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A British Seaside Break Worth Splashing Out On

A stone’s throw from seaside resort town Bognor Regis, the Beachcroft Hotel is a peaceful family retreat, says Ben Mitchell.

“Wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble,” my 11-year-old chants as she rocks the paddle-board as violently as she can on the calm waters before finally losing her balance, plummeting into the sea with a scream of delight.

We’ve just arrived at the Beachcroft Hotel, which is quite literally on the beach at Felpham, West Sussex, and as soon as we had dropped our bags in the room, my daughter, Marie, dragged me to sign out the hotel’s paddleboards and we headed straight on to the water.

Ben Mitchell and Marie prepare to do paddleboard battle on the high seas of Felpham, West Sussex (PA)

The sense of escape from the routine of day-to-day life is immediate as we crash into each other’s boards, attempting to topple each other into the water.

Our combative cries are loud and raucous and I look around to make sure we are not disturbing anyone, but the families nearby seem to be in the midst of their own water battles as well.

After eventually calling a truce, we peel off our wetsuits and tuck into the hamper lunch which has been provided by the hotel, complete with mini bottles of Prosecco to toast our mini staycation.

A luxurious picnic hamper supplied by the Beachcroft Hotel (Ben Mitchell/PA)

We may only be a stone’s throw from the famous Butlin’s resort at Bognor Regis, but with our wicker hamper and the surprisingly warm sea lapping at our feet, I feel like I have been transported to a different country – the nearest it appears we will be getting to going abroad this summer!

After lunch, we carry the boards back over the promenade to the hotel, where we properly explore our penthouse room, which is home for the weekend.

Marie and my partner rush to the balcony which looks over the hotel’s Blakes beachfront bar and out to sea, which under the cloudless summer sky is vibrantly blue.

View from the penthouse at the Beachcroft Hotel, Felpham (Ben Mitchell/PA)

The penthouse is made up of two bedrooms, a double and a twin, with the option of taking an adjacent third room, along with a spacious lounge decorated with a seaside theme and filled with a comfortable leather sofa and chairs.

The hotel, which has 40 rooms, also has four quirky beach hut style maisonettes directly on to the promenade, with a modern mezzanine design.

Once unpacked, the girls decide to spend the afternoon shopping in the boutiques of nearby Chichester, a small attractive city with a splendid cathedral at its heart, while I take the chance to ride off on my mountain bike along part of the South Downs Way.

The chalk paths of the ancient thoroughfare, which run from Winchester to Eastbourne, pass not too far north of Chichester, giving great views and making villages such as South Harting appear like a child’s toy.

The South Downs Way is easily reachable from Felpham (Ben Mitchell/PA)

A gentle breeze accompanies me as I ride through corn fields, swaying the crops as if someone was grooming them with a brush.

After sweating to the top of the downs, I finally head downhill on a bumpy fast descent to Cocking, the adrenaline rush spreading a big smile across my face, before I load the bike back on to the car.

I meet up with the girls and as we drive back to Felpham, a sea fog has advanced, suddenly swallowing up the hotel and turning the turquoise blues of earlier in the day into a blanket of cotton wool.

It’s the perfect opportunity to make use of the hotel’s indoor pool, which can be booked for half-hour slots for exclusive use.

Having the pool to ourselves allows a resumption of battles fought previously on the high seas, with plenty of splashing, catching and races, without having to worry about annoying other guests.

After all this activity, a warm shower is very welcome in our room, before we take a well-earned pause reading our books on the loungers on our balcony.

But it’s not long before my daughter gets fidgety and we find a set of board-games supplied in the room and set to finding out who killed Dr Black in the library with the lead-piping.

Lounge of the spacious penthouse at the Beachcroft Hotel, Felpham (Ben Mitchell/PA)

After catching the murderer, looking out we see the fog has lifted and decide to take the hotel’s bikes out for a ride along the promenade; although for adults, the fold-up bikes are adaptable for pretty short legs to use as well.

We head east first and, like many seaside paths, the attention is drawn to checking out the houses overlooking the beach, as much as the view out to sea, and it’s not long before we find an opportunity to stop for an ice-cream.

The Beachcroft Hotel’s supply of bikes and paddleboards (PA)

In the evening, we head down to the Tamarisk restaurant, where I have the enjoyable quandary of choosing between the pan-fried sea bass or the oven-cooked cod loin. Luckily, Marie chooses the second, so we can try them both.

I start with scallops as Marie squeaks with delight at the smoked salmon pate, which is a hint of the tasty main courses to follow.

The meals are well-presented with bright flavours, not the stereotype of greasy fish and chips you might expect to be eating on a British seaside holiday.

It is our final day and we’re heading into the hills again, this time by foot, climbing up the steep approach to the site of an iron age fort at Cissbury Ring, about half-an-hour from Felpham.

People have been using the hilltop as a vantage point since Neolithic times, for hunting animal herds. But nowadays, to the south, you can see across Worthing to the giant Rampion offshore wind-farm, and to the north to the unspoilt rolling green hills of the South Downs.

Walking in the footsteps of prehistoric hunters at Cissbury Ring, Worthing (Ben Mitchell/PA)

From about 400BC, the rampart was built around the hilltop with an eye on keeping out Danish invaders.

It’s all grown over with grass now and makes a perfect spot for a picnic and to roll down the steep banks, which I soon realise is a bad idea, as my stomach protests at the churning so soon after sandwiches.

But however much the prospect of following in the footsteps of prehistoric hunters might excite the imagination, the true inspiration for Marie is clear, as she says to me: “Can we go back to the hotel now, I need to beat you in the paddleboard war again.”

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