West Beach Boardwalk
The boardwalk at West Beach, Littlehampton, is currently closed as a result of the recent wet weather.
Arun District Council has taken the decision to close the boardwalk following the recent heavy rainfall which has made it unsafe in places.
The Council is looking to resolve the issue so the boardwalk can be reopened as soon as possible.
The West Beach Local Nature Reserve (
Volunteers meet monthly to assist with the management of the site. If you select the following link you can read about the West Beach management plan
The vast expanse of sand exposed when the tide goes out is teeming with life. Thousands of lugworms and millions of small snails and shell fish burrow into the sand, where they eat microscopic plants and animals in the sand or brought in on the tide. These worms, shellfish and snails in turn become food for wading birds which are able to extract them from the sand using their long, sharp beaks.
Oystercatchers are common waders seen in this area and around 1% of the entire West European Sanderling population over-winter here before flying North to the arctic where they breed.
The seaweed, shells and other debris washed up by the high tide form a dark line along the shingle. Strange looking objects such as whelk’s egg cases, cuttlebones and mermaid’s purses can all be found along this strand line, giving clues to the rich array of wildlife living under the sea.
The shingle mainly consists of eroded chalk and flint that has been smoothed by the waves. Much of the shingle has been placed there to increase sea defences as sea levels rise. The waves move the shingle eastward along the coast towards the harbour mouth and Littlehampton. This is known as longshore drift. Every year the Environment Agency’s bulldozers move some of the mobile shingle back westward to protect the low-lying fields at Elmer.
The stable vegetated shingle forms a rare habitat, colonised by plants specially adapted to cope with exposure to wind, sun, salt spray and drought. Examples of these adaptations include the Yellow horned poppies which have silvery reflective hairs on their leaves and spend the winter lying dormant as seeds, and the sea kale which is able to store water underground. Birds come to eat the insects which shelter amongst these plants. Ringed plovers even try to nest on the shingle, lining little hollows among the stones with pieces of shell
Further information about vegetated shingle can be found on the Sussex vegetated shingle website.
Sand dunes form when the sand flats dry out on hot, windy days and sand particles are blown up the beach where they are deposited among the special grasses which grow there. Marram grass is the most abundant grass which covers these dunes. It has evolved to thrive here by pushing its pointed leaf tips up through any sand above it and also having roots that are able to reach down several metres to reach moisture.
Without the Marram grass nothing would stop the wind blowing the sand into Littlehampton. There are already several large holes (’blow-outs’) where this has happened. This is why it is important not to light fires near the dunes, and why areas that have suffered most from being trampled have been fenced off so that the vegetation can recover.
There is not much new sand coming into this dune system, probably because it is intercepted by the shingle bank. However without this shingle bank the dunes might be washed into the sea during storms in the winter months.
Plants on the dunes include the very rare tiny pink sand catchfly. Burrowing wasps, the shore wainscot moth (a sand dune specialist) and two species of lizard are also found here.
The Arun volunteers meet in the West Beach Car Park at 10:30 on the first Wednesday of every month to pick up litter and carry out whatever tasks are needed. If you are interested in coming along to help then please contact the Community Parks Officers below.
If you see unusual wildlife on the reserve or if you have any questions or comments, please email Dee Christensen at email@example.com
If you do not know how to get to West Beach a map is attached West Beach location map [pdf] 340KB