Discover Chichester’s Peninsula – an oasis for wildlife and green tourism
Carolyn Cobbold, local resident and environmental and climate change author explains why the Manhood Peninsula, just south of Chichester is such a special, and important, place for nature lovers.
"With the recent designation of two marine conservation zones off Selsey, the peninsula to the south of Chichester is quietly becoming one of Britain’s most internationally-designated, wildlife-rich coastal areas. Criss-crossed by ditches and water-ways, footpaths and cycle ways, and home to increasingly threatened species, the area is attracting nature lovers from all over the country and from overseas. The Manhood peninsula boasts 337 different species of bird and the only native wild population of water voles in West Sussex. It is also home to the largest coastal realignment scheme in Europe, which has created wonderful new wetlands with intertidal, transitional, freshwater and terrestrial habitats, attracting corn bunting, grey partridge, lapwing, avocet, skylark, wheatear, yellowhammers, oystercatchers, plovers, wigeon, snipe, redshank, turtle doves and water voles. Indeed, the whole peninsula now contains more Natura 2000 habitat sites than any other area of similar size in the UK, with the Selsey Bill and the Hounds Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) the latest such site. The sea off Selsey and Bracklesham is well known for its high biodiversity and richness of species including anemones, sponges, and sea squirts. It is a part of the coast that is famous among recreational divers for off shore WW2 wrecks that have created reefs for large schools of different fish and other interesting diving features such as the Mixon Hole, a 30 metre deep underwater river gorge.
Visitors preferring to keep their feet dry can explore Pagham, Medmerry and Chichester Harbours on foot or by bike. These internationally designated wildlife areas contain hundreds of different types of birds. A growing network of cycle ways and footpaths connecting the three stunning harbours will take visitors through pretty coastal and harbour villages, with a growing range of independent eateries stocking local food. And when visitors want some urban comforts, they can cycle or stroll along the canal towpath back to the city of Chichester, spotting dragonflies, water birds, shrews, bats and even water voles among the reed beds. On the final stretch, visitors are treated with the famous view of Chichester Cathedral from the canal, a vista as unspoilt now as it was when JMW Turner painted it in 1828."