Stanpit Marsh is a nature reserve situated just below the confluence of the Rivers Avon and Stour, at the Western end of Christchurch Harbour. It was formed as the result of action and deposition of material from the Stour and Avon as they meet with the salt water within Christchurch Harbour.
The site is owned by Christchurch Borough Council and managed by Christchurch Countryside Service. The area known as Stanpit Marsh is a mixture of habitats including areas of salt marsh, reed beds, freshwater marsh, gravel estuarine banks and sandy scrub Together with Grimbury Marsh, it forms one of the largest areas of salt marsh in the county. The highest point of the marsh is an ancient grass covered sand dune named Crouch Hill. It stands 5 metres above sea level. To the east of Crouch hill lies Blackberry Point. In the past this was a small island within the Harbour known locally as Horseshoe Island. Today it has become firmly attached to the marsh.
Stanpit Marsh is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and an important nature reserve of about 65 hectares (160 acres), combining both freshwater and saltwater habitats. There are over 300 species of plants growing there and 14 of them are considered to be nationally rare and endangered. It is used by 300 plus species of bird, a few of which breed there. Many others are migratory and use the marsh as an important staging point. In 2001 a successful breeding program for Natterjack Toads was established. Breeding has continued in most years, with around 1,000 toadlets developing in 2009.
A circular path on the marsh uses a prototype Bailey Bridge to cross Mother Siller’s Channel then down to the confluence of the Avon and Stour rivers, thenupriver along the river beach and then back inland over improvised railway sleeper bridges, past an abandoned iron lifeboat, past the back of the golf course and back across the open playing field. The Mother Siller’s Channel is named after an 18th century smuggler, Ma (Hannah) Seller, one time landlady of the Ship in Distress.
Stanpit Marsh has a group of local supporters who provide a summer warden and run an information centre for visitors. Find out more at http://www.friendsofstanpitmarsh.org.uk/
For more information about the birds present on Stanpit Marsh and the best places from which to view them visit the Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group webpage at: http://www.chog.org.uk/
There is a free car park at the northern end of the marsh which is about 50 yards east of The Ship In Distress Public house in Stanpit village. Access to Stanpit Marsh is via Stanpit Recreation Ground, BH233ND