WEST WITTERING HIKE
Participants - Ron, Den, Bob and John - a seagull took the picture - blame him/her!
Monday February 2nd 2015
The weather was kind despite the forecast of biting northerlies and snow flurries. Rendezvous at 11.30am at the coffee shack (which was closed) in the empty expanses of the car park was achieved by all on time. Murmurings of a boring journey from a certain quarter were ignored. Boots tied, scarves wrapped, gloves on, rucksacks hoisted the foursome set off in search of a coffee shop that was open, a hundred yards along the beach a large coffee shop beckoned but alas was also closed but a sign indicating refreshments in the lifeguards tower was a welcome sight, but, again alas it was closed. However nestled on the veranda of the lifeguard’s tower was a delightful couple snuggled up celebrating the lady’s birthday with a bottle of champagne. The offer of a glass was made to the hovering hikers but politely declined as there wouldn’t have been enough to go around, her partner looked relieved.
A great deal of homework had been done regarding the tides for the day and sure enough the first section was enjoyed on the flat wet sands strewn with a carpet of shells that crunched underfoot (and the odd discarded Frisbee). The party after a short while were channelled up onto the higher coast path as the tide was not yet far enough out to allow passage around the breakwaters, a steep climb up shifting shingle was achieved by all without mishap and without resorting to ropes and ice axes.
To the port side (the left!) of the path were row upon row of opulent empty second homes owned by the super-rich (and the odd jackpot millionaire) slumbering like hedgehogs waiting for the warmth and the chink of champagne glasses. To the starboard side, (the right!) a slumbering sea, shimmering in a low winter sun and a misty Bembridge Down on the Isle of Wight on the horizon.
The peace was soon shattered by the sound of a dumper truck transporting tons of shingle back along the beach to the place from whence it had come. No doubt a regular job for the shingle shifters during the winter.
The Shore Inn loomed in the distance which was to be the turning point – much earlier than the organiser had anticipated – however a short stop for a coffee and shot for those in need was enjoyed in the bar. The tranquillity only disturbed slightly by the murmurings of a few locals and their pug dogs which snarled and growled and threatened mayhem.
Hunger now took over and a suitable bench looking out to sea was chosen and rucksacks unslung disgorging goodies by the handful. Within seconds myriads of wheeling and screeching gulls descended on the party hoping for a crumb but they were to be disappointed, a photo opportunity was taken with the 10 second delay action from the camera on the mini tripod which turned out to be a masterpiece in portraiture!
The mood at the start of the trek back along the beach was somewhat sombre as all thought that it was to be more of the same but none knew what was lying in wait on the path ahead.
By now the tide had receded further and allowed a leap and a clamber over the breakwaters, precise timing was needed to avoid wet feet as the waves threatened from the other side of the breakwaters – electrifying! Once more clambering up on to the coast path, now at ease with the shifting shingle, the party took off at right angles heading inland onto a beckoning footpath – what a fortunate diversion, it lead straight to the home of Patricia Fairchild who is a celebrated, talented local artist of seascapes, many examples were for sale on a table outside her home and are well worth a look, she also makes jam at £3 a pop – sorry pot – her creations can be viewed on www.westwitteringwatercolours.gb.net .
Further round the bend back in the centre of West Wittering, a welcome sight, a trendy tea shop that was actually open and welcoming, John offered to buy a beverage with a slice of your finest which turned out to be a chunk of carrot cake (nice and moist) Den declined the offer but greatly enjoyed half of Bob’s and half of John’s. A buxom wench approached with a gerkin problem, she couldn’t get the lid off the jar and wondered if there were any strong men around with a firm grip. There were no shortage of volunteers, Bob failed, John failed and Den succeeded with the aid of a knife expertly inserted by the buxom wench leaning voluptuously over the table, Ron waited patiently in the wings as backup in case a hand (or two) were needed in case of any emergency.
The buxom wench retreated into the kitchen enjoying her gerkin and obviously informed her colleague that there were customers that needed to be investigated, Amozonia sauntered across to the table, engaged in light conversation but concluded that it was a lost cause.
Refreshed, the foursome set out along a lane that led into the churchyard and out the other side into a field with a notice ‘Beware of Rabbit Holes’ – no problems. On past a small exclusive caravan park, past West Wittering Yacht Club and out across a field to the raised coast path skirting a scenic but muddy inlet. On the other side is a National Trust area known as East Head popular with dog walkers, yachty people who moor up on the point and impress their friends and those who wish to ‘cavort’ in the dunes without being seen. Thoughts of extended the walk around East Head were dismissed as the northerly wind was now making itself felt and time was running out.
A final look out to sea over the expanses of the flat sands, and a pause at a memorial erected in memory of some poor soul who was drowned trying to save another a couple of years ago.
The Kingley Vale Hike (near Chichester)
Wednesday June 10th 2015
Moving on, today was the long awaited ‘old boys hike’ in the Sussex hills. We have more than 300 years between the four of us and apart from the odd twinge, gasp and trip we never give up. The lush green fields and hedgerows rolling into the distance were a sight to behold not to mention the wildlife struggling to make itself heard amongst the sound of the arriving texts, emails and phone calls. If you don’t know Kingley Vale just north of Chichester, it is worth the trip.
If you take the trouble to Google Kingley Vale you would learn that ‘it is known for its twisted and ancient yews and includes a grove of veteran trees which are among the oldest living things in Britain’ well all I can say we (and they) were in good company! Also, the wildlife struggling to make itself heard could have included a Melodious Warbler so named because of its melodious tweet, I would be interested to know if there is a Grumpy Warbler and if so he or she would also have found itself in good company. No, I didn’t mean you Den.
By the way the view from the top of Kingley Vale is quite magnificent; the whole of Chichester Harbour is spread out in front of you from Hayling Island to Dell Quay. You can see virtually all of the Isle of Wight, the container ships plying in and out of Southampton and in the near distance one of our party, I won’t say who, spotted an oil drilling rig, well we knew that there was a lot of fracking planned for the area but surely not already? On closer inspection with the bin’s it turned out to be Chichester Cathedral with a nodding donkey in a nearby field – sorry Den. Today was a Henry day, he always looks forward to a sniff round our local beauty spot Polesden Lacey, the view from there is also magnificent, in the distance you can spot all the Spitfires lifting off from zero nine left at Heathrow – (today was a cool North Easterly). If you squint a bit you can just make out the queue into the fast track booths in Terminal 5 Border Control which stretches outside, up and down the taxi ways and half way up the glide slope to zero nine right. That’s not funny either, especially if you are in it.
RON DEN BOB JOHN
These amazing! pictures are from another 10 mile hike around Thorney Island.