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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.

Stanpit Marsh Local Nature Reserve

About the 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 the Stanpit Marsh Management Plan.

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. The Friends have a membership of over 400 and welcome new members. Their aim is to help preserve the Marsh for wildlife and people. Please visit the FOSM website 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 (CHOG) website.


Stanpit Marsh is grazed by New Forest Ponies and this is a key component of management. There are two separate 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.

Educational visits at Stanpit Marsh

We run a number of educational sessions at Stanpit Marsh for local schools to discover our wonderful wildlife and explore the unique habitats found on the Nature Reserve. Students can enjoy outdoor learning opportunities to add enrichment to their school curriculum.

The sessions, which are aimed at KS1 and KS2 children, are led by the BCP Countryside Team and cover a variety of topics from animal habitats to smugglers’ history. Activities link to the national curriculum and include ‘Meet the Marsh-ans’ (mini-beast discovery); river-dipping; and finding out more about our New Forest ponies. Schools are also welcome to enquire about other topics or activities to link to their own projects.

Sessions are currently being offered free of charge, funded by the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (conditions apply). If you have any questions or would like to book a visit, please email

Nearest town: Christchurch
Grid reference:

SZ 166 922

Nearest train station:


Nearest bus stop:

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


Ground generally flat but the site is subject to the tides and can get very wet. Some parts of circular gravel path can be rough and slippery due to tidal action. Ditches are often crossed by raised sleeper bridges. 


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


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.


 65 ha

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.

Greenspaces and Conservation Team

Name: Greenspaces and Conservation Team
Tel: 01202 795000
Full details for Greenspaces and Conservation Team

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