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Our Pond - a Haven for Wildlife in Emsworth

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Welcome to the Slipper Mill Pond Preservation Association (SMPPA).  We are a registered charity which exists to preserve and protect the Slipper Mill Pond in the parish of Southbourne on the eastern edge of Emsworth.  The SMPPA was founded in 1966 and is made up of volunteers, Members and Friends of the SMPPA who are responsible for the Pond's day to day management and maintenance. 

 

The Pond is a saline lagoon, a very rare wildlife habitat, both in the UK and Europe. The combination of sea and fresh water provides a unique brackish water environment; it has been recognised as a Local Wildlife Site and 'Site of Nature Conservation Importance' and home to many special species.  It is inside the Chichester Harbour National Landscape (formerly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or AoNB) and is part of the proposed Strategic Wildlife Corridor from Hermitage to Westbourne.  The tidal gates and sluice are listed on the Southbourne Neighbourhood Parish Plan as important "Heritage Assets".

The Pond supports a rich invertebrate fauna including two protected species - the Tentacled Lagoon Worm and Starlet Sea Anemone.  It also has an interesting species of tube worm, which leaves tube-like casts, along with over 40 bird and 160 plant species, and several fish, particularly the grey mullet, which can be present in large numbers.

  

The pond covers an area of around 7 acres (3 hectares) and was built in the 1760s to provide power to drive the Slipper Mill, one of four working mills in Emsworth supplying meal for the Navy in Portsmouth. The tidal gates are pushed open as the sea breaks over the gates, and close as the tide turns, holding back the sea water which, in the past, powered the Mill.

The mill was in constant use until the 1960s when it was sold.  The Pond itself was bought by 33 local residents in 1980 off the then owners Slipper House, in order to prevent the Pond from being developed.  In April 2022 the Pond was gifted to the SMPPA who now owns and continues to manage the Pond.  The article in THE EMS newspaper explains the background in more detail.

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News
Tidal Gate Opening Dates - Pond Draining

In general, we chain back the tidal gates to drain the Pond for a few days over spring tides in the winter months (late September-January inclusive).  If there are high water levels up river, this is particularly helpful to get rid of any silt.  It also enables up-stream valves and culverts to be cleared or serviced (eg on Peter Pond), and allows access to inspect the sluice and gates.  It is also a good opportunity to remove litter, and carry out any repairs or work that needs doing on the water's edge.

We try to avoid draining the Pond from late February through early September due to the need to protect the wildlife during the breeding season.  We therefore only chain open the gates in the spring or summer when we consider it to be an "emergency" situation.

Unusually, we also chained them back for a couple of days in August 2022 in order to drain the Pond.  Shortly after, the gates were released again and the sluice gate was used instead to keep the Pond at a lower level at low tide (but not drain it fully). This decision was taken following a number of incidents, with damage caused to surrounding property, graffiti and extreme antisocial behaviour from a small number of young people gathering on the south bank by the footbridge, jumping from the footbridge and swimming in the Pond. The Trustees felt this course of action was the only way to reduce these disturbances and to protect the pond banks, our historic infrastructure and the health and safety of people using the footpath. While we want everyone, including young people, to enjoy our beautiful pond, this enjoyment comes with a responsiblity to respect the environment and all that lives in it.

A link to the Westbourne Gauge historic river level data is here.

How you can Help....... We are looking for..............

Useful contact numbers for Police, Reporting Wildlife in Distress, Pollution etc can be found here
Some of the Jobs we do
  • As a designated Local Wildlife Site (LWS) and as advised by the Sussex Wildlife Trust, we only strim the east bank in early October, leaving it to grow wild the rest of the year.  By autumn, all the wildflowers have dropped their seeds, and removing the arisings straight after cutting reduces the regrowth of grass.

  • Our October work party tasks (latest date was 7th October 2023) include bank clearing (strimming takes place in the week leading up to the work party), litter picking, and any repairs required to the tidal gates, footbridge, gabions etc.

  • We continue to sow wildflower seeds on the Pond banks and plant indigenous trees and shrubs such as dog rose, rowan, downy birch and sea buckthorn.

  • We continue to monitor the Pond banks and carry out repairs and strengthening as required.

  • FISHING - we revised our fishing policy in July 2022 - details can be found on our Fish, Bats & Mammals page

The next event for members is the Summer Garden Party on Sunday 28th July.

The Annual Dinner, our main fundraising event, is due to be held on Wednesday 27th November 2024 at Emsworth Sailing Club.

More details on future events and dates can be found on our events page.

Our latest (January 2024) newsletter is available here.

A link to The EMS newspaper article about the ownership transfer can be found here.

Other Newsletters are available on our newsletters page, along with a summary prepared by Nick Madinaveitia outlining many of the highlights of his 15 years as Chairman.

In addition we have wildlife books, notelets and postcards available to purchase here.

The 2024 Schools Photographic Competition was launched in February, and the deadline for all entries was 12th April. The private prize giving was held on Friday 3rd May.

ALL photographs entered were on display at the Community Centre as part of the Emsworth Arts Trail over the first May Bank Holiday weekend, with the 8 winning photos on display afterwards at the Emsworth Co-op. 

We have had some terrific entries from the 6 local schools that participate in the SMPPA Sponsored Broomfield Schools Photographic Competition. The prizewinning photos can be found here.   All entrants receive a mounted copy of their photographs.

Volunteers and friends are always welcome....

 

If you would like to support the work done by the SMPPA in preserving the Slipper Mill Pond, why not become a Member?  Full Membership (for households close to the Pond) is £15 per annum, and Friends / Well wishers £8.

 

More information on our Membership page.

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