Although autumn is considered "off-season" for some hardcore cyclists, the lovely sunshine that has been sweeping across Chichester this week made us want to wipe down our saddles, don our helmets and explore the city from a different perspective; and the scenic Salterns Way cycle route offered the perfect escape route.
Hugging the Chichester Harbour peninsula, the 12-mile long Salterns Way cycle path runs from Chichester city centre, past Dell Quay, Chichester Marina, Birdham and Itchenor before concluding at the sandy dunes of West Wittering & East Head.
The route itself is flat (ish) with a mix of pedestrian-only cycle paths and rural roads making it ideal for family cycling, walkers, runners, wheelchair users with all-terrain tyres and off-road pushchairs.
All kitted out and fuelled-up from a delicious lunch at the Crown & Anchor Dell Quay, we picked up the Salterns Way cycle path and headed south towards Chichester Marina. This part of the route takes you through Salterns Copse woodland, a magical 'tree-tunnel' and haven for wildlife. This ancient woodland is the largest on the Manhood Peninsula and is of great ecological interest. It's the perfect place to park up your bikes for a few moments and take a quick detour into the copse in search of woodpeckers, butterflies and stag beetles.
Emerging at the other end of the woodland, you'll find yourself at Chichester Marina. The marina is the second largest in England and accommodates over 1,000 boats from the large and luxurious yacht to more discerning day cruiser. To stay on track, you'll need to dismount here and cross the marina lock.
Although the Salterns Way is well signposted throughout, having the route map to hand is a good idea as you weave your way past Chichester Yacht Club and across another lock at the Chichester Ship Canal entrance. From here the cycle path turns inwards across countryside tracks and rural roads as you skirt the village of Birdham before arriving at the picturesque harbour village of Itchenor.
Here, we opted to deviate from the route map and head down to the to watch the boats travelling up and down the harbour. With a six-year-old and nine-year-old in tow (and starting to flag a little), we also decided to retrace our tracks and head back for home, stopping for well-deserved ice cream at Chichester Marina and spot of blackberry and sloe picking at Dell Quay on the way.
The Salterns Way cycle path is a lovely way to explore Chichester Harbour and is great for families looking to get out and active. Next time we'll start from Itchenor and work our way to East Head with a picnic in tow!