As it’s the Year of the Coast, I’ve committed to exploring all the bits of Sussex coastline that I haven’t visited before or in a while. So last week, I headed south for a Littlehampton coastal walk from the town’s harbour to Rushington. It’s a 3 km walk outward bound and although you can get a bus back, I walked. It’s what I’d call an urban beach walk and it is completely flat.
Littlehampton is another Sussex town that is on the up. The town has been the focus of a long-term regeneration project which entered into its next phase in January of last year. There’s been a port here since Roman times although the Saxons founded what was to become the town.
As kids, this was our go-to spot for a bit of crabbing and this seems to hold good as a pastime here. For the very bold or foolhardy, you can take part in a swim down the River Arun from Ford to the harbour. (And yes, I have, very slowly. I think I came last!). These days, the harbour is an attractive and busy little harbour and a great place to start a Littlehampton coastal walk.
The Long Bench
The Long Bench along the seafront opened in 2010 and at 324 metres long, it can seat 300 people.
It was funded by a regeneration grant and a donation by the family of Body Shop founder Anita Roddick. It is thought to be the longest bench in Britain and one of the longest in the world. Made from wooden slats, many of which are engraved with personal messages (you can buy a slat). I love it. It’s fun, photogenic and personal.
You’ll also see the town’s motto, Progress, displayed along the seafront.
East Beach Café
Right on the seafront and at the edge of East Beach Green, you can’t miss East Beach Café. It was designed by award-winning designer Thomas Heatherwick and was his first building. It’s 40 metres long and only 7 metres wide. Amongst other awards, the building won a RIBA regional prize in 2008, with judges describing it as “both strange and captivating; weird but lovable”.
Who doesn’t love a row of beach huts? Particularly in such Ukrainian colours!
The Beach is opposite The Wave and skatepark and has sea views, seats on the beach, a roof terrace and a love of all things sea and beach related. They even have a shop and a steady stream of swimmers (even though it was January when I visited). Grab a seat on the sofa or cup your hands around a hot chocolate on the beach … you could be in the Med. Well, almost.
Rustington Convalescent Home
OK, so you may not think of a convalescent home as a point of interest but you can’t help noticing this very grand affair as you walk. Sadly it was under scaffolding when I passed this way but it was purpose-built as a convalescent home in 1897 and originally designed as a place where men, irrespective of income and background, could get high-quality convalescent care after an illness or accident and become fully active again. Pioneering stuff at the time! The site was chosen for the healing effects of the fresh sea air. It was requisitioned during World War II as the headquarters of the Special Wireless Service in the days leading up to the D-Day landings.
Rushington is known for a number of 17th and 18th century Sussex flint cottages and like Littlehampton, the village has its own museum. Two world air speed records were set over the seafront at Rushington. The first was in 1946, by Group Captain Teddy Donaldson. He also became the first man to exceed 1000 km/h. The second was in 1953, by Squadron Leader Neville Duke, flying at a speed of 1170.9 km/h. There is a plaque on the seafront to commemorate these events which is where I turned round and headed back.
If you have time to explore further, Littlehampton’s West Beach is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a nature reserve, with sand dunes and a sandy beach. You can also just see Littlehampton’s Napoloneoic Fort at the end of Rope Walk. It’s a Scheduled Monument and Building at Risk with Historic England.
Are Littlehampton’s beaches dog friendly?
West Beach allows dogs all year round. Dog access is restricted to certain areas of East Beach during the summer and dogs must be kept on leads on the promenade.
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