Paul Power ex­tols the virtues of his West Sus­sex home­town as a great stopover des­ti­na­tion for sailors on the South Coast of Eng­land

Practical Boat Owner - - Contents -

The his­toric port, fa­mous for Hill­yard yachts, is en­joy­ing a new lease of life

De­scribed by Vogue mag­a­zine as one of the coolest sea­side re­sorts in Bri­tain, this sea­side town nes­tled along the south east coast­line is en­joy­ing a new lease of life fol­low­ing decades of de­clin­ing for­tune.

Si­t­u­ated be­tween the port of Shore­ham and Chich­ester Har­bour, Lit­tle­hamp­ton Har­bour has un­der­gone con­sid­er­able in­vest­ment and re­gen­er­a­tion in the past 10 years and pro­vides a wel­come stop-over point for many boats trav­el­ling to or re­turn­ing from the So­lent or fur­ther afield.

The his­toric har­bour, where many of the 800 or so Hill­yard yachts were built, is en­joy­ing a new lease of life with the iconic Thomas Heather­wick-de­signed East Beach Café, as well as what was – for a brief pe­riod – the world's long­est bench.

Close to the Cathe­dral town of Arun­del, Lit­tle­hamp­ton wel­comes vis­i­tors from all over the world each sum­mer, with many vis­it­ing boats from Hol­land and France.

Old di­lap­i­dated build­ings have been de­mol­ished and re­placed with smart new water­front res­i­dences on the east side of the har­bour with am­bi­tious plans for the west bank area, in­clud­ing pro­pos­als for a new ma­rina. A new pub­lic walk­way links the town cen­tre to the seafront cour­tesy of a joint £22.5m re­gen­er­a­tion project by the En­vi­ron­ment Agency and lo­cal coun­cils.

En­ter­ing the har­bour

Vis­it­ing Lit­tle­hamp­ton by boat is rel­a­tively straight­for­ward. First-timers are rec­om­mended to ar­rive from High Wa­ter -2 to +1 hour. Be­ware that the spring ebb stream can reach five knots.

Har­bour­mas­ter Billy John­son ad­vises sailors to tune into Ch71 for har­bour traf­fic news and fol­low any in­struc­tions.

The level of Lit­tle­hamp­ton bar which ex­tends 600m south­wards from the end of the West Pier is 0.7m above chart da­tum.

The depth of wa­ter cov­er­ing the bar can be cal­cu­lated by sub­tract­ing 0.9m from the wa­ter height in­di­cated on the har­bour tide boards. Tide boards are marked in 20cm units and coloured white, red, black, red, black. On ap­proach, the tide board on the west pier­head can be read from sea us­ing binoc­u­lars. Con­sid­er­a­tion

should be given to the sea state and al­lowance made for swell over the bar.

From 1.5 hours be­fore un­til 4 hours af­ter high wa­ter, a west­erly stream runs across the har­bour en­trance. The east­erly stream be­gins 1.5 hours be­fore low wa­ter and con­tin­ues un­til 2 hours be­fore high wa­ter.

On clos­ing the har­bour from sea­ward, a safe ap­proach can be made by bring­ing the lead­ing lights into line on a bear­ing of 346° True. From abeam the west pier­head, a course favour­ing the east side of the fair­way should be made for the deeper wa­ter and to al­low for the ef­fect of the strong west­erly set. Once past the east pier­head, keep the flash­ing green light on Fish­er­man’s Quay ahead while keep­ing to the star­board side of the mid-chan­nel.

In­side the main har­bour, vis­i­tor moor­ings are on the east side, on the pon­toon be­low the Lit­tle­hamp­ton Har­bour Board of­fices. Dur­ing busy pe­ri­ods be pre­pared to raft. Show­ers and toi­lets are within the har­bour of­fice, ac­cessed by a code en­try sys­tem. Elec­tric­ity and wa­ter is pro­vided.

Fuel is avail­able at Lit­tle­hamp­ton Ma­rina. A re­tractable foot­bridge has 3.6m clear­ance at Mean High Wa­ter Springs (MHWS is 5.9m at Lit­tle­hamp­ton) and gives ac­cess for masted craft. It is opened by re­quest to the Har­bour Of­fice be­fore 1630 the pre­vi­ous day.

The ma­rina also of­fers vis­i­tor moor­ings, quiet berthing and ex­cel­lent on­site fa­cil­i­ties in­clud­ing a pop­u­lar restau­rant.

Din­ing out

Lit­tle­hamp­ton of­fers a va­ri­ety of restau­rants and pubs serv­ing food. Along Pier Road, Mus­sel Row restau­rant has an ex­cel­lent rep­u­ta­tion for fish dishes. My own per­sonal favourite, the Raj Doot In­dian restau­rant, stays open late. The Gravy Boat of­fers a carvery with great har­bour views. The Em­press Bar is lo­cated di­rectly above the vis­i­tor moor­ings. For take-away fish and chips, try Fred’s or Os­cars. Seated din­ing is avail­able in the River Breeze restau­rant.

Con­tinue along the river­side walk­way and the pop­u­lar Arun View Inn serves lunch and evening meals seven days a week. Pre-book­ing is ad­vised.

The town cen­tre is just a short walk away and of­fers Ital­ian, Por­tuguese, Ja­maican, Chi­nese and In­dian foods. The Por­tuguese Grill sells a range of de­li­cious fresh pas­tries and wraps. Fish lovers should check out the Fish Fac­tory in East Street.

East Beach Cafe

This amaz­ing struc­ture, in­spired by the sea, came about by ac­ci­dent when en­tre­pre­neur Jane Wood and her daugh­ter So­phie pur­chased a hol­i­day home on Lit­tle­hamp­ton seafront over­look­ing an unimag­i­na­tive lo­calau­thor­ity let seafront café. When the then café own­ers ap­plied for plan­ning per­mis­sion Jane was dis­mayed with their ex­ten­sion plans so pur­chased the busi­ness and build­ing, which she de­mol­ished. She com­mis­sioned renowned ar­chi­tect Thomas Heather­wick to de­sign some­thing amaz­ing, and East Beach Cafe was born.

Since open­ing, the café has won a num­ber of pres­ti­gious de­sign awards and is pop­u­lar for its won­der­ful fresh food and un­in­ter­rupted views over the English Chan­nel. It’s this build­ing that at­tracted the at­ten­tion of Vogue mag­a­zine.

Shop­ping and Pro­vi­sion­ing

The fam­ily-run River­side Fish Kiosk has an amaz­ing fresh fish dis­play. I’d rec­om­mend their dressed crab and pre­pared lob­ster. Jamie Oliver sourced brown crab for the bar­be­cue from this kiosk when film­ing for his new TV show. It is lo­cated on the main walk­way in Pier Road op­po­site the junc­tion with Arun Pa­rade.

The town cen­tre is where you’ll find a num­ber of su­per­mar­kets and phar­ma­cies. A large Tesco is a lit­tle fur­ther out of the town cen­tre, just past the train sta­tion. Lit­tle­hamp­ton en­joys ex­cel­lent train links to all towns along the coast with Lon­don Vic­to­ria only 90 min­utes away.

Lit­tle­hamp­ton town mu­seum is worth vis­it­ing, en­try is free.

Booklovers should visit Fire­side Book­shop, which stocks many rare ti­tles. It’s lo­cated in the cov­ered ar­cade along­side an in­de­pen­dent fresh fruit and veg­etable shop.

Fa­mous res­i­dents

David Hill­yard es­tab­lished his boat­build­ing busi­ness in Lit­tle­hamp­ton dur­ing World War I and built small ves­sels for the

Ad­mi­ralty. When the war ended, he be­gan build­ing wooden yachts for the pri­vate leisure mar­ket and some­where be­tween 600 and 800 mag­nif­i­cent Hill­yard yachts were built in Lit­tle­hamp­ton be­fore the busi­ness went into ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2009.

Bodyshop founder, the late Dame Anita Rod­dick, grew up and lived in Lit­tle­hamp­ton where she started her first busi­ness, an up­mar­ket bistro.

Ron­nie Barker had a hol­i­day home along South Ter­race. Around the cor­ner was Coop­ers con­ve­nience store, where many be­lieve he based his com­edy Open All Hours. Although this is dis­puted, Coop­ers was open all hours and Ron­nie was a reg­u­lar cus­tomer, even turn­ing up at 2am look­ing to buy an air pump for his lido as he was go­ing on hol­i­day later that morn­ing.

James Bond au­thor, Ian Flem­ing, was an in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer and worked with the spe­cial­ist 30 As­sault Unit based in the Ma­rine Pub­lic House in Sel­borne Road dur­ing World War II. The pub closed in 2008 but a blue plaque marks its past.


Lit­tle­hamp­ton has two sep­a­rate beach ar­eas di­vided by the River Arun. The main and busiest beach is the East Beach, where you’ll find the East Beach Cafe and Har­bour Park amuse­ment cen­tre. Dur­ing the sum­mer, a train runs along the length of the prom­e­nade. Al­ter­na­tively walk along the seafront, past the café where you’ll find the de­par­ture point for the Lit­tle­hamp­ton Minia­ture Rail­way. Take a trip on the minia­ture rail­way to Mews­brook Park where you’ll find an­other café. A new swim­ming pool is due to open in Easter 2019.

West Beach is Lit­tle­hamp­ton’s sandi­est beach and pro­vides a qui­eter and wel­come break from the busy seafront area. Here you’ll find the re­mains of a Napoleonic Fort, cur­rently be­ing re­stored. The beach has sand dunes and is the place to en­joy a swim and a pic­nic. Dur­ing the sum­mer months a pas­sen­ger foot ferry can take you across the river. Al­ter­na­tively, a pleas­ant walk along the river­side and across the red, open­ing foot bridge takes you the West Beach area, also home to Arun Yacht Club.

The Oys­ter Pond dates back to the 1880s and is one of Lit­tle­hamp­ton’s old­est fea­tures. Lo­cated just off the new walk­way on Arun Pa­rade, it was built to store the fish­er­men’s oys­ter catch. To­day it’s a pedal boat lake and home to a model boat­ing club. The pond is topped up by the River Arun at high tide via un­der­ground pip­ing.

On the seafront, the Wind­mill Cin­ema dou­bles up as a the­atre.

The RNLI sta­tion and gift shop is reg­u­larly open to the pub­lic with vol­un­teer guides avail­able to pro­vide tours.

Nearby towns

The cathe­dral city of Arun­del is only five miles away and buses run every hour from An­chor Springs in Lit­tle­hamp­ton. There’s a lovely walk along the west side of the River Arun to Arun­del, with a stop off at the Ship & An­chor pub, just past Ford.

Arun­del Cas­tle, home to the Duke of Nor­folk, of­fers fab­u­lous gar­dens and mag­nif­i­cent views across the River Arun and West Sus­sex land­scape but make sure you al­low plenty of time. There’s a lot to see and it’s rel­a­tively ex­pen­sive so you’ll want to make a day of it.

You can also walk along the River Arun to Swan­bourne Lake and back across some beau­ti­ful coun­try­side to emerge out just in front of Arun­del Cathe­dral, which is also well worth vis­it­ing. Or con­tinue along the River Arun to the Wild­fowl and Wet­lands Trust Wet­land Cen­tre. The cen­tre has a café and of­fers free elec­tric boat sa­faris.

Arun­del has a mu­seum, quaint shops and restau­rants. The town also has its own brew­ery with a shop by the river and a mi­cro pub lo­cated in the Nor­folk Arms ho­tel.

Onward des­ti­na­tions

To the east is Shore­ham, Brighton, Ne­whaven, East­bourne and Rye and to the west, Chich­ester, Bem­bridge on the Isle of Wight, South­sea, Gosport and Portsmouth.

For vis­i­tors a long pon­toon is lo­cated be­low the Lit­tle­hamp­ton Har­bour Board build­ing, raft­ing-up dur­ing busy times

The West Beach is a quiet area away from the bus­tle of the main beach

Lifeboat launches from the slip­way. View­ing tower café is due to change own­er­ship and should be re-opened for the 2019 sea­son

Lit­tle­hamp­ton’s sculputu­ral and award-win­ning East Beach Cafe is a des­ti­na­tion in it­self

LEFT Al­fresco din­ing and a va­ri­ety of cafés make for a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence

It’s not al­ways as quiet as this: fol­low the har­bour master’s ad­vice and lis­ten on Ch71 for lo­cal traf­fic when en­ter­ing or leav­ing Lit­tle­hamp­ton

Lit­tle­hamp­ton re­tains a small fleet of com­mer­cial fish­ing boats

A yacht leav­ing Lit­tle­hamp­ton against the tide

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