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I'd like you to join me in a walk around Bosham. It won't take long and it's not very far (less than a mile), as it's only a tiny little village. We'll just do the main sights and then you can get going on your way. Bosham is a tiny fishing and sailing village near to Chichester in West Sussex. You may well have seen it in paintings or postcards, as it's always full of artists producing their version of the Saxon church tower rising up behind the waterfront and sea shore houses.
~~~ WHERE ARE WE ~~~
Bosham (pronounced Bozzum) is situated within one of the creeks of Chichester Harbour. There's no beach, so it's not ideal for swimming (unless you're a dog). Despite this, Bosham is always full of tourists, particularly in the summer, drawn by its quaint charm. The village retains its sense of history and is largely unspoilt. No glaring neon lights or signs here. You never get a whiff of fish and chips frying, instead, you are more likely to catch the scent of scones baking or the tang of the seaweed.
~~~ LET'S BE OFF ~~~
First off, you must make sure you park your car safely. There's a pay and display car park just a very short walk from the shore. Despite the numerous warning signs along Shore Road informing us "This road floods each tide", many motorists leave their cars on the hard shoulder...thinking they'll be perfectly safe. The tide quite frequently swamps Shore Road in both summer and winter, and many a motorist has returned to find their car up to the wheel arches (or worse) in salt water. This provides much amusement for the locals, as demonstrated in the nearby Anchor Bleu pub, where all four walls are lampooned with photos of half submerged cars. If salt water is washed off quickly, then your car *should* not suffer too badly, but completely submerged and the car is likely to be a write off, as was the fate of a brand new Rover a couple of years ago. Any car left unattended in the water will soon develop a small crowd of watchers (both tourists and locals), looking at their watches and taking bets as to how long it will be before the red faced driver attempts to reclaim his car....often having to roll his (or her) trouser legs up first before they wade out to their car. They soon realise that, like King Canute many centuries before them, time and tide waits for no man....or car.
~~~THE HISTORY OF BOSHAM~~~
And in my best tour guide voice, let me tell a little bit about Bosham's history. It can be traced all the way back to 680AD when the Venerable Bede (a Northumbrian monk) wrote of a Celtic monk called Dicul setting up a Christian congregation in Bosham. The Romans also played their part in making Bosham what it is today. They were responsible for constructing the freshwater brook and the basilica in 850 AD, on whose foundations the church was built.
Interestingly, Bosham is one of several places laying claim as being the venue where King Canute allegedly tried to repel the waves in the early part of the 11th century. History tells of the Danish King Canute sitting on his throne surrounded by his courtiers, ordering the waves to go back. He soon learned that the tide obeys no one when he got his feet wet. It could well be that King Canute had a home in Bosham at some stage, as his daughter is buried in the church after tragically drowning in the mill pond.
Bosham is also featured on the Bayeux Tapestry, an ancient embroidered tapestry displayed in Bayeux in Normandy. In 1064, Harold II set sail from Bosham to "have words" with William of Normandy (soon to become better known as William the Conqueror) about the throne of England. Edward the Confessor had died and the world and their dog were laying claim to the crown. In the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold is depicted as enjoying a feast at a local Bosham manor house, receiving a blessing at the church and then setting sail in his long boat for Normandy. On his return to England, Harold was crowned King of England, prompting William to launch his invasion in 1066. Harold subsequently took an arrow in the eye and was killed at Battle of Hastings. William of Normandy became king, and took over the manor and church at Bosham as part of his royal domain. In the Domesday Book of 1084, Bosham church was listed as one of the wealthiest in the country owning thirteen thousand acres of land in different parts of the country.
~~~ THE HIGH STREET ~~~
Signs of Bosham being an old seafaring village abound. The tiny High Street is lined with tiny fisherman's cottages - literally 2 up 2 down narrow houses. Most of their doorways are covered with stone moats or boards to keep the sea at bay when high tide strikes. The High Street is so narrow, that there is literally only enough room for one small car to pass by at a time. The High Street leads on straight past the church, so let's go in and have a look.
~~~ THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY TRINITY ~~~
The Church is believed to have been built on the site of a basilica erected by the Romans in 850AD. The church is mostly Saxon dating back to the early 11th Century. The most famous feature of the church is the spire. It's a well known landmark for those sailing up the channel towards Chichester Harbour, as it can be seen for miles. Later parts were tacked on to the church by the Normans, who added a font in 1236 which is still in place today.
Look out for the carved crosses on the church doorway. It was customary for Crusaders leaving for the Holy Land to enter the nearest church before departure. They would blunt their sword points on the stone work by the door before entering as a sign of peace.
Inside you will find a stone slab decorated with the Danish emblem of a raven. Legend has it that King Canute's eight year old daughter was buried in the church in 1035 after drowning in the mill pond. In 1865, the Victorians found this stone coffin which contained the bones of a child aged around eight. Also on display is a copy of the relevant Bosham bits of the Bayeux Tapestry. There is also an ancient crypt, said to date back to AD681 and the home of the Celtic monk Dicul, who came to Bosham to convert the heathens to Christianity. Don't forget to sign the visitor's book...you'll be in very good company.
~~~ BOSHAM QUAY ~~~
Leaving the church and we cross over a small stone bridge and arrive at the quay. There are several old historic buildings around the quay which are still in use today. An old rope making business used to be housed in a building known as the Raptackle and this is now used by Bosham Sailing Club. There is also an old mill (which perhaps dates back to before the Norman Conquest) and this is now used as the clubhouse for Bosham Sailing Club. You can pop into the sailing club for lunch or a drink or just have a word with the Quay Master about mooring your boat for a couple of hours. Make sure you are entirely au fait with the tide tables though, as if you linger too long in Bosham the tide will go out and you will be left stranded, sometimes overnight, waiting for the tide to come back in. Luckily, there are many local bed and breakfasts and one hotel (The Millstream), if you do need to set up camp for the night. Chichester Tourist Office has a full list of local accommodation available if you contact them during normal office hours. However, if you find yourself stranded outside of those times further details can be found at any of the local pubs, the sailing club or just ask someone.
~~~ SHORE ROAD ~~~
Leaving the Quay we make our way back over a larger bridge. We can only take this route if the tide is out. Shore Road is often completely submerged at high tide and totally impassible. If you've got any bread or scraps, now is the time to feed the ducks and swans that congregate here. If you're lucky you'll see the swan man on his bike - he's a local character that cycles into Bosham everyday, rain, wind or shine to feed "his" swans. He knows all of them, their histories and their cygnets. It's a good opportunity to take some photos here, as there are stunning views out to sea. Sunrise and sunset can be particularly spectacular. There are views straight across the water to huge mansions and manor houses; you don't get much change from £1m if you want to buy property there. Meandering our way slowly back to the car park, and we've just got time to stop off and have a browse in the craft centre at Bosham Walk.
~~~ BOSHAM WALK ~~~
This is a craft centre, situated in an old boathouse. It has 17 small shops on two floors. It's warm and welcoming and busy all year round. It always smells wonderful in there, as there is a small cafeteria serving delicious home baked cakes. There are many different crafts on display, most of which can all be purchased. Many of the craftspersons do their work onsite in their shops. There are loads of different paintings from local artists on display, as well as handcarved woodworks. There is a silversmiths with really lovely and unusual designs on display, a clockmaker, picture restorer and loads of other different craft works on display. An ideal venue if you're stuck for a inspiration over a Christmas or Birthday present. It's almost impossible to come away without having found something suitable.
~~~ STOP & REST AWHILE ~~~
If you're tired now and want a rest before you go on your way, let me tell you about the various catering outlets on offer. There are only two tearooms in the whole village (Mariners on the seafront or the Captain's Table Tea Room in Bosham Walk craft centre), both of which specialize in home cooked fayre and delicious home baked cakes. There is one shorefront pub, The Anchor Bleu which dates back to 1740. It has some pleasant outdoor seating from which to watch the world go by. However, if it's good ale and friendly bar staff you prefer, then I suggest you go a little way inland to the Berkeley Arms, as the food, drink and welcome at the Anchor Bleu leave a lot to be desired.
~~~ GOODBYE AND COME AGAIN SOON ~~~
I hope you enjoyed your trip around Bosham and you gained a brief insight into its charm and history. I realize that Bosham will not appeal to you all, but it is well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods. It is incredibly popular with the tourists, and I would hate to live there in high season as it's constantly thronged with people. However, despite all the visitors, Bosham does retain its charm and remains mostly unspoilt. It's a pleasant venue to while away an afternoon and take a step back in time to when life was simpler, quieter and less polluted. And what's more, it won't cost you a penny...unless you leave your car unattended on Shore Road and the tide comes in. Recommended.
~~~HOW TO GET THERE~~~
Take the A259 and at the roundabout by the White Swan pub, take the exit towards Old Bosham and follow the road for about a mile. Do make sure you park in the pay and display car park, as you park at your own peril anywhere else.
~ By Boat~
Access into Bosham Quay is 2½ hours each side of high tide. You can have 15 minutes free mooring alongside the quay but after that you need to go and find the Quay Master to pay launching and mooring fees.
~ By Bus~
There is an hourly bus service from Chichester into Bosham thoughout the day. The No 56 runs from Chichester bus station and from Chichester Cathedral to Bosham Walk.
Bosham station is on the main Portsmouth to Brighton line, but the station is situated some way from the centre of Bosham being to the north of the main road at the top of the village.
~~~ FURTHER INFORMATION ~~~
Chichester Tourist Office
29a South Street
Tel: 01243 775888
Fax: 01243 539449
~~~ WEBSITES OF INTEREST ~~~
Bosham is mostly flat so it makes a pleasant and relatively accessible venue for the elderly, infirm or disabled