This is a short walk of only 1.5 miles (2.5kms) but don’t be fooled, it can take the best part of the day if you are interested in wetland birds because there are just so many to see in winter. You will need rubber boots and a tide table because high tide will cover the outgoing footpath.
Park Sidlesham Quay near Crab and Lobster (SZ 862973) or in the standard car park at Siddlesham Visitor Centre off the Selsey road (SZ856966) which will add two kms to this walk, see map.
You must start this walk at low-half tide when the footpath is not flooded. East around the garage/ summerhouse named THINK and follow edge of Pagham Harbour along the north wall.
The path is surrounded by a fleshy, glaucous grey, yard-tall, bushy plant called sea purslane. Wild ducks, especially teal, guzzle the tiny black seeds at high tide here.
The mudflats are covered with the South American reedy grass called rice grass, accidentally imported on ships a century ago. A few tamarisk bushes along the wall, also magnificent growths of grey lichens on the bushes.
South across the flats is the main channel that connects with the sea. If you have timed your walk on a rising tide as I did mine last week, you will notice this channel gradually filling up. This excites the water birds which will fly around, sometimes in large flocks (see Nature Trails below for details).
After walking for about one km, look for fingerpost north showing direction of permitted path. If you are nervous of being cut off by the rising tide, just take this path around to Halsey’s Farm viewpoint.
Otherwise keep to top of old seawall path through long grass to the grassy islands. From there you will have wonderful views of water birds.
At very low tide this path takes you around north over a ford and concrete steps, but this gets flooded as the tide rises. So most people risk it not and stick to the aforementioned permissive path.
On that you will arrive on Pagham Wall, a hard safe path opposite the Local Nature Reserve of Halsey’s Farm. An interpretive board tells you a little about what you can see across the meadows with the ponds formed at the mini-estuary of the Bremer Rife.
If you wander further along this seawall path towards Little Wellbourne you will see the lake formed by the estuary of the Pagham Rife.
The way back to the old wooden car for me was also a pleasure, through water meadows where grows hard rush, soft rush and conglomerate rush and fleabane flowers in late summer. Keep left on all the fingerposts.
If you did park your car at Sidlesham Centre, you walk back along the old tramway again, enjoying more of this spectacular nature reserve.
* See the January 12 issue of the Observer to view a map of this walk.