Walk #833: A walk along the coast from Bognor
Map of the walk
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format. For a detailed table of timings for this walk, please see the table file.
The purpose of this walk was to do another little walk along the south coast. On my last walk I reached Sidlesham, a little hamlet on Pagham Harbour. Unlike that previous walk, which was a pleasant circular walk around the peninsular that contains Selsey Bill, there was no obvious circular walk. Firstly, I had to reach Sidlesham (the point where I met the coast on that previous walk). I doubted that there was any car parking there, so I decided to park in a car park on the coast by Pagham Lagoon. The journey took much longer than I expected, and I pulled up into the car park well past nine in the morning - a good hour later than I wanted. It was the start of what turned out to be a relatively bad day.
On the gate of the car park was a sign stating that the car park was closed at five in the evening - before dusk at this time of year. This would limit the time that I could walk, so I quickly got my gear together and set off. Initially I had to walk to Sidlesham, and I did this by walking around Pagham Harbour. Originally this was an important Saxon Port, but after a storm it was devastated by the sea. It then started to silt up and the majority of the area became marshland (although there was a tidal mill at Sidlesham). Then, in 1870 the mouth of the river was dammed and the area reclaimed for agriculture. It did not last long, though, as in 1910 the sea broke through, flooding the area once more. Now it is a large expanse that is not quite sea, not quite land. Large areas of the surrounding land are lower than the harbour, and there are discussions about whether managed retreat is allowed to occur - it may be cheaper to flood the land than to maintain the walls.
It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the sky was reflecting off the millpond-smooth Pagham Lagoon. A shingle path took me past the lagoon to a muddy path that ran past a holiday park. The path diverted off to the end of a road at Little Welbourne, and I then headed along the start of the Pagham Wall. This is one of the flood banks that protects the surrounding land from inundation. By a bench I met two ladies, and we talked about walking in the local area for a few minutes - a pleasant interjection.
When the wall ended I continued along the foreshore. I could not recall this stretch from when I did the coastwalk (yet I must have walked it), and I found the foreshore to be quite hard going - muddy and boggy, with large expanses of water seemingly designed to soak the unwary. Frankly, it was not that enjoyable. The views were virtually non-existent (except for the low bank of the sea wall to the right and marshland off to the left. If the path underfoot had been firm I would have found it enjoyable, as it was, it was just too much of an effort.
It was therefore a relief when I reached Sidlesham Quay, and I walked up to the site of the old tidal mill. Instead of walking back the same way, I decided to follow the road away from Sidlesham Quay and then pass by Halseys Farm and cut across back to Pagham Wall. This path was boggy as well, but it was not quite the same boot-sucking bog as the path along the foreshroe had been. Regardless, it was a relief when I reached Pagham wall and the going became firmer. At the end of the wall I avoided the road in Little Welbourne by following the foreshore to join the footpath. Soon I was back at the car park, which was certainly fuller than it had been when I had set off.
Next, I started to walk northeastwards along the coast. There is no footpath behind the beach, so I was forced to follow the beach. Normally that is no problem, but this beach was different. It consisted of stretches of all-too-soft sand interspersed with the loose shingle, and it made for slow going. Frankly, I was already feeling low, and it only made me feel lower. It should have been so different: I was walking by my loved sea once more, and not just along the Solent coast; yet even the blue skies and gentle, lapping waves could life my spirits.
At various times I tried to find an easier path on the top of the shingle bank, where patches of hardy vegetation clung onto life, yet this was not much better; indeed, where there was no vegetation the shingle, unwashed by the waves, was far looser than on the foreshore. So I headed back down, then up, then down. Frankly, it was dispiriting. Therefore it was a relief when some beach huts hove into view, and I headed up to them, to find a surfaced path running behind. This led onto the promenade and good, firm walling once more.
I walked on past the pier and a holiday centre, wondering how much distance I could eke out from my tired legs. Eventually I reached the northernmost section of the promenade in Felpham. Ahead stretched more shingle beach, so I tuned around and headed back. This meant that the day's walk would be short, but I really did not care. Just before I reached the pier there was a pub, The Regis, and I nipped into it for a quick rest. Once restarted, I noticed a burger van on the promenade opposite. I got myself a bacon buttie to try and improve my mood as I headed back past the pier to the end of the promenade. After that, I was back onto the hated single.
There is an old story that King George V's last words were 'Bugger Bognor', when it was suggested that he visit the town to improve his health. Strangely, these words were very much in my thoughts as I walked along the shingle foreshore. I really had not managed to get going, and that situation was getting worse the more I walked. For one thing, I was dog tired and lethargic, and really not interested in the walk.
I eventually reached the car park; there was nowhere left for me to go, and I was glad of the fact. On many days I walk well over twenty miles and am raring to walk further; today, I had walked just sixteen and was glad to finish. Long-distance walking is mainly a mental effort, and today my mind was most certainly not in tune with my body. Do not be put off this walk by this rather negative write-up; it is certainly better than I have described above.
This walk starts off at the car park by Pagham Lagoon, right to the southwest of Bognor Regis. Leave the car park and follow a footpath that heads along the southern edge of the lake before curving along the western edge for a short distance. At a junction in the paths, it curves away to the left. Continue along the path as it skirts the foreshore past a holiday village; on the left is a hedge, and beyond that Pagham Harbour. The path follows the field boundary to end at a road in Little Welbourne.
Turn left along this road, and then right along another footpath that heads north for a short distance before ending at a track. Turn left, and follow this track up onto Pagham Wall. Follow the wall westwards; when it ends, drop down onto the foreshore and start following it around, keeping the low bank to the right. Be careful not to head off into the boggier ground. Eventually the path reaches Sidlesham Quay.
At the quay, follow the road towards the pub, and then continue on northeastwards along the road. When ti curves sharply to the left, follow a track up towards Halsey's farm. At a junction in the footpaths at the farm turn hard-right, to start heading eastwards across fields with a hedge on the right. After a quarter of a mile, this path ends at the western edge of Pagham Wall. From here, head back the way you came with one exception; at a thatched cottage at the eastern end of Pagham Wall, a path diverts off to the right, running along the foreshore for a short distance before allowing you to gain access to the footpath near the holiday village.
Once back at the car park, follow a board walk onto the shingle beach and turn left to start following the beach northeastwards. After two and a half miles, a promenade starts on the western side of Bognor Regis. Join this, and follow it eastwards for another two and a half miles until it ends in Felpham. From there, turn around and walk back along the promenade and the beach to the car park.
This makes a total distance of 16.0 miles, with 121 feet of ascent and 121 feet of descent.
Please note that I take no responsibility for anything that may happen when following these directions. If you intend to follow this route, then please use the relevant maps and check the route out before you go out. As always when walking, use common sense and you should be fine.
If you find any information on any of these routes that is inaccurate, or you wish to add anything, then please email me.
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And finally, enjoy your walking!