Travel nostalgia visiting a childhood favourite – West Wittering
A distant memory of a long hot summer day spent at West Wittering Beach circa 1995 is what brings me back here some 25 years later. I remember a vast expanse of beach that extends as far as the eyes can see, fishing in rock pools, playing hide and seek amongst the beachgrass-covered dunes and of course the obligatory burying of one another in the sand.
However, as is often the case with that tricky nostalgia, the beach isn’t quite how I remember it. The stretch of sand is quite small, the sea is thundery grey and choppy and we are greeted with a rather grim-looking sky. I’ve got my togs on under my clothes but quickly decide there is absolutely no way I am going in.
A change of plan
With a twinge of disappointment I decide that we will simply go for a walk instead of our planned lazy beach day. We set off for East Head and walk over and around the dunes, getting lost amongst the shrubbery, not a soul in sight. Freedom to roam. This is exactly what my London-living, space-starved soul needs right now.
As we are meandering, the sky starts to clear and menacing grey is replaced by spatters of baby blue. Could the tides (quite literally) be turning for us? We head over the top of the dunes to East head split and oh what a treat awaits us. A beautifully calm, shallow, azure cove complete with dappled pebbly beach awaits. Not a wave in sight. Only an ever-so-gentle rippling of the water from the nearby boats that are anchoring ashore. Quite the contrast to the moody, wild tides on the other side.
A dip in the Ocean with my pup
“This is it!” I thought, removing my outer layers whilst still in transit. The perfect opportunity to take Mia for a swim. Now this is something new for us, Mia has never been in the water before. I knew from watching season after season of Cesar Milan that all dogs can swim and it can actually be really beneficial for their joints. Yet living in London, this can be challenging. We are not blessed with that many lakes to swim in, and it’s slim pickings for where you can take a dog in the water with you.
She doesn’t appear to want to go in voluntarily and so I carry her in gently placing her in the water. Her body tenses as we submerge ourselves in the cool water but she quickly starts pumping away, her little legs circling and suddenly she is nose-up ploughing through the water. It is fascinating to observe. I feel a warm feeling I recognize as pride at watching her. However, the gratification quickly gives way to practicalities. I know my dog and she is not enjoying this as much as I am. Putting my arm underneath her, I sink down bending my knees, hoist her up and she scrambles to get on top of me.
So here we are, Mia perched upon my thighs, an empty expanse of water and an opportunity to go swimming. However, I have a dilemma, I know she doesn’t want to swim and I can’t just leave her on the beach. Sigh… the joys of solo travel. I start to move around a bit and I can feel her scrambling, desperate to find a firm foundation. And then it occurs to me – I wonder if she will let me give her a piggy back? We start to move into position and she happily climbs aboard, effectively using me as a float. With a bit of rearranging she puts her front legs around my neck, body resting on my back and in no time I am swimming a gentle breastroke whilst carrying a 6kg dog on my back. Nothing like a good workout now!
A gentleman passes us in a canoe, ‘that’s the best thing I’ve seen all morning, I wish I had my camera!’ Similarly I hear sniggers coming from the shore, ”quick take a pic!’ I hear someone else surreptitiously say. We swim like this, Mia abound for a good 20 minutes or so until I can start to feel her shiver and I know our time is up. I gently plop her back into the water and she powers through until her feet are firmly on the ground again. The characteristic doggy shake off and just as quick she is running around, barking, trying to dry herself off on the sand.
Pre-book parking at West Wittering Beach for £8 for day during the week and £9 at weekends. Best to book in advance to avoid disappointment on the day!
Although West Wittering is dog friendly dogs are only allowed on parts of the beach from May until September. Low season dogs can roam free.
I particularly enjoyed strolling around East Head, for this it is best to park at the far end of the car park (furthest away from the entrance) or there is a long walk.