Christchurch harbour, mooring and dinghy park
Formed over 7000 years ago, the harbour became a major port in about 100BCE, trading worked iron, silver, and bronze in return for figs, glass, tools and other goods.
It is bordered to the south by Hengistbury Head, to the north by Stanpit Marsh, to the west by the town of Christchurch and to the east by the famous Mudeford Sandbank.
Being very shallow, (the average depth within the harbour is around 1.5ft at high tide.) it is an ideal habitat for wildlife and over 300 species of birds have been recorded.
The occasional harbour seal has been spotted along with marine species such as the common and worm pipefishes, eels, barrel jellyfish, tompot blennies, bass, wrasse, mullet, and most native species of crab calling it home.
Christchurch Harbour is set midway between the Solent and Poole Harbour and provides access to one of the most popular areas for boating on the south coast.
The harbour captures the River Avon and River Stour and the lower Harbour is bordered to both the North and South by Local Nature Reserves, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a scheduled ancient monument.
The channel is marked by red and green buoys during the Spring / Summer Season. Usually from Early May Bank Holiday until the end of September. These are positioned by Christchurch Harbour Association who are a voluntary body. Their accuracy cannot be assured and mariners who are not local are advised to seek local knowledge where possible and consult the most up to date almanac for more information.
The speed limit within this channel is 8knts however there is a sand bank to the south and north that can cause the cannel to become shallow – it is recommended that once you enter the channel you slow to 6knts maximum.
Boats with a draught in excess of about 3ft 6 inches (1.09m) may experience difficulty both
Entering and leaving, subsequently local knowledge is useful.
At the downstream end of Mudeford Quay there are two vertical green lights which mark the shoreward end of the channel where it joins the entrance known as 'The Run'.
'The Run' itself is deeper water but can become congested at peak times during the summer. In addition, on an ebb tide the flow of water can run at up to eight knots and slightly less on the flood.
Inside the Harbour
Once inside the harbour the main channel is marked by buoys, positioned by the Harbour Association.
In general, the harbour is very shallow, with vast areas of it drying out at low tide. The average depth within the harbour, outside the marked channels is around 1.5ft.
At low tide large areas do dry out and if anchoring, this should be taken into account.
On a spring low, the main channel becomes very difficult to navigate for anything other than boats with a very shallow draft.
The wash from a vessel travelling at speed can cause damage to moored vessels, cause increased erosion to river banking and beaches, it can be dangerous for other water users and dangerous to persons on the speeding vessel due to the harbours shallow nature and multiple obstacles.
There is a strict 4 knot speed limit within the harbour and its approaches.
On the seaward side of Mudeford Sandbank and along all the local beaches, there is a speed limit of 8 knots within the yellow buoys. Extra care should be taken when navigating within this area and a good lookout kept for swimmers and other water users.
Upon entering the Run, large signs on both sides of the channel show where the 4 knot speed limit starts, however you are asked to be mindful of your wash and of those using the Quay and slow down before the downstream end of it. The entire harbour and its navigable river estuaries are covered by the 4 knot speed limit. Further signage showing the speed limit can be found along the River Banks
For those without an accurate speedometer, 4 knots is 4.6 mph - slightly faster than a normal walking speed! It should take approximately 35 mins to travel from The Run to Christchurch Quay at the speed limit based on there being no other boats using the channel.
BCP Council will take legal action against any person causing a motorised vessel to travel in excess of the speed limits.
Please slow down – no matter how well you know the harbour.
BCP Council operate a Marine Patrol service all year round however limited waterborne hours are applicable during the winter months. The Service is primarily to ensure the safety of all water users and assist with the general smooth running of the harbour; You will often see the crew on land carrying out other tasks.
The crew have the delegated authority to enforce local byelaws and regularly work alongside Dorset Police Marine Section on crime prevention and enforcement initiatives.
The Hengistbury Head NCI station is located 36mtrs above the harbour on top of Warren Hill, Hengistbury Head. With views across the bay from Swanage to the Needles and the entire harbour, it is in a prime location to monitor the safety of all vessels transiting the area as well as taking some pressure off Solent Coastguard for radio checks etc. Further information can be found at: https://www.hhnci.org.uk. VHF Ch 65 call sign ‘Hengistbury Head NCI.
There is full buoyage within the harbour (seasonal) and at the harbour entrance which is provided by the Christchurch Harbour Association.
A small levy of £12.00 is included within each mooring fee and passed on to the association to cover this cost.
Quay side access
- Vessels are permitted to come along side Mudeford Quay within The Run. Please note that there are commercial fishing vessels and ferries also using this area and skippers are asked to avoid the areas used by them. There are no charges for this however there is a strict 2 tide time limit.
- There is no public access to the Mudeford Sandbank jetty. If visiting the sandbank, you are advised to come along side at the Quay and take the ferry OR use a tender to access the beach.
- There is a public landing area at Christchurch Quay to the west of the self hire boat pontoon. Please be aware that there are some large rocks on the river bed in this area that can cause damage to boats at low tide. The quay side area to the west of the public landing area is reserved for ferries and should not be used.
There are several slipways available for boat / tender launching within Christchurch Harbour and the two rivers feeding it.
- Mudeford Quay – (seasonal charges apply) Adjacent to the Dinghy Park and RNLI Station. Allows access to the lower Harbour and The Run. Pay and Display Car Park. Public Toilets. Local shops. Can be very shallow at low tide. Can become very busy. Mudeford Quay. Christchurch. BH23 4AB
- Mayors Mead – Adjacent to The Captains Club. Allows access to the River Stour and the upper Harbour. Free trailer park (for no more than 48 hrs) Close to Town Centre for shops. Pay and Display car park. Public Toilets. Children’s play area and splash park (seasonal) Can become very busy. Wick Lane Christchurch BH23 1HU
- Wick Lane Bournemouth - Located on the southern (Bournemouth) side of the River Stour between Tuckton Tea Gardens and Wick Village. Access to River Stour and Upper Harbour. Pay and Display Car Park & Public Toilets located within a 5 min walk. Wick Ferry located adjacent to slipway for access to the opposite bank of the river. Wick Lane Bournemouth BH6 4AB
- Bridge Street (outside Civic Offices) – Public toilets. Town centre location. Access to River Avon and upper harbour. Car Parking within Leisure Centre Car Park. BH23 1AZ
- Argyle Road – Stanpit Creek. Limited Local shops. Limited on-street parking BH23 3NW
All users are requested not to rig and de-rig on slipways as this impedes flow of traffic during busy periods.
There are several boat yards located within the Harbour offering various marine services including fuel – details can be found in the ‘Additional Infomation' section below.
The moorings within the harbour and Rivers are managed by various organisations including BCP Council.BCP Council leases the whole of the lower harbour and provides moorings on an annual basis from 1st December through to 15th November each year for the Self Laid moorings and April 1st to March 15th for the Trot Moorings.
BCP Council do not operate visitor moorings.
Individual boat yards may offer this service but you are advised to contact them in the first instance. Details can be found below.
Trot Moorings, South-East of the Harbour
BCP Council maintain a number of trot line moorings on the south-east side of the harbour, 12 of which are suitable for boats up to 30ft (9.14m) and the remainder for boats up to 25ft (7.62m) arranged in lines, chained from harbour bed to buoy. All are swinging moorings, except for the multihull moorings, where the boats are tethered fore and aft.
This area has some shelter from Hengistbury Head, and the waters rarely dry out, therefore a dinghy/tender is required for access.
There is no vehicle access to this side of the harbour.
Mudeford: Self-Laid Moorings, North-East of the Harbour
BCP Council operates up to 100 licences for annual self-laid moorings. These are in the north-eastern portion of the harbour, bounded to the west by Royalty Fishing marks and to the east by Mudeford Quay. The issue of a mooring licence entitles the holder to lay and maintain a mooring in this area, in a location defined by the Council.
As the name indicates the mooring holder is responsible for laying their own holding tackle and buoy at their own cost. The boat is tied to a buoy, which is itself attached via a chain and riser to a weight on the sea bed. This arrangement allows the craft to swing so that it will head into the wind or the tide, whichever is the stronger.
As the tidal range is only 3ft (0.91m) to 4ft (1.22m) on medium tides, boats drawing more than 2ft 6 inches (0.79m) are restricted and therefore not suitable for these moorings.
In this mooring area, the harbour generally dries when the tide is out, and your boat will sit in the mud until the following tide. It is essential therefore, that all craft that moor in this part of the harbour must be able to rest on the mud flats at low tide e.g. bilge keels. Naturally you will not be able to use your boat until the next tide is in.
Also the north-eastern area of the harbour is exposed to west and south westerly winds and moorings should be laid with due regard to those already in place to avoid fouling and collisions. Past experience has highlighted that adverse weather conditions, such as wind and tide, can cause a number of self-lay moorings to drag so you must make sure that the mooring tackle is sufficient for the job. If you are unsure about how to lay moorings and tackle, there are local businesses that can provide labour and equipment.
All ground tackle remains the property of the mooring holder and must be removed from the sea bed at the end of any licence term by the license holder.
Moorings – General
- The Council does not operate any bank side or pontoon moorings in any of the mooring areas or on the river. These are provided by other agencies
- Moorings are not restricted to local residents, and can be applied for by anyone
- Please make sure that your boat is suitable for the mooring location specified. It is advisable to visit the intended mooring at both low and high tides prior to applying for a license. The Council does not guarantee the suitability of the mooring to your boat.
Mudeford Quay Dinghy Park
BCP Council provide a hard standing dinghy park facility for approximately 200 sailing dinghies and tenders at Mudeford Quay, Christchurch, BH23 4AB (charges apply).
The site forms part of the open space and is therefore accessible to the general public. It is prone to occasional weather/tide related flooding.
Application Process for Moorings / Dinghy Park
In order to apply for a mooring or a space within the Dinghy Park you will need to request a license application form by either :
Once you have received the application form, you will need to:
- complete and sign the licence application form and return it to BCP Council.
- attach a copy of your current public liability insurance certificate showing cover of a minimum of £1 million indemnity, your name and the name / description of your boat.
- attach at least one colour photograph of your boat side on so that it can be easily identified should the need arise.
Once received, your application will be processed. This can take up to 28 days however it usually takes about a week.
Please note: there is currently a waiting list for the Trot Moorings. For this reason, we will send an enquiry form rather than an application form so that we can add your details to the waiting list.
If we cannot accommodate your request for a mooring or space in the dinghy park, we will contact you and discuss alternative options – please ensure that you include a telephone number / email address on your application / enquiry form.
Payment for your license will be processed by SVPP – the Council’s finance department. You will receive an invoice with instructions on how to pay directly from SVPP once all paperwork has been completed and your mooring / space confirmed.
Further information regarding Council Moorings and the Council Dinghy Park
For further enquiries regarding Moorings and the Dinghy Park please contact BCP Council (Estates Technical Support Team) by:
Charges for Moorings and the Dinghy Park.
- Any licenses issued do not include any rights to car parking.
- Where a public car park is available, all parking regulations must be adhered to.
- Vessels / trailers that are left for more than 48 hrs on any Council operated mooring, within any area of the Harbour that the council has responsibility for or within any Dinghy park, car park or other open space without permission of the council and / or without a relevant license may be removed and impounded by the council after 14 days. A release fee of £100 + storage fees will be applicable. Should the vessel / trailer not be claimed within 28 days, the council will take ownership of it and it will be disposed of as the council sees fit.
A notice will be attached to any such vessel / trailer and where known, the owner contacted, at the start of the 28 day period warning them of the intended action by the council.
Full Conditions and regulations.
Winter Boat Park
A parking facility is available for boats, up to 30ft (9.14m), within a fenced area of hard standing at Mayor’s Mead Car Park, Christchurch, BH23 1NY. The Winter Boat Park is open to the public from the 1 October to the 31 March each year. This facility is currently being run by the River Shack, for further details please contact them direct.
River Shack Boats Ltd, Mayors Mead, Wick Lane, Christchurch, Dorset BH23 1HU
Tel: 01202 489634 / 07575 420222
Personal Water Craft (PWC)
The use of PWC within the harbour and around the shore lines has been an emotive subject in the past. BCP Council realises that the vast majority of PWC owners and users are responsible and abide by the bylaws.
It is for this reason that Christchurch allows the use of the harbour and slipways by PWC. However:
- Any breach of the byelaws and/or speed limits will result in prosecution
- Any reported anti-social behaviour may result in the rider and the PWC being banned from using the slipways and asked to leave the harbour
- If a PWC owner is caught breaching any byelaw or reported to have been causing any form of antisocial behaviour, details of that person, the PWC that they are using and any vehicle / trailer that they are using, will be passed to Dorset Police in order to investigate any other offences that may be disclosed
- Continued breaches of speed limits and / or byelaws by individuals may have repercussions for the wider PWC community
Useful information and Contacts
Boat Yards / Marine services
Moorings (Not Boatyard / Marina moorings)
Moorings Installation Services
- Strides Boatyard (Nick Monks): 01202 485949
- Mr. B. Marine Services (Barry Childs): 07802 326400 / 01425 476162
- Beach Huts
- Christchurch Harbour Association: 01202 478612
- Marine Patrol Service: VHF CH 8. c/s ‘MIKE PAPPA’
- NCI: VHF CH 65: c/s ‘HENGISTBURY HEAD NCI’
- Solent Coastguard: VHF 16 / 67 c/s ‘SOLENT COASTGUARD’
- General Harbour Communications: VHF CH8