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Bognor Regis

The South Sussex coast resorts that stretch from Bognor Regis to Brighton have been described as ‘a former generation’s playground’. But the 21st century sees these Regency and Victorian resorts still remaining popular – despite the fact that a great many theme parks and adventure playgrounds have been added to the area.

For the South Downs are still within close proximity, and no new developments can ruin this particular area. Likewise, nothing can spoil this stretch of coast’s great asset – namely its lovely sandy beaches………….. Bognor Regis claims to be the sunniest place on the Sussex Coast.

And, it’s said that it was accorded the title of ‘Regis’ by George V because his grandmother, Queen Victoria, used to refer to the resort as ‘Dear Little Bognor’! Believed now to have a population of about 37,000 the Regency resort came into full being in the year 1787, when the town received the attention of Southwark hatter, Sir Richard Hotham, whose aim it apparently was to create a ‘classy garden town’!

He built Hotham House – with extensive gardens, which is now a park with a boating lake. And Butlin’s South West Coast is also located at Bognor Regis. Bognor Regis suffered a catastrophe in the 1960s when the end of its pier fell into the sea. But it’s claimed that as a result of this catastrophe ‘the remaining jetty has provided a launching pad for ‘Birdman’ competitions to see how far man, unassisted, can fly’!

From Bognor Regis it’s possible to make a day’s excursion to Chichester, described as ‘the county town of West Sussex and its only city’ – and which began life as a Roman settlement, and still lays claim to its old flint city walls. It’s also described as ‘one of Southern England’s cultural centres’ since it plays host to the two week Chichester Festival, which is staged in the city during the month of July.

Likewise, it is also associated with ‘Glorious Goodwod’, described as ‘one of England’s most fashionable racing events’, which is also held in July. Goodwood Park lies to the north of the city, ‘Goodwood House’ being one of Sussex’s great estates. And, in addition to its racecourse, the estate, which was once the ancestral home of the Dukes of Richmond, has now acquired a ‘corporate image’, and also features a motor racing circuit, an aerodrome, a country park, and a golf course – and a hotel. Set against its ‘downland’ landscape, the estate represents a vista of great natural beauty.

Chichester itself is situated at the foot of the Downs, and it’s claimed that its adjoining water areas ‘provide the largest recreational stretch of navigable water on the south coast’. Chichester’s Gothic cathedral is the city’s main attraction. The cathedral also lays claim to both some Romanesque and some modern features. Construction work on the cathedral was begun in the late eleventh century, but it was in the early fifteenth century that the cloisters, spire, and bell tower were built.

Then the spire collapsed, and was rebuilt in the nineteenth century. And this ‘slender spire, it is claimed, can be seen from far out at sea. Rated as being among the highlights of the cathedral’s monumental artistic interior are two magnificent Romanesque stone panels – created in the early twelfth century – one of which depicts ‘The Raising of Lazarus’, while the other depicts Christ being greeted by Mary and Martha. Opposite the cathedral stands a coaching inn known as ‘Dolphin and Anchor’ – whose claim to fame is being the inn where General Eisenhower stayed the night before D-Day.

Chichester also has a number of museums, such as the Chichester District Museum, the Pallant House Gallery, and The Guildhall. Before returning to Bognor Regis it is well worth undertaking the two mile journey westwards that leads to Fishbourne – where Fishbourne Roman Palace is located. Fishbourne Roman Palace is described as being ‘the largest and best-preserved Roman palace in the country’ and also as being ‘the largest Roman domestic building found north of the Alps’. And it’s believed that it may have belonged to ‘the Romanized Celtic aristocrat who was known as Cogidubnus’.

A Roman Garden has also been planted alongside the excavations , with a view to recreate the palace grounds as they would have appeared then. And it’s claimed that featured within the garden are medicinal and culinary plants that were known to have been used in Roman times. From Fishbourne it is also well worth making a slight detour to the marshland village of Bosham. It’s believed that it’s here that the Danish King Canute demonstrated his inability to hold back the sea!

Bosham’s Holy Trinity Church is claimed to be ‘the oldest site of Christianity in Sussex’, and the Bayeux Tapestry is said to depict King Harold leaving the church to meet ‘William the Conqueror’.

Should one be tempted to stay overnight at either Chichester or Bosham, two hotels come highly recommended – namely Suffolk House Hotel in Chichester, which is a Georgian building with a small garden and a restaurant, and The Millstream Hotel and Restaurant in Bosham, which is described as a ‘quiet country hotel near the harbour with various rosettes and merits for its food and hospitality’. Back in Bognor Regis, and heading for Brighton, one’s first ‘port of call’ would be Littlehampton, where the River Arun meets the sea – and where the sea likewise is said to infiltrate the river.

Littlehampton occupies a site on the east of the River Arun, while on the west side of the river lies Climping Beach, which is described as ‘an area of wild sand dunes’. Littlehampton’s own beach is described as ‘a vast flat stretch of firm sand’, while its seafront area is known as ‘Harbour Park’ and is referred to as a ‘New England fishing village’. The town also has a small museum.

The next seaside resort that occupies pride of place on the route that extends from Bognor Regis to Brighton is Worthing. Worthing is regarded as an elegant town, with many fine houses. And its pier offers a variety of entertainment, and even has a nightclub at its end. It also has a Lido on its promenade.

Particularly popular is Beach House Park, with its vast gardens, and where the National Bowls Championships are held. Oscar Wilde is known to have stayed in Worthing, and he accorded the town’s name to the character of John Worthing in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ – a play that he wrote in the course of his stay there.

And Oscar Wilde’s association with Worthing has resulted in a festival named after him - known as ‘Wilde Week-end’ - being staged in the town in July each year. Worthing is the venue for numerous entertainment events that range from classical music concerts to tea dances. And it has a ‘Museum and Art Gallery’ which, it is said has ‘a history of costume, trades and locality going back to early man’. One hotel that’s particularly recommended in Worthing is The Burlington Hotel, which stands on the Marine Parade, and which was built in 1864, and which overlooks both gardens and sea.

From Bognor to Brighton – this stretch of the Sussex coast would seem to have a wealth of attractions on offer for the discerning holidaymaker. And it has the added attraction of being within easy ‘striking distance’ of London

Roberta Crookes has worked as a newspaper journalist throughout most of her life, writing news stories, editorial features, advertisement supplements, and reviews. And in the course of her work she has interviewed many famous people from all walks of life. She has also managed to combine parallel careers in both journalism and acting, and, being Welsh speaking from North Wales, her main television featured parts have been Welsh language roles with BBC Wales.