Bembridge Harbour: Appraisal of the Environment
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In 1995, with Rural Action Project (RAP) grant assistance from the Rural Community Council, we published a comprehensive report on Bembridge Harbour which incorporated or referenced the then current information, including results of research undertaken by BASHHA. The report, entitled Appraisal of the environment of Bembridge Harbour, describes the physical and economic development of the harbour and its commercial and recreational importance, as well as providing an up-to-date appraisal of the land and sea environment and its wildlife.

In many cases, this information has never been updated in any published format, and so we think it is worth re-publishing it here.

(For up to date information on marine ecology, see the Balanced Seas Isle of Wight 7 February 2011 Site Meeting Report, published on 29 March 2011.)

Below is a summary of our report, (we will soon add links to each chapter).


  1. Introduction; discussion; conclusions; glossary; acknowledgements
  2. Geography
    The area is briefly described in terms of topography, population, geology and climate. The physical and hydrographical nature of the Harbour and seaward areas are discussed in more detail, with tidal plans and charts, with particular emphasis on the movement of sand and sediments and its effect on the Harbour and on beaches and navigation.
  3. History
    This section provides a selective summary of history of the Harbour, concentrating on reclamation and the construction of road, rail and port facilities after 1874, and the development of commercial and leisure usage. It includes a brief selective account of more recent events affecting the Harbour and the pressure from planning applications for residential and other development. Download History PDF
  4. Marine ecology
    Investigation of marine flora and fauna, including core sampling at four sites, yielded information about species representation for comparison with published sources, and was linked to information about fish species distribution and personal observation of changes over time. While there appears to be low species diversity, marine fauna is important to birds feeding in the area. The adverse effects of sand encroachment and bait digging on various habitats are considered. Download Marine ecology PDF
  5. Terrestrial ecology
    The main emphasis of this study is on St Helens Duver as it is a designated SSSI and as considerable public concern has been expressed about the area. Previous surveys of the Duver have been studied, and a series of field trips made to record and compare the flora in particular. Similar but single field visits were made to other habitats in the Harbour area including Bembridge Point. Several of the Nationally Scarce and many Locally Scarce species were found on the Duver, though possibly in reduced numbers. Some matters of conservation concern are raised and recommendations made for future action. Downlaod Terrestrial Ecology PDF
  6. Bird life
    This section describes the Harbour and surrounding areas and analyses published sources to draw conclusions on the importance of the various Harbour habitats for birds, especially waterfowl. It includes substantial information provided by Jim Cheverton based on regular bird counts over 40 years for BOEE and the Wetland Bird Survey. Download Bird Life PDF
  7. Water quality
    Using data supplied by the National Rivers Authority and Southern Water an assessment has been made of some of the factors affecting Bembridge harbour water quality. Download Water Quality PDF
    In order to assess the magnitude and variation of some of these factors use has been made of water quality measurements taken by the National Rivers Authority (NRA) in and adjacent to the Harbour, and measurements taken by Southern Water Services at the St Helens and Brading treatment plants. Possible future measurements are suggested and general conclusions drawn.
  8. Harbour usage
    The growth and decline of the original uses of the Harbour are briefly described. The current usage is considered and described under four headings: commercial, leisure, residential and educational. Conclusions are drawn as to the necessity for proper maintenance of the Harbour and the need to keep a balance between the demands of the three major uses of the Harbour -- commercial, leisure and residential. Download Harbour Usage PDF


The many aspects of the Harbour are all interrelated and interdependent. Many issues are complex and require detailed consideration in order to achieve and maintain a balance between the conservation and enhancement of the Harbour and the pressures of its commercial, residential and recreational uses.

Bembridge Harbour exists in its present form only as a result of human intervention: the major civil engineering works that constructed the embankment, canalised the Eastern Yar and, at an earlier time, created the mill dam and causeway; while the industrial and transport activity of the late 19th and early 20th centuries has now declined, sailing and other leisure activities remain of importance to the Harbour and its economy.

One of the most significant factors affecting the viability of the Harbour is silting and the need for continued dredging and groyne maintenance. Sampling indicates that water quality is acceptable most of the time.

Bembridge Harbour is surrounded by four areas designated SSSI, with a fifth at Bembridge Down. Bembridge Harbour is recognised as an Intertidal Site of Importance for breeding, feeding and roosting for waterfowl and waders and also for seabirds. In recognition of this English Nature is seeking to extend and link SSSI areas.

Work by the marine ecology group confirmed that the quantity of species, although of little diversity, formed an important contribution to the food chain.

The terrestrial ecology group confirmed the survival of a great diversity of flora including nationally and locally scarce species.

The bird life group linked this richness of habitat to the recognition of the harbour as an Intertidal Site of Importance.

Harbour usage, particularly commercial and leisure usage, provides significant local employment and finances harbour maintenance and development, but inevitably these activities place added pressure on the environment. In addition, the need to fund dredging as well as other financial considerations has over the years given rise to development proposals which would have endangered the natural environment with its important habitats. In response, guidelines have been developed, and Structure Plans are intended to protect the Harbour from excessive or insensitive development