Around Thorney Island

This month’s walk is situated on the western side of Chichester Harbour and goes around the military camp that is Thorney Island. Jutting out into Chichester Harbour Thorney Island is now more of a peninsula, separated from the mainland by a narrow creek called the ‘Great Deep’, whereas 150 years it would have been more of an island, before 72 hectares of tidal mudflats were reclaimed in 1870. Thorney Island was used as an R.A.F. Station from 1935 until 1976 and the southern part of the island is still MOD property. Pedestrian access is allowed on the perimeter path and access is via security gates, where you will be allowed to enter after giving a few details. The coastal path is easy to navigate and must always be followed, it is clearly marked by a Curlew on the waymarker sign. It is also a good idea to check the tides, as the path on the foreshore may be subject to tidal flooding.

I Parked up in the small car park at Prinsted and followed the Sussex Border Path across the fields passing Thornham Farm to Emsworth Marina. At the marina the coastal path is picked up by heading south atop the long straight high bank. After passing through the security gate the path crosses the ‘Great Deep’, which once formed part of the route of the Portsmouth Arundel canal. The path continues to follow the water’s edge and presents some fine views across the harbour towards Hayling Island. Chichester harbour has a resident colony of both Common and Grey seals and a good location to see them is near to the southwest corner of the island. A perfect place to take a break and if you look out to sea at low tide you are very likely to see some of the seals that reside in the harbour.

At the most southerly corner is Longmere Point, a bird hide situated here overlooks the RSPB Local Nature Reserve of Pilsey Sand. As a special area of conservation access is not allowed to this nature reserve, however still a great location for birdwatching where many wildfowl including brent geese, oystercatchers, lapwings, curlews, and shelduck can be seen.

From Longmere Point the route heads northwards back towards the mainland and again has some terrific views across the harbour to Cobnor, Itchenor and the South Downs beyond. As you head back the coast path passes the small village of West Thorney (no facilities or access to village allowed) which is home to the Anglican parish church of St Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors. The original building dates from around 1100 A.D. and the ancient churchyard has some gravestones dating from the 1760’s, along with commonwealth war graves and graves of the German Luftwaffe, perhaps brought ashore by an RAF launch stationed on the jetty.

The walk is completed by following the path along the eastern edge of the island back to Prinsted.

Chidham Coast Walk

This month’s trek was completed just after the easing of lockdown, it is a walk I have done many times and is a peaceful coastal walk of 9km (6 miles) around the headland of Chidham and Cobnor. Careful planning of this walk is required by checking the tide times beforehand, this peninsula of land cannot be walked around at high tide as the most southerly part of the path near Cobnor Point floods at high tide and is therefore impassable.

The walk starts at the small Cobnor Amenity car park just south of the village of Chidham and is a circular trek taking in both the village and the coast, that also incorporates part of the ‘London’s Lost Route to the Sea’ long distance path too. 

From the car park head towards the village of Chidham on the well-kept path through the fields past Chidmere Pond, a private lake in the grounds of Chidmere Farm. The pond cannot be seen, as it is hidden behind some tall hedging, however I believe the gardens and lake are stunning and have been open to the public in the past as part of the National Open Gardens day. At the village you can either go past St Mary’s church which was built c.1210 and then through fields or you can take the road through the quant village past the 18th Century pub, I prefer the quieter field route.

Approximately 300m to the north of the village, on the left, is the footpath that leads to the western shore of the peninsula, on reaching the raised path at the shoreline head south and keep to the coastline. Just past Chidham point the route will be on the stony shore as there has been extensive erosion of the sea wall, which has had many attempted repairs on it, but the forces of nature have taken their toll and broken a lot of the concrete repairs up. A new path further inland has been created as an easier route that cuts across the fields leading to the southern edge of the peninsula, however keeping to the shoreline will ensure you get great views across the wide mudflats of Nutbourne Marshes. A Site of Special Scientific Interest that covers 956 acres of the harbour, the marshes are not accessible but can be viewed from the path, a very tranquil spot where the sounds of the many feeding wildfowl can be heard.

Continue further along the shore to the tip of the peninsula where a line of ancient oaks cling to the bank, all twisted and battered by the salty winds, sea waves, and sun. It’s amazing how they have adapted themselves to such a harsh environment. A great spot for a break sitting in the shade of these trees that overlook Pilsey Sand and East Head Spit with many pleasure yachts passing through the busy Chichester Channel. There is a hide at this point which enables some additional birdwatching and has some local information which is worth stopping to read.

A further short walk on the pebbly shore past Cobnor Point leads to some steps up to a purpose made accessible path to Cobnor Activity Trust, a centre that has been delivering outdoor activities for youths since the mid 50’s. From this part of the path you have great views up the Chichester Channel and across to Itchenor. The footpath is well signposted and easy to follow past the activity centre, be sure to take a look at the old Thames barge ‘Pride of Sheppey’ that has been moored here since 1963, then head up the eastern side of the peninsula on a high raised bank, it is very evident that this side is more protected from natures elements and therefore has much less erosion. Just before leaving the shoreline you can look across to the far side of Bosham Channel to see the pretty waterside village of Bosham itself, with the houses seemingly all clustered around the village church. A short path inland takes you back to the car park to complete the walk.

Further details of route can be found at:

https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/5227499/Chidham-Coastal-Walk