RICHARD WILLIAMSON Country Walk...Bracklesham Bay

Bracklesham Bay is all in the news at the moment over kitesurfing along this deserted beach.

This five-mile (8kms) out and return walk gives another perspective to the place.

It is also a constitutional of lung-freshening ozone enjoyment coupled to the possibilities of spotting some rare seabirds.

Parking at the end of the B2198 Birdham-East Wittering road SZ805963, you can at lower tides get straight onto the beach to tramp southeast.

At low tides it has always been a feeding ground for these ‘little white mice of the tideline’: sanderlings. On a quiet winter’s day these tiny world travellers, which count the estuary of the Niger delta and the beaches of Heligoland among their resorts, will hurtle about here as well, looking like spume from a blown wave.

Turnstones will turn stones in front of you on the shingle as they search for sandhoppers and sand flies. These are often very tame, for they seem to trust humans and have been known to take bits of potted meat sandwiches from birders on Svalbard.

Ring plovers are here in winter/spring, and sometimes oystercatchers, curlew, cormorants and brent geese travelling abroad on their way to Russia for the summer.

You need binoculars and the ability to sit still for five minutes to understand what is happening all around you.

Not just the mermaids, which are attractive.

If you have a ten-minute attention span, which it must be said, is rare in this frantic age, you could sit on the stones as your coffee cools and observe the skyways of the ocean travellers. For as spring comes forward, birds are coming up from the deep south and the coastway is their motorway.

Grebes and scoters perhaps from the Exe estuary or Marseilles hurry by, using the wave troughs as sheltered vallies.

This week the very first common terns may be rowing past with their white wings on the way to Scotland.

Eider ducks sometimes travel past here on their way to Northumberland.

This is also a place to see that recent attractive immigrant to our shores: the Mediterranean gull. It is small and neat and all white except for a jet black hood, and easily confused with the black-headed gull here, which has a deep brown hood.

At least seven species of gulls frequent this coast. They all have three or four yearly plumage changes too just to confuse things, so you will need to have almost 30 identity pictures stored in your mind just to know the gulls alone.

Bracklesham Bay is so much more than just a place to surf your kite. It is a window on the ocean and all that travel its ways.

* See the March 8 issue of the Observer to view a map of this walk.