This page contains articles of local interest written by members of World of Widewater.

  • The best linear community in the world – probably (with acknowledgement to the old Carlsberg ads)

Written by Frank Fletcher 7th November 2022

The field of human geography is peppered with some beautifully descriptive terminology. For example it recognises three different types of community – nucleated, dispersed and linear. A linear community is one that exists in a line rather than around a hub or scattered randomly. I would like to suggest that World of Widewater represents the best of what a linear community has to offer.

We are defined not by the road around which we live nor by the shared anger and frustration we feel about the abuse to which Southern Water relentlessly subjects us. We are defined by the beauty and shared appreciation of the Widewater Lagoon. It is the focal point that binds us.

Apart from the sustained assault on our mental and physical health unleashed by the neglect and incompetence of Southern Water, we have endured the ravages of the pandemic that has done so much to impede normal social interaction for so long .

These things have done nothing to destroy the strength of our community. They have drawn us together, in fact. When any community feels under threat, the natural reaction is to come together and fight together. Southern Water will eventually go away, the A259 will return to more normal level of activity (even though I suspect we have a lot more disruption to come before that happens). During the pandemic, members of our community were a constant source of mutual support and help. We looked out for each other.

And that is what community is all about.

We have not been able to get together now for so long but the forthcoming Christmas Social (2nd December at the Church of the Good Shepherd) will give us all the chance to see old friends and meet new friends who have joined our community over the last couple of years.

I hope to see you there.

Friday 2nd December at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Shoreham Beach 7pm – 10pm.

There will be:

  • Vegetarian chilli and rice
  • Quiz
  • Sundown Ukulele Band
  • Raffle
  • Refreshments

Donations will be welcome. Please let Paula Baker know if you will be attending and would like a chilli meal at [email protected]

Frank Fletcher

7th November 2022

  • Conceive, Believe, Achieve

Written by Frank Fletcher in August 2021

Sean’s visionary Widewater Bridge officially opened

The Plaque. (Photo by Dave Hoggen)

Sunday August 15th 2021 dawned grey and blustery. As the morning progressed, the
grey got greyer, the bluster got more blustery and finally an all pervading blanket of
mizzle hurtled in from the west south west.
Midday approached and the skies began to lighten; the mizzle that had misled locals
into their rainwear vanished as if it had never been. And then the sun shone down on
the 75 or so residents and councillors assembled at the new Widewater Footbridge to
celebrate its official opening and to remember the hard work and campaigning of
Sean McShane, his wife Lynda and Geoff Patmore to fulfil Sean’s dream of access for
all to the lagoon and the beach beyond it.
The campaigning began as long ago as 2014. Sean was an engineer and, after
calculations, was passionate that access for all was possible.
The campaign for access for all at Widewater Local Nature Reserve was rejected time
after time by all agencies
Sean sadly passed away in 2015 but his wife Lynda and Geoff Patmore of West
Beach Residents Association carried on his work with support from community
conservation group World of Widewater.
There was a major breakthrough in 2016; WSCC agreed to access for all and held
public consultations and developed plans to include a new bridge.
In 2020, ADC and WSCC combined and finally completed new access for all and the
new bridge was delivered in 2021. Without Sean’s tenacity this access for all to
Widewater Lagoon Nature Reserve would not have happened.
At midday with the glorious Sussex sun smiling down, Lynda unveiled a plaque
commemorating Sean and his work at the northern end of the bridge and the big local
turnout toasted his work and memory.

Lynda McShane & Geoff Patmore celebrate the unveiling of the plaque. (Photo by Dave Hoggen)

Conceive, Believe Achieve was Sean’s philosophy. Well he certainly did that.
Many of the residents then went on to brave the blustery winds and continue
celebrations with a community picnic on the beach.
Sean would have loved that – the grey, the mizzle, the sun, the wind and the spirit of
community coming together.

Some of the members of the World of Widewater (WoW) committee, Barbara, Penny, Jo, Paula, Marion H, Geoff and Marion W at the celebration. (Photo by Dave Hoggen)
A good attendance at the event. (Photo by Dave Hoggen)
The new bridge in the background. (Photo by Dave Hoggen)
From the Worthing Herald in August 2021.
  • Welcome to WoW’s virtual January bird walk

Written by Frank Fletcher in January 2021

Lockdown 2.0 arrived as widely expected and has once more resulted in an influx of walkers and cyclists taking full advantage of the peace of the Widewater for their permitted daily exercise. The weather has been a bit iffy on and off but January is one of the peak times for bird activity (resident and visiting) on the lagoon so there has been plenty to enjoy.

Indeed, January is the time WoW members usually congregate for the annual bird walk. Sadly this cannot happen this year so we thought that with the help of our friends and regular expert guides Tim Holter and Tony Benton from Shoreham and District Ornithological Society and also some photographs from Dave Hoggen, Tricia Ryder and Keith Wells, we would invite you to join us on a virtual stroll through the local nature reserve to see what we can see.

As we walk westwards, Tony spots and points out cormorants ducking and diving.

Cormorant at Widewater. (Photo by Dave Hoggen)

‘They are unmistakable;’ he says ‘and visit the lagoon to hunt for fish or to rest and sleep! When fishing, they can be submerged, like a submarine, for 30 seconds or more, often resurfacing some distance from where they dived. And when in resting mode, they are seen perching on posts in the water, often with their wings open and looking rather prehistoric. Cormorants seem to find plenty of fish to eat at the lagoon and can sometimes be seen tackling a large flounder or similar: the fish always seems to come off worse.’

Moving on, Tim raises his binoculars and spies a Little Grebe: With its ‘powder puff’ rear this tiny Grebe could be mistaken for a newly hatched duckling. Commonly known as ‘Dabchicks’ they are the smallest and most common Grebe.

Little Grebe at Widewater. (Photo by Dave Hoggen)

During the winter they are found on open water bodies such as lagoons and reservoirs. During the breeding season they retire to sites providing cover for nesting such as the Mill Pond at Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Woods Mill reserve.

In some years up to thirty are present on Widewater but are not easily seen as they repeatedly dive for small fish or loiter under bushes and landings around the edge of the lagoon.

We pass the footbridge and the weekend-silent heavy machinery there to provide our new footbridge.

Tim spots Red Mergansers. One of three European ‘Sawbills” Mergansers are a maritime species outside the breeding season, generally close to land in bays, estuaries, lakes and brackish waters.

Red Mergansers at Widewater. (Photo by Dave Hoggen)

They nest in northern Europe but are widespread around the British coast in Winter and regularly present near our local coasts with several often visiting Widewater.

They are distinctive with their thin red bills and ‘scruffy crests’. When several are present the males display by furiously chasing each other with rapid movements along the water.

In some years the freshwater based Goosander also appears. The males are distinctive. Females are similar but have a clear divide between their chestnut head and white breast.

Female Goosander at Widewater (Photo by Tricia Ryder)

Tony scours the north side of the lagoon looking for Kingfishers. On a gloomy winter’s day, the sight of a Kingfisher will always lift the spirits: but they are not easy to see! At the lagoon, your best chance of seeing one is to scan any vegetation over hanging the water, or to look carefully at the decking and other perches at the end of people’s gardens. They often sit motionless for minutes at a time, before plunging in for a fish, or speeding away to the next vantage point. The flight is low and fast, wings whirring, interrupted by short glides.

A Kingfisher with a fish sitting on a garden wall at Widewater. (Photo by Dave Hoggen)

Kingfishers don’t breed at the lagoon and winter offers the best chance of seeing one of these fabulous birds.

Looking away from the lagoon and towards the sea for a moment, a spectacular sight recently has been huge numbers of Gannets diving for Herrings out at sea off shore at Lancing.

Back on the lagoon, there are other birds to be seen on the water too:

  • Little Egret
  • Black headed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Kestrel
  • Mallard Duck
  • Red Shank
  • Brent Goose
  • Teal
  • Grey Heron
  • Sparrowhawk

Finally as we near the Lancing end of the lagoon; what of our resident swan family? Jo Procter says: ‘The Widewater resident Mute Swan pair can be seen all year round but in the later winter months they chase their young away ahead of the next breeding season. This year’s surviving cygnet, now a fine, healthy juvenile swan showing much white adult plumage, is flying well and will be leaving the lagoon to join the local flock of swans on the river Adur and a new life in the wild.’

The long time resident Mute Swan pair (aka Hilda & Stanley) together with their 2020 Cygnet at Widewater. (Photo by Keith Wells)

Maybe in 2022, you will be able to join our real bird walk.

Word from Landbuild is that after some issues along the way, the building of the new footbridge is ‘back on schedule’ and by the time this issue is distributed, the new bridge itself may be in place and the work may be in its final stages. Fingers crossed.

Our membership secretary Penny Eaton would be delighted to hear from you if you would like to join us [email protected] .

If you have any questions or suggestions for future content, please feel free to contact me, Frank Fletcher, at [email protected] .

You can also find out more about us at our website and face book page.

  • The life and times of footpath 2051

Written by Frank Fletcher in December 2020

In 1982, celebrated local poet and writer Ted Walker published The High Path. The work was a loving homage to his happy childhood and adolescence living in one of the homes that backed onto a public footpath that ran between the houses and gardens that run down to the Widewater lagoon along the A259. His mum Winnie and his dad (also Ted) had moved here from the West Midlands in the early 1930s and here they stayed until death finally tore them from their beloved Widewater.

Ted Walker on the High Path

The High Path was an important part of Ted’s young life and it was key to his ability to get around Shoreham and Lancing. Its role and that of 1930/40s Shoreham and Lancing is fondly remembered in a Youtube slide show courtesy of Roger Bateman.

Also known as Bungalow Walk and, more formally, as Footpath 2051, the High Path ceased to be just 12 years after Ted’s book came out.

The High Path was the product of an era in which today’s thundering Brighton Road was little more than a narrow leafy lane meandering between Lancing and Shoreham and the coastal path was effectively a service lane for the villas and bungalows and their gardens that adorned the land between the sea and the lagoon along its length.

By the time Ted’s book was published, those villas and bungalows had become mere shadows on the landscape, their gardens grey ghosts along the edge of the lagoon and their former service lane was a fully fledged promenade. The A259 too, eventually aided and abetted by the widening of the Norfolk Bridge, had become (for a while) a 4 lane highway with pedestrian sidewalks.

The High Path, beautiful as it had been, was rapidly becoming just a throwback to quieter more trusting times. It was falling into disrepair; it was overgrown in places, it was seen as increasingly intrusive and a security risk and a challenge for the local council to maintain.

Bungalow Walk in it’s prime

As a result, in early 1992 an order was laid under the Highways Act 1980 to extinguish the footpath. The extinguishment was due to happen on 28th February 1992 but the path did not go down without a fight. There were objections and counter-objections. There was much fuss in the local press. The Parish Council fought fiercely to retain the footpath.

The order could not be enforced and the matter was referred to the Secretary of State for the Environment for a final decision. A total of 21 people from 12 addresses supported the retention of the path; 117 people from 64 addresses supported its closure.

The footpath only finally closed in September 1993, after sustained campaigning from all sides and a boisterous public inquiry held by JF Winton of the Planning Inspectorate on 11th May 1993.

The new bridge is taking shape and 2021 is on the horizon still rich with exciting potential and with the help of one of our resident robins (photographed by WoW committee member & Treasurer Dave Hoggen) we wish everyone the best Christmas you can possibly have and a wonderful New Year.

A Robin at Widewater (Photo by Dave Hoggen)

The World of Widewater (WoW) membership secretary Penny Eaton would be delighted to hear from you if you would like to join us [email protected]

  • 2020 vision: an exciting Widewater new year

Written by Frank Fletcher in November 2020

Early November.

The days are shrivelling and fading into the murky damp mists of winter, the nights are longer, darker and more depressing.

There is no direct pedestrian access to the lagoon and sea front.

The Brighton Road is rapidly becoming a mud bath and steadily sinking beneath the weight of the thundering plant and equipment being delivered and used on the bridge replacement. Those whose homes are closest to the site are enduring persistent din, vibration and disturbance; foundations are throbbing.

And then here comes lockdown 2.

Residents wishing to access the lagoon and beach on foot for their daily exercise face a long miserable, noisy, polluted diversion to the footpath at the east end or the causeway at the west end.

Even the visit at the end of October by a grey phalarope from the Arctic (apparently only the fourth time in the last 100 years the bird has been seen here) provided just temporary relief from the unrelenting gloom.

The Grey Phalarope at Widewater. (Photo by Sarah Mitchell)

Then the first weekend of lockdown provided some respite. Dry, mainly fine weather saw literally hundreds of visitors finding their way around the obstacles to exercise on foot and on bicycle along the seafront. It brought to mind the finer days of spring and autumn.

The awaking positive feelings had a genuine boost from the emerging news that there might after all be a solution to the challenges of the pandemic. Suddenly, it did not seem so long until the winter nights begin to draw out again, that Christmas is around the corner with our robin having taken up his winter residence around our garden, that the new bridge will be completed and that 2021 life might be better again.

Robin in the garden. (Photo by Dave Hoggen)

If the optimism proves well founded, one of the first projects to get off the ground for World of Widewater will be to plan the Widewater history walk. The idea is the brainchild of Geoff Patmore of West Beach Residents’ Association and Lancing Parish Councillor. Inspired by an original photograph of wonderful gardens and cottages around the Widewater in the early 20th century, Geoff’s idea is to match up the photograph (and others like it) to what can be seen around the lagoon today and then to build up images of how things might have looked. There is a lovely shingle wall along the Lagoon side of the Main car park Also there are foundation remains all around There are also ww2 gun emplacements all hidden and lost.

Widewater and bridge in bygone days.

There is a lot more to the history of the Widewater – for example Penhill Road and Shopsdam are the only memorials to the ancient port of Pende – but this seems a manageable and interesting step back in time. We may return to other aspects of the history of the Widewater in the future.

The aim is to set up a walk very early in the spring and, in advance of that, to do some homework on the lagoon 100 years ago and right up to World War II. Meantime, if there are ways in which you could contribute to the planning and information we already have, please get in touch at [email protected]

In the new mood of hope, we can genuinely begin to think of reinstating our active programme for 2021, especially as so much of what we do is outdoors anyway but, in the meantime, we still have a vibrant on-line community as manifested in our Facebook presence. Our membership secretary Penny Eaton would be delighted to hear from you if you would like to join us [email protected] .

If you have any questions or suggestions for future content, please feel free to contact me, Frank Fletcher, at [email protected] .

You can also find out more about us at our website and face book page

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  • World of Widewater; now it is access all areas

Written by Frank Fletcher in October 2020

By the time this issue of Inside Lancing and Sompting reaches your letterbox, the main pedestrian access to Widewater Local Nature Reserve from Brighton Road should be temporarily closed and the team from Landbuild should be hard at work delivering the brand new bridge to the reserve and to the beach.

The signs on the Widewater said work was due to commence on 19th October though the news from West Sussex County Council was that it would start on 12th October. Regardless of the real start date, it was estimated, the bridge would be closed for 8 weeks. On their schedule, this means the lagoon should be open for a pre-lunch Christmas day walk –happy days. However – a word of caution; while the council is quoting an 8 week closure, Landbuild is estimating 15 weeks for the project finishing in early February 2021.

The new footbridge will make the coastal nature reserve and Lancing’s beach more accessible for people with disabilities.

The existing timber bridge has, as we noted in last month’s article, degraded beyond repair. It will be replaced with one made from a special fibreglass material and with a slope that makes it more suitable for people with disabilities, including wheelchair users and young families with babies in prams and children in push chairs.

The new bridge will be made from Fibre Reinforced Polymer (FRP). FRP is lighter than alternative building materials, which means the new bridge can be constructed off-site and a small crane used to lift it into position. Ongoing costs are far cheaper, too, as there is no need for re-painting and the material does not rot.

While the council says the bridge will be closed for 8 weeks, the reserve will, of course, remain accessible from the Shoreham Beach and Lancing Green ends of the promenade, the car park and the causeway over the western end of the lagoon. This means that we will still be able to enjoy autumn views such as that photographed at the end of September showing the beautiful autumn shades and colours created by a brilliant sunset against a black and lowering sky to sea. There is no doubt that nature is the most wonderful artist of all with its outrageous palette of colours.

Widewater from a balcony. (Photo by Dave Hoggen)
Sunset at Widewater. (Photo by Sarah Mitchell)

A county council spokesperson said: “We apologise for any inconvenience during these essential works but the long-term benefits include improving accessibility for people to experience this wildlife haven and the beach.”

For those less familiar with it, Widewater Lagoon is an area of brackish water, landlocked by a man-made shingle bank. It is home to herons, swans, geese and many other wildfowl as well as being home to a variety of flora, some of which are unique to the area.

The project is estimated to cost about £300,000 and is being funded through developer contributions (Section 106 funds), with Adur District Council providing £103,000 of the Section 106 funds.

The work does mean that a lagoon walk planned for October to match historic photographs of the lagoon and its structures to the site as it is today had to be postponed but, when it is reinstated next year, perhaps it will be accessible to more people than it had been with the old crumbling and decrepit bridge.

Even though our usual calendar of activities remains hindered by pandemic restrictions, we would love residents who have found the Widewater over the last few months to come and join us in World of Widewater. We still have a vibrant on-line community and there are major plans for 2021. Our membership secretary Penny Eaton would be delighted to hear from you if you would like to join us [email protected] .

Meantime, if you have any questions or suggestions for future content, please feel free to contact me, Frank Fletcher, at [email protected] .

You can also find out more about us at our website and face book page

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  • World of Widewater; access denied – temporarily

Written by Frank Fletcher in September 2020

This article started life as a campaigning piece about the seemingly never-ending delays to accessible renewal of the decaying Widewater footbridge but it now looks as if it might be turning into a good news story so here goes…

Apart from the issue of littering which has beset beauty spots up and down the land, the dramatically increased footfall on the Widewater Local Nature Reserve has created another very specific issue – the acceleration of the deterioration of the fabric of the footbridge access to the reserve and the beach.

Thanks to the thoughtfulness and consideration of the local community and many visitors, littering has not been as big a problem for us as it has been in many other places, but the decline of the footbridge has become a serious concern. The rotting timbers over the water, the collapsing safety rails and even the newly placed blue plastic ‘barriers’ with their wandering feet and propensity to break loose when the wind blows are now nothing more than a series of accidents waiting to happen.

Don’t lean on the rail!
Mind your feet!
Not quite the design we expected!
Not sure that is supposed to be there!
Surely not the finished article!
That should do the trick!
The Swans displaying the safest way to cross the bridge at this time!

Yet it shouldn’t have become this way.

As long ago as 2013, West Beach resident Sean Mcshane, sadly no longer with us, spearheaded a campaign for disabled access to the beach to comply with Disability Discrimination law. The campaign fell on deaf ears with the conclusion that there was no feasible way of complying with DDA requirements because of the gradient of the steps to the footbridge. But campaigning continued.

The local authority and WSCC resisted the campaign. In the meantime, the footbridge continued to deteriorate and despite some very temporary stop gap measures such as effectively applying rolls of roofing felt to the bridge itself and various running and inadequate repairs to the guard rail over the bridge and along the path, this is still the state of play.

But again it shouldn’t have become this way..

There had been an apparent turning point in 2016 after persistent lobbying by Sean, Lynda Mcshane, ward councillor Geoff Patmore and former West Sussex County Councillor Mick Clark (who was actually told work would start while he was still in post). WSCC had at last accepted the point that the Bridge bund (the north bank of the Widewater) was not the primary flood defence; also, that the approach could accommodate DDA compliant accessibility 

Back in 2019, to a great fanfare, officers of WSCC, engineers and consultants descended on the best attended AGM in the history of World of Widewater to unveil their exciting plans for the renovation of the footbridge and the creation of an accessible approach compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act. Work was to begin in September 2019; there was to be temporary closure of the bridge and even weekend closure of the A259 late in the year when the main span of the bridge was to be lifted into place.

People with sharp eyes who know the area may have noticed none of this actually happened and the bridge continued to rot.

Then we heard that the work was to start in September 2020. It didn’t. A wall of silence was built around WSCC. Communications to the Council went unanswered; no information was volunteered. Then there were mutterings that a number of legal issues were holding things up but otherwise the project was ‘raring to go’. One member of Lancing Parish Council pointed out that WSCC had had 18 months to resolve these issues.

One day towards the end of August, I talked to a couple of West Beach residents struggling with access for their daily exercise. I mentioned the exciting new works scheduled to start (at that time) in September and they both burst out laughing commenting they had heard it all before.

As things stood, their daily struggle was becoming harder with the passage of time and by next spring, unless drastic action was taken, there may not have been a bridge to cross anyway.

Well there is now great news for this couple and for all other residents and other visitors to the reserve. Late in the afternoon of 15th September a gentleman representing Landbuild appeared on the steps to the bridge clutching a pair of boards announcing that work would start on the bridge on 19th October for 15 weeks.

Just to finish on a note of caution, when contacted late morning on 16th September on the advertised number, WSCC appeared not to be able to shed any light on the subject.

We will track progress with interest and excitement.

We would love residents who have found the Widewater over the last few months to come and join us in World of Widewater. Our membership secretary Penny Eaton would be delighted to hear from you if you would like to join us too[email protected] .

Meantime, if you have any questions or suggestions for future content, please feel free to contact me, Frank Fletcher, at [email protected] .

You can also find out more about us at our website and facebook page

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  • The weird World of Widewater – trying to return to normal

Written by Frank Fletcher in August 2020

As this surreal Widewater summer wends its way slowly towards autumn, there are few signs yet of returning normality. The Local Nature Reserve (LNR) continues to host record numbers of visitors; the car parks are full from early morning often until late in the evening as families take full advantage of some wonderful early August weekend weather to enjoy the beach and local surroundings.

Those who stayed into the evening of the first few days of August would have been treated to a sumptuous orange-red Sturgeon moon rising over the east of the lagoon, the first couple of days flirting with scudding light clouds but then displayed in all its glory.

It is said the Sturgeon moon was originally named by the Algoquin nation of North America to celebrate the return of bounteous fish stocks to their rivers.

And it coincided with strange things continuing to happen here.

Egrets are returning in larger numbers to the lagoon than have been seen for a long time. The crab population in the lagoon is flourishing both in terms of numbers and health – which seems to be great news for the local gull population giving lots of opportunity for alfresco dining on the shore and in the gardens around the lagoon. At dusk in early August, a lone cormorant was spotted cruising the lagoon. And then ducks appeared – again not seen very often in recent times. They included two Mandarin ducks – exciting because they have not been recorded here before. They are in their eclipse plumage which means that as they are in the moult, they are vulnerable and so they have another moult of their very colourful feathers to become less conspicuous. Clever nature! We hope to see them returning as they regain their stunningly colourful plumage. Later the same afternoon we saw the sad and worrying sight of a lonely baby duck, very dark in colour no more than 4cm from beak to tail, waddling its lonely way west. It looked like it should be bobbing up and down in a nice warm bath. It has not been seen since and one fears for its survival.

The Mandarin Duck at Widewater in August. (Photo by Dave Hoggen)
A Mandarin Duck in full plumage. (Photo by Dave Hoggen)

The resident Mute Swans also have an annual moult. The female moults first starting on the nest and the male follows once her flight feathers have regrown. The moult is vital in maintaining pristine condition of the flight ( primary ) feathers . This consecutive  moult enables one parent to always be able to fly. Clever nature again!

And the weirdness continued on the human front as well.

In our quest to get the social and day to day work of the World of Widewater community group up and running again, the committee held its first meeting since the Covid 19 crisis broke. Bizarrely, the meeting was held in the field of the Orient Road recreation ground just off Lancing Broadway. Sadly, there is no immediate prospect of restoring the social programme to its usual vibrant levels – that will have to wait for calmer times. We can’t even hold an AGM – a pity because it was so well attended last year. Instead, we will be circulating accounts and a report from the committee as a holding operation. Many activities are of course outdoors so as soon as limits on numbers meeting outside are raised, we will be reinstating activities like flower walks and bird walks. Check the Facebook page for news.

Two items of long term importance for the future of the Local Nature Reserve were discussed; funding the development of the Visitor Centre and the replacement of the old footbridge access to the LNR.

The visitor centre is a very long term project and we are just making the first tentative steps into the daunting arena of fund raising. We should love to hear from any local people who have experience in this area.

We had been informed by WSCC that work on the new access to the LNR to replace the antiquated footbridge was to start in September. However, in the last couple of weeks, we have been told that the work has been delayed by at least a month –we hope to bring news next month.

We would love residents who have found the Widewater over the last few months to come and join us in World of Widewater. We are delighted to say that two new members have already been added to the WoW committee and we have room for more. Our membership secretary Penny Eaton would be delighted to hear from you [email protected] .

Meantime, if you have any questions or suggestions for future content, please feel free to contact me, Frank Fletcher, at [email protected] .

You can also find out more about us at our website and facebook page

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  • Widewater – this weird summer highlights the value of a visitor centre

Written by Frank Fletcher in July 2020

Life for us all has been challenging and difficult in the last four months. Individuals and communities have experienced pain, loss and anxiety. Life has been very different on the Widewater Lagoon and surrounding beach.

In this weird and other worldly summer, the only breakwater against the rising tide of visitors to Widewater Local Nature Reserve has been the incessant winds around the end of June and early July. Before they began to rise in ferocity and unpleasantness, the lagoon had been seeing unprecedented numbers of people enjoying the ‘free’ and unspoiled pleasures nature has to offer.

The hum, shrieks and laughter of children just having fun and small groups of families and friends enjoying being together after such a long gap has been a joy.

Of course especially with the toilets initially not being opened and new visitors not being aware of guidance with regard to caring for the area, there have been a few causes for concern. However, it has been good to see people taking their litter home, the good humoured refuse collection team keeping the area clean, people social distancing on the beach and generally demonstrating their appreciation of the area.

Thank you from WoW to all those who have visited the area and treat this lovely area with respect. The beauty of nature never leaves us.

As has been the case in many areas we read about or see on the news, a minority of visitors have failed to cover themselves in glory. Despite the best efforts of most visitors, litter has been a problem and there have been examples of anti-social behaviour and sheer lack of awareness of how to behave in a local nature reserve environment.

Lancing Parish Council, Adur and Worthing and West Sussex County Council alongside our tirelessly volunteering community have all done their best to help address the problems.

  • Local volunteers have been keeping on top of litter clearance by borrowing our litter pickers and gloves and making signs for the public to take litter home. 
  • Lancing Parish Council has supplied bigger bins
  • There has been late litter clearance in the evening during the heat wave.
  • There are laminated signs to go on the bins.

We have not needed to go as far as the local authorities in New Zealand but our footprint signs (thank you Barbara Rose who made the signs) have provided a nice gentle additional reminder of the need to preserve our precious environment.

One of the beautiful signs around the lagoon made by Barbara Rose

Recent events have certainly highlighted the need for more knowledge, information and understanding about what a Local Nature Reserve is and the dos and don’ts of enjoying a visit.

There has long been debate about the value of a visitor centre for the lagoon which, after all, is a very rare natural habitat.

And on this subject, we have really positive news.

In partnership with Lancing Parish Council, WoW is hoping to build a Visitor Centre at Widewater with the aim of providing information for visitors about the Nature Reserve, a place to sit and view the wildlife from viewing windows and a space for groups, especially school children, to consolidate their learning experience following nature activities. We are delighted to say that LPC has ring fenced a generous financial contribution towards the project but WoW will need to work hard to raise the remaining funds.

Watch this space as well as the website and facebook page for news on fund raising activities. Meantime, this year’s surviving cygnet has thrived and flourished through lockdown as the following photos show. 

The 2020 Cygnet at 4 days old. (Photo by Dave Hoggen)
The 2020 Cygnet now. (Photo by Keith Wells)

By next month, we hope to be able to share some revised dates as WoW’s packed programme of activities resumes. We would love residents who have found the Widewater to come and join us in World of Widewater. Our membership secretary Penny Eaton would be delighted to hear from you [email protected] .

We hope to tell you more about happenings at Widewater Local Nature Reserve in the coming months – and next month we will share some exciting news about the replacement of the old footbridge access with a very welcome state of the art accessible approach. Meantime, if you have any questions or suggestions for future content, please feel free to contact me, Frank Fletcher, at [email protected] .

You can also find out more about us at our website and facebook page

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