Sun, Sea and Sand (plus Saltmarshes, Spinneys and Sailboats)
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Dell Quay, West Itchenor and West Wittering: classy, captivating and celebrated; three villages that epitomise Chichester Harbour and its appeal. The surroundings of these jaunty, yachty places are equally lovely: waterside spinneys of twisting oaks, broad marshes of rustling reeds, wide tracts of slurping mudflats, open fields of ripening wheat, quiet paths of teeming hedgerows, busy stretches of sparkling sea, and all beneath spacious skies of exalting blue. Plus, as a bonus, a famous beach of shimmering sand (which was a windswept washout when we were there last summer). Upon this beach we can eat ice creams, gaze out to sea, or stroll towards the water for a swim.
Chichester Harbour AONB: 'Chichester Harbour is one of the few remaining undeveloped coastal areas in Southern England...Its wide expanses and intricate creeks are at the same time a major wildlife haven and among some of Britain's most popular boating waters. The massive stretch of tidal flats and saltings are of outstanding ecological significance.' (From Wikipedia)
Apuldram: Just a church and a few old houses in fields. Rymans is a delightful small 15th century manor house. The Manor House itself is 17th century and St Mary's Church is 13th century, restored in the 19th.
Dell Quay: An enchanting group of pub, cottages and boatyards on the Fishbourne Channel of Chichester Harbour.
Birdham: Some pleasant houses. St James' Church is bulky, 14th century but over-restored. Chichester Marina is the chief attraction: a big rectangular harbour with sleek yachts along pontoons. The footpath crosses the lockgate at its entrance and the gushing water is captivating.
West Itchenor: 'One short, nicely unpretentious street of cottages, mostly 18th century, running down to the water's edge.' (Ian Nairn, The Buildings of England: Sussex)
West Wittering: 'Suave houses in moderate gardens with a lot of trees around...a high-class arcadia...very pretty indeed' (Ian Nairn). St Peter and St Paul Church, badly restored in the 19th century, but still with many worthwhile pieces from the 11th, 12th and 13th.
East Head: 'One of the last surviving pieces of natural coastline in West Sussex. East Head is an example of the nationally rare and fragile, yet dynamic, sand-dune habitat. Walk, play and sunbathe on the beach, which is considered one of the best in Sussex [it has Blue Flag status (see the website)].' (From the National Trust website)
Chichester Canal: Opened in 1822, its last load was transported in 1906. Runs 4.5 miles (7.2 km) from Birdham to Chichester. Most of its length is navigable and the towpath is a popular route.
The canal towpath will take us from Chichester to Stockbridge which we'll cross via suburban streets then footpaths to reach Apuldram. At the water's edge we'll follow the coastal path to Dell Quay and Chichester Marina at Birdham. The New Lipchis Way will take us to Birdham itself, then West Itchenor, then West Wittering, then East Head and West Wittering beach. A footpath through West Wittering, then a pavement beside the B2179, then the Salterns Way will take us back to West Itchenor and Birdham inland. We'll then pick up the New Lipchis Way, running along the canal towpath to return to Chichester. To shorten the walk you can get the bus back to Chichester from either West Wittering or Birdham.
Route and distance options:
You don't have to walk the entire route. You can easily catch the half-hourly number 52 or 53 bus back to Chichester from either of two places on the return leg. Chichester Bus Station and the railway station are adjacent:
- Option 1: Walk the entire route of 32 km (20 miles) (long, but the going is flat);
- Option 2: Walk 18 km (11 miles) and get the bus back to Chichester from West Wittering; or
- Option 3: Walk 24 km (15 miles) and get the bus back to Chichester from Birdham.
All images are from Google Image Search and are 'Free to share and use' under the Creative Commons License.
What to bring
Footwear: The countryside is level and the season is the summer, so you could probably do this walk in walking shoes rather than boots. It is still quite long, so wear thick socks to avoid blisters.
Sun protection: If sunshine is forecast, apply and bring a high-factor suncream, possibly a hat, and sunglasses, as much of the walk is exposed.
Swimming: If you wish to swim at West Wittering beach, please bring swimwear and a towel.
Money: The fare for the optional bus journey is £3.50 to £4.00. Payment by card is accepted.
Food & drink
Please bring a packed lunch and plenty to drink. There is a Waitrose near the starting point in Chichester, and there are pubs and cafes, and ice cream vans/shacks in West Itchenor and West Wittering.