Chichester Harbour is a large natural harbour to the south west of the city of Chichester on the Solent. It straddles the boundary of West Sussex and Hampshire. Geographically it is a ria. It is one of four natural harbours in that area of the coastline, the others being Portsmouth Harbour, Langstone Harbour and Pagham Harbour. The harbour and surrounding land is managed by Chichester Harbour Conservancy.
Chichester Harbour is one of the few remaining undeveloped coastal areas in Southern England and remains relatively wild. Its wide expanses and intricate creeks are at the same time a major wildlife haven and among some of Britain’s most popular boating waters.
The massive stretch of tidal flats and saltings are of outstanding ecological significance. 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 7,500 Brent geese overwinter on the intertidal mud-land and adjacent farmland and more than 50,000 birds reside in or visit the Harbour throughout the year.
The harbourside villages are: West Wittering, West Itchenor, Birdham, Dell Quay, Fishbourne, Chidham, Prinsted, Thorney Island, Emsworth, Langstone and Northney. The nearest towns are Havant, Chichester and Hayling Island. The harbour lowlands contain high quality arable farmland. 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 12,500 craft regularly using the harbour, with competitive racing taking place among the 14 sailing clubs of the Chichester Harbour Federation. The villages, sea walls and footpaths are a popular leisure area for residents and tourists alike.
Set up by Act of Parliament in 1971, Chichester Harbour Conservancy has the duty to conserve, maintain and improve the harbour and amenity area for recreation, natural conservation and natural beauty. As well as being the statutory harbour authority, the Conservancy manages the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
To the south west of the entrance to Chichester Harbour is Chichester Bar, a shallow spit which can present a significant navigation hazard at all states of the tide. The entrance to the harbour is deep with a fast tidal stream and to the east of the main harbour entrance channel is a gravel bank known as The Winner.
The east side of the harbour entrance is an area of geographical, recreational and conservation interest known as East Head. It is a large sand dune linked to land by a narrow area known as The Hinge. In recent years The Hinge has been breached by several storms and then repaired. There is much debate about whether and how it should continue to be repaired.
The western boundary with Langstone Harbour is defined by a historic causeway known as the wade way, once the principal access from Hayling Island to the mainland, but since bisected by a deep channel for the Portsmouth and Chichester Canal in the 1820s, and no longer safely traversable.
Chichester Harbour has three main channels. The Emsworth Channel, the Thorney Channel and the Chichester Channel, which also branches off into the Bosham Lake and Itchenor Reach.
Chichester Harbour is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The harbour is of national and international importance for nature conservation. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a wetland of international importance,a Special Protection Area for wild birds and a Special Area of Conservation. The harbour is of particular importance for wintering wildfowl and waders of which five species reach numbers which are internationally important.
Chichester Harbour is a designated Bass Nursery Area.
Chichester Harbour is used for a wide variety of sailing, including dinghy racing; it is the venue for the ‘Itchenor Gallon’ race for the International 14. There are several yacht marinas. It is also used for fishing.
Harbour tours depart year round from Itchenor in either a traditional boat or in Solar Heritage, a solar powered boat. During the summer regular trips depart from Emsworth on Solar Heritage and on the Victorian oyster boat Terror.
There is a small dory that operates as a ferry service between Itchenor and Bosham.
The harbour is a very popular area for birdwatching; guided bird walks and boat trips are offered during the winter months by Chichester Harbour Conservancy.
There is a network of footpaths for walkers and a cycle route from Chichester to West Wittering which passes through harbour countryside.
West Wittering Beach and East Head is the only sandy beach on the West Sussex coast and is a popular family and tourist destination on warm weekends.
Sailing Clubs of Chichester Harbour
- Bosham Sailing Club
- Chichester Yacht Club
- Chichester Cruiser Racing Club
- Dell Quay Sailing Club
- Emsworth Sailing Club
- Emsworth Slipper Sailing Club
- Hayling Island Sailing Club
- Itchenor Sailing Club
- Langstone Sailing Club
- Mengeham Rythe Sailing Club
- Thorney Island Sailing Club Source
- West Wittering Sailing Club
- Havant Youth Sail Training Scheme
West Itchenor is a village and civil parish, on the Manhood Peninsula, in the Chichester District of West Sussex, England. It lies north of the B2179 Chichester to West Wittering road 4.5 miles (7.3 km) southwest of Chichester. The village lies on the shores of Chichester Harbour.
The parish covers an area of 413 hectares (1020 acres). According to the Office for National Statistics, based on the 2011 Census estimates, 289 people lived in 140 households, of whom 122 were economically active. 99.7% of residents were White and 76.5% identified as Christian. Since the desertion of East Itchenor in the 15th century, the village has been simply referred to as Itchenor.
West Itchenor was an ancient parish of the county of Sussex. Until 1894 it formed part of Manhood Hundred, an ancient division of Chichester Rape. From 1894 to 1933 it was part of Westhampnett Rural District. From 1933 to 1974 it was part of Chichester Rural District, and since 1974 it has been a part of Chichester District.
A settlement is thought to have been established during the Roman conquest of Britain in AD 43, however the area was one of the first to be resettled by the South Saxons when they colonialised the south coast. West Itchenor takes its name from the chieftain Icca, who laid claim to its shoreline, and was originally known as Iccannore (‘Icca’s shore’). The Domesday Book of 1086 names the village as Icenore, in 1187 it was called Ichenore, and by 1243 Westichenor. The Domesday Book also mentions that Icenore was held by “Warin”, a henchman of “Earl Roger” who invaded England with William the Conqueror. The manor later became a parcel of the Earl of Arundel.
In 1175 the Lord of the Manor Hugh Esturmy built a chapel in West Itchenor, adjacent to the River Haven; prior to the construction of a sea wall and sluice in 1931, a spring tide would cause the river to rise and surround the building. Between 1180 and 1197 the chapel became a parish church dedicated to St Nicholas, the patron saint of seafarers.
The population of West Itchenor diminished during the Black Death which swept England from 1348, yet the village survived. East Itchenor, its eponymous neighbouring village, did not however and its subsequent decline in the following century culminated in its unification with Birdham in 1440, after which it became farming land. The desertion of East Itchenor was also the result of siltation in the harbour, which made West Itchenor the more viable port location.
Towards the end of the 19th century West Itchenor became a popular destination for Londoners who could afford a second home in the countryside and the cost of travelling there. These people, known locally as ‘DFLs’ (Down from London), have caused the rapid growth of the village since that time. However, despite the increased number of households, the number of full-time and economically active residents has fallen, as house prices have increased with the demand for second homes. This in turn caused the closure of the general store and post office in 1974 and of the local village school. The Itchenor Society estimated in 2012 that over 40% of all households were second homes.
During the Second World War, Itchenor Shipyard served as a base for the Admiralty’s manufacturing of Fairmile B motor launches and Itchenor Sailing Club was requisitioned by the British Army, which mounted an anti-aircraft gun at the Club to attack approaching Luftwaffe planes. This wartime activity made West Itchenor a restricted area and required residents to produce identification papers as they entered the village.