The new Medmerry bird reserve & hidden river channels

This section of the South Coast Path changed dramatically in 2013 when the sea defence was deliberately breached. As a result the Birdham - Selsey coast path was extended by over 6km when the new Medmerry scheme was implemented.

The sea has been allowed to return to the land as part of the Environment Agency's revised coastal management policy. Medmerry is now managed by the RSPB.

The old sea bank was deliberately breached to allow the sea back to the land it once used to wash.

The stage is described below walking west to east (prevailing wind behind) - but can be walked in either direction.

Description of the walk

The walk starts Birdham, near the marina and a short walk from the Birdham Stores bus stop. It is another genuinely "flat stage" but quite long, especially now the diversion around Medmerry has been added. Originally this stage was 20.1 km.

From Birdham the route mostly hugs the southern edge of Chichester Harbour and beyond Itchenor the waters edge is always close by. This channel would have been well used by the Romans to reach Fishbourne Palace at the northern end of the channel from the open sea at West Wittering.

Once the sea has been reached and Hayling Island is just a few hundred metres away the direction changes and the path again follows the coast passing through West Wittering, East Wittering and Bracklesham.

Beyond Bracklesham the path continues to follow the shingle sea defence until the new rock armour is reached. In July 2014 there was no sign to inform you that it is no longer possible to reach Selsey this way, but you must turn left here when walking east.

There is a road and mostly a floodbank walk around Medmerry but there are points in the eastern section, especially if you want to visit the Ham viewpoint - where it is necessary to take some turns to find the route to Selsey sea front. See the above map for the route.

The path eventually comes out through the Bunn Leisure caravan park and via a couple of fields and some short road walking - the coast can be regained. After a little more navigation va the streets of Selsey the bus terminus on at the sea end of Hillfield Road is reached.

Stage Stats

Places along the stage

Type Place Comment
Stage terminus Birdham Rd junc nr marina
Passage point Itchenor
Passage point West Wittering
Passage point East Wittering
Passage point Bracklesham
Passage point Medmerry
Stage terminus Selsey Hillfield Road

Stage figures

Item Value Comment
Distance 26.2 km
Terrain type coast flat
Lowest point 2 sea level [m amsl]
Highest point 12 [m amsl]

Walk Log

Date walked Who Walking time hr Av. speed kmh Stoppage hr Direction
29 Feb 2012 KJM 4.2 hours 4.8 0.5 west to east
09 January 2013 KM&HM tbc hours tbc tbc west to east
30 July 2014 KM&HM 5.4 hours 4.9 1.3 east to west
17 Aug 2016 KM&HM 5.1 hours 5.0 1.1 east to west

Points of Interest

Itchenor boatyard, Chichester Harbour Itchenor:July 2014: On leaving Birdham the signposted path crosses fields and has to weave its way around several areas of large houses. On entering Itchenor the path crosses the boatyard, where there are always several yachts "parked" and more in the water. The path then hugs the channel all the way to The Spit on the coast - where the path changes direction towards Bracklesham and Selsey.
West Wittering - beach West Wittering beach: July 2014: the first two passages through West Wittering were during cold winter days. The extent of the car park was surprising - until the July 2014 walk on a hot day. The car park was full and so was the beach!
Medmerry - building the new rock armour Medmerry preparations: Feb 2012: Prior to September 2013 it was possible to walk in a direct line from Brackelsham - Selsey along the top of the shingle sea defence. In early 2012 the deliver of dense stone blocks from Norway was already under way. This has been placed at key locations around the new inland sea channels to limit erosion by the sea.
38091 Medmerry channel: Jan 2013: Completion of the work was impacted by periods of heavy rain and the breaching was put back several times. Here part of the main channel to the sea is being prepared - behind the sea defences. The work as now complete and there is no longer a path direct between Bracklesham and Selsey
Bracklesham Bay - from Selsey Selsey: July 2014: On the western outskirts of Selsey there is a fine beach. Beyond that Bunn Leisure have built two large rock groynes to manage erosion and create a "sandy bay" for their visitors.

Getting there & back

The Southern service along the South Coast is very good with regular trains between Southampton/Portsmouth and Brighton. get off at Chichester since it provides a convenient bus service to both ends of this wak. To get to Birdham or Selsey take the bus - the bus station across the road from Chichester Railway Station.

To get to "Birdham Nursery" bus stop catch the No: 52 or 53 [note: from the bus station the bus goes around the city centre and then returns and stops opposite the rail station!].

To reach Selsey go to Chichester bus station and catch the No: 51


Start: 29 February 2012
End: Ongoing

References & Links:

Date Title
20141010 Birdham [Wikipedia]
20141010 Medmerry breach [time lapse videos]
20141010 Medmerry Award
20141010 Selsey [Wikipedia]

Updated KJM 18 Aug 2016