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.

Blakes Trail

Lockdown has really given me time to explore the local area. I thought I had discovered most trails locally, but this month’s featured trek is circular walk through Felpham and part of Bognor Regis following a trail that tells us more about Felpham’s most famous resident William Blake.

The Blake’s Trail was set up by students from Felpham Community College after receiving a grant from the National Lottery. The route takes in some key sites and follows a series of information boards highlighting William Blake, his contacts and significance in the local area. The FCC have also created a website about the trail and have made videos reciting some of the poet’s work. www.blakestrail.org

The 4.3 km (2.7 Miles) circular trail starts at the westerly entrance to Hotham Park, just off the High Street but can be joined at any point throughout its route. The first information board outside the gates of the park explains a little about Sir Richard Hotham and the land he sold to William Hayley who in turn employed Blake to paint pictures for his library in Turret House.

The trail leads into the park and past Hotham House. A previous featured walk around the park highlights the best of this public space and could be combined with this trail. Leave the park at the far side and take path under subway to Hook Lane which leads to Felpham Recreation Field where cricket is played in the summer. The information board at this location is currently missing.

Follow the path around the recreation field, cross both the B2259 & Aldingbourne Rife and head towards St Mary’s Norman Church built in the 12th Century with its square tower, a key landmark that can be viewed from many places around Felpham. Walk through the churchyard and exit through the lychgate that was erected in 1897 to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria.

In Limmer Lane and opposite the Thatched House Pub was the site of Turret House. The poet William Hayley built himself a house on this land and lived there from 1800. The house had a square turret over the entrance with a circular lookout giving fine views towards the coast. Unfortunately, the original house was demolished in 1961 and replaced with flats. An information board can be found on the wall of the pub featuring Blakes friendship with Hayley.

Further along Limmer Lane is Old Rectory Gardens. The grounds of the rectory were redeveloped in the 1950/60s, half the land was used for housing and the remaining garden space has been divided into a private garden for the existing house (now flats) and a public open space that is a real hidden gem in the village. The trail passes right through the gardens that display some formal planting amongst some more mature trees. Take time out in this peaceful garden to count the goldfish in the pond bordered with Yew hedging or take a rest in the story telling corner made up of carved seat and a zigzag bench.

Exit the gardens at Vicarage Lane and turn into Blakes Road. Blakes Cottage is situated on the left and was William Blake’s home for three years from 1800 – 1803.  The board located on the grass verge describes an incident that occurred between Blake and a soldier. Blake was arrested at the nearby Fox Inn after allegedly making seditious remarks to the soldier.

Continue to the seafront along Blakes Road and turn towards Bognor Regis, the next board is sited on the greensward in front of the iconic beach huts. Felpham beach would have looked very different in the latter part of the 18th century when it first developed as a holiday resort and at the time Hayley would have taken regular childhood swims.

The trail continues as a lovely stroll along the promenade, it is worth stopping to look back along the coast and admire the beautiful view whatever the season. The last board can be found on the long straight promenade at the edge of the pebbles outside Butlins. Follow the perimeter of Butlins back to Hotham Park to complete this informative walk.