Sussex columnist: Why living by the beach is the best

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What do people who don’t live by the coast actually do on a warm and sunny evening?

I’m not being facetious, it’s just when you’re so used to living by the seaside it’s second nature to head there when the weather warms up.

Without even thinking about it, when we wanted a little jaunt out of the house on Sunday evening we just gravitated down to the beach to let the kids run free on the pebbles, paddle in the sea and have fish and chips for tea.

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A much nicer way to spend an evening than off the side of a ring-road in NorthamptonA much nicer way to spend an evening than off the side of a ring-road in Northampton
A much nicer way to spend an evening than off the side of a ring-road in Northampton

If we didn't have our beautiful seaside just down the road, would our destination be such an easy and obvious decision?

When I was a trainee journalist, I used to have to attend a lot of courses in Northampton. I have nothing against it as a town, but it just seemed to be an endless series of roundabouts and land-locked dreariness.

In lieu of a seaside, do people living there wanting a quick after-work excursion have to make do with picnics on the side of the A4500?

But enough bashing of the East Midlands, that’s not the point. The point is that watching my children frolic in the water at low tide, with the pier as a backdrop in one direction, and the beautiful golden setting sun in the other, I was once again reminded of just how lucky I am to live here.

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(And thinking of my mid-country compatriots, spending their evenings doing a bit of roundabout spotting, only sweetened that feeling!)

That takes me almost seamlessly to another reason why it’s great to live here – Arundel is close by.

Okay, so it’s not a town right on the coast, but in almost all other areas I think it’s pretty much perfect (its only drawback? The queues you have to fight through on the A27 to get there. But that’s not Arundel’s fault. I think it probably pre-dates the single-track A-road chaos that permanently ensues to the south of its perimeter.)

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I didn’t just mention this historic town randomly (although that is probably something I would do), but I brought it up because I went there for the day with my friend Sarah on Friday (shout-outs two weeks in a row, Sarah, you’re famous!)

Despite it being mid-morning on a Friday, the queue of traffic at the Crossbush junction was hideous. But it was all forgotten when we crested the hill and saw the majestic castle and cathedral. I never tire of that view. It’s everything a British town should be – full of history and picture-postcard pretty.

First, we decided to take the boys to Swanbourne Lake to feed the ducks. But this isn’t duck-feeding for novices. No, this is Duck Feeding Extreme: Return of the Hungry Birds.

If you buy bird food there (50p a bag, and much healthier for the ducks than bread), you accept that you will become an extra in a modern-day version of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

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You will be surrounded by dozens and dozens of moorhens, pigeons, seagulls, ducks and even maybe the odd swan. They know you have birdseed, so you’d better give it to them. And fast!

It was quite daunting for me, so I fully appreciated why my four-year-old stayed clinging to my leg while we satiated our feathered friends.

Thankfully, as our seed bags emptied, some fresh new victims arrived –I mean visitors keen to feed the birds – and we made our escape to the playpark opposite the castle.

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I’ve always appreciated going to children’s attractions on school days, but with the countdown to my son starting school rapidly ticking by, the joy of pretty much having the place to ourselves was not lost on me.

Come September, all our adventures will have to be conducted at peak times. Much as I love this playpark, I love it much more when it’s quiet!

The boys played for ages, we enjoyed a picnic, and before we knew it we had to leave for the school run.

No time to even head into the town centre proper today, but I’m sure there will be more trips this summer. Might just let someone else feed the birds next time.