We live in a lovely and peaceful part of the world. There is a network of public footpaths for walkers, and the beautiful shore and intertidal mudflats of Chichester harbour to enjoy. Otherwise, the land is largely flat, and agricultural, but with sufficient variety and cover for a whole variety of wildlife to exist. With the combination of beautiful countryside and the expanses of Chichester Harbour so close, it is no surprise that walking, horseriding, and sailing are popular activities. However, apart from the foreshore, the parish has little public open space.
Parts of the Chidham peninsula are potentially at risk from tidal flooding. The west tidebank is in a poor state, but the Harbour Conservancy has realigned a section of the bank, which will have the added benefit of creating 22 hectares of intertidal habitat. Elsewhere, the tidebanks are in generally good condition.
We also have a history as a place that has been a settlement for a very long time. A recent excavation has shown that man made use of Chidham more than 4000 years ago. The flint scrapers discovered on the site on the western shore of the peninsula, seem to suggest that spear shafts or kiddles (fish traps) were being made here.
The present flint and rubble church dates from the 13th century – a wooden one may have stood here before. Close by is the manor house, a large late 17th century building but of greater interest to many people is the nearby pub, the ‘Old House at Home’ which offers a selection of real ales.
The men of Chidham seem to have been farmers rather than fishermen or sailors, probably due to the good quality of their soil. The village seems almost oblivious to the nearness of the sea.
In 1812 an embankment wall was built across from Chidham to Bosham where use was made of an old quay. Writing of Bosham in the 1860s Charles Longcroft described how the newly enclosed land was ploughed and planted with corn. ‘But one November, there came a raging tide and a gale wind, from the southwest and away went the embankment..’. In 1825 the sea returned covering the farmland and inundating new buildings. One of these is said to have been a mansion, standing at Cutmill whose stone was afterwards used to build Cutmill Cottage.
A recent survey showed a significant proportion of residents are relatively new to their current home, with 36% having lived there for less than six years. On the other hand, 18% have occupied their home for more than twenty-five years.
Most homes (83%) are owner-occupied and 99% of dwellings are the household’s main residence The people of the community are evenly divided between the sexes (48% male, 52% female) and the age distribution of people over 11 years old is more uniform than might be expected. 8% of residents are aged between 11 and 17 years and 9% are aged 75 years or more. Children under 11 years old constitute 14% of the population. The picture that emerges is of a community with a good mix.
The parish is cut by two east-west lines of communication – the A259 and the Portsmouth to Brighton railway line. The Chidham peninsula extends southwards into Chichester Harbour and lies within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The whole of the parish, with the exception of two Settlement Policy Areas (SPA’s), lies within the Rural Area, as defined in the Chichester District Local Plan.
At the time of the survey there were 705 households in the community, with a total population of about 1800, including children. The population is concentrated in three areas. There is no single focal point in the community. Around 41% of the households lie to the north of the railway line and 49% to the south; the remainder are technically part of Nutbourne, also to the south of the Railway line. More recently housing in the parish has increased most notably with housing built on the west side of Broad Rd.
The parish is served by a railway halt and a half-hour bus service along the A259. There is a primary school, a church, a village hall and a church centre. Facilities include a post office/shop, a garage/shop, three Inns, two riding stables, three caravan sites and three residential nursing homes. Further employment is provided through arable farming, market gardening, nurseries and orchards and also a national concrete product manufacturer and several small rural businesses. The youth of West Sussex and elsewhere are catered for by two activity centres, each having a strong sailing bias, located adjacent to the Bosham Channel where there is also a dinghy park and slipway.
Local organisations include the Parish Council, the local residents association (CHANE), Chidham WI, St Mary’s Church, the Village Hall Committee, the Film Society, Maybush Copse Friends, and Chidham Parochial Primary School. There is a Cricket Club which uses the Bosham CC ground. Clubs and societies meet in both the Village Hall and St Wilfrid’s Church Centre.