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Impressions of Bosham, Near Chichester in West Sussex

Bosham quayside with blue skies
Bosham Quayside

“Stands the Church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?”
From “The Old Vicarage, Grantchester” by Rupert Brooke (1887 – 1915)

Probably since about the 1970s, but definitely in the past ten years, Britain has been in the embrace of an incredibly dangerous new drug. It’s more socially acceptable than heroin, yet still capable of delivering a warm, comforting embrace to the user.

Unlike alcohol, you don’t need to be licenced in any way whatsoever to sell it to the general public, yet it can still leave the user’s brain in a dizzying stupor of emotions, ranging from joy to despair. And I’m not entirely sure why anyone would choose to float away in an LSD haze of rainbows and bright colours when just a tiny bit of this peculiarly British drug will leave you positively weeping at the beauty of Mother Nature herself. 

I am, of course, talking about that most pernicious and invasive British drug; nostalgia. Nostalgia, it has to be said, is one hell of a thing to become addicted to. There’s a peculiarly British mindset that believes that in the very recent past, things were different and therefore, somehow, better.

Holy Trinity church in bosham
Holy Trinity Church in Bosham

Nostalgia addicts, like regular drug addicts, can become pretty easy to identify from the warning signs. There are the entry level users who may flirt with innocuous things like National Trust membership and the occasional Spitfire airfix model and, if they leave it at that, they may well continue to lead a semblance of normal life in the 21st Century. 

But for those deep in the grip of this drug, the descent is as rapid as it is unsightly. Suddenly owning a DVD collection of every WW2 film ever made seems like a terrific idea. Those horse brasses you saw in the garden centre last week suddenly would look terrific next to your fireplace.

You stick a little GB flag on your car despite the fact you wouldn’t dream of driving in a foreign country. The modern world suddenly makes you confused and nervous and suddenly – bam! – you’re reading the Daily Mail. Every. Single. Day.   

Of course, if you were to ask a nostalgia addict exactly what was tangibly better, the answers become fleeting and ethereal because of course, as the old saying goes, the past is a different country. They do things differently there.

The addict’s explanation will become a mishmash of historically inaccurate impressions and half-truths. In some mystic English village somewhere, it’s always a sunny day where there’s cricket on the village green, where athletic English youth play up – play up! and play the game.

The quiet smack of leather on willow is only ever disturbed by a gentle cheer, or by the pop of a champagne cork from the spectator’s area, or the distant roar of a Merlin engine from a Spitfire flying overhead for no obvious reason or the Flying Scotsman steaming past.

a home made of bricks in bosham with a stream in front of it

Also, to celebrate the fact that England has won the World Cup, the ruddy-faced landlord of the local pub is serving foaming flagons of ale for a bargain price, and you can drink seven pints before driving off in your Morris Minor, waving to the local constabulary as you pass, to return home to a roaring fire and the soothing sounds of the BBC’s Empire Service playing on the wireless. There is a good harvest in Kenya this year and all is well from Hong Kong to British Honduras.

Of course, this village doesn’t exist. Arguably, it never did, and historians, sociologists and economists could fill this blog and the Internet with reasons why that is the case, but for those of you who are flirting with the idea of becoming hopelessly addicted to nostalgia – or you are an American – I can offer a pretty good, and real, alternative that I visited recently.

Bosham.

Such an innocuous name that belies a treasure trove of nostalgic delights. Just 2 miles from the County town of West Sussex, Chichester, Bosham sits on a peninsula on the side of the naturally formed Chichester Harbour.

It has its own harbour, its own church and, if truth be known, its own time zone – circa 1952. For a nostalgic treat, it’s a genuinely beautiful day out if you want to study British post-war society, enjoy a quaint day out, or are – like me – just plain old nosey.

Getting to Bosham

a cafe in Bosham

As we’re relatively local, we drove to Bosham but be warned, on a nice day the village car park will fill up quicker than a fat man at an all-you-can-eat buffet, leaving you to run the gauntlet of illegal parking on the immaculate verges and byways of the village.

Doing this will undoubtedly see you chased out of town by furious locals waving flaming torches, so it is not recommended. There’s also a set of public toilets and a pay and display parking machine offering you parking for 80p per hour rising to £3.90 per day, although if truth be told, you’ll probably only need half a day to potter around.

If you’re green, Stagecoach busses run a couple of routes directly into Bosham at charmingly infrequent intervals, and it’s even served by its own railway station although this is a bit of a walk from the old village centre.

Places To Go in Bosham

Bosham quayside
Tide out at Bosham

The main car park and the main village bus stop, are located right next to the incredibly scenic boatyard. Of course, it is. You’re greeted by the gentle clanking of halyards banging against masts like a round of applause for being a welcome visitor – clink, clink, clink.

Pubs in Bosham

The Anchor bleu in Bosham

Which, subconsciously perhaps tells you that you should really head for a glass of gin, tonic and ice at the White Swan pub, voted for the Travellers’ Choice Award 2022 for the third year running and rated as the top restaurant in Bosham.

It offers a hearty breakfast option on Fridays and Saturdays and a mouthwatering menu of honest pub food at other times. Booking in advance is absolutely required; even on a quiet day in April, the area was full of hungry-looking tourists, walkers and bikers on the hunt for a bite to eat.

Other pubs and restaurants include:

  • The Berkeley Arms
  • The Anchor Bleu
  • Marwick’s Brasserie
  • Bosham Inn
  • Sea School Restaurant
  • Shoreside Cafe
  • Mulberry & Thyme

Holy Trinity Church Bosham

Holy trinity church with graveyward in Bosham

But of course, that’s for later in the day and something to look forward to after a hard day of mainlining nostalgia. First things first, a short walk from the car park will take you to the staggeringly beautiful Holy Trinity Church, the oldest known place of worship in Sussex.

The church dates back to Saxon times and the lower stages of the tower and the first third of the chancel have – incredibly – survived from this period, although the locals believe there was evidence of this being a place of worship since Roman times.

Look, cards on the table lads, I am not into religion. I’m not even a tiny bit spiritual and tend to be boringly practical when it comes to life and death but a well-built church combining practical, long-lasting engineering and a bit of exciting history is right up my street.

inside Holy Trinity church in Bosham

The Holy Trinity church is so very old that it’s depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry which, for our non-historical readers, features the series of events leading up to the Conquest of England by William of Normandy in 1066 and there’s an excerpt from the tapestry on display. Inside, huge wooden beams hold up the impressive ceiling and everywhere you turn, there’s another interesting bit of history to ponder in silence.

You’d have to have a heart of stone not to realise the awful significance of the 3 brothers – or perhaps a father and his sons – named on the Second World War Memorial inside the church.  

Stepping outside, you’re treated to the sight of Bosham Quay and Bosham Sailing Club in the far distance, but before you head there, please do take a second to turn around and drink in the sight of the perfect English Church, with its impressive 15th Century spire standing proudly against an azure blue sky.

Holy Trinity church from the roadside

It’s definitely the place to get married if you desire a picture-perfect wedding and even on a quiet Spring day you can easily picture in your mind’s eye the confetti, the cheers of well-wishers and the brightly coloured dresses and hats that have happily stood outside that doorway welcoming another happy couple into the world.

Equally, you can easily see the sombre faces of the doubtless hundreds of funeral mourners that have attended this little corner of the world that will, as a result, remain forever England.

Morbid thoughts of funerals aside, with a spring in your step, it’s only a short hop, skip and jump to Bosham Quay and Bosham Sailing Club and again, it’s a nostalgic treat for the senses as the smell of ozone and seaweed fill your nostrils and the gentle sounds of waves lap against the quayside.

On the day we went, the sailing club was out in force taking advantage of a break in the April showers and a fair wind, watched by curious tourists and resting cyclists.

the quayside at Bosham

Standing in the quayside, you’re again struck with the full force of history, as you realise that Romans sailed in these waters on their way to the nearby Fishbourne Roman Palace, that Normans and Saxons sailed to and from these very shores and, in the darkest days of World War Two, this was the frontline between England and Occupied Europe, which is why both the former RAF Thorney Island and RAF Tangmere, which is now home to an excellent aviation museum, are only a short hop away. And today, like on millions of other days before, the locals were peacefully enjoying the natural beauty of the area.

A lazy stroll towards town parallel to the High Street revealed that the area seems to flood quite frequently, with flood barriers being placed worryingly high. This did not stop a traditional ice cream van plying for trade along the waterfront and neither did it seem to put off the visitors who parked with abandon along the waterline; they are clearly braver than me.

thatched cottages along the road in Bosham

Stopping to peer into the other place to eat in Bosham, the Anchor Bleu showed a very homely and inviting-looking pub serving some exciting-looking ales and gins, although you do have to call ahead (01243 573956) to find out what’s on the food menu as they do change it, depending on what local food is available at the time.

Walking through the genuinely picture-perfect village, with its immaculately kept houses, healthy garden lawns and brightly painted houses, you’re faced with a perfect portrait of a village life unchanged for years and you get the impression that’s just the way they like it, thank you very much. Even the solitary phone box in the village remains the classic red 1936 K6 phone box designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

Again, you get the distinct impression that if BT had ever had the temerity to try and replace it with a modern version, the unlucky BT engineer would have left the village with his modern phone box crammed, rather firmly, but politely, up his backside.

a home with built in flood defences in Bosham

Net curtains cover front rooms and you have to physically remind yourself that these are people’s homes and it’s simply not the done thing to peek inside like it’s some sort of museum on 1940s life. For those of you, who like me, do not possess an ounce of self-restraint, I recommend taking my wife who will drag you away before you frighten some old lady trying to enjoy her afternoon cup of tea.

A short loop of the town will take you past the Bosham Arts and Craft centre in the centre of the village and inside the deceptively large barn-like structure are crammed 20 unique shops and more than 30 smaller exhibitors selling arts, crafts and nick-knacks of every description.

Like the church and the quayside, this again is somewhere you can happily amble, lost in the comforting embrace of nostalgia, picking up local examples of craft and enjoying the calm ambience of the interior.

a house with a blue door next to a stream in Bosham

And then, after a good lunch and that much-needed glass of gin, tonic and ice at the White Swan pub, you realise with a jolt of horror that it’s nearly time to return to the modern world. The modern world, with all the horrors of traffic jams and busyness and noise.

You realise with a start that the noisiest thing you’ve heard all morning is the squark of seagulls and the lap of the waves at the quayside and that Bosham really is an idyllic place. You reluctantly return to your car.

Look, as I said right at the start, nostalgia is a hell of a drug, and it’s easy to slip into a spiral of believing that the whole country should be like Bosham. But the reality is, it isn’t. And that’s what makes Bosham such a special place.

Never mind the past, Bosham is a different country because they really do, do things differently there. And by differently, I mean, exactly the same thing since 1942.

Safe travels!

a day trip to Bosham pinterest pin
visiting bosham in sussex pinterest pin

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