22nd August 2019

West Sussex

by Enza Ferreri

Littlehampton Harbour

Littlehampton Harbour

Sussex is a large region of the South-East of England, extending along England's south coast on the English Channel, with beautiful hill ranges ending near or on the sea called the Downs. It has been divided into two counties: West Sussex and East Sussex.

On the West Sussex coast there are seaside resorts with sandy beaches, like Worthing and Bognor Regis, both holding the International Birdman competition, in which people run off an elevated ramp at the end of a pier and attempt to "fly" as far as possible .

The competition is made up of two categories. One, the Leonardo da Vinci class, is a serious competition for inventors with home-designed, home-built and self-powered flying machines and aviators mainly flying hang gliders.

The other, the Kingfisher Class, is a fun category, and involves people in fancy dress with little or no actual flying ability, making comical attempts at flying and raising money for charity.

Both Worhing and Bognor Regis have a pleasant seafront, beach, park and entertainment on the pier.

Worthing is not far from the city of Brighton, on the East Sussex coast, while Bognor Regis is close to the border with Hampshire, on the west.

Between Bognor Regis and Worthing lies another resort, Littlehampton, both on the sea - the English Channel - and on the east bank at the mouth of the River Arun. It is the most populous town in the Arun District, and its pleasure harbour on the river at the western side of the town, with yacht moorings, has attracted new expensive apartment developments.

Littlehampton is the birthplace of the late Dame Anita Roddick, the environmentalist who founded The Body Shop chain of cosmetics and beauty products not tested on animals in 1976, when it was still not fashionable and widespread as it is now. The Body Shop's world headquarters, despite the fact that Roddick had sold the company, are still nearby. She showed them to me when I interviewed her in the early '90s for the magazine La Nuova Ecologia. She was the daughter of Italian immigrants from Lazio, the region of Rome, who had a little cafe, and she always said how prejudice was deep when there were so few foreigners in a small town.

The River Arun goes through the charming historic market town of Arundel, with the famous Arundel Castle.

Still in West Sussex is the charming and historic harbour village of Bosham, near the cathedral city of Chichester. It's worth walking to Old Bosham, to explore and have a rest in a local tearoom.

Chichester, the only city in West Sussex and its county town, has a long history. Its Cathedral, in a pedestrianised leafy square, dates from the 11-12th century, but the city is older. It was a Roman settlement and became important in Anglo-Saxon times.

Chichester is the seat of a bishopric, and is home to some of Britain's oldest buildings and churches.

It is surrounded by walls, medieval but built on the foundations of the Roman walls, made lovely by the greenery of Priory Park and the Bishops Palace Gardens.

Chichester is home to excellent shopping and to the Chichester Festival Theatre, a modern hexagonal theatre with top-class pre-West-End theatre productions seating 1,200 people, and host to the famous annual festival. 

In Chichester, don't try to get near the Cathedral Square by car: we repeatedly tried, and failed 9 times out of 10.

At the western end of West Sussex is the peninsula of Thorney Island, offering coastal and estuary views.

Further north is the High Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty between the North and the South Downs.

This is a striking area, where it's also possible to see some deer and possibly peacocks. Lots of woodland, dressed in amazing colours in the autumn. Rumour has it that really good ancient - even 16th-century - inns can be found around here.

Southleigh Forest, Stansted Forest and Rowlands Castle are some of its highlights in West Sussex. 

Still inland, Horsham is a major town in West Sussex. The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), the leading UK animal welfare charity, has its national headquarters here.

In the Horsham District is Steyning, a small delightful town in the South Downs, by the River Adur, a few miles north of Shoreham-by-Sea. It used to be a river port, before the Adur silted up.

I'll be honest: the time we went to Steyning we didn't visit it on purpose, we were actually on our way from our home in London to the sea. We got stuck there for a whole afternoon and early evening because of a car problem, waiting for the AA and then the AA towing van, both of which did a very good job. If we hadn't, we would have missed this little gem which is out of the beaten track. Most people visiting the area would probably not know of its existence, but it's worth going there.

It's a beautiful, historic, very well preserved medium-to-large-sized village. No ethnic migrants. Probably because it's outside the commuter belt, it looks like what London or the outer suburbs might have looked like before mass immigration.

The church is the main landmark, when you ask for directions to the village centre people direct you to it. We saw several Tudor houses. Old-fashioned and quaint. A building all covered in Union Jacks and portraits of the Queen.


Enza FerreriEnza Ferreri is an Italian web author living in London, and former journalist.

Email: ehg89 at britaingallery dot com




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