The Coast is Clear: Backpacking and Bathing from Barnham
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Clear of houses, clear of crowds: a gap in the endless Sussex seaside settlement strip. To be honest, the only outstanding natural beauty we'll see will be our swimwear-clad ODL comrades frolicking in the foam, but that's doing the surroundings a disservice: the sand dunes are extensive, the arable fields expansive, the shingle beach exclusive and the azure sea...erm...expressive. The seclusion of the spot and the density of the dunes explain the beach's nudge-nudge notoriety for (unofficial*) naturism and naughtiness. There will also be a riverside walk, a historic hostelry and a cool beach cafe. Plus dogs are allowed on the beach, so Rover can run over the combers with his owner.
Barnham: Prosperous and suburban, and almost synonymous with the railway junction, but the cul-de-sac to the south with church and manor house is delightful. St Mary has a charming exterior and a rather bare interior. Origins around 1180. 15th century French painted panel of St Genevieve. Barnham Court is a fine brick house in the Dutch manner of 1640, and so reminiscent of Kew Palace that the same designer is suspected.
Ford: Scattered farms, barns, open prison, airfield and church overlooking the River Arun. St Andrew is 'one of Sussex's prettiest churches; a lovable unrestored exterior, nave and chancel, brick porch and white-painted bellcote in a small churchyard almost surrounded by large trees' (Ian Nairn). 11th century Norman framework, 12th century windows, porch of 1637 with a Dutch gable.
Atherington: The southern part of Climping Parish and across the mouth of the River Arun from Littlehampton. One leafy, wayward street winding down to the sea, lined with beach cobble cottages. The pub, The Black Horse, is currently closed [thanks to David Bourner (Cornflower) for this info].
Climping/Atherington Beach and Littlehampton West Beach: Occupying a gap in the development from Bognor to Brighton, an isolated and rather secret location. The extensive sand dunes are a Site of Special Scientific Interest and much of them is roped off; the parts that aren't have a boardwalk. Used for filming by the Doctor Who crew twice (for The Terror of the Zygons and The Enemy of the World, if you really want to know). A little beach cafe has been recently opened which faces Littlehampton across the Arun. *The beach has long been used by naturists but is not recognised officially as such by the organisation British Naturism.
Yapton: A straggling, untidy village much developed. A pleasant group of houses by the church of St Mary which is complete and of 1180-1220 with only minor alterations. 'A pattern book of rustic details', according to Ian Nairn.
Walking down Church Road in a southwesterly direction will take us out into the fields, then, turning east and southeast, we'll follow footpaths across arable fields to Bilsham. Heading further east, then south will take us to Elmer which is where we'll turn left, heading east, to walk along the coast. The smart houses will end and the expanse of strategic gap will open up which we'll cross as far as the River Arun, but not before we've had lunch, a swim and a stop at the cafe. Turning north at the mouth of the Arun we'll follow its meanders past wharves and boatyards and past Ford Open Prison before we properly head through Ford village, its church and disused airfield. Some dreary industrial estates we'll pass before we reach Yapton, and then after that it's a little way further through fields before we need to walk on the pavement along the B2233 back to Barnham Station. Having said all that, we might do the walk anticlockwise rather than clockwise. In which case this order will be reversed.
My thanks go to Mark Wells (BrightonMarky) for suggesting this area for a beach walk.
(Picture credits: Atherington Beach by Pierre Terre; St Mary, Barnham by Basher Eyre; Barnham Court by Ainslie, Minstrels' Barn, Church Lane, Barnham, by Hugh Craddock; Along the Coast from Atherington to Elmer by Basher Eyre; West Beach, Littlehampton by Robin Webster; The Black Horse, Climping by Stacey Harris; Sand Dunes by Simon Carrey; River Arun at Ford by Robin Webster; Footpath north of Ancton Lane by Peter Holmes; and Church of St Andrew, Ford by N Chadwick. (All pictures licensed for reuse and sharing under Creative Commons.)
What to bring
Walking boots or shoes will be essential as the walk is a moderate distance in length although the terrain is gravel and dirt.
Do apply and bring a high-factor suncream and a hat as much of the walk is exposed with little shade.
In the event of rain, please bring a waterproof jacket.
Bring swimwear and a towel if you wish to swim.
Food & drink
Please bring a packed lunch and plenty to drink. There is a cafe to visit at lunchtime (West Beach Cafe). There is also a pub at the end of the walk at Barnham (The Murrell Arms).