The Centurion Way and the Salterns Way, West Sussex by Josie Dew

The Centurion Way and the Salterns Way, West Sussex by Josie Dew

Josie Dew

Cycling author and Cycling UK vice-president Josie Dew takes us on a wonderful, largely traffic-free route with more than a smattering of local history.

The Centurion Way is a 5-mile path that runs between the small West Sussex village of West Dean and Chichester – the only city in West Sussex and which, during its Roman occupation, had the fine name of Noviomagus Reginorum. A railway used to connect Chichester to Midhurst (even I was alive when part of this was still running). The train line transported first passengers, then freight, then, when I was a young cyclist, sugar beet. But, as with so many branch-line railways, this was finally closed down and dismantled. This disused railway is now the Centurion Way (the path crosses the course of a Roman Road) and is a perfect way to cycle with children to avoid the fast and increasingly busy A286 that runs parallel with this path. 

West Dean has a small store (good for cyclist’s fodder) and nearby is West Dean College (with its café and beautiful gardens) and the Weald and Downland Living Museum (an amazing open air museum that has conserved and rebuilt over 50 historic old buildings dating from 950AD to the 19th century and has beautiful farmland, walks, farm animals – and food!).

From West Dean the route passes through Lavant (busy pub) and the woodland of Brandy Hole Copse to Chichester — a city dominated by its magnificent cathedral that can be seen for mile upon mile across the flat meadows of this area. With its 277-feet high spire it’s the only English medieval cathedral visible from the sea, so is an important landmark for sailors.

From Chichester you can pick up the Salterns Way: a 12-mile cycle route that takes you all the way to the huge white sandy beach at West Wittering and the dunes of East Head at the mouth of Chichester Harbour. The route uses a few rural roads and quiet car-free paths across fields and farmland.

A diversion that I always do is to head off to West Itchenor Harbour where, from April to October, you can hail a friendly ferryman who takes bikes and passengers across the Chichester Channel. If it’s low tide the other side, you jump off into the slippery squelchy seaweed and stones from where you can mount up and ride to the beautiful harbour of Bosham (food and good ice-cream van) that sits on a small peninsula between two tidal creeks. The pot-hole filled road that runs around the harbour floods at every high tide and each year several parked vehicles that haven’t heeded the signs get caught out and receive a thorough sea-wash. 

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