Cycling from Guildford

Cycling routes throughout the South East, accessible from Guildford in a day

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Route G: Brighton to Chichester on the beach

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Summary From Brighton to Ferring, west of Worthing, there is a good, mainly traffic-free, cycle path. West of Ferring, there are good stretches of footpath beside the shore, but these are off limits to cyclists. Inland routes by road traverse boring and rather unwelcoming housing estates, many of which are private. However, there is an alternative for the more fit and adventurous. At low tide an extensive and unexpectedly sandy beach is revealed which provides reasonable riding to Pagham (with a short excursion inland to cross the Arun estuary at Littlehampton). Be warned that inevitably your bike will get a good pasting with sand and salt and will need a good clean: don’t blame me for any ill effects! Timing is quite crucial, so check tide tables for, say, Worthing and time your beach ride to coincide with the approximately three hour window spanning low tide. From Pagham, the route to Chichester includes the old Chichester ship canal towpath.
Distance/time: 38 miles; whole day
Start/Finish: The ride is described starting from Brighton Railway Station and finishing at Chichester Railway Station. By train, reach Brighton from Guildford, either via Havant or Gatwick Airport. Return from Chichester via Havant (NB Take something like a towel to wipe down your bike at the end of the ride: a sandy bike will not be popular on the train.)

By car, you could park at one of the car parks shown on the map. For example, park free by the canal at Hunston, cycle to Chichester, take the train to Brighton, then cycle back.There is also a car park opposite the Beach Cafe in Pagham: usually free, but there may be a modest charge a busy times. There is also free parking along the road side at Ferring.

Conditions under the tyre: Because of the beach section, a mountain bike with big tyres is more or less essential to prevent sinking into patches of soft sand.The firmest sand seems to be on the strip just below where the shingle ends, but you will need to make excursions around each breakwater. Relatively smooth stretches alternate with stretches which are quite bumpy due to the 'ripple' pattern on the sand.It is best to try and maintain a reasonable speed, and the riding is quite strenuous. Do be careful and keep an eye on the tide: in the event that the tide comes in, you should be able to push up over the shingle onto the shoreside footpath or road, and proceed inland.

Between Brighton and Ferring, the route is on good roadside or sea front tracks. The route between Pagham and Chichester includes a short stretch of bridleway, otherwise mainly quiet roads or canal towpath.

The sea front stretches are popular with trippers for strolling, so best to avoid busy times (eg peak summer weekends).
Reverse route: Wind direction is an important factor, chose whichever direction puts the wind behind you, but you have to balance this against timing of low tide on the beach section.
Route variations:
As described above, you could accomplish the Ferring-Chichester stretch on inland roads. The main roads are busy, and other roads are through suburbs of little interest. Sustrans has plans for a route using the footpaths beside the shore,but issues with the private estates which own the land are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.
Route description:
  • From Brighton station, head south down Queen's Road to the sea front. Cross the busy main road (A259) and turn right (West) onto the obvious cycle path along the sea front.
  • Continue along the cycle path for 2.5 miles, then fork left on Wharf Road which becomes Basin Road, passing harbourside wharfs on the right, sea hidden behind a wall to the left.
  • Past Southwick Power Station (where Carat's Cafe can be found beyond the car park on the left) turn off right to pass across the Lock Gates at Shoreham Harbour mouth.
  • Emerge on the A259 and follow it west past the old Shoreham Lighthouse, and opposite Shoreham East Street, cross the footbridge over the River Adur.
  • On the other side, turn left, then right on Riverside Road, left on Weald Dyke, right (West) on Beach Road, then shortly, where the road bears off right, carry straight on past bollards, and continue on the coastal cycle path, passing the Widewater lagoon, and carrying on till rejoining the shared use path beside the A259 into Worthing.
  • The cycle path soon branches left off the A259, and goes along the sea front, past Worthing Pier, till it ends just past a playground and 'Drought Garden', you must rejoin the road, and take Eirene Road, Marine Crescent and Marine Drive passing the Sea Lane Cafe and arriving in Ferring.
  • Where Marine Drive ends at a right hand bend, assuming you have read the tide tables correctly, push across the shingle bank (care), and get down onto the hard sand.
  • Now pick your way along the beach. Generally it seems best to follow the sand strip just bordering the shingle, weaving round the breakwaters. Be ready for patches of soft sand and watch out for rocks.
  • Continue thus to the harbour wall at Littlehampton, where a ramp gives access to the road.
  • Shared use cycling seems to be allowed inland beside the river, followed by a short walk up one-way River Road to the pedestrian and cycle bridge over the river.
  • Over the bridge, turn left down Rope Walk and follow the road down to West Beach. Get on the sand again, and resume progress westwards, exercising care as before.
  • Opposite Elmer, on the fringes of the Bognor Regis conurbation, you will encounter sea defences in the form of a series of 'rock islands' of large blocks: these can be passed on the seaward side, crossing small rivulets.
  • At Bognor, you can escape the sand for a short while: there is a short stretch of the esplanade either side of the Butlins holiday camp where cycling is allowed. Cycling does seem to be tolerated along the whole front, though I don't know how rigorously this is policed.
  • To the West of Bognor, the lower beach is carpeted with a moonscape of large rocks. Nearing Pagham, just before the beachside houses start, join a wooden walkway over the shingle, and to the left (West) a path gives access to unmade East Front Road. Opposite Pagham Yacht Club, take Beach Road into Pagham, which soon becomes Sea Lane.
  • At the T junction, turn right on Pagham Road.Pass Sefter Road on the right, and "Barfoots of Botley" on the left. Some way on a footpath is signed on the right, and a bridleway to the left immediately opposite. Take this latter, and cross the fields to emerge on Bowley Lane.
  • Head North on lanes to North Mundham, where turn left onto the (BUSY) B2166.
  • After a short distance, a tarmacked traffic free path leaves the road, cutting across to a shared use pavement beside the B2145.
  • Shortly cross over (GREAT CARE) and cross a bridge onto the canal towpath. Follow this North into Chichester, passing under the A27.
  • Pass through the Wharf basin, the follow a short stretch of the busy A286 Stockbridge Road, crossing a level crossing to reach Chichester Station.
  • Plenty of cafes in Brighton (try the Lanes area if you have time), and various snack shacks along the sea front.
  • Carat's cafe, just opposite Southwick Power Station, hunkered down behind the sea wall, and a great place to soak up some rays.
  • Shops and cafes in Old Shoreham (pedestrianised East Street).
  • Plenty of snack shacks and cafe's along the sea front in Worthing
  • Popular Sea Lane Cafe off Marine Crescent in Goring
  • Plenty of eateries in Littlehampton. For a proper meal, try trendy East Beach Cafe. On the other side of the Harbour is West Beach Cafe.
  • Beach Cafe and pubs in Pagham
  • Numerous cafes etc in Chichester.
Points of Interest: This is a slice of seaside life: zany Brighton, sedate Worthing, regenerating Littlehampton, brash Bognor. Apart from a two mile frontage at Climping, there is almost continuous urban sprawl along the coast, as the original towns and villages have expanded and joined, including everything from posh private estates to prefabs. Nevertheless, the excellent cycle path along the sea frontage makes for easy riding with plenty of interest, whilst the beach ride adds a touch of adventure.

Brighton is a thriving city by the sea with numerous attractions, although at peak season (especially weekends) it can seem overrun by day trippers (not us, of course). The Lanes are worth a wander, with numerous quirky shops and eateries. Tucked away at the beginning of Basin Road South is Hove's Western Esplanade. Despite the unprepossessing surroundings, the houses here are said to be owned by A-list celebs, and it is known as "Millionaires' Row".

The modern Shoreham Port is a major UK port for aggregates, sawn timber, steel, oil, locally grown cereals and scrap metal, though it is not working to full capacity, and is beneficiary of a regeneration project.

On the A259, on the left approaching Shoreham is the impressive new Shoreham Lifeboat Station, next to the old, now disused, Shoreham Lighthouse, dating from the 1840s.

Off the busy A259, Shoreham town centre is surprisingly interesting. The port dates back to Norman times. The church of St Mary de Haura was built in the decade following the Doomsday Survey of 1086 and the town laid out on a grid pattern. The 12th century building in Shoreham High Street, the Marlipins Museum, is one of the oldest surviving secular buildings in the UK and dates from this time. Over the other side of the Adur is Shoreham Beach, a pre-war bungaloid development, linked to the 'mainland' by a new pedestrian and cycle footbridge built under a Sustrans Connect 2 scheme.

Worthing has a reputation as a retirement town: it is more sedate than Brighton, but maybe that is no bad thing. As you approach along the sea front from the East, numerous small fishing boats hauled up on the beach make a colourful feature. The sea front is undergoing various improvement works, for example 'Splash Point' East of the pier has been remodelled with attractive seating, palm trees and sculptures. The venerable pier, over 100 years old, is in good nick. At the western end of the esplanade, the attractively laid out Waterwise Garden aims to demonstrate drought resistant planting.

Like many resorts along the Sussex Coast, Littlehampton has the air of having seen better days, with a somewhat faded beach front and amusement park, but has probably improved over recent years, with the development of the (inevitable) trendy apartments along the River frontage, and the establishment of the funky East Beach Cafe. The East Beach is pleasant enough, and the West Beach, backed by dunes, is relatively unspoilt.

On the beach at Elmer, a series of massive "Rock Islands" have been built to check beach erosion.

Bognor Regis has also probably seen better days, although its suburbs to the East and West include several up market private housing estates (which don't welcome outsiders passing through). The tent-like roofs of the Butlins Holiday Camp are a distinctive feature on the esplanade. Bognor was granted the title 'Regis' by George V after he spent time there recovering from an illness, although famously he is also said to have said 'bugger Bognor" on his deathbed when his doctors tried to cheer him up with the (unlikely) prospect of visiting the town again.

A rough unmade road from Pagham Village leads to the spit at the Eastern entrance to Pagham Harbour Local Nature Reserve, which is now managed by the RSPB. The ‘harbour’ is a lagoon flooded at high tide, and is an excellent spot for birdwatching, especially in winter when waders and various ducks and waterfowl are present. Note that the car park which used to be on the spit is now closed, due to a dispute between the council and the landowner over maintenance.

The Chichester ‘ship’ canal linked Chichester to the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal.

It is well worth diverting into the centre of Chichester, especially to visit the Cathedral . As well as admiring the splendid architecture, in the summer, in the last few years, peregrine falcons have nested on the tower, and volunteers set up telescopes to allow viewing by visitors.

Finding your way Supplement my Google map on this page, with OS Explorers 122 (Brighton and Hove),121 (Arundel and Pulborough) and 120 (Chichester).