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Depraved Littlehampton: surf, sand, cafes and artwork in West Sussex | Sussex holidays

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It’s not typically that Littlehampton, a small seaside city on the Sussex coast, makes the information. Within the 5 a long time since I used to be born there, I can rely the occasions on the fingers of 1 hand: Nik Kershaw making the video for The Riddle in 1984 (oh, the teenage pleasure); Anita Roddick, the city’s favorite daughter, being made a Dame in 2003; and the opening of the Thomas Heatherwick-designed East Seashore cafe in 2007 (identified to my household because the Rusty Tin).

This time, it’s for a poison pen letter scandal that rocked the city within the Nineteen Twenties, now the idea of a serious new movie, Depraved Little Letters, launched final Friday. Set on the streets of Littlehampton (though filmed in close by Worthing and Arundel), the film pits prim Olivia Colman in opposition to Jesse Buckley’s feisty Irishness in a battle to show who’s writing the letters.

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Littlehampton map

A century in the past, LA – as locals consult with it – was a really totally different place; one in all a clutch of West Sussex seaside resorts, together with Worthing and Bognor, that welcomed hundreds of tourists in summer time. Promoted as “the youngsters’s paradise”, the city provided pleasure cruises up the River Arun, live shows on the seaside inexperienced, and the broad, sandy seaside itself – dotted with wheeled bathing tents that may very well be pulled proper to the water’s edge. It stayed fashionable till the Nineteen Seventies, when vacationers began to move for the Mediterranean and the UK’s seaside growth started to fade.

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However even in its gloomiest a long time – the 80s, once I was at college there, and the 90s – it nonetheless retained a rakish, beachy attraction. Nonetheless dilapidated the city turned, the seaside remained superb; a uncommon stretch of sentimental, golden sand on a principally shingle coast. On summer time days, we’d take nice enjoyment of attending to the seaside earlier than the “grockles” (day trippers) arrived, and staying lengthy after they’d piled again into their vehicles, watching the solar dip over the West Seashore dunes, separated from the primary city seaside by the extensive mouth of the Arun.

The sand dunes behind the seaside are a web site of particular scientific curiosity. {Photograph}: Alamy

Often, we’d enterprise into the Butlins Park (now Harbour Park), for a whirl on the dodgems, or a experience on the rickety, metallic framed Wild Mouse rollercoaster (not for the faint of coronary heart). There have been chips, eaten sat on breakwaters with salty fingers, illicit events on the deck of seaside huts, Saturday procuring sprees within the Indoor Market, the place you would purchase a complete outfit for £20, earlier than a fast pitstop within the Wimpy subsequent door.

I left the varsity – and the city – at 18, however nonetheless have shut buddies there and go to typically, watching with pleasure because it has has slowly dusted itself off and launched into a renaissance of kinds. The opening of the East Seashore cafe was a landmark second – some evaluating it to the Guggenheim’s impact on Bilbao, albeit on a smaller scale – with Vogue calling it “England’s coolest seaside city”. Three years later, the 1,000ft Lengthy Bench was revealed; a bench manufactured from particular person picket slats – many bearing a private inscription – looping and curling its approach alongside the promenade, creating Insta-worthy seating in two lengthy, metal-framed shelters.

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Maybe the most important current change has been the opening of The Seashore cafe – a brief stroll east alongside the promenade from the primary inexperienced and automotive park. The brainchild of ex-windsurfing champion, Jamie Hawkins, an previous brick-built shelter was changed by an extended, wood-panelled cafe and restaurant, with a roof-top bar and adjoining watersports centre, providing classes in kite-surfing, paddleboarding and winging. “I at all times say I might have lived in Hawaii however I selected Littlehampton,” says Hawkins. “I grew up right here and it’s nice to offer one thing again. It was once you needed to go to Worthing or Brighton for a great dinner or an evening out, however these issues are on supply right here now.”

Insta-fabulous … the Lengthy Bench. {Photograph}: Andrew Hasson/Alamy

Final summer time, we went down for The Seashore cafe’s Kite and Wing weekender, to look at the kiters soar up out of the ocean, with slingshot flags fluttering above the sand and a surf’s-up vibe that felt straight out of Cornwall. It’s the seaside that makes this small city particular, though I find it irresistible finest at low tide, when the water ebbs proper out, leaving huge wastes of honey-hued sand, rippling out between rockpools and breakwaters. I keep in mind the solace it gave me as a young person, taking my small nephews and nieces to paddle, romantic sundown strolls and lengthy, sunlit summer time dips.

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Away from the seafront, the city nonetheless has its issues; the excessive avenue is struggling, as are so many, however there’s a palpable power and willpower within the city to maintain enhancing what it presents. Littlehampton has received a levelling-up fund of £19.4m, to be shared with Bognor, for enhancements to public areas, with a plan for water fountains on the ocean entrance and extra barbecue areas, including to the loopy golf and miniature railway which have been on the seafront for many years.

‘It was once you needed to go to Worthing or Brighton for a great dinner or an evening out, however these issues are on supply right here now’ … Jamie Hawkins, proprietor of the Seashore cafe.

“Within the 5 years since we opened, there’s been an actual sense of issues shifting ahead,” says Kara Grenier, who owns Berry Home B&B. “We’re fortunate to have loads of impartial eating places and cafes, Mewsbrook Park has received awards for its gardens and the brand new skateboard park is nice for native youngsters in addition to guests.” Grenier believes the city is ready for a summer time growth. “Final week, I walked all the way down to the ocean with the canine and it was completely filled with households. When the solar’s out and the ocean is glowing, it’s a very particular place.”

Keep: Berry Home B&B has 4 double rooms from £120

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Eat: 47 Mussel Row serves up locally-caught fish and seafood, with three Sussex wines on the winelist; Fred’s Fish and Chips

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