A most famed beach location, West Wittering gives sand and lots of sand dunes. As most beaches nearby are full of pebbles, you can imagine in the summer this location is packed full of people. The owners know this too, the private estate that owns and looks after things have made a massive car park on the surrounding fees, they are not afraid to charge for it, £8 during high session to park…. We should feel lucky however, we all know of Adolf’s fondness of Butlins (see here), he could had been in luck if all had gone to plan and he happened to had come West Wittering way after he had spent a but of time in Bognor first of course. The Butlins holiday complex was talked about in the 1950s but as soon as the local population heard about it they didn’t just put together a Facebook petition like what happens these days, but instead put together money and collected enough to buy the land and set up a preservation trust. The car park had been a commercial success since the 1920s and the trust kept things going, the aim to preserve the area and keep it open to the public. The parking then costs money, but it keeps things going with this unique Trust, it also in a way stopped invasion from Germany in WW2, no Butlins = no real reason to invade (that and WW2 had finished years earlier!).
I’ve only been once, paid the high parking charge and taken in the sandy beach of which Sussex has very few. About time I had another visit.
One change for this trip, I had been not finding the saddle too comfortable lately and so I decided to swap it back from the comfy one to the original. I had experimented with this a couple of years ago where I had swapped the very hard original saddle with something a bit spongy, but not too spongy. I am told such really spongy saddles do not resolve anything, it is all about your bum bones being in the right place. It was when I was swapping it back over I noticed that I was able to change the angle of the saddle, I had been feeling as if I was getting tipped off forwards all the time which in turn meant my “bum bones” were not in the ideal position, hence feeling uncomfortable. Bingo then, I continued with the harder saddled but adjusted the angle, I would I would see how it went.
Early morning start, the day looked like it would turn out promising weather wise. The coldness of the early morning soon dissapeared as I set off Worthing way. Hardly any cars about at that time in the morning, but it seems many people on bikes be they all lycra’ed up for a Sunday ride or paper boys with their bags.
The initial plan was to see what time I got to various places that had cafes for a spot of decent breakfast, unfortunately due to my early start time and it being a Sunday I managed to go past them all way before opening time! Good job I had a small bit of breakfast before I left.
A slightly circular route, because no-one likes having to go and come back long the same roads. There was only so much of a circle I could make, there are not many options to get around some areas where the coast cycle route goes quite a way inland to get from Ferring to East Preston, and there is no real option from Littlehampton to Bognor. Once the other side of Bognor I decided to go inland up towards (but not quite getting to) Chichester. I judged the wind to be coming from the West and so an easier journey home, indeed all the way I had been against the wind which was keeping my speed down and effort up high, so a more inland route out and back home along the coast. This meant getting most of the way up to Chichester following a lot of cycle route 2 leaving it at the canal. While the cycle route used the tow path to to Chichester, I followed (on road) the canal the rest of the way to the sea. I could have had used the tow path but being still winter I was imagining it as bumpy and muddy and decided to use the road instead. I would rejoin the canal at the road into the marina, although at this point the canal was more of a river with no access to boats, making its way to the final old lock (no longer working) and out to the sea.
I knew there was a cafe at the marina, but taking a look it seemed a bit too posh, I decided breakfast would wait a bit longer.
At the marina you meet the Salterns Way cycle route. It comes all the way from Chichester and (I didn’t know at the time) down to West Wittering using a mixture of quiet roads and off road tracks. I wasn’t too keen to do too much off road this time due to it being winter time. In a quiet corner of the marina you find the remains of the lock that used to be the connections between the canal and the sea. It is now blocked up, houseboats on one side and am empty lock with broken old gates on the other. A small bridge over takes you to the other side. Rather amusing is spotting the small Salterns Way cycle route signs (quite had to spot), with a big crossed out bike symbol attached. I can see why, it’s a small narrow bridge with low sides and a big drop on one side.
I kept loosing the Salterns Way after this. As expected, there are a number of large posh houses and many private roads making it slightly unclear which roads you can go down on a bike, where the Salterns Way takes you. I lost the small signs and continued to follow the arrow on the GPS. The number of large sparkly clean Range Rovers and houses behind large gates were getting more and more.
West Wittering soon came up, highlighted by a public toilet block and a small cafe. The toilet block was very welcome, the cafe seemed a bit small and posh like. Even though I was by now getting hungry I didn’t quite fancy the small cafe, no menu outside and unable to see in the windows, I continued on. At this point, cars are told they are entering the private West Wittering Estate and there will be a car park charge at the end of the long road. I opted the road alongside, marked as a dead end and as a private road, but marked on the map as any normal road (although agreeing it was a dead end). This took me through the various gated houses, each in their own little spot of paradise countryside, none having anything to do with anything outside of their walls and fences. After a short while I reached the sea! Some fantastic expensive houses here, gardens (with no fences for once) going straight into the sea from hugely long bright green lawns, a Range Rover parked on the gravel.
The path continued along by the sea, it wasn’t marked up as a bridleway and it seemed pretty popular with dog walkers I felt it not wise to follow but instead go back to the road and rejoin the main road to the car park. A small queue of cars were queuing to be let into the car park, the barrier popping up each time a driver handed their money over. It was March, the weather was overcast and not particularly pleasant, the number of people visiting for the day was huge. I passed whole fenced off fields marked out as car parks, I can well believe on a summers day there must be thousands here.
I spotted the cafe and made my way towards it, a certain place to find an all day breakfast and cup of tea. It was closed.
I was by now actually quite hungry. I sat on the sandy beach for a while, watching families wrapped up warm making the most of the “only sand in Sussex” thinking I must one day come back in the summer. I wonder if I ever will, certainly not by car and with such an out of the way location, probably not by bike either. It was time to turn back home, wind hopefully behind me, looking out for beachside cafes for breakfast.
As there is a West Wittering then there must be an East Wittering of which I soon came to find. It seemed just a single street straight down to the beach. A bit deserted and wind swept but obviously a hugely popular hidden location on better days, something to remember about. Numerous cafes dotted the streets trying to make the most of passing winter trade. I pondered for a while before I chose my cafe for the day, the one advertising all day breakfast for £7.50 on the board outside won out. At two sausages, two bacon, two fried bread, two hashbrowns, black pudding, beans, and a cup of tea…. it is what was needed.
Eating on your own, unless there is something to watch out of the window, it is a tad boring. I turned to my phone in order to read some web pages but no signal. I really wished I had bought along my Kobo or even a real book. However, my mind was taken away from this when my breakfast arrived, a full TripAdvisor review in progress in I think! The holy grail of a good breakfast from a cafe means it must come with real sausages and not cheap frozen ones full of sawdust. I had two real sausages, I had perfectly done fried bread, black pudding that was not all dried up, two fried eggs done well (one with a double yolk, bonus) It seemed I had found the right place.
It was now really time for home, eastwards all the way, mostly along the seafront as much as I could, wind behind me. It didn’t quite work out due to:
- seafront taken up by gated houses, Range Rovers supplied as part of the house
- the seafront turning into more marsh and so no roads
- the wind seemed to be one of those magic winds that are never fully behind you for some reason
I stopped off quickly at Bracklesham Bay in order to check out another cafe for future reference. Good reviews and recommendations, but advised to arrive early. I turned up at the small wooden building and inside was packed, I felt glad I had found my own quiet cafe in my own quiet seaside town.
In the GPS I had included a diversion off to Selsey if I thought I had time when I came to it. A strange town, one that I have probably visited before but not in any recent years. It has one road in and out, there is no reason for anyone to ever go there, it’s not on the way to anywhere, it’s miles from any larger town. Patrick Moore lived there, not much light pollution then I am thinking. Because of it’s “out of the way” nature I was tempted to make the 10 mile diversion, but I had spent too long eating real sausages, I had to get home. Will I ever return I wonder?
As normal, the route home is never as interesting, but I had planned in a small route to bypass bits of main road. On the planner it seemed it was a road, in reality it was a gravel track through a farm (with plenty of “turn back, all is doomed” type messages) and out the other side. I was a bit taken by the notices in Polish on an open gate, feeling a bit like an extra from X-Files I continued on. I passed a vegetable packing factory as I kept on what seemed like a newly created gravel road for large lorries (area 51 located near Selsey anyone?) until what seemed like miles I finally saw traffic on a road ahead. Condidant that a newly built gravel road of this size must surely join a main road at some point I continued on, until I got to a large high fence with a large high gate, locked. Bugger.
I didn’t fancy back tracking. The yard was surrounded by fields, a large ditch filled with water all the way round, or did it? I found a small gap in the ditch, bike on the shoulder I climbed over… a quick dash along the side of the field and back to tarmac as if nothing had happened…. I was a bit muddy. That short cut had got me about a mile along the road I was originally on, it had taken a good hour….
I kept to known roads for the rest, through Bognor, through Littlehampton, through the strange X-Files type villages into Goring, along the seafront and back home. The GPS, who’s battery was halfway at the beginning of the day was now showing nearly empty. A good show I thought, it must be the 3rd or 4th full day of cycling on the same set of AA batteries. Take that modern USB rechargable GPS!
Number of miles: 77
Number of Range Rovers: so many
Number of white or gold Range Rovers: too many
Number of perfectly good sausages eaten: 2