An abundance of wildlife, sandy beaches and views towards the Isle of Wight and South Downs make Chichester Harbour an attractive place to live. Indeed, people have been settling here since prehistoric times, so visitors get to soak up not only all of the above, but the fascinating history of the area too.
The Solar Heritage is a solar-powered boat that glides almost silently through this area of outstanding natural beauty. The knowledgeable crew are excellent at drawing attention to points of historical interest and wildlife – you’ll pass Roman settlements, an abandoned village and evidence of Victorian-era attempts to reclaim land from the sea. Binoculars are provided free of charge and come in particularly handy for children keeping their eyes peeled for seals. After the boat trip, visit beautiful West Wittering beach for an afternoon of sandcastle building and games, or take a stroll around the sand dunes at East Head – this area can be approached from the far west end of the car park, and is also the starting point for the eleven-mile Salterns Way cycle and wheelchair accessible path to Chichester.
At the beach, parking is mainly on grass, but there are four spaces on tarmac near the main entrance. When the car park booth is unstaffed, you can pick up a RADAR key for the accessible toilet at the estate office outside the barrier. There is one step up the threshold into the office, but if you can’t manage this, you can call. An all-terrain wheelchair is available free from the office, if booked in advance (£20 deposit is required). A concrete ramp leads to the beach, but it is often covered by sand. The sand on the beach is fairly firm, particularly at low tide.
The Solar Heritage sails from Itchenor and Emsworth: check the website for the full seasonal schedule. At Itchenor, it is possible to be dropped off on the slipway, or park in the street – a Blue Badge space is available around two hundred yards from the harbour office, where there is a wheelchair accessible toilet. The road is quite uneven and slopes down towards the slipway. There is a short ramp with a lip to reach the pontoon, which has a handrail and is around one hundred yards from the boat. Although the staff have not had specialist training, they will assist with access to the boat. For wheelchair users, this is via a lift that has a maximum weight limit of 364 kilograms (about 57 stone). At Emsworth, it is possible to park for free either in the village 250 yards from the pontoon, or on the quay 150 yards away. The accessible toilet is in the village car park. The toilet on the boat is not wheelchair accessible. On cold days, blankets can be requested during the journey.
Food & drink: The Ship Inn in Itchenor is half a mile from the harbour office – it is a popular place, serving real ales and a good selection of snacks and meals. It is accessible by a ramp to the side door but does not have a wheelchair accessible toilet. At West Wittering, the Beach Café serves food perfect for the seasons: ice creams on hot days, and soups and burgers when it is chilly.