Stanpit Marsh Local Nature Reserve
Stanpit Marsh is situated on the north side of Christchurch Harbour, just below the confluence of the rivers Avon and Stour. The 65 hectare site has an unusual combination of habitats including salt marsh with creeks and salt pans, reed beds, freshwater marsh, gravel estuarine banks and sandy scrub.
About Stanpit Marsh
Stanpit Marsh was designated as a Local Nature Reserve in 1964 and in 1986 as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is home to over 300 species of plants, 14 of which are nationally rare and endangered.
Stanpit Marsh has a 7000 year history of human activity, from Mesolithic coastal wanderers to The Doomsday book entry for Stanpit village (1086) reveals that Stanpit was once known as 'Stanpeta' (meaning 2 estates with meadows). More recently, in the late 18th Century, Stanpit Marsh was notorious for smugglers. Contraband was landed at Mudeford Quay, brought across the harbour and up the narrow channels that still criss - cross the marsh to this day.
Mother Siller's channel used to stretch as far as the Ship in Distress, providing a quick and easy route through which goods could be landed and left in the care of Hannah Siller, the 'protecting angel' of smugglers. The climax of smuggling was the occasion of the locally famous battle of Mudeford on 15 July 1784. Today the scout hut on Stanpit Recreation Ground is named 'Orestes' in memory of the customs 'lugger' sent to confront the smugglers.
The diversity of plants supports a strong community of wildlife: invertebrate fauna includes a great number of butterflies and dragonflies and there have been 313 bird species recorded, some of which breed on Stanpit but most arrive with the spring or autumn migration. For more information about the birds present on Stanpit Marsh and the best places from which to view them please visit the excellent Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group (opens in a new window) (CHOG) Web page.
Following the construction of several artificial ponds on the area of Stanpit Marsh known as Crouch Hill, thousands of Natterjack toad spawn were transferred from Hengistbury Head in each Spring from 2001-2004. After monitoring their development from spawn to tadpole and then from tadpole to toadlet, thousands of individual toadlets were moved from the ponds by the Stanpit Marsh Warden to various locations across the marsh. It had always been hoped that this programme would allow a self sustaining population of this nationally rare species to develop at Stanpit and in May 2005, the first natural breeding success was recorded. Breeding has continued in most years, with around 1,000 toadlets developing in 2009.
Owner: Christchurch Borough Council
Grid reference: SZ 166 922
Managed by: Christchurch Countryside Service
Nearest town: Christchurch
Nearest bus stop: Wilts & Dorset route 123 - Stanpit, near junction with Bub Lane by Stanpit Recreation Ground
Nearest train station: Christchurch
Habitats: Salt marsh, reed beds, freshwater marsh, gravel estuarine banks and sandy scrub
Look out for: 313 bird species, Natterjack Toads
Parking: Car park available next to Stanpit Recreation Ground
Accessibility: Ground generally flat but site can get very wet, especially at high tide. Some parts of circular gravel path can be rough due to tidal action. Dykes and ditches are often crossed by raised sleeper bridges.
Facilities: Purpose built visitor centre opened in September 2008. Some seating available on site. Interpretation available at visitor centre. Dogs must be kept on a lead at all times.
How to get there
Bus route 123 stops adjacent to the site, where there is also a car park. The main cycle route through Christchurch also passes close by.
Stanpit Marsh New Dog Control Order
Details of new Dog Control Order (Dogs on Leads) for Stanpit Marsh Nature Reserve