RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country walk: See the wildlife of Shoreham-by-sea

WHILE Shoreham will be known by many across the world only as a scene of tragedy following last month’s air disaster let us not forget that its full name is Shoreham-by-sea, and it remains that: a lovely place of quiet reflection and beauty by the sea.

I want to repeat last year’s walk along the Adur to remind you of its maritime fauna and flora, not to mention its collection of historic boats in which a whole community live on the edge of the tide.

I have enjoyed parts of this walk of about 3 miles (5kms) for half a century. By far the best way to approach is by rail.

From Chichester the return fare can be as low as £7 and takes only half an hour. If you then walk south from the station you are almost at once in a quiet street of cafes and shops which are as pleasant as anything seafront in Portugal or Spain. Wander south again and you come to the brilliant glass and stainless steel footbridge over the Adur and Shoreham harbour. Here you can stop awhile and watch redshanks feeding on the muds if it is low tide, together with little egrets, lapwings, mallard, and shelduck.

I have often, in the past, seen turnstones flicking the seaweed and shells about, as they hunt for shrimps and snails. I have also watched common sandpipers here as well as purple sandpipers.

Birders have also seen little stints here, these tiny waders being little bigger than house sparrows but with a totally different life style, being world travellers around the globe.

Turn right along the edge of the harbour and follow the single footpath signs west and then north along the estuary.

You will pass scores of curious old house boats of all shapes and sizes. One is being sculpted at the moment in concrete in the shape of an airliner. Another is a Cold War German minesweeper, while also in grey paint is a WW2 minesweeper.

Some large old boats of narrow beam look Edwardian. All heave and wallow in the mud with every tide. This is also a brilliant place to see maritime plants.

There is an almost continuous strip of that rough tide-line grass called sea couch. It has glaucous-blue leaf blades which colour always attracted the Victorian artists. Only a few inches lower in the tide edge are thick bushes of sea purslane, with thick, grey-green leaves.

I also noticed last month, the seaside plant alexanders, which now has clusters of black peppery seeds which the Romans so enjoyed as seasoning, having introduced the plant to this country.

Also, look out for golden samphire which is growing in clusters, half a metre high, and has golden flowers at the very top of the stem.

Along the footpath on the dry ground grows bristly oxtongue, also with gold flowers.

Having witnessed the afore-mentioned accident last month, I was glad to see these flowers and many more of the sea shore as a complete contrast to what had just happened as I tracked back the way I had come.

However, this can be a circular walk as shown on my map when you can pass over the Old Shoreham toll bridge (where all the flowers were laid in tribute to the air disaster) next to St Nicholas church, which dates back to Saxon times, and then wend your way through the town or the footway by the shore.