Saturday, 12 September 2015


Above is a sunset at Ferring, an upmarket coastal community to the west of Worthing in West Sussex. I took that picture in January 2003, with my first digital camera, a Nikon Coolpix 990. I'm afraid that when processing the shot twelve years ago, I messed about with it too much, attempting (rather unskilfully) to make the sunset look prettier. Shortly before, I'd taken this shot, which better shows how the sunset really was:

However, that topmost shot has remained a favourite. I like it because of the way the people in the picture have clustered around a notice board, suggesting the silhouette of a film crew with a big film camera, who had turned up to shoot the sun going down. A close-up shows what I mean:

Dramatic sunsets are not rare along this part of the West Sussex coast, which is typically low-lying and open, and backed by large, expensive houses with well-mown back gardens that stretch down towards the shingle shore. They do not actually touch it, because there is a public footpath separating every back garden from the shingle. At high tide, the sea wets the shingle. At low tide, sand is revealed. Groynes keep the shingle in place - it's not only a habitat for salt-tolerant beach plants, but a vital protective barrier against the sea.

Mind you, even a modest tsunami would sweep over the shingle and smash into the houses. The residents will probably be OK for a some time to come, but the long-term outlook, involving rising sea levels and stormier weather, is not good. And should the western half of La Palma in the Canaries slide into the Atlantic, the big wave that would race up the English Channel would probably inflict serious or irreparable damage on most of those posh houses.

My own home is inland, tucked in behind the South Downs, and there's a sporting chance that I'll be beyond the reach of even a fair-sized tsunami. Unless, of course, I'm down at Ferring, admiring the sunset! Be assured that if I see the sea receding much more than normal - a sure sign that a tsunami is approaching - I'm running back to Fiona and getting the hell out of there as fast as I can.

But meanwhile sunny places like Ferring - and it really is sun-drenched - are there to be enjoyed. I like to park next to the greensward at the eastern end of the place, and stroll westwards along the path I mentioned above, which separates the shingle from the back gardens. The road next to the greensward is a very popular place to park. Note all the motorcaravans. (From this point, the pictures are from 2015 - from two days ago in fact)

The long back gardens are mostly immaculate, and speak of real money.

The houses are a mixture of old (Edwardian, anyway) and modern. The most modern have spacious first-floor sun terraces to take advantage of the sea view. You can peer at them to your heart's content from the public path. None hide their glories. I rather think that's deliberate: let the hoi polloi walking by gaze in envy, while we, the well-off residents, sip our cocktails and get a lovely tan!

Good luck to them. We, the path-strollers, have our own pleasant destination in mind. But we pass a line of beach huts first. Some of these are very smart, some a little ramshackle. They mostly have names.

Several were opened up when I was there, revealing well-equipped interiors, perfect for a beach picnic, or for just sitting around in the sunshine and making a cup of tea now and then. I congratulated every owner I spoke with.

The natural destination is however the Bluebird Café, lately modernised inside to make it even more pleasant than before - although just as many people sit outside. The Café has been there for a very long time. It was certainly there when I first discovered Ferring in 1991. It's as close to the beach as you can get.

It was a pretty low tide on the day: hence all that sand. I had tea and a slice of coconut cake...

...then descended onto the beach for my walk back to Fiona. I was wearing the Skecher GoWalk shoes I bought three months ago in Scotland. They'd been very good at Waggoners Wells and the Devil's Punch Bowl. They were also excellent for shoreline walking, whether on sand, rocks or seaweed: 

I expect I'll practically live in them in Devon. Holiday departure time is now just a few days away!

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