It was another trip to the seaside for me today with a visit to Littlehampton. So far in my parkrun journey I’ve got to know the coast of Sussex pretty well with trips to Bognor Regis, Worthing, Lancing, Seaford, Hove Promenade, Hastings and Eastbourne. But still the new parkruns keep coming and so today I paid my first visit to Littlehampton Prom. Actually this would be my second visit. I came here last week and the weather was positively biblical. A ferocious gale was blowing along the seafront and then it started to lash down with rain. It would have been hazardous to hold the parkrun and thankfully the event was cancelled at 5 minutes to 9. I was disappointed but also relieved. Thankfully this morning the conditions were near ideal - it was bright, with only a gentle breeze, though also a bit chilly.
Littlehampton is on the coast of Sussex, just to the west of Worthing and to the east of Bognor Regis. It lies at the mouth of the River Arun and, by that reckoning, ought to be called something like “Arunmouth”... but it isn’t. Its original name was Hantone or Hampton which is a general purpose name for a small settlement. The “Little” was added later to distinguish it from the much larger port of Southampton.
There is evidence of human habitation here dating back to prehistoric and Roman times. By the Middle Ages, the place was already recorded as a small fishing port. At around this time, the area came into the possession of the Earls of Arundel and Dukes of Norfolk whose descendants still live in Arundel Castle. The expansion of port activities led to a new river mouth being cut in 1735, alongside the building of a wooden harbour. At this time it was also known as Arundel Port.
As the eighteenth century progressed, the town developed from a fishing community to a holiday destination, with Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Constable all believed to have spent time here. The town's status as both a port and a holiday resort led to economic success in the nineteenth century, with a railway line and a cross-channel ferry to Honfleur in France being introduced. The population of the town grew tenfold over the century, from 584 in 1801 to 5,954 in 1901. Littlehampton remained as a holiday resort in the twentieth century, becoming known as 'The Children's Paradise' in the 1920s. Post Second World War saw a lot of development in Littlehampton, gradually absorbing the surrounding villages. Its population today numbers around 28,000.
If you come to Littlehampton today you’ll see that the harbour is still very much there and thriving. It is mainly a centre for recreational sailing but it is also still a working port with vessels unloading timber and stone and other materials at the quayside.
Although it may have passed its heyday as a holiday destination, there are still plenty of attractions in Littlehampton which would make the place worth a visit. There is a long stretch of beach, mainly shingle at the top turning to sand at the water’s edge. There are some pleasant areas of parkland. a miniature railway, various sports facilities, amusement arcades and fairground rides. The promenade boasts what is claimed to be Britain’s longest bench, stretching for 324 metres along the back of the prom. If you get tired during the parkrun, you’ll always have somewhere to sit down! Also on the promenade is the recently constructed East Beach café. It’s meant to resemble a huge piece of driftwood. Some local people have hailed it as an innovative piece of modern architecture. Others regard it as a horrendous eyesore. You decide!
Littlehampton would be a pretty decent place to live. Just out of interest I checked out property prices in the town and discovered that, particularly if you’d like to live on the seafront, you’ll need a lot of money. Article here https://tinyurl.com/yaahh49o
The parkrun course at Littlehampton takes place on the promenade which runs along the back of the beach. Being on the seafront, there are all the facilities you might need - cafés, toilets, etc - within a short distance of the finish. It starts at the western end, near the coastguards station, and involves a stretch of approx 1.25 km. This means you have to run out and back and then out and back again. It’s all on flat tarmac and, in the right conditions, would be a good place to aim for a fast time. My ambitions were rather more modest today. I was hoping to run a little bit faster than I have been managing lately. My dodgy left ankle is reasonably okay at the moment but new aches and pains pop up now and again and cause me to limit my training.
Littlehampton parkrun has been going for about six months. There were around 120 starters there this morning, which was about average. I set off at an easy jog, waiting to see how I felt. I felt reasonably okay so I settled into a slightly faster jog and reached the first turnaround in about 6:15. I picked up the pace on the way back and reached halfway in about 11:50. I maintained this sort of pace on the second half and finally came home in 25th place in a time of 23:26. That is hardly burning up the seafront but it’s faster than I have managed for quite a few months so I was happy with that. I enjoyed my little trot along the seafront so I might come back here one week, as it’s less than an hour from home, and see if I can improve my time.
My statistics for today - that was parkrun venue number 211. I was fourth (!) in my age group and was tenth overall on age graded scores.
If you’d like a little glimpse of Littlehampton parkrun, here’s the best YouTube video I could find.
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