The salty seaside town of Shoreham-by-Sea makes a great base for a trip that’s all about paddlesports and nature. Come for easy access to a beautiful stretch of West Sussex coast, the wildlife-rich banks of the Arun and Adur rivers and the wildflower-strewn hills of the nearby South Downs.
Paddlesports such as stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) and kayaking are relatively easy to pick up and, thanks to their gentle wake and adaptability to different sorts of waterways, are a tranquil way to see the local flora and fauna. Join a group session or book a bespoke experience to master the basics, then sit back and soak up the scenery!
Getting there and around: Shoreham-by-Sea is just an hour and 14 minutes by train from London Victoria. It’s possible to do this trip by public transport, if you can factor in a taxi or two, but, depending on your accommodation and activity plans, having your own transport will make getting around easier.
The paddler’s perspective on nature
For a Shoreham-based stand-up paddleboarding session, try Moxie Unleashed. Owner Sasha runs group sessions and bespoke experiences from the beach and on the River Adur, just 10 minutes from Shoreham Station. River sessions for beginners usually take place around the time of the high tide. Stand-up paddleboarding on the sea is more flexible on timings, but does depend on wind speed and direction. For something a bit different, ask Sasha about SUP yoga and practice your downward dog on a paddleboard!
If you think kayaking might be more your thing, check out The Kayak Coach and keep your eyes peeled for heron, water voles and kingfishers! Even those with no previous kayaking experience can join the Coach’s four-hour trip along the River Arun from Amberley. The Kayak Coach also runs a general introduction to paddlesports, a two-hour course further inland on the River Adur that gives you the fundamental paddling skills you need to propel a kayak, canoe, sit-on-top or stand-up paddleboard.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, you’re ready to switch your focus to your surroundings. Depending on the time of year, you might see kingfishers, dragonflies, and mayflies hovering above the water, wading birds on the mudflats and shingle, or yellow flag iris, red campion, water lilies and frothy meadowsweet splashing colour along the riverbanks.
Hike and bike your way to nature
Of course, paddling isn’t the only way to get close to nature in West Sussex. As well as SUP, Moxie Unleashed organise mountain biking trips through the South Downs, or Sasha can plan a full day of paddling and biking tailored to your interests and ability.
If you’d prefer to hit the cycle paths without a guide, hire a bike from the Adur Centre and hit the 12-mile (19km) route through the South Downs to RSPB Pulborough Brooks. Or you could pedal part of the National Cycle Route 2 from Shoreham Beach (a local nature reserve) along the coast to Worthing’s Pier of the Year 2019.
You can also take to the myriad hiking trails by yourself. The Chanctonbury Ring walk incorporates Cissbury Ring, an ancient hill fort, popular landing point of migratory birds, and one of the best places in the country to see butterflies. Pack a picnic and sit back as Adonis blue, marbled whites and dark-green fritillaries flit by.
16 miles (26km) of public footpaths run through the Knepp Rewilding Project. Trek through the 3,500-acre site to immerse yourself in this wildly successful habitat regeneration endeavour that lets nature take over. Wild ponies, pigs, cattle and deer roam the land, and the hands-off approach has seen nightingales, turtle doves and all five species of owl return to the land. Find out more about Knepp’s progressive approach to conservation on a vehicle-based safari or guided walking tour – but be aware that these book up well ahead of time.
Stay close to nature overnight in one of these camping and glamping sites. Close to The Kayak Coach’s Adur location, New Wharf Campsite is a peaceful, off-grid campsite with river access, communal chill-out tents and shepherd huts for glamping, too.
If you loved the sound of walks through Knepp’s rewilding project, you’re in luck – they also offer camping and glamping in treehouses, bell tents, shepherd huts and yurts on site. Alternatively, the YHA Truleigh Hill Campsite provides beautiful readily set-up bell tents in a quiet country location, with eco-friendly solar lighting and access to a shared kitchen.
The hodgepodge of quirky houseboats that line the riverbank in Shoreham make for a completely different place to sleep. There are boats made of other boats, an old Dodge fire engine, an aeroplane and even a Reliant Robin!
Food & drink
For breakfast or brunch, take a walk across the locks to Carats Café Bar on Southwick Beach. In town, Tomfoolery brews an excellent, locally roasted coffee to have with your vegan breakfast or bacon and eggs.
Leave room for a lunch of burgers, imaginative salads or a good old mug of soup with chips in The Bridge Inn’s garden overlooking the River Adur.
You might recognise the Fountain Inn in Ashurst as Paul McCartney filmed his Wonderful Christmas Time video here in 1979. This 16th-century pub has flagstone floors, inglenook fires, a skittle alley, a waterside garden and a menu packed with local produce – perfect for a cosy dinner.
If you’re self-catering, don’t miss Shoreham Farmers’ Market (9am-2pm, East Street, every second Saturday of the month) and Shoreham Artisans’ Market (9am-2pm, East Street, every fourth Saturday of the month) for dozens of stalls piled with homemade bread, sausage rolls, local honey and more.