There is no charge for launching kayaks, canoes, Stand Up Paddleboards (SUPs) or other unpowered craft in Littlehampton Harbour. You also do not need to let the harbour authority know about your trip- although if you are planning to enter the harbour from sea (or depart) it is advisable to get in touch on VHF Channel 71 or 01903 721 215 so they can make other mariners aware of your presence in this narrow, busy, fast-flowing area.
Paddlecraft should (like all other vessels) stay to the right-hand side of the channel wherever possible and remain in single file in busy areas. They should also note that vessels navigating with the tidal flow often have less control over their steering at slow speed than you might think so keep well clear.
Always dress for the conditions, wear a buoyancy aid and carry an accessible waterproof means of calling for help (e.g. phone in a waterproof pouch, VHF radio or Personal Locator Beacon). See below for further specific safety advice/videos:
- British Canoeing’s “Go Paddling” Homepage and their paddling safety articles as well as SUP specific advice, SUP Safety video, Leash advice, Leash video and eLearning for paddlesport safety
- The Paddlers Code
On the River Aun, it is critically important that you have a good understanding of the tidal conditions during your trip. Its likely that those will dictate the day you choose to paddle unless you plan to go in darkness.
For the new or inexperienced on tidal waters, either a lesson or a guided trip with one of the following organisations is strongly advised. For those needing local advice, scroll down to see our guidance for a safe trip.
Planning your trip:
Paddleboards, kayaks and other small unpowered craft can be most easily launched at the Public Slipway in Littlehampton or via Littlehampton Yacht Club or Arun Yacht Club members-only slipway and pontoons. You can also carefully launch or recover from the pontoon at the Queens Road Bridge in Arundel with the permission of the adjacent cafe (the Edible Sandwich Company) who manage the pontoon. Alternatively, with permission, you can use the riverbank next to the Black Rabbit Pub. Harbour limits end at this point but paddlesports are permitted further up-river with recovery locations available on the riverbanks at Amberley and Pulborough and beyond for the more adventurous. The other organisations above can provide advice about paddling outside of harbour limits. Arun Canoe Club provide this handy map of “Paddle Points”. Our advice for between Littlehampton and Arundel is as follows.
An indicative map can be found here.
Tide times can be found for the next seven days here or further out by request via the Harbour Office. When going upriver it’s important to note they have increasing peculiarities the further you go. The time of high water is approximately+25 minutes at Ford, +50 minutes at Arundel, +1 hour 30 minutes at Houghton Bridge and +4 hours at Pulborough compared to Littlehampton’s published tide times.
The other key factor for paddlecraft, who shouldn’t ever plan to navigate any distance against the river’s swift flows, is to understand that a flooding tide does not necessarily mean an incoming current on the Arun due to the river’s drainage as well as tidal influences. The level of the river will start to rise after the time of Low Water however the current will remain outgoing at the surface level until approximately 3 hours after the time of low water. This change in direction is relatively sudden and an “arrowhead” of clearer seawater can be observed to overcome the cloudier fresh water and progress up-river from the entrance- often carrying light debris (and clever birds!). It is very clear at the Harbour Office but as the arrowhead passes the footbridge it begins to dissapate and further upriver become more turbulent until the incoming current settles in fully by HW – 1.5 hours.
Therefore for a Littlehampton to Arundel paddle, it is recommended to delay your start until around two hours before HW. That way the tidal flows will carry you up and the likelihood of good views will be increased as you will see more over the flood defences. The ~5 mile trip to Arundel (or a little further to the Black Rabbit) can be completed within 2 hours for most meaning you have around an hour in hand before the tide will turn at Arundel for your return trip – should you wish! For those going further, keep paddling and the tidal offsets are in your favour to make distance before the tide turns.
For a paddle from Arundel to Littlehampton, arrive around an hour after Littlehampton’s published HW and launch as soon as you see the tide ebbing – or sooner if you need a vigorous warm-up into the current.
Good luck and stay safe!