Thorney Island Coastal Path

West Sussex, England

The trail:

  • Location: West Sussex, England
  • Categories: Spring / Summer / Autumn / Winter / Marine west coast / Coastal / Islands / Wood / Marsh / Rural / Beach /
  • Duration: 2.5 - 3.5 Hours
  • Distance: 8 Miles

Walking the trail:

  • Summary: Enjoy an 8 mile flat and easy stretch of coastal path that circles Thorney Island on the south coast of West Sussex. Quiet coastal views with plenty of wildlife spotting which also passes a RSPB nature reserve await you on this fantastic day out.

I would like to share another fab coastal walk located just down the road to where I live in West Sussex, England. Its an 8 mile circular trail around Thorney Island. Ive been walking and running it a fair few times during the Covid-19 lockdown of 2020 as its just incredibly scenic. The distance around the perimeter also makes it extremely quiet and peaceful as you have to commit to the 8 miles to do the full circular. The footpath is actually the first section of the Sussex Border paths that runs to 170 miles to Rye in East Sussex.

Thorney Island is an island(effectively a peninsula) that juts into Chichester harbour. It is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel called the Great Deep. The island is great for wildlife especially the southern tip which is an RSPB nature reserve, so great for bird and wildlife spotters. There is also a military base on the island so the coastal path must be followed and not left. There are plenty of warning signs not to enter! About a mile into each side of the island is a security gate that is manned by the base and needs you to press a buzzer to allow access. This gate shuts at 6pm each side so entrance is not permitted after this time. I think this is a current lockdown enforcement so will need to check this in the future once the Covid-19 pandemic has eased off. (pretty sure in the past of I have been through the gates after 6pm) 

During the 8 mile you will walk through a variety of interesting areas. A marina, lakes, marshland, wooded sections and at the very south when the tide is out, white sandy beaches which as I said are so quiet being on the tip of the island. There is another area, the south easterly point called Pilsey Island, now joined to Thorney Island by a sandbank, which is the RSPB nature reserve. You cant enter this area (signs in place) so take your binoculars and zoom lenses. I suspect it is this area that seals can be spotted but i don't know this for sure having never seen any yet.

This is a proper relaxing trail, its dead flat and the coastal views are spot on! The wildlife is equally as interesting, so good that it actually tempted me into buying a 150-600 super zoom lens for my SLR camera. I can confirm i am very happy with the decision as my first outing with it was around this trail where I got some great photos fishing Egrets, Herons, Oystercatchers, Foxes etc. There is a bird hide at the southern tip of the island so not sure how long it will take me to become an official bird twitcher! 

This area of coast is dramatically effected by the tide as the tide goes out far during low tide, This makes for another interesting aspect of the walk as you will rarely have exactly the same views if you walk multiple times. I try and vary going based on the tide forecast. Link below.

Please also be aware there is no place to get rid of rubbish round the island so make sure any rubbish comes back with you. Very important in this area of nature.

There are a couple of good places to start the route and it doesn't really matter which way you go around. You can park in the town of Emsworth and walk directly south and do the island counterclockwise or perhaps in the little village of Prinsted (there is a small car park by the waterfront, postcode PO10 8HS) and start clockwise. I generally walk clockwise as that side of the island is closest to my home. There is a path (well few paths) that link the two start points east to west to complete the circular. 

This is a great day trail. Once lockdown restrictions have eased then I thoroughly recommend coming down. Let me know and ill come and join!

If you have any questions please feel free to ask. 

GPX route available.