The Manhood Peninsula has its own special identity. This is a unique landscape, wildlife and a seaside way of life for locals and visitors alike. It is bound to the West by Chichester Harbour and to the South – The English Channel. To the North is the A 27 and Chichester itself. To the East is Pagham Harbour and rife. There are only 2 main roads onto the Peninsula, both off the A27. The A286 to the Wittering’s and the B2176 to Selsey.
The Manhood Peninsula is a corruption of a much earlier name – Main Wood Peninsula – when most was covered by broadleaf woodland, under which were bluebells in the Spring. Almost the only remaining part of this ancient woodland is Keynor Copse (just along Keynor Lane at the other end from Chichester Self Catering) which has remained unmanaged since the Middle Ages.
For many the Peninsula is most famous for its seaside location especially the Selsey and Wittering’s beaches.Most are the beaches are shingle but West Wittering has the most amazing, pale golden sandy beach.. by far the best on the South Coast! So bring your spades and buckets, shoes that you are okay if they get wet and a child – like attitude to having fun.
It boasts 3 harbours – Chichester Harbour which has many “fingers” and even smaller creeks. It is a haven for sailors, wildlife including seals and many birds and beautiful vistas.
The newest national Harbour is man made and further along the coast between Bracklesham and Selsey – this is Medmerry Harbour. It has been created as part of a coastal realignment and allowed the land to be flooded surrounded by huge clay and soil “berms”. An RSPB reserve but also made with many cycle, footage bridle paths. Although only completed in 2014 it is the site of stone and iron age settlements going through to Roman times. Now with a lot of civil engineering it has been transformed into a peaceful and wild place. It should reduce the risk of flooding to Selsey and other more inland villages.
The Peninsula has varied ecological areas. Saltmarsh and mudflats are protected as internationally important areas for the conservation of wild birds, esp Brent geese in the Winter. The local woods and copses are filled with bluebells in the spring and birdsong. With very high light levels.. partly because of reflection off the sea via the higher atmosphere and rich clay / alluvial soils and flat land it has many smallholdings and greenhouses for horticulture. Originally these grew tomatoes but now they have diversified into other crops including pot plants. The fields grow potatoes, wheat, rapeseed and peas. With such rich feeding we have a large population of deer who are seen in small family groups.
The villages were mainly small fishing villages, especially Selsey. It still has an active industry and you can buy locally caught fish and shellfish. . Especially Selsey crab and lobster in season. Now they are characterised by folks who have retired to the area especially from a London, often having stayed not be many caravan parks / campsites and holiday accommodation from the 1950-60’s. They are also dormitory villages for Chichester and south coast workers although the area is heavily reliant on tourism.
The coastline is an ever changing characteristic of the area….Selsey’s church is now a mile to the South under the sea! During the Winter storms huge amounts of sand and shingle can be added or removed in a single tide. These effect the harbours too. It keeps the locals on their toes!
Not only is it an important seaside location but we also have an extraordinary and unique farming heritage. The Manhood has plenty of farms and smallholdings creating and growing unusual crops… One of the largest agricultural enterprises is Nature’s Way based at Selsey which grows millions of lettuces each year outside.
The Marsh / Farms are home to the Spiby’s who produce organic milk for Marks and Spencer from 550 head of cows, plus the wonderful Caroline’s Dairy organic award winning icecream. You can buy it locally at the local Co – ops and farm shops.
The area is also home to smallholdings… a throwback to the post-WWar2 years of relocating Yorkshire miners to here with a house and 4acres of land each with a small piggery ! The greenhouses which they put up were used for tomatoes etc but now many have gone into strawberry and raspberry production using hydroponics. Some also grow orchids for the cut flower market and plug plants for B&B etc. These 3 areas, all on the Peninsula are called the LSA’s – Land Settlement Association. There is a separate article about them so do look it up. Potatoes are grown in huge quantities by the Monnington’s just up the road which are delicious.
Tourism is important for the local economy with big caravan sites as well as many second homes for the DR’S – “down – from – London” and has been since post War. Many would come by train then and get horse and carts from the station or catch the Selsey Tram. The sandiest beach is at West Wittering but all the rest of the coastline further East is made of flints and some sand.
© All rights reserved. Gayle Palmer 2015-16