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29 October 2014

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You are in: Southern Counties > Coast > Itchenor

Harbour

Itchenor

The area around what is now Chichester Harbour has had a starring role in English history for thousands of years.

Man was here in the late Mesolithic period, before the great glaciers began to melt.
The coastline was far to the south then – about 50km.

Today’s little creeks would have been grassy valleys below wooded heights, populated by herds of deer and cattle and fish swam in the rivers.
So, unsurprisingly,  archaeological evidence from flint workings, arrowheads and tools shows that Mesolithic man hunted in several areas around what is now the harbour. This area – long before it was actually on the coast – played a part in our history; man has been here for over 10,000 years.

Three English Kings – Harold , William and Canute – all knew this quiet and unspoilt place. From the first Mesolithic hunter, through Roman legionaries to Viking raiders, Norman conquerors, Regency smugglers and the Allied invasion forces of the Second World War, these quiet waters have seen history made around and upon them.

Harbour dinghy

Sailing - a major pastime on the harbour

The 74 square kilometres of the harbour is now designated as one of England’s greatest landscapes – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Its 74 square kilometres include thirteen picturesque villages – a timeless capsule of coastal life.

Not all of this walk is accessible to people in wheelchairs or with heavy buggies. The Itchenor ferry is not yet adapted to carry wheelchairs and footpaths are gated by stiles. But , depending on the tides, you will still be able to complete the walk between points  4 and 8, whatever your mobility.

This walk starts in Itchenor, a village named after Icca, a Saxon warlord who took over the area after the Romans left in about 400AD.  It offers the only 24 hour public launching site in the harbour.

Boat building was a major industry in this area from the 18th century until the defeat of Napoleon and then again with Haines Yard – which still exists in the village – from the beginning of the 1900s.

Haines yard – and the whole of Itchenor – played a key part in the allied war effort during the Second World War. Vospers moved to the harbour after its Portsmouth dockyards were bombed and Itchenor was used to build fast motor launches

The two brothers that owned Haines put it up for sale in the 1980s and it was bought by the Itchenor Sailing Club. Shares can only be held by members of the club and the yard specialises in the repair of traditional wooden boats. The Northshore Yard, which is to the west of the Itchenor quayside, also still builds ships for the UK and for export.

Harbour sign

The local church is appropriately dedicated after St Nicholas – the patron saint of sailors.

The village is the headquarters of the Chichester Harbour Conservancy, a body which manages the harbour for all those who use it. Its income comes mainly from boating enthusiasts and it was set up by Act of Parliament in 1971.

The Headquarters building of the Conservancy is the large white house with a flag pole next to the ‘hard’ or the flat area which leads down to the water.  The house ‘Ferryside’ was once the home of the Haines family, who also ran the ferry.

Itchenor has had its own sailing club since 1927 and top sailors in the club have won Olympic medals many times over the past 60 years. Sir Peter Scott was an early winner in 1936 and Ian Walker and John Merricks won in 1996 and the club’s Christina Bassadone was part of the British Olympic squad in 2004.

Now walk down to the ferry, which starts from the jetty in front of you.

last updated: 07/12/07

You are in: Southern Counties > Coast > Itchenor



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