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     Here’s a fine walk for a warm day in the Chichester area of West Sussex. The old Saxon town of Bosham, pronounced bozzum by locals who can’t spell, is a fascinating place to nose around. From the Quay you can look over one of four channels that emanate from Chichester Harbour. Bosham played a part in the 1066 story as the manor was once held by Harold Godwinson, aka King Harold. He sailed from there on his ill fated voyage to Normandy in 1064. The Bayeux Tapestry details the church saying ‘Harold, an earl of the English and his soldiers ride to Bosham.' Bosham is also where some would have you believe King Cnut tried to command the waves to turn back.

     From the Quay you can follow the quiet lane to the Saltings and then all the way down to a footpath that leads to the landing point of Itchenor Ferry at Smuggler's Hard. More preferable would be the waterside path that hugs the shoreline down to the ferry point. The narrow tidal gap hardly seems any distance at all and if you wave seductively to the ferryman on the other side, he will make the five minute journey to collect you. After parting with £2.50 you disembark off the long jetty at West Itchenor and turn right along a footpath that follows the edge of the Chichester Channel beyond Chalkdock Point. It turns into a delightful stroll along a narrow path as the full drama of the harbour unfolds to your right. Nowhere does this coastline feel more fractured than here in what is almost the nucleus of Chichester Harbour where salty tidal waters lap around peninsulas and islets. Across the watery gap is Cobham Point, the southernmost tip of Chidham. That is soon replaced by Pilsey Island. This sandy nature reserve off Thorney Island hit the headlines on the 9th June 1957 when a headless body was washed ashore and became the centre of a notorious Cold War incident. The body was assumed to be that of a British diver, Lionel Crabb, who had disappeared fourteen months earlier whilst carrying out surveillance for MI6 on a Soviet cruiser. The Ordzhonikidze was anchored in the Solent as part of a diplomatic mission and carried Soviet leader, Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita Krushchev. At some point during that fateful dive, Commander Crabb was either killed by the Soviets or, as has been most popularly reported, got into difficulty, possibly as a result of the ship’s propeller being turned. Either way, his snooping caused a massive political storm and soured relations between Britain and the USSR for many years. The body could not be formally identified and owing to several missing parts, conspiracy theorists have long maintained the remains that were interred within Milton Cemetery in Portsmouth were not those of Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb. In the years since, official secrets have failed to throw any further light on the true events of that day in April 1956.


     As you round the curve of the shoreline East Head dominates the views ahead, this is the day’s ultimate objective and is soon reached via the far western tip of West Wittering Beach. But for its narrow connection, East Head could be an island. It is in fact one of the fastest moving sand and shingle spits in the UK and has continually moved from west to east over the last two millennia. The discovery of a Roman body in 1994 proved that the Romans sailed past there around AD 75, at that time the Head would have pointed west across the entrance to the harbour creating an extremely narrow channel. Amongst the non-human visitors to the spit today are common seals and the extremely rare sand lizard. A circular walk around the spit is recommended starting along the eastern edge alongside salt marshes trapped between the Head and the mainland edge. One day these marshes will be filled with windblown sand and East Head will eventually join the mainland. The far northern end of the Head faces inland and as you round and pass the countless sunbathers the open sea finally stretches out before as you follow a bracing walk alongside a wide blue horizon. From there you need to decide your way back to Bosham, no harm in retracing your steps back to the Itchenor Ferry, or you could do as I did and wander along the endless stretch of wet and compacted sand before deciding where to head north across country back to West Itchenor.


    The Witterings will always remind me of the first moon landing made on Apollo 11 way back in 1969. Whilst visiting friends who were staying in a holiday home by the sea at the time, we all gathered to watch the grainy black and white images of the moment when the Eagle (has) landed in the Sea of Tranquility, blissfully unaware that Neil Armstrong had made it all that way with only 25 seconds of fuel remaining. I’ve had one or two journeys like that myself. That was many moons ago but in all that time, nothing of this place has changed except perhaps the imperceptible movement of East Head as it edges ever closer to the mainland.

Reader Comments (1)

My family all had wonderful times at East Head in the 1950ís. We swam in the cold sea and went cockelling. We then had a couple of folk boats moored at Itchenor. I still remember that storm in 56 when most of us moored at East Head lost our dinghies. We had to wait to be rescued by the shipyard around evening time. The boats were Heidi and Heidi II. If you remember the bombing tower, you would be there at the same time. We were once stuck on The Winner sandbank all night.

By Marianne stevens on Tuesday, July 30, 2019

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