An area noted for its safe sailing, abundant wildlife and sense of peace is flourishing thanks to a dedicated team of professionals and volunteers.
Responsible for navigation and safety within Chichester Harbour, Chichester Harbour Conservancy was set up in 1971 by Act of Parliament.
Maria Court, shared services manager, Chichester Harbour Conservancy, said the exceptional combination of unusual natural harbour and beautiful countryside meant both land and water needed looking after, in order to remain a beautiful place for all to enjoy.
Maria said: “We have very little commercial activity in the harbour and it’s not a port, so it needs extra protection.
“It’s a unique landscape - a lowland harbour, naturally formed with the Downs in the background, that’s also very special for wildlife.
“There’s no other harbour quite like it in the UK.”
The harbour is also an internationally-designated widlife haven. Residents include Dark-bellied Brent geese and other over-wintering birds, plus 24 harbour and grey seals, which haul themselves out of the water at low tide to rest and digest food.
As a result, the conservancy team includes an ecologist and rangers, who look after the wildlife areas, maintain and improve habitats, install nesting boxes, clear rubbish and conduct a cutting programme to keep footpaths accessible.
Alongside this, the conservancy provides and maintains a large number of moorings within the harbour.
A year-round patrol service helps those afloat on the water, providing advice and practical assistance, supporting the coastguard, collecting harbour dues and enforcing byelaws and speed limits.
In addition, the conservancy has a classroom right on the water’s edge, which hosts school trips for all ages, as well as university fieldwork and adult education.
“Our education service also provides an outreach service to present assemblies all about Chichester Harbour and the wildlife and ecology. We also have lots of resources online for students on our wildlife and habitats.”
The organisation receives funding from harbour dues and moorings fees and support from West Sussex and Hampshire county councils and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, among others.
It also receives financial and practical support from the Friends of Chichester Harbour, not to mention an army of volunteers.
‘See what we do on May 31’
On May 31, the Chichester Harbour Conservancy is inviting us to see its work for ourselves at its first ever full Open Day.
Maria Court, shared services manager, Chichester Harbour Conservancy, said: “Chichester Harbour is a gem in England’s landscape right on your doorstep and it takes lots of work and activity to keep it looking beautiful.
“It’s important to find out about all the fantastic things we’re doing, so you can take an interest in protecting the harbour for future generations.”
As such, “We’ll have all our vessels on display, with free short trips on Solar Heritage. You can meet the patrol and rangers team, join activities and go on board our mooring barge and find out about engineering equipment. If it’s a clear day, there’s an opportunity to look at the sun through a special solar telescope, and there’ll be wildlife walks down to the salt marsh.”
Refreshments are available at the Itchenor Sailing Club clubhouse, with ‘unparalleled views’ of the harbour and downs.
In addition to the Open Day, the conservancy runs free or inexpensive guided walks and activities year-round.
These include art, craft and photography events, as well as stargazing at the harbour’s three Dark Sky Discovery sites and birdsong, bat, wildflower and butterfly walks.
Regular monthly guided walks include ‘good-paced long walks’ with the Harbour Hares and ‘short gentle strolls’ with the Harbour Creekies, plus an annual three-day walk. However, interpretation boards around the harbour also encourage walkers to explore its network of paths, a number of which are wheelchair- and pushchair-accessible.
Family fun events range from crabbing competitions to a duck race, themed picnics and den-building.
This year, canoe safaris are on the menu, via the Cobnor Activities Centre Trust, but visitors can also join regular sightseeing and birdwatching trips by boat.
“Our boat trips allow people to get out on the water and get closer to wildlife on the solar-powered Solar Heritage, which is fully accessible with a wheelchair lift and toilet.
“We also support the oyster boat Terror, a small sailing craft for six people which sails out of Emsworth.”
For more information, see www.conservancy.co.uk
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