A blazer of a day is on the cards tomorrow, had to quickly share Littlehampton. If you have no plans, I cannot recommend this beach enough. My older son’s school had an inset day yesterday, so we headed to Littlehampton to visit a poorly relative. Here we spent the day having lunch at the East Beach Cafe and biking/scooting along the promenade, ending with a bit of paddling in the (surprisingly warm) sea. We’ve done this a few times and I’ve always wanted to do a full post about it. But because of wanting to focus on said relative, I didn’t have my Little Lewes head on yesterday. So this is just a snapshot (literally) or what’s on offer there.
The East Beach Cafe has always been on my radar because of the incredible structure it sits in – like a sort of giant mussel shell lying on its side. It was designed by Thomas Heatherwick, (who once offered me a job that I foolishly turned down. IDIOT ME) and its defining feature (its shell) is made of giant undulating ribbons of steel that have oxidised to a stunningly industrial rust-red.
The project description on the Heatherwick Studio website describes it as being inspired by: ‘stumbling around on damp brown shingle, spotting the magically eroded objects that the sea had offered up. We wanted to make a connection with the texture and richness of a British beach so that the building could sit in the shingle like any other interesting seaside object.’
The interior is blonde woods and glass. The whole front is opened up in warm weather. And there are bleached driftwood-style sort of benches and tables outside where you can eat fish and chips or ice creams from the kiosk at one end of the café building. The café itself is fairly low on tables, so it’s always best to book. We have had great food there, and not so great food there; the fish and chips is always fantastic. They do kids portions too but they’re really big so if you have two small children, they’ll be able to share.
The Blue Flag beach at Littlehampton is long and absolutely fantastic. This is also where the River Arun, which has a busy little harbour, flows into the English Channel. We always walk east from the EBC, so I don’t know what’s to the west, but along the whole length of the beach there runs a bench system of rungs that are both coloured and wood, almost all of which have been engraved with dedications, memories or sayings. These flex and change as you go along (the kids always want to walk on these benches – it will keep them busy all day, but frustrate you as you inch along instead of power walking!). Sometimes the rungs take a sudden vertical nosedive towards the ground, or curve around a lamppost. Turns out this was pioneered by the women who started the East Beach Cafe and is called ‘The Longest Bench in the World’. It runs the length of the beach.
Every so often a sheltered seating sculpture pops up, made of the same rungs, but swooping upwards and twisting and curling like an ornate sort of railway. The children go mad for these – they say ‘No climbing’ on them, but who are they trying to kid? That’s all anyone (myself included) wants to do. Further along still are two large white shell-like structures. Apparently the one facing away from the beach is like a little theatre and you go in and talk and the acoustics are bonkers.
This end of the beach is like a traditional seaside town – ice cream stands, shops selling buckets and spades and so on. The beach is pebbled, but with patches of sand and becomes enormously deep when the tide goes out. Look along to the right and you’ll spot the West Beach Cafe (same owners), a fish-and-chips-and-ice-creams place designed by Asif Khan.
If you’d like to know more about what there is in Littlehampton (and there’s absolutely loads, including fun parks, great crabbing on the river, crazy golf and more), have a look at the Visit Littlehampton website here.
Oh and one more thing to bear in mind, AA Route Planner says it’s a 42-minute drive, but there is always nasty traffic around Sompting and Worthing, so definitely factor in an hour. You can also go by train.
Planning on a half-dayer? Why not stop off at Arundel Castle on the way back? It’s beautiful and has the most gorgeous formal gardens. Or Brighton City (Shoreham) Airport, which is one of my top free things to do tips. Posts on both will come in the future.
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