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Sussex Scrapbook ~ Nature walks throughout the year
Green Man
Saturday 6th December 2008
Chichester Cathedral. West Wittering - East Head
5 miles

The bike was given some well-needed maintenance yesterday and today it ran perfectly, carrying us through clear, bright but freezing conditions down to West Wittering in the far south-west of the county. We decided to warm up on the way by drinking hot tea in the Cloisters Cafe, which is inside Chichester Cathedral (the closest we get to having tea with the bishop), plus we wanted to pay our respects again to the cathedral's peregrines. We spotted one up on the steeple as soon as we got there and could plainly see it surveying us in return with obvious interest.
With feeling starting to return to finger tips and toes, we fired up the bike again and 15 minutes later we were parking up at West Wittering beach (1 for bikes, 2 for cars). Our plan was to explore the sand spit called East Head, which is owned by the National Trust. Unfortunately the place seems to be some sort of Mecca for dogs and is completely overrun with hundreds of the little darlings. We saw them chasing all of the waders off of the beaches, tearing around the "protected"sand dunes and even running out onto the salt marshes where many birds were feeding. Their owners were either encouraging and applauding them, or screaming over and over again for their little sweeties to come back to them (ever considered a lead?). The delicate sand dunes were just a large dog-playground and toilet despite lots of signs to the contrary.  Apart from taking the parking fees, the National Trust seem to be doing nothing to protect this sensitive area. Needless to say we shan't be visiting again.
If you are capable of seeing beyond the fur and excrement, then the area is utterly beautiful, situated as it is in the bottom right-hand corner of Chichester Harbour (a designated bird sanctuary). We thoroughly enjoyed the rest of our short reconnaissance walk, which took us away from the baying masses, through the pretty village of West Wittering (more tea and apple/toffee cake at the Beach House Cafe) and up towards Rookwood, before coming back down along the coast as the sun set. Literally thousands of Brent Geese are spending their winter holidays in the harbour and huge flocks take to the skies and pass low over your head before circling high in long, trailing ribbons. A breathtaking sight, especially as the sun is setting. Go and check it out and by all means take the dog, but in these sensitive areas, where hard-pressed wildlife is already struggling to survive, think and keep it on a lead!

 


Binoculars really help to see the peregrine in this picture


There he is, see!


Wide, flat sandy beaches are uncovered at low tide


There are views across to The Isle of Wight, Thorney Island and Hayling Island


We touched on the New Lipchis Way today


St Peter & St Paul, West Wittering


A 17th Century grave stone with a skull & crossbones as was customary in those days


Medieval pilgrim marks from an ancient shrine. Now found inside the church.


Sunset over East Head


We ended off the day with a short night hike along the beach