Distance: 5 km. Elevation: 33 m. Difficulty: Easy.
This West Sussex walk takes you to Pagham Harbour. Pagham is a village of two halfs. There is the typical beach village half with an amusement arcade, candy floss, inflatables and sand, and then there is the wonderful open space of the harbour.
Pagham Harbour is a large, local nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest west of Bognor Regis and south of Chichester. It’s made up of areas of saltmarsh, tidal mudflats, reeds, wetlands and shallow lagoons. Nowadays, there is no central estuary, although it once had three working ports. The harbour was eventually silted up and today it’s an undeveloped area and an internationally important wetland site for wildlife.
There is parking at the Visitor Centre south of Sidlesham on the B2145 and at Church Norton. However, we parked in Pagham and walked to St Thomas a Becket Church as our start point (because the church in itself is a place of historic interest).
A choice of trails
There are various routes you can take to explore the harbour including a 1.75 mile Discovery Trail through the Discovery Zone (near the Visitor Centre), and an 800m Church Norton Trail along the harbour’s edge and the beach.
There is also a North Wall Trail which you can walk to from the Visitor Centre. For the more intrepid, there is a Heritage Trail which is well signed with blue markers but sadly, details are not available online. We armed ourselves with Ordnance Survey Explorer 8 instead.
Dogs are welcome on the public footpaths and bridleways around the nature reserve but only on designated rights of way and you are asked to keep them on the lead.
The start of your Pagham Harbour 5 km walk
Starting at Pagham church (which is the opposite side of the harbour to the Visitor Centre) we followed the footpath signs which quickly bring you to an old Salthouse (and sometime information centre) and the start of the North Wall Trail.
The walk along the wall is easy to follow and takes you west. At the end, you go left and follow the footpath all the way to Sidlesham Quay. It feels at times like you’ve left the footpath and are just walking on the mudflats but in the summer it is dry and after about 2.5 km you reach Sidlesham Quay.
Now, you are following in the footsteps of conquering Romans who landed here and if you look carefully at a pile of bricks, you’ll realise this is the remains of an important tidal mill. In fact, a mill stood here from 1275 until WWI and the last mill, built in 1775, was supposed to be the finest in the country with three water wheels and eight millstones.
Stop for lunch
For the weary walker or the Sussex foodie, you’ll also find the Crab and Lobster in Sidlesham. We haven’t eaten there (yet) and you have to book, but it has a stellar reputation, so we’ll be back.
From here, you could retrace your steps. Alternatively, carry on down the lane past the Crab and Lobster and take the second footpath to your right at Halsey’s Farm. This will lead you across fields back to the North Wall from where you just follow the path back to the start.
This walk is a bird spotter’s heaven but anyone who enjoys total serenity, wildlife and a sense of the past, will love it too.
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For more information visit: Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve