Best Beaches in England – West Wittering
If you are serious about your beaches and want nothing more than safe waters for the kids, great golden sand, a snack bar and toilets, you can’t go wrong with West Wittering.
It takes us about one and a half hours to drive from home to West Wittering but it is well worth the trip. We reckon it is the best beach within easy reach of Berkshire. As you approach the sea down the A286 onto the B2179 you will see the beach sign posted off to your right (or the left if you are coming from East Wittering!). The track leads onto an enormous open field car park. Don’t worry about trying to find a space. There is so much space people fly their kites and set up picnics around the cars. You need to buy a ticket to park at the entrance barrier. From what I remember it’s less than £10 but well worth it.
Parking anywhere else is impractical due to the restrictions on the narrow roads and the distance you will need to walk . If you are like us, we would need a couple of donkeys to transport all the wet suits, wind-breaks, sun tents, drinks and snacks if we didn’t use the beach car park. Once parked, the beach is about 50 meters away. Don’t worry if there seems to be a million cars there, the beach is so big it never really seems crowded.
The simple facilities
Once parked you are close to the toilets (with outdoor showers) and the cafe with a small shop. We have not tried the food so can’t comment on it but there are the usual chips, sausages, sandwiches and flapjack on the menu. The shop has plenty of basic buckets, spades and beach paraphernalia available to buy, handy if like us, you forget to take them with you every time you head to the beach. We have the biggest collection of castle shaped buckets in the county stacked in the garage.
Hit the beach
The beach is massive. When the tide is low there is enough space to land a space shuttle. We normally set up camp just above the high tide line. This saves us the effort of moving later in the day as the sea comes in. Up go the sun tent and the wind break. The tent is big enough for us all to sit in but packs up small. Handy for staying out of the sun when things get really warm. After living in Australia for a while, we are well aware of the importance of sun protection. The wind break provides some shade and the wet suits, rashies (rash vests) plus ample sun-block keeps us from over-exposure.
On the beach there is more than enough room to get the kites out, play football or set up a game of cricket. Large pools form half way up the beach which provide perfect paddling pools of knee-deep warm water.
Hit the water
Usually, the waves tend to be no more than around 2 feet high at the maximum and roll in gently. It’s not great for body-boarding or surfing if you are used to the Atlantic breakers rolling in around Devon and Cornwall. However, it is a very safe, low shelving beach with lifeguards during the main season, perfect for young kids.
The sea is flat enough to easily canoe or windsurf. We might give the paddle-boards a try this year down there. We have never had problems with undercurrents or rips when swimming between the red and yellow flags.
A wetsuit? really?
I’m not keen on cold water, so always wear a wet suit when in the sea around England. In West Wittering this puts me in the minority. Apart from staying warm and being able to spend all day in the water it provides a number of other benefits. A wet suit makes you more buoyant. This comes in handy if you get into trouble or finish up trying to rescue someone else. With the kids in the water I want to be uber-prepared. Also, with a layer of 4mm neoprene covering your skin there is no need for sun block. Don’t forget to screen the bits sticking out of the suit… your hands, feet and head though.
If you feel the urge to buy a wet suit, surf board, sea canoe, new beach-wear or some cool sunnies, then visit Shore Watersports (PO20 8DZ) just a couple of miles further down the coast in East Wittering. I’m like a kid in a sweet shop when I get there. No trip to the beach is complete without a quick look at the latest boards and Oakleys.
Anyone for a hot-dog?
When we are on the beach the last thing I want to do is worry about what to eat for lunch. We have cured this with our portable hot dog kitchen! All you need is an aluminium camping pan, a light-weight camping stove (with gas), a bottle of water, a tin of hot-dogs, bread rolls and tomato sauce. Some picnic plates help keep the sand off your lunch.
To save you some research time, take a look at the MSR Pocket Rocket camping stove and the Outwell or Hi Gear camping pans. As soon as I get a minute I’ll do a post on the gear we use. I have a couple of tips and extras to make you the best outdoor chef ever.
Dinner on the way home
After a long day on the beach we usually call at the Pizza and Pasta Pub (on the A286, Birdham Road, PO20 7EH) about 6km away from the beach before reaching Chichester. As the name suggests, it’s a great place to get some Italian food, as long as it is pizza and pasta. The food is really good and not over-priced. The pub has a beer garden with small children’s play area. It’s a great place to sit in the evening sun and relax.