Cycling from Guildford

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

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Route H: Selsey Bill the Witterings and Chichester Circular. NB Summer 2014: Route updated as a result of 'Medmerry' coastal realignment works.

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Summary This route allows you to bag another stretch of the round-the-coast ride, that around Selsey Bill and onwards to the beach at West Wittering, including the cycle paths which are an integral part of the coastal realignment works at Medmerry. One could continue on westwards across the top of Chichester Harbour, but this can only be accomplished on busy and unrewarding A-roads. Rather, the route is turned into a circular using the pleasant off-road Salterns Way to Chichester and route 88 back to the start at Sidlesham.

NB The seaside paths at Selsey and the Witterings are popular for strolling and dog walking, and get quite busy with pedestrians. At busy times, be considerate, give priority to pedestrians and either be prepared to get off and push or to take to the back roads. Better still, do this ride off season and off peak!

Distance/time: Approx 34 miles, about 4 hours riding
Start: Being a circular ride the start point is not critical. I describe the route starting from the free car park at the Visitor Centre at Sidlesham, heading ‘clockwise’. There are several other car parks marked on my Google map, which are either free or charge a modest amount for a day’s parking (about £1.00). Coming by train, you can start at Chichester Station.
Transport: By car from Guildford take the A3 the A27 towards Chichester, A286, B2201 to Sidlesham. The Visitor Centre car park is clearly signed on the left just beyond the village. By train: Take the train from Guildford to Chichester, changing at Havant.

Conditions under the tyre: The Salterns Way is mainly off road on good tracks (at least in summer: in winter or after a wet spell there could be mud). The same applies for off road parts of Route 88 (eg the canal towpath).

The sea wall along East Beach at Selsey, and the beachside path between East and West Wittering are popular for strolling and dog walking. Responsible cycling seems to be tolerated (or at least not expressly forbidden), but at busy times (eg summer weekends), be considerate, give priority to pedestrians, use your bell, and either be prepared to get off and push or to take to the back roads. Better still, do this ride off season and off peak!

The cycle paths around the Medmerry works are along access tracks used by the construction vehicles: surfaces are generally good, but the covering of loose chippings needs care.

As you approach West Wittering, the final 200m or so of the path becomes fine sand: OK on foot, but not riding a bike. You will either have to push as best you can, or, if the tide is reasonably low, take to the firm wet sand. Indeed at full low tide, an extensive, reasonably firm wet sand beach is revealed, which should be cyclable for some distance along the frontage from East Wittering. (NB If you do decide to ride along the beach, try and avoid riding through puddles of sea water: the salt will corrode your spokes!)

Because of these rough surfaces, a mountain bike is strongly recommended, and it is emphasised quite a lot of walking may be required.
Reverse route: As a circular ride, either direction would do. Best to do it in whichever direction gives the lower tide, to maximise the chance of beach riding.
Route variations: As noted above at busy times, it may be preferable to use the beachside and backroads of Selsey to avoid the crowded sea wall: possibilities should be obvious from the Google map.

I show on the map a 'shortcut' on quiet roads direct from Sidelsham to the Medmerry cycle paths, if you want to omit the ride around Selsey Bill.

In the Medmerry works, at Marsh Barn, rather than taking the access road, you can carry straight on down the access road to the shingle beach (beside a pile of massive granite blocks), then either walk along the shingle bank to Bracklesham (hard going), or at low tide, ride along the beach.

Route description:
Exit the car park, and turn left (South) on the B2145 (BUSY ROAD – CARE). After about 1.5 miles, just before the roundabout on the outskirts of Selsey, take Park Lane on the left. This is a rough access road which goes down to the sea frontage at East Beach. Now (noting the comments above about busy times) follow the path along the sea wall past the Lifeboat Station and on till the path ends almost at Selsey Bill itself (which is accessible only on foot). Take the byway signed right, emerge beside a green and at the end of this turn left to reach the West Beach.

Cross a concrete area and lift your bike over a ‘lip’ onto the sea front path (care needed for this slightly awkward manoeuvre). Now cycle along to emerge in the Marine Gardens Car Park. The sea front here is not navigable, so head inland then left onto Clayton Road, to its T-junction with West Street, where turn right, and use backroads to reach the 'rear entrance' to West Sands holiday park, through which you can access the cycle path around the Medmerry works, beside a playground and netball(?) pitch with a blue-coloured surface.

Follow the chipping-covered access roads all round the site, several miles of excellent off road riding. (About half way round there is another access point from Easton Lane: on the map I show a shortcut direct to here from the start at Sidelesham.) You pass a vewing mound (the Easton Viewing Point), and then reach a barn behind some lakes (this is Marsh Barn). From here the cycle route doglegs back to exit the works near Earnley. From here cycle up to the B2198, then left down to the sea front at Bracklesham (there is a nice cafe here: Billy's on the Beach). From here follow roads shown on the Google maps carefully to Shingle Walk, where the sea front path can again be accessed. Noting once more the aforementioned caveats about crowds at busy times, proceed on a reasonable path, until, about 200m from the West Wittering beach complex, the path becomes very sandy. Either get off and push, or, at low tide, get down onto the beach. Either way you will reach the entrance to the beach complex with its car parks and other facilities, which is always busy on a fine summer’s day.

Exit the complex through the barriers and head up the access road to meet the B2179, where turn left (BUSY ROAD, CARE). After about half a mile, where the road bears sharp right, leave the road on the left, and the Salterns Way takes off down a track (Sheepwash Lane) (there is an information board). The route is reasonably well signed. It takes you first to Itchenor, then Shipton Green, where follow the main road left. At Itchenor Caravan Park, cross the grass to the left of the access road and pass through a wooden gate, and follow the track around field edges to the road through Birdham, and on to Chichester Marina.

Head East beside the Marina car park, then left to pass right round the marina basin. At the water’s edge, a path heads right beside a wood, then out into open fields to join a tarmac road running up to Dell Quay Road, where turn right then left into Appledram Lane. Shortly, a track accessed via a kissing gate on the right gets you off road across fields again, re-joining Appledram Road again near its junction with the A259, where turn left. Shortly on the right, a path under the A27 cuts through to Fishbourne Road East and on to Westgate. Having negotiated a roundabout, continue along Westgate, and watch out for Mount Lane on the right, where a blue sign indicates the cycle route to the station. Follow this across Westgate Fields and past a Waitrose to emerge at the station. Cross the level crossing and head down busy Stockbridge Road until on the left you will see the Canal Wharf signed ‘South Coast Cycle Route’.

Almost immediately turn Right to pass round the canal basin to join the tow path down to the B2145 at Hunston. Cross this road (CARE!), and take the cycle path left, cutting through to join the busy the B2166 to North Mundham. Look out for Church Lane forking right (CARE!) onto quieter Church Road though the village, joining Fisher Lane which continues, appropriately signed, as a mix of tracks and lanes to emerge at the Crab and Lobster Inn beside an arm of Pagham Harbour. Continue a short distance east on Mill Lane, and find the route signed left on a track which takes you back to the start at Sidlesham Visitor Centre.

You can get a cup of tea at the Sidlesham Visitor Centre. There are various pubs and cafés along or near the sea front in Selsey and Bracklesham. Try the D&D fish shack near the East Beach car park on Selsey East Beach, which does crab sandwiches, or Billy's on the Beach at Bracklesham.

There is a refreshment stall by the entrance to West Wittering beach complex, and a café further along.

There is a café bar, the Spinnaker at Chichester Marina, the Crown and Anchor at Dell Quay, and, of course, numerous eateries in Chichester, including, if you visit the Cathedral, the the Cloisters café . The Crab and Lobster is well sited on Route 88 beside Pagham Harbour at Sidlesham, but is a rather fancy restaurant.

Points of Interest This ride is essentially a circuit of the Manhood Peninsula, the area southwest of Chichester, bounded by Chichester Harbour, the coast and Pagham Harbour. The main (B-)roads through the peninsula are very busy, but away from these there is pleasant countryside to discover.

The Sidlesham Visitor Centre is an excellent place from which to explore Pagham Harbour Local Nature Reserve. 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. You will need to leave your bike and walk to reach the best spots, although you do pass Ferry Pool to the right of the road just after leaving the visitor centre. There are almost always some waders here, but the road is busy: dismount and cross carefully to the pavement if you want to view.

Selsey at the tip of the Manhood Peninsula is a holiday resort popular with day trippers, and has a large holiday park at Medmerry. The sea front on either side of Selsey Bill gives views to Bognor and beyond from the East Beach, and to the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth from West Beach. The area has always been threatened by the sea, and gets a pounding in winter storms; climate change and the associated threatened sea level rise will accentuate this risk. Recently,the massive 'Medmerry' project has been completed to 'realign' the coast by opening a breach in the shingle bank, allowing the area behind to flood, acting as a 'safety valve' for the habited areas. The access roads required for the construction have been opened as cycle paths.

The towns of Bracklesham and East Wittering straggle along the coast fronted by shingle beach, which gradually gives way to a large sandy beach at West Wittering. The area was purchased in the 1950s by local residents under the banner of the West Wittering Estate to protect it from development as a holiday camp. The area is managed to provide good facilities for the large number of visitors, whilst at the same time preserving the natural environment. East Head, at the northern tip of the beach, is under the management of the National Trust. The tower of Cakeham Manor can be seen from the beach dates from Tudor times; the Manor is said to be owned by the parents of Richard Branson.

Just before reaching Chichester Marina, you cross the The Portsmouth and Arundel Canal , which operated from 1823, linking the Wey and Arun Canal at Ford to Portsmouth, via Chichester and Langstone Harbours. The canal entered Chichester Harbour at Salterns lock, after which the Salterns Way is presumably named. Today it plays host to a number of houseboats. Chichester Marina is a busy yachting complex, in Chichester Harbour, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty looked after by the Chichester Harbour Conservancy . The harbour can also be accessed from Dell Quay off Appledram Road.

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.

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

Finding your way
The Salterns Way and Route 88 are reasonably well signed, but OS Explorer 1:25K sheet 120 (Chichester) will still come in handy, as will a print out of my Google map at street level for Selsey and the backroads of Bracklesham. You can download a map of the Salterns Way here.

Photo guide

On Selsey East Beach wall

Selsey Lifeboat Station

Path by West Beach Selsey

Path to Selsey Holiday Village (inc Medmerry Windmill)

Road through holiday village

The Selsey Bracklesham bund (shingly surface)

Selsey Bracklesham bund (firm surface)

Leave the beach by this path at Bracklesham

Path between the Witterings

Grassy stretch of path nr West Wittering

West Wittering Beach at low tide

Exit from West Wittering car park

Start of Salterns Way

Salterns Way sign

On the Salterns Way

Itchenor Church

Salterns Way by Itchenor Caravan Park

Salterns Way sign

At the shore of Chichester Harbour

Salterns Lock

Chichester Marina

Salterns Way after Marina

Approaching Chichester

Joining Dell Quay Road

Under the A27

Watching perigrines, Chichester Cathedral

Mount Lane, Chichester to the right

Canal Basin, Chichester

Chichester Canal towpath

On Route 88, between N Mundham and Sidlesham

Beside Pagham Harbour, Sidlesham