Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Call Me Ishmael....

The south coast of England is not generally blessed with sandy beaches. Pebbles and shingle of varying size are more our forte here, with the added benefit that walking on them (especially when barefoot) equals a free reflexology treatment.

But the beach at West Wittering is gob-smackingly gorgeous - a great long stretch of practically powdery sand with shallow safe swimming and a whole load of sand dunes at one end. I've not been there for, ooh, possibly ever, come to think of it and last week, at the start of the current heatwave, I whined like a small child about wanting to go to the beach and decided it had to be West Wittering.

South-westish of Chichester, West Wittering is part of a privately owned estate (the infamous 1960s Rolling Stones drug bust took place at Keith Richards' house here - you know, the one with Marianne Faithfull and the Mars Bar, that one...). The houses are fabulously expensive, the roads quiet(ish) and tree-lined. You have to pay to park here (but that seems to be quite common these days) and be gone by sundown which seems a little draconian but it does mean that there are no fish 'n' chip shops, burger vans, amusement arcades or loud pubs. Dogs are not allowed on the beach which, on the one hand is a sadness because I love seeing happy dogs in the surf but, on the other, no dog shit! It's all very clean and tidy, there are plentiful public toilets which are a pleasure to use, old fashioned beach huts lie in a row just off the sand and lifeguards patrol frequently.

We had to get some supplies first, so lunch was bought and a couple of collapsible chairs obtained. Swimming cossies, hats and suncream were all packed into bags and off we went.

The drive down from Godalming to Chichester is really rather picturesque - it takes you through the rolling downs of southern England through Haslemere:

and through Midhurst:

Through Cocking (*snigger*):

To Singleton (where the fabulous Weald and Downland Open Air Museum is located):

By West Dean College (which has the most amazing arts and crafts courses - I'm going to save my pennies and do some....):

On through Chichester:

In between driving through lots of countryside that looks like this:

or this (humming Vaughan Williams as you go):

Until, about 90 minutes after setting out, we reached the beach, paid the parking, and headed off down to the sea.

Somewhat unfortunately, everyone else in the south of England had also seemingly had the same idea that day:

But the beach is big enough to accommodate everyone. We were, to be honest, surprised at how many older teenagers there were there that day, and then it dawned on us that A Level exams must have just finished - possibly even the day before - and now they were all out with their mates at the seaside, relaxing and letting off steam.

Of course, being surrounded by stick-thin lovelies with perfect thighs and no visible body hair does absolutely nothing for the ego but I can comfort myself with the fact that I used to look like that too and now, well, let's just hope no-one is going whalewatching:

Whoah, careful with that harpoon there, Ahab....

Still, it's always tricky to know where to put your packet of fags when you ain't got no pockets, innit:

I did actually submerge myself fully and, after the first hypothermic shock, found the sea to be quite warm so stayed in, swimming and bobbing around, for about half an hour. The last time I swam in the sea off the coast of England was in about 1984 - I won't be rushed into things! Checking online after we got home, it seems the sea temperature was about 17-19 degrees centigrade, which is somewhere in the mid to upper 60s Fahrenheit. My cousins in Canada (Hi Steve and Trudy!) declared me to be insane as they wouldn't even deign to stick a toe into water 'that cold'. However, a personal internal duvet layer of body fat always helps, I find.

The Husband can be a bit of a stranger to the great outdoors, especially if it's really hot and sunny, so after watching him slowly do a striptease in reverse until he resembled a mummy as he covered each bit of exposed skin with whatever we had to hand, we decided at about 3.30pm to head off home. It was a fabulous day and one I'm actually quite keen to repeat, especially as this summer's supposed to be a good one (and it's 28.5 degrees centigrade indoors as I'm typing this) - I just wished we lived a bit nearer.

So, I'll leave you with a few pictures I took:


Anonymous said...

Loved your blog.......Loved your pictures too! Your writing was funny, yet extremely descriptive - I felt as though I was there myself - you should become a writer!
But still too darn cold for me.......
Did find the lady with the thong a bit disturbing though - do Britts actually wear those? hah hah hah......
Love Trudy

Mrs Jones said...

Hi Trudy - she was probably the only person on the entire south coast wearing a thong, they're just not that fashionable any more (thank God!).

peevish said...

As much as I love living here in Colorado, close to the mountains, I do wish we had a beach within range for a day-trip. There is nothing quite like the seaside to relax one, and to make one ponder the magic of life on Earth.

Or to just make one wonder about why anyone would wear a butt-floss bikini.

Cait O'Connor said...

That was a lovely trip down memory lane for me. Used to go to West Wittering when we lived in Surrey and West Sussex. Thank you, great blog.

Pondside said...

The beach huts were lovely - just what beach huts should be. That back view of the brazilian bikini was pretty un-lovely.....poor girl - no one loves her enough to tell her that this type of thong only looks good on very tiny, very tanned bottoms.
I was fascinated by the change of scenery and the number of towns you went through in a 90 minute drive. If that 90 minutes were spent on the road here you'd see a lot of trees and not much more.
Gorgeous beach! I'd have longed to go there to.

elizabethm said...

Blogger is very keen not to let me comment! I love the beach too but am married to a man with an aversion to sand. What is there to object to? Lovely blog and great pictures.

livesbythewoods said...

I adore West Wittering. We used to go there after school in the late afternoon and take a picnic for our tea. Bliss. The only thing I dislike about Wiltshire is the tragic lack of coastline.

Now I'm homesick, looking at those photos.

Welsh Girl said...

That looked heavenly - the drive as well as the beach. What happened to the forecast summer though? We waz robbed!