Not only one of the few remaining undeveloped coastal areas in Southern England, but rarer still, Chichester Harbour remains relatively wild. Its bright wide expanses and intricate creeks are at the same time a major wildlife haven and among some of Britain's most popular boating waters. Backed by the South Downs, the harbour is a series of tidal inlets, with a narrow mouth to the sea, punctuating areas of fertile farmland. Fringed by a narrow margin of wind-sculptured oaks and hawthorn, the fields in turn give way to salt-marsh and intertidal mud-lands, broken by a maze of creeks and rithes.
Not dramatic in the upland sense, the Area of Outstanding Beauty's (AONB) landscape nevertheless has a special sense of wilderness and isolation. Its rich diversity is enhanced by the patterns of sea and land changing with the tides and the seasons. In this flat landscape, the vertical elements of church spires and old mills are an important part of its character, as are the colour-washed, red-roofed villages.
The AONB's massive stretch of tidal flats and saltings are of outstanding ecological significance. The rich, complex estuarine habitats of the harbour are a Ramsar designated wetland. Very large populations of wildfowl and waders use the mudflats feeding on the rich plant life and the huge populations of intertidal invertebrates. More than 9,000 Brent geese overwinter on the intertidal mud-land and adjacent farmland.
There are no towns in the AONB, although it is easily accessible from Portsmouth and Southampton. Picturesque creekside villages such as Bosham and Itchenor are sought after for commuter, retirement and holiday homes. The harbour lowlands contain high quality arable farmland with some beef and dairy farming. Boatyards, marinas and commercial fishing are important elements of the local economy.
This is one of the south coast's most popular sailing waters with as many as 10,000 craft regularly using the harbour, but with 14 yacht and sailing clubs and seven training centres the area is considered to have reached capacity. The villages, sea walls and footpaths of the AONB are a popular local leisure area and day visitor destination for London and the South East.
For more information on this area visit the
official web site for Chichester Harbour
Regional Walking Guides
A full list of "Where to Walk" Walking Guides can be found at List of Regional Walking Guides.
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