Swan throngs and beach spiders

Sunday, and off we went to Littlehampton. Why? Well, why not? “Have you ever been to Littlehampton?” asked Tigger. “Not knowingly,” I replied cagily. This is my usual answer because my memory is so bad that whatever I say is likely to be proved false later.

Bus to King’s Cross Thameslink to buy train tickets (the ticket office there is much less busy than those at bigger stations), tube to Victoria, 10:17 Portsmouth Harbour train (another good day trip) which calls at Littlehampton.

I knew it was my lucky day when, as I was eating a breakfast baguette on Victoria station, a pigeon perched high above me among the ironwork of the roof let go a bomb which impacted with unerring accuracy on my black cord trousers. Not to worry: I’ve had good wear out of those trousers and decided this was in any case their last journey.

I was amused, on going to the toilets to clean up, to see this notice on the entrance turnstiles: “Out of order. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

The journey was uneventful and we arrived around midday. Although it was Sunday, some of the larger shops were open and there were plenty of people about, giving the town an alive feel.

Having explored the town we went down to the beach on the town side of the Arun. The beaches were well attended but not crowded. There were people of all ages, and families, enjoying seaside pleasures in their various ways. On the sea were boats and dinghies, yachts and speedboats. It was all leisurely, good-humoured and well behaved.

We looked around for lunch and in the end, faute de mieux, plumped for a Wetherspoons. At least they have a non-smoking area. Roll on July 1st.

After lunch we decided to cross the Arun to the dunes. There is a pedestrian bridge that takes you across. Its starting point is near two pubs one of which had live music. When we came back that way later, about 20 young people, too young to go into the pub, were in the street outside listening to the music.

Across the river we could see the town bank with its quays. And hundreds of swans. I’ve never seen so many swans all together. They formed about three loose groups, tribes or swan throngs along the waterfront.

We followed the river towards the sea. Along here there is a general atmosphere of decay. Old hulks lie rotting in the mud and crumbling jetties reach out to nowhere. There is a yacht club but it too was surrounded by fragmentation and decay.

There is also a golf course with its attendant clubhouse, a building looking more like a hotel. In contrast with the riverside decay, everything here is lush and well maintained. As we walked beside the golf course, a helicopter came low overhead. We watched in amazement as it actually landed on the golf course about 100 yards from the clubhouse.

At first nothing seemed to be happening but then a man in a suit issued from the clubhouse and walked towards the helicopter, coming to a halt about 25 yards away. Another pause, then a door in the helicopter opened and someone came out, possibly the pilot. Then two doors opened and two figures emerged. Both were wearing Saudi style robes and headgear. One raised both arms and shook them, like a footballer who has just scored a goal.

“Maybe they’ve come to buy the golf course,” said Tigger.

We didn’t wait to see more but continued on our way. Some time later we saw the helicopter spiral up into the air and fly away over the town.

We soon reached a little beach cafe. It sold ice cream. Well, you have to have ice cream at the seaside, don’t you? We each had a “two-scoop” cornet, banoffee and vanilla for Tigger, strawberry and vanilla for me. We ate them sitting on plastic chairs outside the cafe.

The only trouble with ice cream is that I feel like tea afterwards. Then again, I feel like tea after everything. Even after tea.

We followed a path down to the beach and sat on the shingle. There were less people here than on the town beaches but as there all were enjoying themselves calmly and without bother.

Along here are dunes. Nearest the town they have been fenced off to protect them. This area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the dunes are home to rare species that need conserving for the future.

While enjoying the scene we played “Finding Pebbles That Look Like Something”. There was the “leg of lamb” pebble, the “boot” pebble and the “slice of bread with a hole in it” pebble. There was also a “nipple” pebble, but we won’t go into that. When we had found all the pebbles that looked like something, we had a go at “Throwing Pebbles Into The Sea”.

This was quite hard as the sea was, oh, feet away. In any case, I was sitting down and everyone knows you can’t throw properly sitting down. “Try with your left hand,” said Tigger. She can be so reckless at times.

I found to best thing was to wait for a really big wave as this brought the sea closer.

This is when we discovered the beach spiders. They were all round us. I don’t know whether this was because they liked us or what. They kept popping up from between the pebbles, running a short distance and hiding again. I wasn’t sure they were spiders so I thought to count their legs.

Luckily, I had my small binoculars with me. These focus down to about 4 feet which is just right for looking at beach spiders. Yes, they do have 8 legs. They have grey bodies with dark stripes along them.

After a while we moved off the shingle onto sand at the foot of the dune as it was softer to sit on. We saw the helicopter fly over again. Maybe he was coming back to collect his passengers at the golf club.

We met a caterpillar walking across the sand. He kept slipping on the sand and rolling over as he slid into hollows. As he went he left a trace in the sand like a miniature tyre track.Eventually, he fell into hollow and couldn’t get out. He would get part way up the side and roll back down. Tigger handed me some dry stalks and I positioned this for the caterpillar to climb onto it. Then I carried him to a clump of grass. He seemed content there.

I think we both dozed a bit. It was now getting on for 6 pm and we had something to do in London (book tickets for a future expedition). Some people came and settled near us and started a fire. I thought it would be a good idea to go before they stank us out with their barbecue or whatever they were preparing.

Back across the bridge we went, to town and the station, taking a last look at the swan throng, as we went. It was a gently leisurely day out and I think we will come back.

Back in London, we bought our tickets and rounded off the evening by going to the Diwana vegetarian Indian restaurant in Drummond Street (behind Euston Station) for a thali. What better way to end the day?

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About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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3 Responses to Swan throngs and beach spiders

  1. emalyse says:

    Sounds like an almost idyllic day out. I certainly agree with you re the smoking ban. It really can’t come around soon enough.

  2. SilverTiger says:

    It was a good day out, yes.

    When we were in Ireland, it was good to be able to go into a pub and not be fagged out by smokers. Brilliant. I am really looking forward to it here. There are few things more disagreeable in a cafe or restaurant when you are eating or drinking than when someone lights up at the next table.

    The staff in the little cafe where we have our omelet lunch on a Friday tell us they are looking forward to it too. They already have the notices up warning people.

  3. Pingback: Eight-legged wolves « SilverTiger

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