AN HISTORIC agreement that will see Littlehampton Fort brought back to life was signed on Friday.
Littlehampton’s MP, Nick Gibb, also went along to see how work is progressing and to find out more about the deal.
The fort, built in 1854 to defend the town from the threat of a French invasion, is on Littlehampton Golf Club land on West Beach.
Andy Orpin, chairman of Littlehampton Fort Restoration Project, and Tony Bence, golf club chairman, signed an agreement that will see two years’ of restoration work by volunteers.
Work began at the beginning of November and already, beautiful flint walls have been revealed from beneath the undergrowth.
Mr Gibb, making his first visit to the fort, was shown the work so far and told about plans for the future during the visit on Friday afternoon.
Mr Orpin said: “We have cleared a ditch showing the only part of the wall that was the full height, 12ft.
“When work started, it was almost completely covered. We can’t use big machines so it is all being done by hand.
“The enemy today is not the French, it is the ivy. We have got quite a battle ahead of us. The dunes have protected the walls from a lot of weathering but the ivy gets into the mortar and blows the brickwork. We are removing it very carefully but there is quite a substantial amount of damage where it has penetrated through. When you pull the ivy away, you are left with this lovely flint.”
There are gun emplacements to uncover on the hill but the barracks, which were on the north side, are no longer there.
Mr Orpin added: “We are in stage two, which is the hot spot areas, working on clearance before the bird nesting season. Between now and April, we need to clear the bulk.
“We will be clearing the mound, where there is two to three feet of dead ivy beneath the surface. We want to clear down to the floor level and, if we can, re-grass it.
“It has been fantastic uncovering the walls but when we uncover the gun emplacements, we will have shell recesses and it will be an amazing view from the golf course.”
There have been a few surprises along the way, as the volunteers discovered the southern bastion followed a different line to what they expected.
“On the south west side of the fort, the sand is up to the top of the wall, so we have agreed with Natural England that we won’t excavate it,” added Mr Orpin.
“We will uncover enough to see where the walls are, so people can see it from the boardwalk.”
Noticeboards explaining the project will also be going up, thanks to a £500 grant.
Mr Gibb said: “It is excellent, it really is. I think it is a wonderful project that these 142 volunteers have taken it upon themselves to clear an historical monument.
“It is so important to preserve our history and I think they are doing a great service to the town in opening up what is yet another asset to Littlehampton.”
Littlehampton was the first Palmerston fort, the prototype, built three years before Shoreham Fort.
There are more than 140 volunteers working on the project and the aim is to clear the fort, then maintain it.
Mr Bence, who played there as a child and remembers climbing over the walls, said: “There have been a lot of positive comments from the golf club members. Ninety per cent of the golfers have never seen it, all they have seen is a pile of ivy for years.”
Mr Orpin started looking at the fort back in 2009, when his Dad died. He would head to the area to think and often looked across at the visible brickwork.
“I thought at first it was Victorian and I spent time researching about it,” he explained.
He formed the association in 2011 and hopes next year it can become a charity. Visit www.littlehamptonfort.co.uk for more information.
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