VILLAGE FEATURE: East Wittering and Bracklesham

HOLIDAY hotspots East Wittering and Bracklesham aren’t just about the tourism.

Although tourism is undoubtedly the biggest industry in the area, the two villages – which make up one parish – have a lot more going for them.

The Drift in Surf Cafe''C131470-2 Wittering and Bracklesham

The Drift in Surf Cafe''C131470-2 Wittering and Bracklesham

With a row of independent shops, complete with two butchers, two bakeries, a fishmonger and two grocers, the villages are very self-sufficient.

And in the winter they turn into a surfers’ haven –which is clear from the surf shops dotted around the villages.

The Drift-In Surf Cafe is a new hit with villagers and tourists in East Wittering – the surf-themed cafe attached to The Witterings Surf Shop is always full of locals catching up over a coffee.

Walking around East Wittering you cannot doubt it is a hit with surfers, and it’s not just East Wittering which attracts the water sports fans.

Sheldon, the tortoise stolen from Sacrewell Farm and Country Centre.

Sheldon, the tortoise stolen from Sacrewell Farm and Country Centre.

James Fitch, who runs Bracklesham Boardriders, said Bracklesham was a ‘little gem’ which was popular with surfers but not too well-known.

He said people queuing up to visit West Wittering beach ‘do not realise what they are missing’ when they bypass East Wittering and Bracklesham.

“It is growing in popularity, especially in winter time,” he said.

“Surfing is all year round, which is great for the village.”

It helps that surfing businesses like his have found a new way of attracting water sports fan, by installing an online webcam on the beach so people can see if the surf’s up.

And Wittering stores Shore Watersports and Witterings Surf Shop have applications for mobile phones to check on the best time to surf.

“The recent uptake of extreme sports has brought a different seasonality to the area, with people coming down in the winter,” said Lucy Wright, assistant to the parish clerk.

She said the new cafe, Billy’s on the Beach, on Bracklesham seafront shows the need for more facilities for surfers and beachgoers in the area.

SHOPS

But it’s not just the surfing aspect which makes these villages stand out.

The vast array of independent shops in East Wittering is surprising and charming.

There is a sweet shop, a crystal shop, a shoe shop, and even somewhere to get your sewing machine fixed.

“You can survive without going to Chichester,” said Joyce Griffiths, the parish clerk.

“You can get your computer fixed and you can get your sewing machine fixed, it is quite amazing what we can actually get done down here.

“Surrounding villages come down here because you can get things done.”

The shopping precinct Wittering Walk is a haven of niche independent stores, but it seems to survive all year round.

There’s a library, a doctor’s surgery, a dentist, opticians, and the parish council has an office in the centre of the village.

It seems there is no reason to ever leave – and many residents get much of their shopping and services from East Wittering village.

The village is never busier than in the summer months when the village’s population doubles in size as the caravan sites fill up.

“It is still very much a tourist village, it totally relies on tourism,” said Mrs Griffiths.

But there is so much for tourists to do. There is of course the beach, and a huge variety of restaurants, from Indian to tapas or good old fish and chips.

Grade-II listed thatched restaurant Clifford’s Cottage is set to reopen after a fire, to the relief of villagers who called it ‘the gateway to Bracklesham’.

Bracklesham holds a Fun Day annually, with stalls, entertainment and activities for the family.

The Bracklesham Barn puts on a variety of events, with film nights, themed discos and arts and craft stalls.

There are several pubs in East Wittering village including The Thatched Tavern, The Shore and The Royal Oak which regularly hold events.

And there’s one thing you can’t get in many places at all.

“The most magnificent sunsets,” said Mrs Griffiths.

“We do have some very special sunsets.”