Pagham Harbour Local Nature Reserve
Pagham Harbour Local Nature Reserve

Pagham Harbour Local Nature Reserve encompasses a huge coastal area, taking in over 1500 acres of shoreline, including mudflats, reedbeds, saltmarsh, lagoons, and shingle beaches. The harbour was formed when the sea broke through retaining walls built to reclaim low lying coastal areas.

The result was a precious habitat for seabirds ranging from waders to wildfowl, with varieties of migratory birds joining native species.

During the winter months, there are large numbers of Brent Geese, while in summer the reserve is home to migrants such as wheatears, sandwich terns, and sand martins.

Pagham Harbour is about more than birds, however. The shingle beach is an ideal environment for flowers like Poppy and Bugloss. There are nature trails from the Visitor Centre in Sidlesham.

This is one of the few remaining stretches of undeveloped coastline in Sussex. It takes in a vast array of stunning coastal landscapes, historic environments, and wildlife habitat. The sheltered harbour is subject to the ebb and flow of the tides, and each emptying and filling of the Harbour recreates a spectacularly diverse environment. In winter the Harbour is home to huge flocks of rent geese and flocks of wading birds.

The Church Norton bird hide
The Church Norton bird hide

Nature Trails

There are three colour-coded nature trails in the Reserve. The circular Discovery Trail begins at the visitor centre in Sidlesham and is 1.75 miles long. The trail takes in the Sussex Wildlife Trust's Ferry Pool, an ideal spot to view ducks and wading birds. The trail then follows a historic tramway towards Sidlesham Quay before turning back through fields lined by hedgerows. Visitors with limited mobility might prefer a shorter 3/4 mile loop suitable for wheelchairs.

At the southern end of the Reserve is St Wilfrid's Chapel at Church Norton. From a large parking area beside the chapel, the Church Norton Trail runs along the shore to a bird hide perfectly placed to spot wading birds and terns. Further south along the trail you can spot divers, grebes, and sea-ducks in winter. Church Norton Trail links with local public footpaths that take you north and west to the Sidlesham visitor centre.

The third nature trail is the North Wall Trail, starting at the Salthouse at the north-eastern edge of the Reserve. The Trail runs 1 kilometre one way, with the option to join public footpaths to the Sidlesham visitor centre, adding another kilometre to the total distance. This Trail is perfect for avid birdwatchers. It passes beside Breach Pool, where you will see waders, then beside reedbeds busy with warblers. In winter this area has a huge influx of brent geese.

You are not limited to the three 'official' nature trails; the entire Pagham Harbour area is crisscrossed by public footpaths, taking you through a fascinating historic landscape. One footpath links the visitor centre to the RSPB Medmerry reserve.