RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country walk: Smugglers’ Lane, Bosham


I left my Alvis car in Bosham pay car-park, (SU055040) not wanting the old girl to drown on the road when the tide came up.

Lots of people from inland have had this experience and the gulls swim onto the roof of their Mercedes or Mini and preen themselves. If the tide is up you can use the footpath in front of the houses as you set off on this 4.3 miles (7kms) walk around Bosham channel to see the Brent geese and perhaps another 25 species of water birds that live there until the end of March.

After that you’ll only see a few gulls and swans. Follow the road in a right-handed circle around the top of Bosham creek and all the way for three kms down to that leafy lane up which smugglers dragged their brandy barrels.

The creek near the car-park is a tidal cul-de-sac, safe and sheltered from the weather, and the wild geese love it and some even bring their youngsters there in a sort of crèche after their riotous and dangerous journey from Russia in the autumn. They take little notice of humans on the shore. You may also see some Teal, which are half the size of Mallard, nibbling at the seaweed as they search for minute snails and seeds of Sea purslane and Sea beet. The Brent geese eat seaweed, the green stringy stuff called Enteromorpha which in turn has fed itself on the nitrates and phosphates from human activity, shall we say.

When you get down Smugglers Lane you might if the tide is well down, be able to walk on the shingle path towards Itchenor and even get close to Chichester channel as a diversion. I always do if the tide is right out because then I get the chance to see travellers along the channel such as Red-breasted mergansers or an occasional deep ocean bird like a Red-throated diver or a Black-necked grebe.

With the next part of this walk you have to be sure that the tide really is low, or is at least dropping, because the footpath gets flooded and might even go over your wellies. It is also muddy and slippery. But walking back to Bosham along the shores of its main channel is a treat because you will see then see many more species of water birds. Dunlin are the smallest and creep like white mice along the water’s edge.

Curlews often holla songs of the midnight moors of Lapland where they will soon go to breed. Redshank show off their red legs, Goldeneye ducks, Cormorants, Great-crested grebes, Mergansers and Coots dive and dive again, sometimes for half a minute.

I also saw some Shelduck last week on my ramble, and six of the 12 species of gulls that live here too. I did not need to use the seawall path back around the creek to the car-park but the road was strewn with bladder-wrack and the stems of Spartina grass washed off the saltings.