Chichester Harbour Walk

Walks have been few and far between over the last few months but in the middle of October I met up with a couple of old school friends for a walk to explore part of Chichester Harbour. Armed with an Ordnance Survey Explorer OL8 map we set off early one Saturday morning from Chichester Railway Station.

Chichester To Itchenor

Road walking is never enjoyable and in order to reduce it whilst in the town  we headed in the direction of the Chichester Canal Basin. Here we begun to follow the towpath along the canal in a southerly direction. The canal formed a section of the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal which was opened in 1822 and provided a link between Portsmouth and London.  Today the Chichester Canal has been restored and is a haven for wildlife. On a few lucky occasions I have seen Kingfishers along the bank but unfortunately this walk was not one of them. The canal conveniently took us underneath the very busy A27. About 500 yards past the A27 we  turned off the towpath and headed through a residential area to the A286 which takes people to and from the Witterings and Chichester and gets extremely busy during the weekends in the summer months. 

Unfortunately a little more roadwork as we headed south for half a mile until a footpath took us towards Apuldram. We kept heading in a westerly direction and after a few more minutes we got our first glimpse of the harbour. The vast natural harbour is home to large numbers of birds especially waders as well as various mammals such as seals, water voles and bats. Once at the edge of the waters edge we now turned north and followed the harbour to the outskirts of the village of Fishbourne. Fishbourne is home to the remains of Fishbourne Roman Palace. The Roman building was built in 75AD and is the largest residential building discovered from Roman times. The footpath now follows the course of the harbour on the western side. Eventually the footpath turned sharp right away from the harbour and we started walking towards Bosham. Bosham is a  picturesque coastal village which is a centre for sailing. King Harold sailed from Bosham in 1064 to Normandy to negotiate with William. It is also believed that Bosham was the scene where King Canute ordered back the waves. From Bosham we carried on heading south until we reached the Itchenor ferry pick up spot.   

Unless we were prepared to swim our only option to get onto the Itchenor side of the harbour was to catch the ferry. We took the dry option.. It was now low tide so a little walk and a few minutes wait to be picked up. Out of nowhere between anchored and moored yachts the ferry appeared. After trying to work out where the ferry will moor the ferry lowered a ramp and we jumped onboard. £2.50 well spent and soon we were across the water to Itchenor. We quickly found the local pub “The Ship” and popped in for coffees and teas. Although only a small village being a sailing community there was plenty of activity.

Itchenor To West Wittering

After a well earned rest we joined the long distance path New Lipchis Way which run alongside the harbour front and walked in the direction of West Wittering. The New Lipchis Way is a path between Liphook and Chichester  Harbour totalling 39 miles. There are splendid views of Thorney Island and East Head from the path. East Head is owned by the National Trust and is a Sight of Special Scientific Interest. The sand and shingle spit provides protection to the harbour from erosion and flooding.

Time was against us as well as tired legs and when we were level with East Head we took a footpath and turned inland to West Wittering. West Wittering is believed to be the last pagan outpost in England. In AD683 Wilfrid the exiled Bishop of York arrived and this coincided with a long draught ending. This helped him to win over the local population and convert the area to Christianity. It would have been quite handy if Wilfrid had appeared at my allotment this summer. The relentless evenings spent watering the plot would have been resolved. We stopped at the Old House At Home for some lunch in the beer garden. Sitting a little longer in the afternoon sun was quite a temptation but we had to get on. Now fully refreshed we set off for the journey back.

West Wittering To Chichester

We left West Wittering  walking eastwards along Elms Lane and then taking a footpath on the left hand side up to the B2179 road. This is a busy road and not very wide so we to keep an eye out to stay safe as there was no footpath in places. After about 300 yards a footpath takes you into a holiday park and then onto Redlands Farm. We carried on heading in a north westerly direction and soon joined the New Lipchis Way again which took us to Birdham Pool and Chichester Marina. At the marina we met up with the Chichester Canal again as it meets the sea. From the marina we headed north by taking the footpath across the farmland to Dell Quay. We were not aware at the time as the footpath is not showing on the Ordnance Survey map but we could have walked through Salterns Copse and along the shoreline path up to Dell Quay. Maybe that’s an option for another day. At Dell Quay we couldn’t resist another stop and so we paid a visit to the  Crown And Anchor. This pub has superb views across the harbour and a large outdoor terrace that we sat in and enjoyed the autumn evening. The fight against time had been lost, the sun was setting and dusk was on its way. We made our way back to the A286 and the inevitable road walking. Crossing the dual carriageway A27 has been made easy with the footbridge at the Stockbridge roundabout and the railway station was not far into the town.

It was an enjoyable walk of just over 20 miles on flat terrain with the weather on our side. As well as plentiful wildlife and varied geology I hadn’t realised the history in those 20 miles. From the largest Roman palace, the last Pagan stronghold, King Canute unable to control the elements, King Harold’s trip to the continent and possible burial at Bosham Church up to the modern times and the Rolling Stones drugs bust at Redlands in the sixties. If time doesn’t allow a full day the walk can easily be shortened at Itchenor. Go east on the New Lipchis Way to Birdham rather than west to East Head. Maybe for another time a walk on the Chidham peninsular to the west of Bosham could be an idea.