East Solent Havens and Harbours

Farlington Marshes nature reserve by ICR

Despite its location in a highly urbanised setting, these harbours provide cherished open space for local inhabitants.

Langstone Harbour is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area and a RAMSAR site. It has all these designations because it is an ecosystem of immense significance for large populations of waders, wildfowl and other coastal wildlife.

Where it is

Langstone and Portsmouth harbours lie on the east and west sides of Portsea island - one of the most densely populated areas of Europe.

To the east of Langstone harbour is the relatively rural Hayling Island, while to the west of Portsmouth Harbour, is the mainly industrial coast of Gosport and Fareham. Both harbours drain into the Solent through narrow tidal entrances.


Brent Geese by ICROur vision is that the wildlife rich sites surrounding the harbours will be properly protected through appropriate planning decisions and coastal management so that internationally important bird populations can thrive, including:

What we are doing

  • Farlington Marshes by Steve PageThe Trust manages three nature reserves in this area including Farlington Marshes
  • We work with partners to ensure favourable management at the West Hayling Oysterbeds and Browndown.
  • We are also leading studies on the distribution of waders and Brent geese to inform the planning process and land management.
  • We are mapping and monitoring key marine habitats so that seagrass and the intertidal mudflats will be improved through better management of potentially damaging activities and the sea water quality will be improving.

What would we like to do in the future?

  • Lapwing by Darin SmithWe want natural coastal processes to be allowed to occur where feasible for a more adaptable natural environment that will provide coastal flood risk management.
  • To be invoved in discussions on the future of the sea wall at Farlington Marshes.
  • Work with partners to decide the future management of Browndown.
  • Provide advice on the management of new green open spaces in the area.
  • Work with partners to improve the water quality of the Harbours by tackling the sources of pollution.
  • Help improve seabird colonies using the Harbours’ islands, including our reserve at Pewit island.

Nature Reserves

Pewit IslandFarlington Marshes - The Trust’s oldest nature reserve. It is 125 hectares (308 acres) of flower-rich grazing marsh on the northern shore of Langstone Harbour.

Milton Locks - A peaceful seashore nature reserve in heart of Portsmouth. Although less than an acre in size, it supports a variety of habitats including grassland, saltmarsh and coastal scrub. The reserve is the last remaining piece of natural shoreline on Portsmouth’s side of Langstone Harbour.

Pewit Island - An Island within Portsmouth Harbour composed of vegetated shingle and saltmarsh habitats. This site is important as a roosting and breeding site for birds; it is one of the few undeveloped areas of Portsmouth Harbour and provides a refuge for waders at high tide. The Island is not accessible due to its small size and the risk of disturbance to birds. It is best viewed from Porchester or Fort Nelson.

Southmoor - A wet grassland area crossed by ditches and shallow pools. This site is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Species that use the site include butterflies like meadow browns and small skippers, breeding skylarks, blackcaps, lesser whitethroats and greater spotted woodpeckers. Flora include southern marsh orchid and ragged robin, divided sedge, parsley water-dropwort, corky-fruited water-dropwort and slender hare’s ear. The sight is grazed from spring through to autumn by rare breed cattle.