Councillors, dignitaries and local heroes came out for the grand unveiling of Worthing’s newest attraction this afternoon. Unfortunately, the sun had other ideas.
The Worthing Observation Wheel (WOW) is, at 46m high, the tallest observation wheel ever seen on the south coast, already visible on the Worthing skyline from seafront approaches, walks on the Downs and easily glimpsed from street level.
Treated to a free ride on its maiden spin were dozens of ‘local heroes’ – intrepid individuals who work tirelessly to improve the Worthing community – and John, one of the Herald’s reporters.
Going for a spin
Grey skies, thick fog and a light drizzle admittedly hampered the views out to sea, but it was hard to argue with the splendour of Worthing laid out in all its glory and the rolling South Downs beyond.
The ride lasted around ten minutes, with a couple of brief, wind-battered stops at the top to test the more nervous passengers.
Six adults can fit comfortably in each of the wheel’s 36 pods and my podmates were unanimous in their praise.
Eighteen-year-old Katie Almond joined the ride for her work with the National Citizen Service and said not only was it a lot better than she was expecting, she would be coming back with her friends for a paid ride.
At £7 for adults, £5 for children and £20 for a family of four, the WOW is significantly cheaper than Brighton’s i360 observation tower.
Bunny Duke-Colley and Sue Stirling from animal rescue charity Wadars both agreed it was excellent and, despite some vertigo-based jitters at the top, said they could not fault the views.
It was a genuine treat to see our town spread out below, the town centre filled with midday shoppers milling around and the sprawl filtering out into Lancing and towards Shoreham.
I can imagine it filling long-term residents with a warm nostalgic glow and, for visitors, an interesting look at what is on offer in and around one of Sussex’s biggest, often over-looked towns.
Good times ahead
Worthing councillor Kevin Jenkins has been an advocate of the WOW since the success of a smaller test wheel in Steyne Gardens last year and he said it could lead a ‘renaissance’ in the town.
“We’ve got to build Worthing, and let it grow respectfully,” he said.
“It makes Worthing a destination and gives them another reason to come into the town and to stay here.
“It’s about the town moving on and shrugging off some of the shards of the past. We’re going to create connectivity between the seafront and Montague Street, creating a synergy in our town.”
Praise for the wheel was glowing from visitors, who poo-pooed assertions the design was intrusive.
Sue Standing, from Friends of Heene Cemetery, said it was an asset to Worthing and a sign the town was on the up.
Catherine McGill and Diane Greer from Southwick Corner House were treated to a free ride and they both said they enjoyed it, feeling safe despite the questionable weather.
The observation wheel is set to be a fixture of our skyline for nine months of each of the next three years and, from first impressions, it will be a very welcome addition. As Worthing council leader Dan Humphreys put it, Worthing is a town on the up.