Land, water and air

Rock layers at Snow Creek
Rock layers at Snowhill Creek

The three essential elements in any environment.


When you walk around Chichester Harbour, you are standing above rocks that were once under the sea. So what happened? How did the harbour form and is it still changing? The geology (the rock layers) and the action of the sea, waves and wind (coastal processes) are the key to understanding this.

Itchenor saltmarsh
Itchenor saltmarsh

Natural areas
Bosham | Picture Terry Heathcote
Bosham | Picture Terry Heathcote

Many areas in the harbour, particularly those near the water’s edge, are not cultivated, gardened or built on but are allowed to grow wild.

These areas are habitats for many special plants and animals. They may still be ‘managed’ by people. Reedbeds need the old stems to be cleared to encourage new growth and parts of Salterns Copse are coppiced (the stems are cut short) every year.

Built up areas
Chichester Harbour is enjoyed not only for its wildlife but also for its pretty villages and beautiful landscape. Changes to the landscape and built environment are carefully controlled in an AONB, so the Conservancy plays an important role in looking after the environment. The harbour would look very different if lots of new houses, shops and factories were built in the area, but it would also be strange if nothing ever changed!


Dell Quay at low and high tide
Dell Quay at low and high tide

Nearly half of the Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is covered in water. Most of it is seawater, but there are freshwater streams, ponds, ditches and puddles too.

Keeping water clean and free of pollution is important for many reasons. The seawater quality (how clean it is) is monitored and the Streamwatch project is investigating the freshwater that runs into the harbour.

Chichester Harbour Conservancy and Chichester District Council in their role as public health authority are monitoring the water to measure its quality in the harbour. Harbour users can now check the water quality at various sites around the harbour by using the Chichester District Council website. For more details follow the water quality links on the main harbour website.

Twice a day the harbour fills with water and then empties again. The tides change every day, with high tide getting about half an hour later each time and the height of the tide changing with the moon. High spring tides (full moon and no moon) will increase the water level by 4.5m! To see the difference look at the webcams at Dell Quay. The archive will show you the changes over a day.


Fresh air at East Head
Fresh air at East Head

Come for a walk in the harbour and enjoy the fresh air! However, it still has too high a level of the greenhouse gases, which are responsible for global warming; a threat the harbour cannot ignore.
The change in our weather and climate will affect the living things in the harbour as well as increasing the risks of drought, flooding and wind damage.


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Chichester Harbour Conservancy Education
Harbour Office, Itchenor, Chichester, PO20 7AW.   Tel: 01243 512 301