Pagham Harbour is dominated by its marvellous expanse of saltmarsh and mudflats, providing a vital home for nature.

Mud might not sound particularly appetising to us, but our mud is crucial for the thousands of birds that are drawn in by it every year. Pagham Harbour mud is a canteen - it is packed full of cockles, shrimps, lugworms, mussels and more. Tasty morsels to feed a variety of appetites. Curlew, dunlin, black-tailed godwits, redshank and oystercatchers all feed in the harbour. Their differing beak lengths and shapes allow them all to find food within the mud layers.

Curlew credit Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

In summer seabirds use the islands and surrounding areas to breed, including black-headed gulls, Mediterranean gulls, ringed plovers, oystercatchers, sandwich terns, common terns and of course our little terns. In fact, Pagham Harbour is among the most important seabird breeding sites along the south coast.

Ringed plover on nest - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

During the winter brent geese arrive from the north finding shelter and food in this haven while their summer breeding grounds remain frozen. They are joined by other wildfowl and waders such as pintail, goldeneye, godwit and wigeon bringing a splash of colour to the gloomy winter days.

Goldeneye - Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)

But it’s not all saltmarsh and mud. The vegetated shingle provides a vital habitat for plants and insects some of which can only be found at a handful of sites across the UK. Reptiles bask in the summer months, dragonflies patrol the ponds and butterflies flit along hedgerows as bees buzz busily from flower to flower.

Common blue butterfly - Roy Newnham

Pagham Harbour’s importance to our wildlife is recognised by it being designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ), Special Protection Area (SPA), Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and RAMSAR site.  

We can’t protect the landscape or wildlife of Pagham Harbour without your help. From July 2022, we’re making some changes.

Car parking charges will be introduced at Pagham Harbour for non-members. These will be as follows:

Up to 4 hours - £2

Over 4 hours - £3

Coaches, minibuses and motorhomes £12*

As a charity, we must maximise our opportunities to raise income wherever possible. This allows us to financially support our charitable purpose of conserving wildlife and habitats, while maintaining our visitor facilities and providing excellent, inspiring experiences for our visitors.

As with all our nature reserves, RSPB members will receive free car parking as a thank you for regularly supporting our nature conservation work – why not join the RSPB today and get free entry to all RSPB nature reserves.

Main car park – parking will be free for RSPB members and Sussex Wildlife Trust members - please place your membership card face down in your car window. Parking will also be free for Blue Badge holders – please place your badge in your window.

Church Norton car park – parking will be free for RSPB members, Blue-badge holders and those who are visiting the church only. *Minibuses and motorhomes please park in the main car park at the Visitor Centre, Selsey Road, Sidlesham.

Payment can be made using the paybyphone mobile phone app downloadable online or calling PayByPhone direct.

The income generated through the car parking charges will contribute to our vital conservation work and ongoing cost of running the facilities visitors use at Pagham Harbour, including the car parks, visitor centre, toilets, trails, hides and picnic area.

Lapwing - Kevin Harwood (rspb-images.com)

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