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For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Bognor Regis is a small seaside town on the south-east coast of England almost slap bang between the better known resorts of Brighton to the east and Portsmouth to the west. Although Bognor Regis is only ten miles from where I live, I rarely go there as it's rather run down and rough. Like a lot of British seaside towns it had its heyday several decades ago, and since then it's been left to quietly moulder.
I happened to visit Bognor Regis just last month and things haven't improved all that much. It must be getting on for 4 or 5 years since I was last there, and the recession hasn't been kind to the town - it looked dirty, there are cracks in many of the pavements and every other shop front was either empty or closed. However, despite its down-at-heel demeanour, there are parts of Bognor Regis that recall its glory days, and if you look hard enough you can unearth the odd gem or two. It has to be said that Bognor is still a fairly popular town for many a holiday maker looking for an inexpensive seaside holiday. Bognor is cheap, it's mostly cheerful and your holiday pound will definitely stretch further here than a lot of other places on the south coast.
~~~ BOGNOR GETS A ROYAL UPGRADE (AND THEN AN INSULT) ~~~
Bognor can trace its origins all the way back to AD 680 when it was a Saxon settlement known as Bucgan (which meant shore or landing place). It remained a sleeping little fishing village (as well as a popular haunt for smugglers) until the late 18th century, when it was transformed into a resort by a gentleman known as Sir Richard Hotham. He must have had some success, as it became a popular place to "take the waters" throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Indeed, it was chosen as the ideal location for King George V to convalesce after a lung infection in 1929 (he and Queen Mary stayed at Craigwell House in Aldwick). After his return to London and his royal duties, the town of Bognor petitioned the King to bestow the suffix "Regis" (of the King) on the town. The King is purported to have cried "Oh B*gger Bognor"...but he granted it anyway. That the King said "Oh B*gger Bognor" has never been up for dispute, but the reasons behind his outcry are unclear. Some say that the outcry was not as a result of the petition request, but at the news he may have to return to Bognor when he became ill again! Just before he died the King was told he would soon be well enough to revisit the town and have a second convalescence there. He is said to have then uttered the famous words, thus implying he had very little regard for the town. Who knows, maybe the thought of a return visit to Bognor was what finally finished him off :o(
~~~ THE SEAFRONT ~~~
One of the main attractions of Bognor Regis is definitely the seaside. It's not a massive seafront at Bognor, but it's along the lines you'd expect from your traditional British seaside resort of the 1930's, 40's and 50's. You have a pier, a shingle beach, amusement arcades, rides for the kiddies and the odd fish and chip shop. And of course not forgetting plenty of shops in which to buy ice-cream, buckets and spades, pink rock sticks and candy floss. There are some lovely old buildings overlooking the seafront which must have been stunning in their glory years. Sadly, a lack of visitors, bracing sea winds and general neglect has resulted in most of these into looking rather run-down and unloved.
The pier at Bognor is as traditional as you get. It's evidently the oldest in Britain (built in 1865), but it's quite short and lacks the attractions you find on better known piers in towns like Brighton and Boscombe. The pier used to be a lot longer at Bognor, but a storm put paid to its former grandeur in 2008 and 60 feet had to be removed due to storm damage. The pier houses an amusement arcade and a nightclub (now called "Vision" as the former incumbent "Sheiks" gained such an awful reputation for drugs and fighting). Despite its smallness, the pier pays host the "The International Bognor Birdman" competition every summer, which is huge draw for residents and tourists alike. Basically the competition is for various madmen (and women) to dress up in costume, throw themselves off the pier and see who can "fly" the furthest. All the contestants design their own flying machines and the record currently stands at a rather impressive 89 metres. It's a rather popular event as you can imagine as it's certainly rather unique. Nobody takes the contest all that seriously, it's just a bit of fun with plenty of silly costumes and outlandish flying machines. Rumour has it that Richard Branson even took part one year!
Opposite the pier, is a rather good crazy golf course, and it's always a pleasant way to spend a sunny afternoon. When my nephew wasn't too old to enjoy such simple pleasures we regularly used to play a round there. You can also have your fortune told by Gypsy Lee, but she is housed in a wooden shed rather than a tent! There are no big rides at Bognor, just a few small ones for the kiddies on the seafront.
The beach at Bognor is still a massive draw for the town, despite being covered in pebbles. During a heat-wave it will be full to bursting with both locals and holiday makers sunbathing and swimming. If pebbles aren't really your thing, then you will find nicer and sandier beaches nearly - try Elmer Sands, Aldwick (the posh part of Bognor Regis where all big houses are), West Beach in Littlehampton or West Wittering near Chichester.
~~~ BOGNOR HIGH STREET ~~~
It's sad to say but Bognor town centre is even shabbier than the seafront. At least the seafront still has the charm and ambiance of an atypical British seaside town despite the scruffiness of some of the buildings. In the town centre, it all feels a little bit squalid and dirty. The pavements are cracked and uneven and there's rather too much litter everywhere. The main shopping area is a bit cleaner and it's pedestrianised, but the areas surrounding it are filthy.
The recession has hit hard here, and it's reflected in the number of empty units on the high street. Every other shop is either a charity one or some kind of pound shop. There aren't too many well known high street names here - you're more likely to find small independent traders. Although it's great to see any independent traders on the UK high street in this day and age, they're not particularly nice shops in Bognor Regis. You're unlikely to find a nice greengrocer or butcher here, more another variation on a "pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap" pound shop. I thought it was quite ironic that a pound shop calling itself "Mr Bankrupt" had obviously gone the way of its moniker with its doors were firmly sealed shut and its windows blacked out. Sadly yet another casualty of the recession and lack of tourism to the town.
It's not all doom and gloom on the high street - there are some famous names here - there's a Morrison's supermarket, a Boots, a New Look, an Iceland and a WH Smith. Sadly Marks and Spencer left a good few years ago and is unlikely to return. What you will aplenty here are pawn brokers, cheque cashers and money lenders. And fairly recent addition to the town since my last visit is a plethora of Polish supermarkets throughout. It has to be said that if you want better shopping opportunities, you'll be better off heading into Chichester....though it will inevitably be more expensive there.
~~~ SIR BILLY BUTLIN MOVES IN ~~~
Bognor Regis is well known as being home to Butlins holiday camp. Evidently this is the oldest holiday camp in Britain, and Butlins has been dominating the skyline at Bognor since 1960. Although Butlins used to be renowned for cheap family holidays and accommodation, there has been much building work here in the last few years, and many of the old wooden chalets have been knocked down and replaced with huge glass-fronted hotels which look a lot like massive cruise liners (The Shoreline was built in 2005 and it was followed by The Ocean in 2009). The onsite entertainment and facilities have all been upgraded and it certainly looks a lot more 21st century than it ever used to. Butlins holiday camp used to known as Southcoast World but has now rebranded itself as Butlins Bognor Regis Resort. It houses all sorts of attractions from swimming pools, fairground rides and tennis courts to a multiplex cinema and a concert hall / stage arena.
I've been to the cinema there and had dinner in the restaurant and both were very modern and welcoming facilities. I do draw the line at a day pass though, as it is still Butlins and it's a bit naff. However judging by the number of families who flock there, it seems like a popular way to holiday with plenty to see and do.
~~~ HOTHAM PARK ~~~
Hotham Park was a magical place for me when I was a child. In those days it had a lovely little Pet's Corner and lots of twisting paths throughout the woods with hidden statues of cartoon characters. Sadly these have all gone now, and the Pet's Corner is no more. It's not a magical place for me anymore, but there is still plenty to see and do there, and it's certainly a lovely little haven of greenness after the squalor and brashness of Bognor town centre. It's free to enter (but you do have to pay (inexpensively) to park), and there are lots of little attractions scattered throughout the trees. You can ride on a mini-train, hire a boat on the miniature boating lake, play pitch and putt or crazy golf, or just enjoy a walk. The squirrels seemed to be virtually tame when we visited last week and came running up to anyone carrying food on them. The rooks were just as cheeky, and we were glad we had left the dog at home or there may have been an international incident where she would have tried to "play" with them.
~~~ FOOD, DRINK AND SLEEP ~~~
There are plenty of places to eat and drink in Bognor, but they're mostly along the lines of fish and chips shops, cafeterias or tearooms. There are a few outlets from the better known chains such as KFC, McDonalds and Starbucks, but they're mostly independent traders. Restaurant wise you have a couple of high street names such as Brewer's Fayre and Wetherspoons, but that's about it. There are a few nice restaurants in Bognor - namely "Sen" (Spanish food) or various Indian, Chinese and Thai eateries. To be honest there's much more choice in nearby Chichester, but the prices will be dearer there than you'll pay in Bognor.
Night life in Bognor tends to be centred either on the pier at "Visions" nightclub or at Butlins. Accommodation wise, Butlins is where most visitors stay when they come to Bognor. However, if holiday camps are not your thing, there are plenty of bed and breakfasts to choose from - no doubt many housing the ubiquitous seaside landlady! If neither of those options floats your boat, then you can stay at Royal Norfolk hotel (a lovely white painted seafront building with plenty of charm and more than a whiff of a bygone era) or the Russell Hotel overlooking Marine Park Gardens.
~~~ NEARBY ~~~
There is plenty to see and do in this part of the world, as you have both the lovely coastline as well as the majestic and rolling hills just inland known as the South Downs. The historic town of Arundel is only 8 miles to the north and houses a world famous castle and cathedral. You can read about Arundel in my review at http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/destinations-national/ arundel-in-general/1074333/.
The old Roman town of Chichester is 6 miles to the west of Bognor (http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/destinations-national/ chichester-in-general/1165555/) and has lots of great shops, Chichester Cathedral and Pallant House Art Gallery. Near to Chichester are both Fishbourne Roman Palace and the Goodwood Estate (horse racing, motor sport, golf and a stately home). Please see my review for further details at http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/sightseeing-national/ goodwood-estate-west-sussex/1533106/
~~~ RECOMMENDATION? ~~~
Sadly Bognor Regis can no longer rely on tourism the way it once did, and that is reflected in the whole town. Although parts of the seafront are charming and obviously historic, they've become increasingly shabby over the years and everything looks a little unloved. The town is still a popular choice resort for a cheap seaside holiday, but it looks a rather rough and squalid in places.
Bognor needs to undergo a huge regeneration programme to become the charming seaside resort it was in George V's heyday. There is a glimmer of hope for Bognor as there appeared to be plenty of building work going on to the edges of the town. We noticed some stunning looking glass fronted flats and penthouses in development near Butlins. There are also plenty of new homes being built on estates to the north and west of the town. We drove past legions of new estates advertising show homes from Barratts, David Wilson, Berkeley Homes et al, so there is plenty of new blood being bought into the area. If it's been planned right then that should mean plenty of refurbishment or new shops and leisure facilities for Bognor Regis to house the influx of new residents.
As it stands I can only recommend Bognor if you love the British seaside and want a relatively cheap holiday on the south coast. However it is very far from ideal if you like your resorts upmarket and clean...because it's very far from either. George V definitely summed it up oh so well when he shouted "Oh B*gger Bognor!" back in 1929!
~~~ HOW TO GET THERE ~~~
By Car - Bognor Regis is easily reached via the M27 (and A27) coastal road which links
Sussex, Hampshire and Kent. From London the town is best reached via the A29 or A24.
By Train - Bognor Regis station is situated within a two minute walk of the centre of town, and is served by regular trains from London Victoria (1 hour 45 minutes), Portsmouth and Brighton.
Car Parking - Car parking is quite easy in Bognor as there are plenty of relatively inexpensive pay and display car parks within easy walking distance of the town centre and the seafront. Obviously on a hot summer day, parking is going to be a problem in a seaside town like Bognor, but outside of hot days parking isn't much of a problem here.
~~~ FURTHER INFORMATION ~~~
Bognor Regis Tourist Information Centre
Phone: 01243 823140
Bognor Regis, a small seaside town on the South Coast of England, situated equidistant from Portsmouth and the popular resort of Brighton is synonymous with the British seaside holiday. With a population of around 25,000, something set to grow with the recent building of many new houses and estates to the North and West of the town, Bognor Regis has gained a reputation through shows such as 'Bognor or Bust' as a low market, run down and backward area of the country. However, the true experience for many holidaymakers and residents of the town is often very different. Within Bognor Regis, locted a few mere metres from the shoreline is the popular resort of Butlins, previously known as Southcoast world. Butlins plays host to thousands of families on an annual basis, drawing acts such as the X factor tour and George Sampson to their iconic centre stage and Skyline venues. The main attraction for Bognor Regis is undoubtedly the sea front, which stretches from the beautiful Elmer sands to Alwick, and at low tide, the iconic Bognor Rocks (after which the towns football team are named) can be observed. With regards to things to do in Bognor, commercialised attractions are not numerous. Bognor is a place for families wanting simple entertainment, playing host to a variety of events throughout the year, such as the town's carnival or Illuminations gala, Hotham park family days and country fairs, and the wonderful Sands of Time seaside festival. Within the surrounding area of West Sussex and the southdowns there is so much to do and to explore. Approximately 8 miles to the north of Bognor is Arundel Castle and scenic town. Much like other castle towns, for example Windsor, the castle is the centre point, with the rolling, marvellous south downs encasing it in an extraordinary setting. The market town of Chichester lies 7 miles West, housing a remarkable icon of Roman Britain, Fishbourne Roman Palace, as well as Chichester cathedral, Goodwood and Fontwell racecourses, Pallant house gallery and a variety of shops and department stores.
Nightlife in Bognor Regis itself isn't very varied, although it does have a number of excellent restaurants, Sen, a mediterranean tapas bar and the Magna Tandori, to name just two. There is one major club in Bognor, situated on the pier, Shieks, now called 'Visions' nightclub is a popular venue for the town's youth and party goers, having, in the last week played host to Dappy from urban music act ''N-Dubz''.
Bognor Regis is a seaside resort town on the south coast of England. The town lies in the county of West Sussex and has a population of around twenty five thousand people. The rather unusual name of the town comes from the Saxon word Bucgan which translates as shore or landing place. This is a very well establish resort town and has been attracting visitors for many years. King George V often visited the town in the early 1900's and it was he who added the name Regis to the town which means 'of the King'.
One of the things the town of Bognor Regis is famous for is the event known as 'The Birdman of Bognor'. Every summer for one day there is a competition to see who can jump off the end of the pier and fly the furthest. Contestants design their own flying machines and the person who flies the furthest wins the competition. The record is currently an impressive 57 meters! The competition always attracts massive crowds and there is a real carnival atmosphere in the town the day of the event.
There are plenty of things to see and do in the town. The main appeal is often the beach. There is a long pebble and sand beach here that gets very busy in the summer months. The pier here is also Britain's oldest pier and has amusements at the near end and you can walk out over the sea and admire the views back to the beach. There is also the Bognor Regis Museum and this give you an insight of what life used to be like back in the 18th century.
If you are looking to stay in the town of Bognor Regis then there is one place that stands out. Butlins holiday park! This is the oldest holiday camp in Britain and although the holiday camps around Britain are not nearly as popular as they once were, this Butlins is still going strong. You can get cheap accommodation here which is aimed mainly at families. There is on sight entertainment and lots of facilities ranging from swimming pools to tennis courts. If a holiday camp is not for you then there are plenty of nice hotels to choose from. The Navigator Hotel and the Russell Hotel are two of the more well established hotels in the town and these have good reputations for a high standard of rooms and service. There are also plenty of smaller bed and breakfasts to choose from in the town.
Bognor Regis can be a very good place to use as a base as you explore the surrounding area. Nearby towns such as Winchester, Littlehampton and Worthing are all well worth a visit. There are also some lovely stretches of coastline in this area that are nice places to explore and enjoy the scenery. If you are looking for something a little more lively then the city of Portsmouth is not to far away and there is always plenty going on here. So if you are looking for a good place to visit in the summer months then Bognor Regis certainly does have plenty to offer.
Bognor Regis (the regis was added to the name in the early 1900's, the Bognor part is Saxon in origin) is a smallish town on the coast of West Sussex. Until the late 1700's Bognor was a small village, but it was then 'converted' into a holiday resort by Richard Hotham and was very popular as one, up until the general decline in british seaside resorts as tourist destinations. The town still has a fair amount of tourism which is mainly based in the well known Butlin's resort.
In 1994 the town was subject to a terrorist attack by the IRA - a bomb was left on a bicycle outside Woolworths (now a Wilkinson's). Despite the damage the town was quick to recover and I believe even Woolworths (who had all their windows blown out), were open within a couple of days. As no one was injured (luckily) the attack has been largely forgotten and is something I only found out about when I did some local research shortly after I moved to the area.
Now in 2010 Bognor still relies on tourism as it's main source of income, however as this is no longer at the levels it once was, this has had a major reflection on the prosperity of the town. There are a large number of beautiful old buildings in the town that have been neglected over recent years, the highstreet is also dreary and run down.
As would be expected of most towns Bognor Regis has a highstreet - the selection of shops in it are nothing special but you'll find it meets most of your basic needs. Theres a: Morrison's supermarket, Boots, New Look, Iceland, a number of cafes, loads of charity shops and various other random shops. For serious shopping though you'd probably want to head in to a city.
For now (there has been some dispute about its future) Bognor also has it's own independant cinema at which you can watch films incredibly cheapily - last time I checked it was just £2.50 for an adult ticket. It only has 2 screens though so what you can see and when you can see it, is very limited.
Then there's Butlins - whether or not you'll use this 'facility' depends on the type of person you are and it's particularly good for people with children as there are rides and a swimming pool etc. You can spend holiday's in Butlin's or get a day pass, but it's not somewhere I go so I can't comment on it any further than this.
Certainly not the best beach in England or even the south coast! The beach is covered in pebbles which has been done as a preventative measure towards erosion, however this does have the unfortunate side effect of reducing enjoyment - lets face it, people love a sandy beach! That said the beach is still quite popular and on summer days it can get incredibly full with people soaking up the sun and going for a swim.
Near the (very short) pier are a number of beach front rides which smaller children will enjoy. The pier itself is a disappointment - it used to be longer but the end was destroyed in a storm and never got rebuilt, what's left now houses an arcade and a nightclub. The best thing about the pier though is the yearly 'Bognor bird man' competition where people essentially throw themselves off the pier in amusing costumes and it always draws a big crowd.
Well that's about all I can think of to say about Bognor Regis - overall I wouldn't really recommend it as a place to visit unless maybe you have children and want a cheap holiday to Butlins. Other than that I think you'll find that bognor isn't really worth the visit - especially if you're coming from a long way away. There isn't much to do and it's too run down - there are far better seaside resorts out there. The only reason I go to Bognor is that a) I used to work there and b) I live near by so it can be handy for occassional shopping.