Piers, Trains and Lost Villages

Foodie Trek – July 2018

A 12.5km (8 mile) linear walk along the coast from Bognor Pier to Littlehampton’s West Pier.

A great walk to be had on a lovely sunny day arriving in time to see the sun set over the shimmering sands of West Beach.

Bognor pier opened in 1865 and has been a significant icon for the town, in it’s heyday it would have entertained locals & tourists alike and during the war it served as a Royal Navy observation station nicknamed HMS Barbara, it was manned with anti aircraft guns that shot down a German bomber in February 1943. A memorial to this can be seen in front of the pier. Unfortunately in 1964 storms damaged the end of the pier causing the pavilion to collapse beyond repair.

Head east from the pier along the promenade and you’ll see a handful of traditional fishing boats and lobster pots ready for the next catch. Continue along the promenade to just past Butlins, where Longbrook can be explored, with exercise machines for toning up and the Aldingbourne Rife for the opportunity to spot some wild fowl. The eastern side of Longbrook has a memorial to a Hampden bomber that crashed here in 1942, it took off from Rutland to bomb Dortmund in Germany but for unknown reasons crashed on the way. Just behind the sea wall of Longbrook can be seen the railway bungalows, these carriages would have originally come from old rolling stock of the ‘London Brighton and South Coast Railway’ in 1918. The majority of carriages have been built around, however original features are still evident on some. Apparently the residents kept a dinghy under their carriages as the area frequently flooded.

Continue along the promenade to the end and take the short muddy track to the greensward at the end of Sea Lane. The breakwater known as Hannah’s Groyne marks the border between Felpham & Middleton and in 1795 was the site of a signal station built by order of the Admiralty to maintain a watch against potential french invasion, an ideal location that had great sight lines out to sea and along the coast, it was run by Royal Navy Lieutenants with staff of up to three men. The station along with Middleton church that was nearby have long been lost to the sea.

If the tide is out you can continue the walk along the sands otherwise a slight detour inland will be required before rejoining the beach near Elmer.

Walk along the path on top of the sea defence that is protecting the land behind, once known as Elmer Pool this area regularly flooded and was a fishery for eels.

Just past the large rock breakwater you’ll need to take extra care as the the concrete sea defences have fallen away along with a large chunk of the farmers field due to coastal erosion, at low tide you can make out the flint wall and foundations of a building that stood in the field. Cudlow a small port in the Middle Ages and the hamlet of Islham situated near here succumbed to the waves and were washed away in the 17th Century. A few cottages of Atherington remain and this hamlet would have been twice the size before it was also besieged by the sea.

The last part of the walk takes in the 30m high sand dunes of West Beach, one of only a few undeveloped coastal areas of sussex that has been designated as an area of special scientific interest as it has much wildlife including some rare sand lizards. West Pier is at the end of West Beach and marks the entrance to the River Arun.