Cycling: Pagham Harbour
PUBLISHED: 00:16 27 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:57 20 February 2013
Si Beales discovers a hidden jewel, connecting coast and city, in West Sussex on a delightful ride for all the family
Driving into the car park at Pagham Harbour visitor centre, I have to admit I was feeling a little underwhelmed. We had passed through some pleasant enough countryside on the drive down but nothing remarkable given the beauty of Sussex as a county.
It was only when we saddled up and set out along the clearly marked cycle route that I began to enjoy the wonder that is Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve.
The Reserve is made up of saltmarsh and tidal mudflats with shingle, open water, reed swamp and wet permanent grassland habitats and is like no landscape that I have seen on my travels. Its a nationally important site as so many different species of wildlife, plants and animals, especially some rare varieties, live here.
In particular its home to many different types of birds and is a great place to spot them all year round.
The site is important for waders and wildfowl in the autumn and winter, and the Brent Geese that come here in large numbers between September and January. Migrants in the summer include Wheatears, Sandwich Terns, Sand Martins and Chiffchaffs.
The 16 mile return cycle route goes from Pagham Harbour through Sidelsham to North Mundam and on to Chichester city centre.
Its an on-road and off-road cycle path that is suitable for all the family to enjoy particularly as much of the on-road cycling is relatively traffic free. Its actually the beginning of the South Coast Cycle Route and part of Regional Route 88. There are plans in motion to extend the route as far as Selsey.
All in all, its probably one of the flattest routes that youll find. Its also fabulous if some of your party would prefer to walk as you can head off and join up with them later perhaps at the Crab and Lobster in Sidelsham, a 350 year old restaurant that is gaining quite a reputation.
Originally there would have been waterborne traffic as far up as the quay at Sidlesham, but by the 1870s trade had slowed to just a few boats and eventually the whole harbour was reclaimed for agriculture by damming the harbour mouth.
The sea broke through the harbour wall in a huge storm in 1910, flooding the area, and since that time it has looked much as it does today.
After leaving Sidlesham you head cross country to North Mundham and then on towards Chichester alongside the Chichester ship canal and into the heart of this wonderful city. Then head back in your tyre tracks all the way to Pagham Harbour Visitor Centre where you can enjoy a nice cup of tea.
One word of warning though; they shut the car park at 4 pm in the winter season so make sure that youre back before it gets too dark.
And speaking of the dark, I discovered recently that it is illegal to ride without a red rear reflector at any time on the roads.
I always thought that just lights were statutory after dark. So why not check your reflectors and make sure that they are roadworthy and visible.