If there’s one thing that Pagham does have in abundance, it is lots of shingle. It doesn’t have much else, so you’d think they’d take more care of it. According to a sign on beach the shingle is unstable. Now, call me pedantic, but I would have thought shingle would be ‘unstable’ by its very nature. Surely if it was stable it would be ‘rock’.
Perhaps this is health and safety gone mad, and they feel obliged to warn tourists that the ground under their feet, i.e. the shingle, may move somewhat, thus causing a slight leg wobble and a mild sense of peril. Or maybe they are trying to deter tourists completely, by implying that their shingle moves more than most and potential visitors would be much safer in nearby Worthing instead. Worthing being a retirement town noted for the relative stability of its shingle and, of course, its famous geriatric gimp parties, sheltered housing dungeon-brothels and the annual ‘Worthing in Leather’ festival.
The sign’s precise text is ‘Unstable shingle bank broken concrete’. This would also support the visitor deterrent theory. Not only are they warning that the shingle may take you by surprise, but they are also suggesting that the town’s only cashpoint is knackered and there’s lots of concrete.
There is indeed lots of concrete, as the rest of this village on the South Coast looks a little like Crawley by the sea. Although I wouldn’t be too worried about the unavailability of cash, as there is very little to spend your money on anyway. Unless I missed something, Pagham appears to consist of just one road that leads to this unsteady shingle beach. Flanking the road there is a café, a slot machine arcade and a shop selling beach items such as inflatables, kites and buckets and spades.
Buckets and spades were optimistic items to be selling, with there only being shingle on the beach and no sand. I would imagine there have been many disgruntled parents facing toddler tantrums after buying a bucket and spade, only to find out that there is no sand whatsoever further down the road. You can’t build sandcastles out of shingle, it has no stability and apparently especially not in Pagham.
As a result of this visitor aversion strategy the beach is very quiet, except in August when the village hosts the annual ‘Pagham on Parade’. So popular is this festival that the small population of 6,100 swells to over 6,120.
The festival features all the usual Sussex village customs e.g. wicker man, witch burning, live badger roasting etc., but Pagham put its own twist on their event by offering their unique local delicacies. These include barbecued shingle, battered shingle and, for the children, the ever popular sugar-coated shingle.
There have been some recent concerns that ‘Pagham on Parade’ should stop offering this children’s treat, given that sugary snacks can lead to tooth decay, but the Parish Council have poo-poohed such snowflake sentiments by pointing out that the children’s teeth are broken to bits long before decay sets in.
Apart from the festival, Pagham has one other claim to fame. It was the birthplace of one of rock n’ roll’s most famous bands. They took their first name from the village’s most notable feature, playing in local pubs as ‘Unstable Shingle’. They eventually modified their name to the more catchy ‘Rolling Stones’ and the rest is history, possibly.