I have lived in West Sussex all of my life on and off. I grew up in the Haywards Heath area but moved closer to Chichester after spending a lot of time in West Wittering and East Wittering during my professional windsurfing days in the mid-80s.
I love being so close to nature here – we have the ocean and the South Downs National Park. Being lucky enough to experience the thrill of doing water sports and mountain biking on the same day is a real luxury that not many people get to enjoy on a daily basis.
Kingley Vale Nature Reserve is right on my doorstep, and for me it’s the place to go if I want to relax and feel at one with nature – it’s like my own private church. I like to walk from my house over the Downs, stopping off at Wellies Café for a cup of tea on the way. The view on top of the vale looking out to the Isle of White and Portsmouth is truly unbeatable. It takes my breath away every time.
The reserve boasts one of the finest yew forests in Western Europe, including a grove of ancient trees that are some of the oldest living things in Britain. It really is a fantastic place to reconnect with nature and realise the simple beauty of this area. Head to West Stoke, just outside of Chichester, and continue through the village until you see the signs to the reserve car park.
Just a 20-minute drive from here you have the coast. West Wittering beach out of season and Church Norton Beach have a wild, unspoilt beauty about them and I’d urge visitors to seek them out if visiting the region. The beach is also very close to the RSPB Reserve at Pagham Harbour, a peaceful family retreat where you can spot buzzards, merlins, sparrowhawks and barn owls. If you want to escape it all you really can’t beat this area. How would I sum up the region? Stretched seas with hallowed hills.