Yesterday I visited my newly acquired beach hut on my own for the first time.
Two previous visits to the beach hut on West Wittering beach were on a Saturday with my handyman. As these were on a weekend the beach was extremely crowded.
The West Wittering beach website informs that the beach can attract 50,000 visitors which sounds a huge number until you realise it’s a vast expanse.
Yesterday I foresaw as part of my learning curve in terms of transport, use of beach facilities and getting to know the neighbours.
As I no longer drive and the A27 is often slow because of roundabouts and traffic lights I was happy to take the train.
Southern Rail has old rolling stock but there is a GWR train from Brighton to Bristol which stops at Chichester whose standard class is considerably more comfortable than Southern’s first class.
It has better seats, wifi service and cleaner toilets. At Chichester I took a taxi. Taxi drivers always have local knowledge and my local driver assured me I had made a good investment.
I arrived at the glorious beach at 10-30am and set up home.
I fell into conversation with my neighbours 2 huts down. It appeared they rented the hut for the week via their local pub in Camberley.
I then set off to walk. To my left was the fashionable part of West Wittering, The Strand where properties sell for £2.5m. Most of the beachcombers were dog walkers.
As a beach I would rate this alongside Gran Anse in Grenada as one of the finest I have visited.
After my stroll it was time for lunch and I tried the cafe restaurant. There was the normal palaver of one entrance, one exit.
I chose calamari and a heritage tomato salad with an elderflower sparkling cordial.
The calamari were served in a small soup bowl and when I tried to dissect and eat them with difficulty the batter was far too greasy and thick. The salad was better. I queued up afterwards for an ice cream. I won’t be inviting Daffers!!
For the second time, on returning to my hut I found it “colonised”.
This time by my immediate neighbours. They assumed I was a guest of the previous owners and, on telling them I now owned the hut, the next question was “How much did you pay for it?”
I swerved this remembering my mother’s wise words “Just because someone asks you a personal question does not entitle them to a personal reply.”
I also thought that the owning couple were a clear and present danger to the privacy I sought.
The elderly lady owner sat with two friends.
They all had dogs one of whom, the Dulux type, made himself at home in front of my hut and seemed to befriend me.
The conversation of the ladies was gossipy and bitchy. One mutual friend had run off with a woman who they collectively despised. I did my best to shut myself off whilst holding my position.
The male owner read his Daily Mail and played no part in the conversation. He advised me to bring ear plugs next time. He came over and was the second person to assure me that I had made a sound investment.
My neighbours are the sort to speculate on my personal circumstances so I stayed distant.
My plan was to take the bus from West Wittering. Happily, in walking to the main road and wondering where the stop was, there was a bus waiting.
It’s a favourite trick of bus drivers where I live to drive away when they see you running for the bus. This driver waited patiently and we made the journey in good time.
For the return journey I was on a Southern Railway train of 3 dirty carriages, no toilet and full of school kids.
As an attempt at exploration I was pleased with my findings.
In England beaches are public. In my beloved South of France there would be beach restaurants with loungers. That might explain the rise in the popularity and value of beach huts here.
In future I will either bring sandwiches to the hut or eat in a couple of local restaurants I have identified. The familiarity of the neighbours is more of a danger. Best to be polite but avoid any further social contact.
The bus was a great find. The 3-00 train service one to avoid.