Free Things To Do in West Sussex

Arundel, Chichester and Bognor Regis

Even people who live in West Sussex are sometime surprised to realise how large this county is. It stretches from just south of London's Gatwick Airport to the south coast of England, and its western edge is just few miles east of Portsmouth, while to the east it is close to Brighton. It is home to the South Downs National Park, which offer quiet hill walks near Goodwood Racetrack. West Sussex is also home to beautiful cathedrals cities and towns as well as some of England's most popular beaches. In an era of increasingly more expensive parks and "experiences" West Sussex has a wealth of simple ways to entertain all the family for free.

This article cannot possibly cover everything West Sussex has to offer, and therefore focuses mainly on the area around Arundel, Chichester and Bognor Regis, with additional information about beaches in West Sussex.

Arundel and Swanbourne Lake

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A swan on Swanbourne LakeSome of the many bird varieties on Swanbourne Lake Swanbourne LakeThe old boathouseThe lake
A swan on Swanbourne Lake
A swan on Swanbourne Lake | Source
Some of the many bird varieties on Swanbourne Lake
Some of the many bird varieties on Swanbourne Lake | Source
Swanbourne Lake
Swanbourne Lake | Source
The old boathouse
The old boathouse | Source
The lake
The lake | Source

Arundel Castle

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Things to do in Arundel and Swanbourne Lake

Arundel is one of the most beautiful towns in West Sussex. It is small compared to some of the other towns and cities, and easy to make your way around. Although there is a charge to go inside the castle shown on the right, just looking at it from the outside is awe inspiring! Arundel also has a beautiful cathedral, that is free to visit.

But what we most love to do in Arundel is to stroll around the town, checking out the antique shops and having tea and scones in one of the tea rooms. Usually we do this after we have taken a walk around the beautiful Swanbourne Lake, which is a short distance from the town.

Swanbourne Lake is free to visit, and is across the road from the Wetland and Wildfowl Centre. The Centre is well worth a visit, but there is an entrance fee so if you are on a tight budget, the lake is a better bet. You won't see quite as many birds as in the Wetland and Wildfowl Centre, but many birds have made their home on Swanbourne Lake, including some Centre escapees! The photographs on the lake were taken in January, and some birds remain there all year round.

The swans and other birds mainly reside near the gates, but it is worth straying further and taking a walk all round the lake. The walking is easy enough for small children, with only gentle slopes, and it takes you through open pathways and wooded areas. It can be a little muddy in places after heavy rains.

If you don't mind spending some money try:

Arundel Castle, the Arundel Lido (open air swimming pool) or a tea room (our favourite is Belinda's, which is in a 16th century building. The tea rooms at Swanbourne Lake itself is also very nice.

Chichester Cathedral

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Chichester Cathedral, Roman Walls and Canal

Chichester Cathedral

Chichester cathedral was built in the 11th century and because the surrounding countryside lies low, its spire can be seen from miles around, and can even be seen from the sea. It used to be a landmark for sailors before the days of navigational aids.

The cathedral is right in the heart of Chichester, just off the Market Cross, where the 4 main streets meet. As well as being a beautiful building in its own right, the Cathedral house a wealth of art, including a painting by Graham Sutherland and a window by Marc Chagall. As well as these modern works of art there are pieces from as far back as the 12th century.

Chichester City Walls

Chichester City walls were originally built by the Romans, but although they still follow the same route only the foundations are now Roman. The walls themselves were built in medieval times, and are in a good state of repair with walkways along the top.

Chichester Ship Canal

A walk along the canal is relaxing and fun, and there is a very good chance that in season you will see an abundance of wildlife. Deer and foxes live along the edges of the walk, and egrets and kingfishers live on the waters. You might even be lucky enough to see one of those birds catch a fish. This walk is accessible for pushchairs and bicycles.

The canal towpath is 4 miles long, so a return journey from Chichester to West Wittering might be too much all in one go, but when you reach West Wittering you can relax on the beach - read the section on West Sussex beaches for more information.

Or you could simply do as we usually do, and walk along a section of the canal.

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West Sussex Beaches

There are 22 beaches in West Sussex, and many of them are very popular. Most of these beaches are shingle beaches at high tide, and as the tide goes out vast stretches of sand are left behind. This is because the water shelves very shallowly - and that means the sea is very safe for families.

The Witterings

The most popular beach is probably West Wittering. This is one of few West Sussex beaches that is sandy throughout, and is considered by some sources to be one of the ten best beaches in the UK. It lies about 8 miles to the south-west of Chichester and if you don't have a car it is possible to get there by bus, but most people drive. Although the beach is free, the car park is not, so if you want to visit the beach totally for free you will have to cycle there! Parking prices vary depending on the season. If you only want to make a short visit, go in the afternoon - in the morning you have to pay a full day's parking, but in the afternoon the charge is reduced.

The beach has a café and a windsurfing club. Both have seasonal variations in opening hours.

East Wittering beach is also popular, and is located in the village of East Wittering, which has a variety of cafés and water sports shops. Because of the safety of the water, this is a popular spot for learning to surf. East Wittering beach is more typical of the West Sussex beaches, with a mainly shingle beach above the high tide level and sand below.

Jointly, West and East Wittering are known locally as "The Witterings."

Body boarding on Bognor Regis Beach

A wet suit makes swimming possible in spring
A wet suit makes swimming possible in spring | Source

Bognor Regis and Littlehampton Beaches

Bognor Regis, known locally simply as Bognor, is primarily a seaside resort and is much larger than either of the Witterings. Its population is around 22,500, but it runs into Felpham on its east side and Aldwick on its west side, so it the urban area is larger than you might expect.

Bognor has been home to a Butlins Holiday Camp since 1960, and holidaymakers also come to the many apartments and Bed and Breakfast hotels along the seafront. The beach stretches from Felpham right along to Aldwick, with the busiest section being in Bognor itself.

A Walk Along the Beach

At the Felpham end of the beach, there will be a few people sunbathing and playing, and as you walk towards Bognor Regis there is a play area for children. All along the beach you will find cafés and kiosks selling everything from ice cream to body boards. Like many of the South Coast towns, Bognor Regis has a pier, but in spite of having Listed conservation status, parts of it had to be removed due to safety concerns after storm damage.

As you walk westwards towards Aldwick, the crowds will thin out again and you will meet the occasional dog walker.

A particular feature of the beaches in this area are the beach huts. Many of these fell into disrepair a few decades ago, but have now been revived. Generally these are used for storage and for changing in, but some have been elaborately kitted out with cooking facilities by their owners.

When you find the part of the beach where you would like to settle down for a few hours, you can enjoy many hours of beach activities at no cost. For ideas, read my article Fun Beach Activities and Games For Children.

Littlehampton

The river Arun reaches the sea at Littlehampton, so as well as another beach there are many boats to admire in the harbor.

Getting to Bognor Regis and Littlehampton

Trains run regularly from London's Victoria station to Bognor Regis. To get to Littlehampton, you take the train for Bognor or Chichester and change at Barnham.

Beach Huts are a familiar sight in West Sussex

Beach huts at Bognor Regis
Beach huts at Bognor Regis | Source

A free outdoor gym

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And outdoor gymTable tennis tableMore gym equipment A wider view of the park
And outdoor gym
And outdoor gym | Source
Table tennis table
Table tennis table | Source
More gym equipment
More gym equipment | Source
A wider view of the park
A wider view of the park | Source

Hotham Park

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Other free actiivities in the Bognor Area

An Outdoor Gym

The photographs opposite are of an outdoor gym in West Park in Aldwick that is free for anyone to use. Surprisingly perhaps, unlike the gyms that cost half your salary, this gym is almost deserted, so you get your pick of equipment. You will also find more exercise equipment at Bognor Regis seafront.

Hotham Park

At the other side of Bognor is Hotham Park. Here you can stroll around the gardens among beautiful flowers or watch people have fun on the minature railway.


If you don't mind spending some money:

Try that minature railway or the putting green in Hotham Park.

Buy a body board and have fun in the sea.

Try some of the activities at Bognor seafront, such as crazy golf or the giant inflatable slide (this is only there in summer.)

Other places to visit

Some other good places to visit are the South Downs national park. One great place to start a walk is at The Trundle, near Goodwood Racetrack.

The village of Bosham is also worth a visit. This has a craft market which you can browse, as well as cafés, but arguably of most interest is Shore Road, which runs along the water's edge. This road is clearly marked with signs that alert motorists and others to the fact that the road floods each high tide. Presumably, the motorist in the photo didn't appreciate this means the road disappears.

The other main attraction at the harbour are the ducks. These are very familiar with people and will be delighted if you feed them. And they don't care a bit that the road floods!

Bosham harbour

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Map showing locations

show route and directions
A markerChichester -
Chichester, West Sussex, UK
[get directions]

B markerBosham -
Bosham, West Sussex, UK
[get directions]

C markerBognor Regis -
Bognor Regis, West Sussex, UK
[get directions]

D markerArundel -
Arundel, West Sussex BN18 9AS, UK
[get directions]

E markerWest Wittering -
West Wittering, West Sussex, UK
[get directions]

F markerEast Wittering -
East Wittering, West Sussex, UK
[get directions]

G markerGoodwood Racetrack PO18 0PS -
Goodwood Racecourse Heliport, Chichester, West Sussex PO18, UK
[get directions]

H markerSouth Downs National Park -
South Downs National Park, Findon, West Sussex, UK
[get directions]

I markerSwanbourne Lake -
Swanbourne Lake, South Downs National Park, Arundel, West Sussex BN18, UK
[get directions]

show route and directions
A markerWest Wittering -
West Wittering, West Sussex, UK
[get directions]

B markerEast Wittering -
East Wittering, West Sussex, UK
[get directions]

C markerChichester -
Chichester, West Sussex, UK
[get directions]

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Comments 20 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

A road that floods at high tide? Oh, that picture is priceless. Loved this hub; the pics are great and I never grow tired of seeing things that I want to visit some day. Thanks you Yvonne!


Elias Zanetti profile image

Elias Zanetti 3 years ago from Athens, Greece

This hub is wonderful! And the photos are absolutely magnificent! I especially enjoyed those of the lake. Congratulations to the photographer! Voted up&awesome! Cheers!


Nettlemere profile image

Nettlemere 3 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

I was surprised to see you south of the border Melovy! Enjoyable hub about an area of England that I've never been to, and free things to do are my favourite.


Vanderleelie profile image

Vanderleelie 3 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

An excellent hub, with many useful tips for visitors. I have been to Chichester and enjoyed touring the cathedral. They also have a wonderful program of live theatre performances in Chichester - we took in a play entitled "Vita and Virginia" during our visit. Your hub brings back some good travel memories. Voted up and interesting.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean

Thank you for hubs like this which allows me to visit places I otherwise could not. The pictures really help. Voted Up.


Horatio Plot profile image

Horatio Plot 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, England.

Excellent information about my favourite part of the country. I lived in West Sussex for 20 years. 9 in Worthing, 4 in Felpham and 7 in Littlehampton/Rustington. Always wanted in live in Arundel but could never afford it! It has great pubs (The Black Rabbit, the Eagle, the King's Arms) and a fantastic Arts Festival in August. We're marooned in Bedfordshire for the mo, it's very nice but we'd love to return south one day. Thanks for bringing back some great memories.


Melovy profile image

Melovy 3 years ago from UK Author

Bill, I agree that picture is great, wish it was my photo, but I couldn't find any of our own of Bosham. It's definitely worth a visit! Glad you enjoyed this and thanks for your kind comment about the hub. Hope you do get to see that road for yourself one day!


Melovy profile image

Melovy 3 years ago from UK Author

Hi Elias Zanetti, thanks very much for your comment. When I took those photos of the lake it was close to sunset and the light was beautiful so they came out really well. I think it's probably Mother Nature who deserves most congratulations now I think about it, but thanks anyway! Glad you enjoyed them.


Melovy profile image

Melovy 3 years ago from UK Author

Ha, Nettlemere! I do sneak over the border now and then to pillage and thieve! Actually, I lived a few years in various parts of England, my husband is English and our younger daughter was born in Portsmouth, not far from W Sussex. But I tend to have done the bottom of England and missed out the bit in between so haven't been to your neck of the woods as yet. (Apart from that very pleasant service station on the M6.)

Free things are also my favourite! Thanks for popping by.


Melovy profile image

Melovy 3 years ago from UK Author

Hi Vanderieelie,

You are right: Chichester's theatre is great. We used to live there, but our kids were very small at the time so I didn't get out to the theatre much. We did sometimes see the stars of various plays in cafes around Chichester though - when our older daughter was a baby she nearly grabbed hold of a man at the table next to us. When he stood up I wished I'd let her - it was Tom Conti!

Glad this brought back good memories for you, and thanks for sharing your experience!


Melovy profile image

Melovy 3 years ago from UK Author

Hi MsDora, I'm glad you enjoyed the photos and liked the tour of West Sussex. Thanks for your comment and vote up!


Melovy profile image

Melovy 3 years ago from UK Author

Horatio, we almost bought a house in Rustington once, so could have been neighbours, and my in-laws did live in Felpham for many years so perhaps you were neighbours! I know what you mean about Arundel, it's such a beautiful place and we still love to go there when we're visiting. I'm glad this brought back good memories for you, and thanks for popping by, good to hear from you again!


bac2basics profile image

bac2basics 3 years ago from Spain

Hi Melovy. I used to live at Felpham and then moved to Bognor town to take over the running of a pub there ( read my living with ghosts hub, my true recollections of being the landlady of a haunted pub. The pub was the Claremont in Scott street, Bognor) West Sussex is a beautiful county indeed and I did miss it a lot when we moved on. Great hub and thanks for bringing back some treasured memories :)


Melovy profile image

Melovy 3 years ago from UK Author

Bac2basics, I will take a read of your hub. Glad this brought back nice memories and thanks for your comment.


annart profile image

annart 3 years ago from SW England

This is a great trip down memory lane for me. I know all the places well as I was born and grew up in the area north of the downs near Brighton and then lived in a few places further west. I love Chichester (great theatre) and Bosham but my favourite areas are those which nestle in the lea of the South Downs, like Newtimber, Poynings and Fulking at the base of Devil's Dyke walk. I've walked round Swanbourne Lake many times as a child - also met Sir Peter Scott at the Wildlife Trust one day; had to name-drop! Those were the days! Thanks for the reminder. Up and beautiful.


Melovy profile image

Melovy 3 years ago from UK Author

Hi Annart, meeting Sir Peter Scott would have been exciting! I think you are allowed to name drop! (I've already done it in my comment about Tom Conti, and we didn't actually meet him as such! :-)

Glad this brought back good memories for you and thanks for your comment.


Limo Les 3 years ago

Great Hub. Great part of the world to visit!


Melovy profile image

Melovy 3 years ago from UK Author

Limo Les, thanks for your comment.


charlie cheesman profile image

charlie cheesman 3 years ago from England

Great hub I live in East Sussex but have worked in midhurst and used to go to Chichester and up on the downs great thanks.


Melovy profile image

Melovy 3 years ago from UK Author

Hello again Charlie! Glad you enjoyed the hub, I was pleased to share some of our favourite spots in West Sussex. We didn't go to Midhurst often so I don't know it well enough to include.

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