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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, mud flats, freshwater marsh, gravel estuarine banks and sandy scrub.

About Stanpit Marsh

History of 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 onwards. 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.

Further details about Stanpit Marsh and how it is managed today can be found in Stanpit Marsh Management Plan (pdf, 901kb) (opens in a new window).

Friends of Stanpit Marsh

In 1983 The Friends of Stanpit Marsh (FOSM) was formed as a support group to raise funds to help manage the Marsh. The funds raised go mainly towards the Information Centre and the provision of a Summer Warden. The Friends have a membership of over four hundred and welcome new members. Their aim is to help preserve the Marsh for wildlife and people. Please visit the FOSM website (opens in a new window) to find out more about FOSM, the history and habitats of the Marsh, and its diversity of wildlife.

Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group

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) website.


Stanpit Marsh is grazed by New Forest Ponies and this is a key component of management. There are two seperate herds: the main herd which permanently lives on site and a seasonal herd, that grazes Priory Marsh and is removed over winter. The ponies, which are semi-wild, are cared for by a grazier.

Details of Stanpit Marsh Nature Reserve

Owner: Christchurch Borough Council

Grid reference: SZ 166 922

Managed by: Christchurch Countryside Service

Nearest town: Christchurch

Size(Ha): 65

Nearest bus stop: More Bus route X1 & X2 and Yellow Buses route P1 & P3 - stop at Purewell Cross

Nearest train station: Christchurch

Habitats: Salt marsh, reed beds, freshwater marsh, gravel estuarine banks and sandy scrub

Look out for: 313 bird species, flora of fresh and brackish water habitats

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.

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