For this walk I have to pass the heavy industry of Shoreham, two of the most famous resorts on the British coast (Hove and Brighton) and finish by something I’ve not seen on the coast for sometime – cliffs. (at last!). I also finish walking the coast of West Sussex and move on to East Sussex.
For this walk I drove down to Shoreham-by-Sea station via the A24 and parked in the station car park which was reasonably priced. I planned to finish somewhere east of Brighton but had not quite made my mind up where yet.
From the station I passed that big church again and very soon I was back alongside the harbour mouth and the River Adur, by the bridge over to Shoreham beach. But this time I was not crossing but turning left, pavement pounding alongside the busy A259.
I passed a boat club but after that it was industrial units and industry, some clearly working some looking like it might be derelict. This continued for about a mile with lorries and vans passing very close by, it was not pleasant. However I soon came up to something a little less expected.
Suddenly the industry on my right ended, I could see the sea again and there was this little lighthouse at the end of an informal gravel car park. I was briefly puzzled as to why it existed but then I realised the entrance to the harbour is in line with the lighthouse, so it is probably to help ships navigate in at night or if it is foggy. I also seemed to have left Shoreham and reached a place called Kingston by Sea. Though the beach here was overlooked by industry – chimneys and cranes being the dominant feature.
I continued along the A259, briefly passing houses but soon back to industry again. But soon I came to this unpromising sign (see the “This way to beach” to the right of the gate).
But sure enough this was the public footpath to take me over the dock gates and back to the shore edge now I had passed the entrance to the harbour. It crossed the lock gates and the harbour looked extremely deep and was dominated by the chimney of a power station.
A sign informed me that this is The Prince George Lock and was opened by King George V in 1933. In fact there were 2 lock gates to cross and then at last I was back by the sea and away from the A259, in a place called Southwick. It’s an odd sort of place, a thin peninsula with the harbour on one side and the sea on the other and entirely industrial. There was a wide promenade though but separated from the industry by a high metal fence to my left.
The beach ahead was extremely steep and it was clear that it had recently been built up as the material was a quite different texture from the rest of the beach. Presumably for coastal defence. Despite the industry behind the beach, it was still proving fairly popular.
The beach though was quite dirty, with bricks and rubbish mixed in with the pebbles. It was not a place I was keen to linger.
As I continued east though things improved and soon there was enough firm sand at the shoreline to walk down there instead, rather than the concrete promenade.
At some point I had passed from Southwick to Portslade-on-Sea and in doing so also moved from West Sussex to East Sussex! Another county completed.
I thought back over my time on the West Sussex coast and remember it as a coast of marshes, harbours and resorts. The other thing I reflected on was that it was the only county I had walked whose coastline didn’t seem to have a single cliff! Think of the coast and you probably think of beaches, cliffs and the sea, but you won’t find all 3 in West Sussex. I was hoping that would soon change, I was feeling cliff withdrawal symptoms!
At some point, I was not quite sure when since I couldn’t see from the beach, the eastern part of the harbour on my left had ended and I had moved into Aldrington. Here the industry ended to be replaced with some large white beach side houses that would look more at home in Spain.
This is also the edge of Hove, a place well known to be very posh, so it was perhaps no surprise to also come across a sign proclaiming the beach in front of them to be a “Private beach” and that there was no access. Well not if you keep below the high tide line it isn’t, so I ignored the sign and continued on the beach anyway (I later heard one of those houses is owned by DJ Norman Cook).
Thankfully beyond this there was a car park and then a promenade, with a sea front garden behind, complete with boating lake.
In fact it was sort of sunken below the sea wall. The sea wall itself had what I suspected to be an old Martello Tower, now incorporated into the wall.
Soon though to my left were large houses, separated from the coast by a green and some fancy iron work making the fence to my right. Yes I must have reached Hove.
Very much the quiet, genteel and posh end of Brighton (the people are notorious for saying they come from “Hove, actually” if you ask if they are from Brighton). Still Hove seemed a nice enough place. A wide promenade backed by brightly coloured beach huts and a shingle beach to my right.
I alternated between walking on the promenade and trying to walk near to the sea but the groynes or shingle beach meant I kept abandoning the latter idea. As I headed east the promenade got busier and the buildings got taller (and in many cases, uglier). I was now approaching Brighton the first coastal city I have reached since Portsmouth.
Ahead too I could see the ruins of the old West Pier.
Brighton used to have two piers, the old West Pier, which was closed after the owners went bankrupt in 1975. Since then the pier had gradually fallen into dereliction. By 2002 parts of it had collapsed but despite this a trust seemed to be gaining momentum in restoring the pier. It is rumoured that concerns that this might happen amongst the locals (who wanted this to stay the quieter end of the town) lead to two fires being started which eventually destroyed all that remained leaving just a burnt out metal shell. This was partly demolished in 2010 to make way for a new observation tower. However at the time I did this walk the metal shell of the pier end was still very much intact and standing and made for an eerie sight.
Photographs of flocks of starlings flying out of the remains (usually at sunrise) were very popular and deservedly so. I continued along the promenade, it was easy walking but now very busy and with cyclists to dodge too. Soon I had reached the sad remains of the West Pier. I had hoped one day it might be restored but it would by this stage have been a rebuild, anyway.
Onwards, I was now passing some exceptionally ugly buildings, mixed in with some lovely Victorian and Regency buildings and features along the promenade. It was an odd (and unattractive) mix.
Soon I was reaching the centre of Brighton and ahead had a choice. The road through Brighton along the sea front is raised up and you can either follow the promenade along the top next to the road or now there was the choice of a lower promenade, with shops, cafes and the like built into what looked like railway arches under the road. I opted for the latter route, it was nice to be away from the traffic, but it was extremely crowded and I felt out of place with a rucksack walking though.
Ahead I had the much more famous Palace Pier (which now just calls itself Brighton Pier). This impressive pier has survived, with it’s original buildings still intact and unlike the West Pier seems in good condition.
Despite the crowds I was enjoying Brighton.It has such a happy feel to the place. It seems everyone comes here to have fun and ends up doing exactly that. It has a nice atmosphere. Brighton beach often features in newspaper columns when the first warm sunny day of the year usually leads to the beach around the pier being so packed with people you can barely see the beach at all!
On reaching the pier I could not resist taking a walk along it.
It is a wide pier and it was nice to see the deck chairs were free. The main building was mostly an arcade but also housed a pub and fish and chip shops. However the pier end itself was basically a fun fair with numerous rides. I was surprised they had even made room for this log flume!
The end of the pier provides a tremendous view too though it was as struggle to find anywhere to see it as many of the rides go right to the edge of the pier. West I could look back to the west pier and the industry of Shoreham, whilst to the east I could look ahead to the wall of Brighton Marina a couple of miles away.
Having enjoyed the pier I headed back to the shore. I had always associated Brighton with a shingle beach so I was surprised to see some sand at the shore edge, too.
I had considered ending the walk in Brighton but decided against it for 2 reasons. The first being that I had not actually walked that far. The second being that getting back to Brighton for the next walk would be a bit of a nuisance. Brighton is a car-hating city (it has the only Green party MP), so the car parking charges are incredibly high (and at the time, there was also no park and ride). To get from my home to Brighton either means travelling 20 miles or so in the wrong direction to Clapham Junction, (heading away from the coast) before taking another train to Brighton or a long slow journey via Guildford, Reigate and Gatwick Airport, so it is much quicker to drive but doing so expensive because of the parking fees. So both of these convinced me to carry on, that and the fact it had been an enjoyable walk and it was a lovely day too, it seemed a shame to stop.
I passed more rides and a fun looking crazy golf course.
Beyond that the promenade was quieter with most of the town up high at the road level and more “railway arches” to my left. Along the shore too is a unique feature, the Volks Electric Railway. This railway runs for a little over a mile from the pier eastwards to what is now the marina. It is a lovely and very unusual railway since the tracks are basically on top of the shingle but it had stopped operating for the year when I did this walk so I did not see it running.
I continued along the promenade passing another little park to reach the large marina.
This huge marina was built in the 1970s though has had developments occurring almost continually since then. It is protected by large high concrete walls which I could now see ahead.
Whilst I believe it is partly a working harbour it seemed to be almost entirely full of yachts.
Behind this were chain restaurants and blocks of flats. I though it a rather soulless place, and it was very busy too. Having rounded the large multi storey car park and roads leading into it I found a path along the back of the water. At the far end though I could look ahead. And look – cliffs! At last! And beautiful white chalk cliffs too.
I made my way out of the marina and continued along the concrete promenade built at the base of these cliffs. I’d left Brighton behind now and ahead the coast was less developed and less crowded. It was beautiful too with chalk cliffs stretching for miles ahead.
On top of the cliff too was an interesting looking building (which turned out to be Roedean School). The promenade at the base of the cliffs looked to either be very recent or had very recently been rebuilt (I suspect the latter). Before I took that path though I decided to take the sloping path in the other direction back to the cliff top. After all if I had cliffs I wanted to enjoy the view from the top, too!
I could see the path continued along way ahead and the coast was beautiful. Straight ahead I had views of the rather dull houses at the marina.
I could also take a closer look at that lovely school building. What a lovely place to go to school with an uninterrupted view over the sea. I would never have done any work!
In fact once at the top I found there was a narrow footpath squeezed between the road and the cliff edge, so I followed that, enjoying the views from on high. Ahead there was another curious building, isolated on the edge of the downs I’m not sure what it is used for.
Once I was inline with it though there was a slope back down to the lower path, so I took that.
I continued along this easy low path until Rottingdean.
Here there was access back to the cliff top where I found this beautifully kept windmill in a lovely location on the chalk ridge just back from the cliff edge.
Having seen the windmill I headed back to the town, the sun now getting low in the sky.
Back down at sea level I was surprised to see so much sand, not something I thought you got much of in this area.
Ahead too I could see more lovely chalk cliffs. I was very much looking forward to walking this next time.
Heading up to the cliffs I also found that there was a car park just east of the buildings at the waters edge which was far cheaper than Brighton. So I decided this was a good place to end as it was easy to get to for next time.
Heading back to the main road I knew I would need to catch a bus back since there are no stations on or near the coast now until Newhaven. Having found the bus stop I was just checking the timetable when I spotted a bus was already coming showing “Brighton” as the destination. That was good timing! So I took the bus back which stuck to the A259 giving me some nice views of the coast I had just walked.
I was not really familiar with where the buses all stopped in Brighton so got off when everyone else did outside the magnificent Royal Pavilion (I later found the bus went on to the station). That is well worth a visit too (I really should go back it is a long time since I last went) though at the time much of it was under scaffolding.
From here I had about a 10 minute walk further north to reach the railway station, where I took a train back to Shoreham. Brighton is a grand town, and it’s station is also similarly grand, with a nice overall glass roof.
This turned out to be a much nicer walk than I had expected. The industrial part at Shoreham was not pleasant but still better than expected as there was a path along the coast most of the way. Hove and particularly Brighton were really enjoyable despite the crowds. It has such a happy vibe about the place. And the last part was wonderful with the beautiful chalk cliffs that I knew stretched (other than for a few rivers) eastwards for many miles, so I was looking forward to my next walk already, too. This is also an easy year-round walk since it is all on tarmac or concrete too.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. I suggest taking the bus to Brighton and the train from there to Shoreham:-
From Rottingdean to Brighton Station : Brighton and Hove buses route 12/12A/12X (coaster) : Eastbourne – East Dean – Seven Sisters Country Park – Seaford – Newhaven – Peacehaven – Saltdean – Rottingdean – Brighton Square. At least every 10 minutes Monday – Saturday and every 15 minutes on Sundays between Rottingdean and Brighton (less frequent between Seaford and Eastbourne). At peak times buses continue to Brighton station. It takes about 25 minutes between Rottingdean and Brighton square.
From Brighton Square walk to Brighton station and then take the train back to Shoreham.
Southern Trains run on the West Coastway route between Brighton and Shoreham up to every 10 minutes Monday – Saturday taking around 15 minutes and every 30 minutes on Sundays. Trains typically run on to Southampton, Littlehampton or West Worthing from Shoreham. There are also frequent buses on Stagecoach service 700 should the trains be on strike or you want to avoid the walk to the station in Brighton.