Feeling like the proverbial mad dog I get off the train from London into a sweltering midday heat and take a local bus to the coast – to the point where I left off all those months ago. Walking past the palatial houses of Angmering-On-Sea I am perplexed by conflicting signposts – one saying public right of way and the other…………I decide to carry on. The tide is high and the beach is shingle so I take any opportunity to walk parallel with the coast. I am soon in Littlehampton – a pleasant seaside town with Union Jacks fluttering merrily in the breeze, but just before I hit the centre of the seafront I see a familar building. I realise it is the East Beach cafe, designed by Thomas Heatherwick of Olympic Cauldron fame – I remember reading about it some time ago. Further along I also come across some interesting colourful benches snaking their way along the sea front…. By now I am really hot and sticky and looking at the map I realise that I have to do a detour around the mouth of the river Arun, across a pedestrian bridge and back along the other side. I decide to have an ice lolly, leaning over the harbour wall to watch the synchronised swimming performance which I’m sure the swans put on for my benefit.
Walking on over the bridge and through boatyards I eventually come up onto Littlehampton’s West Beach which is not as crowded as its sister and after 10 minutes of walking I find myself alone – or am I? The beach here has sand dunes to the right and I slowly realise that these are populated by scantliy clad men on their own. Heads and shoulders pop up every few minutes and scan the beach like meercats in the desert. I assume they are gay and this is a well known meeting place so I feel quite safe!
Reaching Climping some time later I cannot resist the pull of the sea any longer so I peel off my sticky, sweaty clothes and make my painstaking way across the sharp stones of the beach. A 10 minute bask in the sun and I’m on my way again, stopping to take a photo of a lovely thirties house behind the beach. A chatty local tells me it stood empty for years and has only recently been given a new lease of life. He also tells me that I will soon be able to walk on a sandy beach as the tide is on its way out.
And he’s right – half an hour later I am on firm sand, entranced by the sight of the fluted roof of the leisure centre in the distance and when I get to Bognor, very disappointed by the pier.