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Bracklesham Bay

Adult male lapwing in breeding habitat

Image: Andy Hay

Medmerry - a major new reserve is being created

Major changes are afoot at our Bracklesham Bay nature reserve.

We purchased the reserve in 2006, a relatively small area of lowland wet grassland immediately behind a shingle ridge that extends along the seafront between Selsey and Bracklesham (this seafront is called Medmerry).

The reserve is part of the Bracklesham Bay Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and one of the longest sections of undeveloped coastline anywhere between Southampton and Brighton.

Coast under threat

We purchased the site knowing that it is also one of the stretches of coast most threatened by sea-level rise. We initially thought it would be several decades before action was needed, but the shingle is now at risk of breaching annually, flooding local homes and caravan sites, despite the Environment Agency artificially reinforcing the shingle ridge each year.

The Pagham to East Head Coastal Defence Strategy, led by the Environment Agency, identified that the best solution for this stretch of coast would be to realign the sea defences inland, creating a new intertidal tidal area incorporating the existing RSPB nature reserve.

The Medmerry Managed Realignment Project

The project is now well underway, the largest open-coast managed realignment project ever undertaken in the UK.

The Environment Agency is building 7km of major new coastal defences inland of the coast at Medmerry to protect the people of Selsey and Ham from coastal flooding, and it will also safeguard the waste-water treatment works and the B2145 road, the only road into Selsey.

Opportunities for people

The scheme will also improve access for both local people and visitors, with extensive new footpaths and cyclepaths.

Opportunities for wildlife

And, with RSPB help, the scheme is creating huge areas of new wildlife habitat to compensate for losses of internationally-important habitat elsewhere in the Solent.

Fast progress

Constant wet weather has delayed the breach at Medmerry until September 2013, but the Environment Agency has still done incredibly well to have completed 80 per cent of the new banks already. The RSPB is set to take on the long-term management of the site after breach.

Current visiting arrangements

A limited number of public footpaths lead around the area, but some are closed during construction, and many are currently in bad condition after the atrocious weather. The scheme is effectively a closed construction site. You are recommended to visit on guided walks only. Check out the Medmerry pages on the Environment Agency website.

If you would like to receive brief monthly updates about the scheme, please email medmerry@environment-agency.gov.uk

Where is Bracklesham Bay?

Important note

This site is one of several that due to its size, location and/or conservation sensitivity is not capable of accommodating large numbers of visitors (unless stated).

Where possible, we have indicated the nearest equivalent RSPB nature reserve suitable for visiting. If you require further information, please use the contact details provided.

This does not affect any statutory rights of access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act or Land Reform (Scotland) Act legislation.

For more information

South East Regional Office

Telephone:01273 775333

1st Floor, Pavilion View
19 New Road
Brighton
East Sussex
BN1 1UF