Bognor Regis To Selsey Bill
It’s Tuesday the 20th February 18 and myself, Tony Driscoll and Darran Terry are walking the coastline from Bognor Regis to Selsey Bill. Bognor Regis was originally named just Bognor and was a fishing and smuggling village just like Worthing along the coast. Bognor is one of the oldest Saxon places in Sussex and means ‘Bucgan’ or ‘Bucge’s’ (a female Saxon name) shore, or ‘landing place’. Home of Butlins, William (Billy) Butlin made his first appearance in the town in 1932 and soon set up his “recreation entertainment shelter” which proved very popular. Later in 1959 with the council’s support he bought the 39 acre site at the east end of the promenade and opened the famous Butlins Bognor on the 2nd July 1960. Apparently Billy carried a cut throat razor around with him at all times, due to all the enemies he had made whilst rising to the top. Today his legacy is still going from strength to strength and is as popular as ever.
After getting ourselves stuck in a private estate with no access to the beach and having to climb over a gate, we eventually find the foreshore. Here at low water the beach opens up along this section and Tony gets into the swing of today’s walk.
Revealed recently by shifting shingle and sands at Pagham harbour are the skeletal remains of a Mulberry harbour which has laid buried since World War 2. The pontoon was once part of the Mulberry floating harbours used by the Allies to invade the French coast on D-Day 6th June 1944. The section is said to have broken free in a storm on the 4th June, the day before it was due to go over the Channel.
Starting off on a good path around the harbour we always knew at some point we would find the mud. Many of the paths around the harbour are actually on the saltmarsh itself, but this doesn’t bother me I quite like the challenge of trying not to get too muddy and having to think about where I am going to put my next foot.
After about an hour we arrive at the entrance to Pagham harbour which we need to walk around. Again this natural harbour is a mecca for wading birds of all kinds and very popular with Birdwatchers. Pagham Harbour forms an area of saltmarsh and shallow lagoons. It is not an estuary, as no major streams enter the harbour with the only freshwater inflow being a few small streams draining the surrounding fields. An attempt was made to drain the harbour for farming in c. 1873 with an embankment constructed across the edge of the lagoon to hold back the sea; this failed during a storm in December 1910 and was not reconstructed. At present the entrance to the sea is 50 metres wide.
Now I know I said I quite like the challenge of where I am going to put my next foot and the mud hopping, but the same can not be said for Darran who for some unknown reason seems to fall into water or mud at every opportunity. Almost disappointingly on this occasion though he manages to stay on his feet, so maybe he has started to get the hang of it. Tony just swore to himself all the way around the harbour and through the mud, coining the new phrase of “Mud Tourettes”.
Sidlesham Quay is no longer used, it is left high and dry for most of the year by the tide, except for the highest tides. Up to the middle of the 19th century Sidlesham was an active commercial port. An average of 68 boats a year, each of 25 tons, put in to the quay, bringing cargoes of coal and grain to supply Sidlesham Mill. They left with cargoes of flour.
It does have an interesting history online “In 46AD the Romans landed in Pagham Harbour and the Saxon Aella landed along the Keynor rife near the site of the present village school in 477AD. St Wilfred is considered to have landed in Pagham Harbour at Church Norton. Street End Lane follows the line of a Roman Road and there are the remains of a Roman villa at Bird Pond. Sidlesham is recorded in the Domesday Book and the Normans built part of the present church in 1200AD.
Pagham Harbour has always been of significant importance to the area, by act of Parliament in the 19th century an attempt was made to reclaim it completely from the sea for agricultural use. A severe and prolonged storm in 1910 breached the shingle sea wall and the sea came back. Around the edge of the harbour many reclaimed fields still remain, protected from the high tide by earthen banks. In some of these fields the drainage channels of the harbour can be seen now covered by pasture grasses. A succession of mills was built on the harbour’s edge from the Middle Ages, the last mill at Sidlesham Quay ceased operations in 1865 and was dismantled in about 1918, the bricks and flagstones were re-used in local construction. For a brief period in 1944/45 the harbour was used as an aerial gunnery practice range for Spitfire and Hurricane fighter planes. Flights only allowed from the land towards the sea!”
Church Norton Spit which shelters Pagham Harbour is mostly shingle and shell, large parts being mostly Oyster shell. We walked the spit and met a few Birdwatchers looking out to sea in the hope of spotting the elusive Velvet Scotter, a large black sea duck which has white on the wings when in flight.
With beachside properties at a premium, old railway carriages make ideal properties along the Sussex & Kent coastline. After World War 1 there was a surplus of old railway carriages and many were given as homes to soldiers returning from the war. Selsey has around twenty old carriages along its foreshore, some maintained to a very high standard and available to rent at reasonable price.
I can honestly say that Selsey looks absolutely lovely now covered in sunshine. It’s my first visit to this area and I have to say it’s a very nice place and felt very welcoming. Now nearing the end of this section of the walk my thoughts turn to the next sections and I am looking forward to returning to this area again soon.
My last photo if you look closely shows the Isle of Wight across the Solent and I will be walking the whole coast of the Isle on the 11th March 18. As part of my around Britain adventure I am walking four main islands, the Isle of Wight, the Isle of Man, Anglesey, and the Isle of Sheppey. Today’s walk is now done, but please come back and check out my other walks soon. Lastly thanks to the bus driver who gave a us a lift from the Selsey car park into the high street, saving us a 15 minute walk and allowing us to catch the earlier bus connection to Chichester train station. 13.33 miles.