Hampshire County Council purchased this beautiful area of coastline between 1973 and 2006 to protect its unique historical and wildlife heritage. The reserve covers nearly 200 Ha (500 acres) between the mouth of the Lymington river and the village of Keyhaven. The landscape we see today has been shaped by more than 2000 years of human activity. If you look carefully there are signs of a major industry which once thrived here.
The adjacent mudflats and salt marshes outside the seawall are leased by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and form their Keyhaven and Pennington Marshes Reserve. Together these two reserves ensure the protection of an extensive area of coastal habitat. Both reserves lie within the New Forest National Park, recognising their importance for both wildlife and people.
You can obtain good views of the marshes and their wildlife from the Solent Way which runs the length of the reserve. There are also several attractive circular walks on local footpaths which cross the area.
The reserve is open every day of the year for quiet informal recreation on designated paths and tracks.
Management of the reserve: Control of water levels, salinity and grazing are crucial. During the summer cattle and ponies from the New Forest graze the reserve. Grazing animals help control scrub and invasive species such as rush. Many of the specialist plants and insects depend on wet ditches and ponds being of the right salinity. A system of sluices and tidal flaps are used to control flooding and water flow around the reserve.