sidlesham and is available from the driver.
Stagecoach bus route 700 (Coastliner) : Felpham – Bognor Regis – North Bersted – Chichester (bus station). Every 10 minutes Monday – Saturday and every 30 minutes on Sundays. The bus takes a little over 20 minutes most of the day though it can rise to 40 minutes at peak times.
Stagecoach bus route 51 : Chichester (Bus Station) – Chichester Cathedral – Hunston – Sidlesham – Selsey. Every 15 minutes Monday – Saturday and every 30 minutes on Sundays. It takes around 25 minutes to reach Sidlesham.
If you prefer to use the train between Bognor Regis and Chichester, Southern trains run roughly 4 times an hour Monday – Saturday and twice an hour on Sundays but it is not direct, you need to change at Barnham. Depending on how long you have to wait for a connection it takes between 17 and 35 minutes. Note also that at the time of writing (December 2016) Southern trains have been suffering months of disruption due to guards and driver strikes so do check first (on some days there have been no trains running at all). To reach the bus station for the bus on to Sidlesham cross the road and take the path just to the left of the level crossing, which takes you to the bus station for the bus back to Sidlesham.