Enjoy the salty tang of the sea on this coastal walk by the entrance to Chichester Harbour.
Distance 3.5 miles (5.7km)
Minimum time 1hr 30min
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Beach and water-side paths, road and private drives
Landscape Wide views, natural tidal inlet
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 120 Chichester, South Harting & Selsey
Start/finish SZ 772978
Dog friendliness Off lead on harbour-side paths, on lead in West Wittering and beach
Parking Large fee-paying car park at West Wittering beach
Public toilets West Wittering beach and village
1 This scenic walk begins by the beach at West Wittering. Follow the drive through the extensive car park, and join the parallel shore path at the earliest opportunity. Pass a row of beach huts and a toilet block on the right. Continue ahead towards the mouth of Chichester Harbour, with Hayling Island seen on the far side. Make for the East Head National Trust donations box.
Explore East Head and then return to this point. Follow the path along the edge of Chichester Harbour, pass a seat and look to the right for a glimpse of the tower at Cakeham Manor. Continue to Snow Hill.
2 Pass a footpath on the right and keep going along the harbour edge. Cross a slipway to a seat and ignore another path running off to the right. At this point the walk suddenly turns its back on the neat villas and manicured lawns of West Wittering by heading for open farmland and scrub. Keep on the path, with the harbour and marsh landscape on the left, and eventually it bends right by a seat in memory of Penelope Ann Wallace.
Follow the tree-shaded footpath and turn right at the next footpath sign, where there is a gate. Walk along Ella Nore Lane, passing Ella Nore Farm. On reaching the road, opposite the public conveniences, turn left to the junction and then bear right to walk through West Wittering. Pass the Old House at Home inn and continue along the road to Seaward Drive, a private estate.
3 As the road bends left, veer over to the right and take Berrybarn Lane, over which runs a bridleway. Walk along the lane and again the tower at Cakeham Manor can be seen just across the fields. On reaching the signs for East Strand and West Strand, go straight on to follow a path between panel fencing and bushes. With the beach ahead, turn right towards East Head and follow the path over the greensward. On the right is a row of striking villas, many of them discreetly screened by trees and hedges. Beyond the villas, swing right through one of several gaps in the hedge to return to the car park.
The seaside community of West Wittering is a genteel place, tucked away from the rest of Sussex on a peninsula at the mouth of Chichester Harbour. Despite the hordes of summer visitors who flock to the beach, it retains a dignified air, evoking distant memories of how small seaside towns used to be. The village evolved mainly during the first half of the 20th century, though some elderly residents recall this stretch of coast before it became fashionable, when open fields extended to the beach, providing a natural playground for children.
The part of West Wittering more or less between the church and Chichester Harbour is known as Snow Hill. Though disputed many times over the years, this might be where the Romans landed when they came to Britain. This site was chosen as the setting for some coastguard cottages, mainly as a precaution against the threat of smuggling.
There are various seaside refreshments available at West Wittering beach, while the Old House at Home in the centre of the village offers a good range of snacks and meals - try the roast of the day or the local fresh fish. Baguettes, sandwiches and jacket potatoes are also available, as are hot pot, various pies and liver and bacon.
Cakeham Manor, originally a palace belonging to the Bishops of Chichester, lies close to the route of the walk, between West Wittering and neighbouring East Wittering. Its most prominent feature is the tall, distinctive tower which was added to the house in the 16th century and can be clearly seen rising above this flat landscape. The rest of Cakeham Manor dates from around 1800. Neither the house nor the tower are open to the public.
Devise your own walk around East Head at the mouth of Chichester Harbour. This slender spit of sand and shingle dunes has changed dramatically during the last two centuries, influenced by the elements. In November 1963 part of East Head was breached by high spring tides and its future looked uncertain. The following year the dunes were artificially reshaped and stabilised before being handed to the National Trust in 1965. Work to restore this sensitive natural feature of the Sussex coast has continued ever since. Among the large numbers of wintering waders and wildfowl found here are Brent geese, shelduck, redshank and curlew. Visitors are requested to avoid the fragile dunes and follow the duckboard sections.