London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Chichester to Bosham

25th June 2016

Chichester to Bosham – 16.68 km (10.36 miles)

Quite a clan of us embarked on the trek today that included Susan, Cookie, PK, Belinda, Tim, Kiah and myself.  You could say that we had formed a walking group, so lets call it  H.M.T.S., an abbreviation that will become more apparent later in the blog.

We parked up at Bosham  Station and caught the train to Chichester,  you could see the tall steeple of the cathedral as you looked east down the tracks from the station, in actual fact it  wasn’t that far to Chichester but the walk today will not be as straight but instead a big loop round and back. With all the recent delays i was surprised that the train arrived pretty much on time, so we all bundled on for the short journey. On the train Susan commented that she liked Tim’s T-shirt, which had a forest scene with Alaska written on it, he replied saying that he had not been to Alaska and that he only bought it from a well known supermarket and that it wasn’t an exclusive t shirt from ‘Hunky Men R Us’ (believe it or not, is no such store), this really cracked Belinda and Susan up and would be with us for for the day with many off the cuff comments.

On arrival at Chichester we started our walk at the canal basin, which again is where we finished last time. In the basin was one of the canal boats with all the tables laid up for brunch or lunch and people were arriving for their excursions. The water in this part was actually quite clear and Tim straight away was scouring his eyes over the it like a Heron looking for it’s lunch, It wasn’t long before he spotted a pike, a perch and some rudd that could all clearly be seen below the surface of the water. The actual start of the tow path south was guarded by a big swan who seemed to have had a bad start to the day as he would hiss and snap out at everyone that passed too closely, but really he was only keeping strangers at bay and looking out for his young cygnets that were on the water with mum. Today there also seemed to be lots of baby coots and moorhens, some really tiny and others who’s fluff was turning into feathers, all with their mums who were chirping away at us as we passed by.

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Not long after we started the heavens opened and it started raining, the weather forecast said that there would be some showers with some of them prolonged and heavy, although we had the waterproofs with us just in case, i didn’t expect that we would need to be putting them on so soon, sheltering under the A27 road bridge we decided that this was probably a sensible time to put them on.

The first few kilometres on the towpath was heading south retracing our steps back from Chichester and down this branch line of the canal to Hunston. The last trek that Susan joined us on we started playing the ‘penny game’ and named some things to see, since then we have seen plenty of dragonflies and rabbits but no kingfishers (this is what i called out as i have really been hoping to see one on this challenge), well Susan pointed out to me that the boat on it’s way back to the basin was called ‘Kingfisher’, not sure that counts but probably the nearest i’m going to get, is it worthy of a penny in the ‘penny game’ though?……

At Hunston we rejoined the main canal that would have connected Portsmouth to Arundel and this section is known as the ‘Chichester Ship Canal’, they  would have to have been really small ships as this part of the canal was no wider than any of the others we had encountered. Along this stretch were many remnants of concrete that would have supported the swing bridges, one of which would have taken the old selsey railway over the canal, this has long been disused now and some of it has been turned into a cycle path. There were two main roads that we needed to cross connecting Chichester to the coast that in the days when the canal was operating would have been swing bridges, but now have been replaced with a modern concrete and tarmac bridges that has such a small span underneath no boats could pass through anymore.

So funny, as on this stretch we met an elderly man who was walking his dog, he briefly stopped and chatted to me, PK and Tim about the weather (typically British) and then carried on, Susan and Belinda were a little way behind at this stage, i think the talking was slowing them a little….lol! However the same gentlemen commented to the girls that that was a big group of men, referring to us. Later when they told us what he had said Tim suggested that we were the H.M.T.S. which means ‘Hunky Men Trekking Society’ once again we all cracked up, the only bit of the H.M.T.S. that is true is the fact that we were trekking, this name seemed to stick with us all day, not sure what sort of characters it would encourage though if there was such a group.

We next arrived at Chichester Marina which was at the end of the ship Canal, it was a long entrance and the walk was on the road that took you into the marina at this point we found a lock hidden behind some overgrown bushes that had the upstream gates closed and although they were leaking and looked a little bit in need of repair they were holding back the water very well. As we got further into the marina there was houseboats on the canal, some being repaired and one being built, however the majority were very square and not boat like. We soon reached the lock at the end of the canal that had the upstream gates closed holding back the water in the canal and the downstream gates were in such disrepair that they would not been capable of closing. This lock when operational would have been tidal and could only have been accessed during periods when the tide was high. This last lock was the end of the chichester ship canal and would lead into the harbour and from here on the barges would be towed by tugs follow the various channels to Milton near Portsmouth. Before the modern marina was constructed this part of the canal was used to store the yachts, but demand for more space to keep them meant that the chichester marina was expanded to take the many millions of pounds worth of boats that are in there today. The entrance to this is also controlled by a lock so that the marina always remained full of water. The gates on this though were controlled mechanically so not much muscle needed here.

Now that the canal has joined the harbour, the walk will be of completely different scenery, and we will be walking as close to the route through the harbour as possible. The first part is walking down alongside the chichester channel that is lined with fields and small estates of some very exclusive properties overlooking the harbour, some with there own access and boats. We were all beginning to get hungry now and Belinda by now had asked several times if we were nearly there yet. The rain also was beginning to get heavy now, so the pace was stepped up so that we could get to ‘The Ship’ pub for lunch. Inside the pub it was very busy and luckily a table was just leaving as we arrived, on looking at the menu all of us but PK decided to go for the fish and chips, which i had beer battered hake…..mmm

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After re-energising with lunch we set off on the afternoons leg, the rain had stopped now and occasionally when the sun came out it was really warm on your back. We walked down the main street of Itchenor with it’s seaside cottages to the harbour and we then had to get the Itchenor ferry across the channel to the side where Bosham was, when i say ferry it’s a small dory type fishing boat, but nonetheless saves us a lot of walking.

There was no jetty on the Bosham side of the harbour so the boat beached itself on the pebbles and put down a big ramp for us to walk down, we set off around the shoreline of the harbour and was now following the Bosham Channel, this bit was not used as the main canal route but would have connected Bosham with any trade from the sea. This path is also tidal and with the tide coming in raised a few concerns in my mind as to whether we would make it all the way round without being cut off, however at the moment its all still accessible. The last little bit of shoreline just before the road was very nearly blocked as the tide had come in quite a way leaving just the narrowest of pebbles that we could walk on, five minutes later and i think we would have been paddling. My boots are beginning to wear out and a part of the stitching is coming away so the water had leaked through them making my feet wet, Susan also had a problem with water getting in too, looks like a trip to the outdoors shop for some new boots for the pair of us, i can’t complain though as they have certainly covered some miles. . The road around to Bosham was also beginning to flood but luckily we only had to wade through a small part of the water as the path was raised up high than the road in most places. The rain was now beginning to return as we approached the village of Bosham, so once again we sped up. In the village we sat undercover in a tea room courtyard eating ice cream, caramel and honeycomb was the flavour for today, with a plain chocolate flake……..yum. The weather was so erratic today and as the rain had subsided again we head off on the last section by the side of the harbour to the cars at the station. As we were approaching the end of the walk the sky was really blackening and just before we got to the cars the heavens finally opened once again. Another great walk on this journey and although it rained heavily on and off that didn’t really matter as i had great company for the day and lots of laughs on the way……

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