A Stroll Around Bersted Brooks

This month’s featured walk is a 3km (2mile) stroll around Bersted Brooks in North Bersted. Established as a Local Nature Reserve in 2010, Bersted Brooks covers an area of 19 hectares and with its many habitats is an important site for wildlife. The reserve borders Rowan Way, Shripney Lane and the Aldingbourne Rife and is spread over three separate fields, it has wide areas of meadow, narrow reedbeds, ditches, ponds, and a floodplain woodland of Willow and Elder as these trees can live with their roots in water. The Brooks floods every winter, making it a good place for wetland wildlife. 

The brooks can be explored in a variety of ways; however, a good way round is walking the perimeter of each field before moving on to the next. From the car park just off Rowan Way is the first field, a wide-open meadow with a small circle of black Poplar trees that borders three ponds of differing depths, in the winter following heavy rain these ponds tend to overflow and become one. There is a purpose made path which is accessible to all that goes around half of the meadow and I believe is planned to be extended all the way round. The far end of the meadow just beyond the trees is known as ‘Crickets Field’ and on a quiet summers day you can hear a whole chorus of crickets. Follow the Aldingbourne Rife and the narrow reed bed leading to the next meadow.

The second meadow is much more wooded than the others and adds a different perspective, more than 11,000 trees have been planted across the brooks since 2000 mainly Alder, Crack Willow and Grey Willow, this particular meadow has been renamed ‘Friends Field’ in acknowledgement of the contribution the friends make to Bersted Brooks. In this meadow along the rife, scrapes with gently sloping edges have been created to improve access for both birds and water voles.

The third meadow is also a mixture of woodlands and meadows. It contains an area that is fenced off providing a dog free wildlife sanctuary, this allows ground nesting birds such as skylarks to be undisturbed. An intriguing bench is situated by the rife in this meadow and is a great opportunity to take a rest. At the far corner of the field is an exit to Shripney Lane where the walk can be extended if so desired.

The walk back to the car park is along the northern edge of the Brooks that borders farmland. In the northern corner of the first field is an old farm pond, the mature reeds, and trees around makes it a good habitat for voles and other small mammals. The pond itself is home to many dragonflies.

The walk can be done as a stroll just around the Bersted Brooks or part of a longer walk taking in the Bersted Park sculptures the other side of the relief road.

Further information about Bersted Brooks can be found on their website Friends of Bersted Brooks | A nature haven on the outskirts of Bognor Regis (wordpress.com)

Felpham Parish Border Walk

At the time of writing this feature we were still in lockdown and unable to travel, this meant being imaginative with local walks, which in turn led me to finding out so much more about the area which I thought I knew so well. I have highlighted three walks which I hope will give some inspiration to really explore the beautifully place where we live.

A 12km circular walk following the civil parish border of Felpham.

It’s surprising how much of the border of Felpham can be followed and where the furthest extremes are, North, South, East and West.

The route from Flansham follows the main A259 passed Rookery Farm and on to the edge of Worms Wood, cross the A259 where it heads south along what was once the old Littlehampton Road.

The border of Felpham then passes along the edge of Larksfield and through the residential areas of Flansham Park and Summerley Fields to the sea. Technically the furthest point east is in a private garden and cannot be accessed however the furthest accessible point to the East is at Hannah’s Groyne on the edge of the Middleton greensward. 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.

The border heads west firstly along an unmade path for a couple of hundred yards and then joins the main promenade which is then followed all along the seafront to Butlins. Much history is noted about Felpham beach and some of this can be seen in my other blogs. Being that this is about half way round the walk there are plenty of opportunities here to grab a tea or coffee or even lunch.

A Special Site of Scientific Interest is sited along a 1 hectare stretch of coastline from Canning Road to Sea Road and is one of only three sites in Britain to have fossils of flora dating back 66 million years to Paleocene period.

Sea defenses have been constructed at the mouth of the river since the 15th Century and been rebuilt many times over the years after being breached by the sea. 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 edge of Butlins at the junction of Longbrook, this is the point situated furthest south, walk through Longbrook on the path with exercise machines for toning up.

The lower part of the rife can be tracked north through Longbrook Park and in 680AD this part was called ‘Brynes Fleot’ and would have curved through the site that is now Butlins.

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.

Continue to walk around Butlins and then keep following the Aldingbourne Rife along the Felpham Way, through Felpham Recreation Field and the fields at the rear of the Arun Leisure Centre and schools The point furthest west is on the river edge in these fields with Shripney supermarkets just a stone’s throw away. Woodpeckers can often be seen in these fields and the odd deer too.

Pick up the public footpath through the golf course and the point where the path rejoins the Rife is the furthest north. The route leaves the border at this point as it continues through the golf course and private land, following the path to the edge of Blakes Mead will pick up the border again as it goes round the flood relief ponds on the far side of the Charley Purely Way as it heads back to the start.

The convenience of this route is that it can be started at any point.

From Sea to Source

A trek following the Aldingbourne and Lidsey Rife from the sea to where they start.

So here we are in this lockdown again and need to stay at home with exception to do our local daily exercise. I am beginning to run out of local paths to walk and continuing to look for new adventures and less crowded places.

Being inspired by Simon Reeve after his 2019 tour, he said that there is always an adventure to be discovered and that we should go out there and do something new, like trace a river to it’s source, so that’s what I thought I would do.

The Aldingbourne Rife and Lidsey Rife amalgamate near Glenwood and run through Felpham to the sea, but where does it originate? The easier watercourse to follow is the Lidsey Rife, so this walk takes us inland to where it starts.

This walk is a 9km route from Felpham beach that follows the Lidsey Rife to its source. The Rife meets the sea through a sluice just west of the Felpham SSSI, a 1 hectare site of coastline which is one of only three sites in Britain to have fossils of flora dating back 66 million years to Paleocene period. Sea defenses have been constructed at the mouth of the river since the 15th Century and been rebuilt many times over the years after being breached by the sea.

The lower part of the rife can be tracked north through Longbrook Park and in 680AD this part was called ‘Brynes Fleot’ and would have curved through the site that is now Butlins. In 1953 during the construction of Butlins the Rife was straightened and can be picked up again by following the perimeter of the holiday resort.

The rife provides a natural border to the west of Felpham and winds its way from here through fields between Glenwood and the school. At this point the river splits and one section heads towards Shripney known as the Aldingbourne Rife, whereas the Lidsey Rife continues to the golf course and beyond.

The river can be followed through fields that i call ‘Woodpecker Meadows’ as you can usually see a woodpecker or two flying around here. The other side of the rife can be seen the former LEC airfield which is now home to the Bognor Regis Gliding Club. The airfield dates back to 1943 when it is believed that flying commenced from what was a farmers field, however it became known as LEC airfield after 1946 when Charles Purley started his refrigeration business alongside. The company had it’s own aircraft and would use them to fly across Europe to other factories.

The route now deviates a little from the rife as the public footpath that goes through the golf course does not directly follow the river. Follow the public footpath through the golf course, look out for the many rabbits that have their burrows on the path and rejoin the river further up. Continue on footpath out of the golf course and keep left to head under the viaduct and continue following river north. Look out for Heron and Little Egrets that all nest nearby, in the winter months these fields are known to flood, so be sure to wear wellies if we have had a lot of rain.

The Barnham cycle path runs parallel to the river as it begins to narrow and many tributaries can be seen leading into the river including the Ryebank Rife by the Bilsham solar farm. Keep a close eye out as roe deer can often be seen in the surrounding fields, sometimes hiding amongst the tall grasses.

The cycle path turns ninety degrees to the north and the rife continues through agricultural fields looking out over the field the course of the rife can be made out as it further decreases in size. Follow the cycle path until it meets the old Arundel to Portsmouth Canal and then head east following the route of the canal. The rife is rejoined at its source where it can clearly be seen as a pipe emerging from under the path of the old canal near to Tile Barn Farm.

The rife from here can be tracked back a short way and is a mere ditch with a small trickle of water in during the winter and dry during the summer. After crossing the last two bridges on the Lidsey rife the footpath heads back towards Bilsham and then Flansham.

Many tributaries can be seen and the route back also crosses the Ryebank Rife too, which winds its way through Elmer towards Climping.

The route is completed by heading back to Felpham by whichever way you choose.