Stanpit Marsh Visitor Centre

Stanpit Marsh Visitor Centre is open to the public most of the year, providing a wealth of information, fascinating exhibits and activities for younger visitors. The information provided in displays and by the Wardens can really enrich a visit to the Marsh, and updates on recent wildlife activity are also displayed on boards just outside the Centre.

The Centre is staffed largely by volunteer wardens, whose work is invaluable in both educating visitors and looking after the Marsh. If you would like information on volunteering as a Warden, please contact BCP Council’s Countryside Service.

History of the Visitor Centre

The construction of a Visitor Centre on Stanpit Marsh Local Nature Reserve was completed in 2008. It replaced the dilapidated information caravan made from half a mobile home which was bought for just £60 a quarter of a century earlier.

The environmentally conscious circular timber framed building designed by White Design Architects was built by construction firm Baron G Levine. The building is designed to be completely self sufficient and features locally sourced chestnut cladding, recycled newspaper insulation, a wind turbine, solar panels, rainwater harvester and compost loo.

As Stanpit Marsh is estimated to receive over 100,000 visitors a year, Christchurch Council and the Friends of Stanpit Marsh (FOSM) set about raising the funds needed for the centre. The Council financed most of the project but a significant amount was also raised through an enthusiastic fund-raising campaign organised by the Friends.  The centre is an acknowledgment of the importance of the Marsh and will help to raise greater awareness and understanding of the ecological value of this very special place.

The environmentally friendly building is a welcome addition to the Marsh. It provides information and displays about the wildlife and assists countryside staff, volunteer wardens and all the friends of the Marsh in their efforts to look after the nature reserve.

The Visitor Centre Opening and Displays

The event was opened by the Mayor of Christchurch, Cllr John Lofts. Also in attendance were the Leader of Christchurch Council, Cllr Ray Nottage & the chairman of the Community Services Committee, Cllr Sally Derham-Wilkes, also members of the marsh volunteers as well as many FOSM members. Speeches were given by Peter Holloway, the Senior Countryside Officer, Mark Merritt, Chairman of FOSM & the Mayor, Cllr Lofts.

Thanks were given to many people who contributed to the creation & subsequent success of the reserve and its Visitor Centre. Special mention and bouquets were given to four FOSM members: Avril La Breche, Pam Higginson, Ann Blofield and Sheila Richards.

FOSM liaised with Christchurch Countryside Services regarding the content of the Shadow-box displays and furniture in the current Visitor Centre and contributed financially towards them.

A very large donation in memory of a founder member has gone towards the new FOSM display area.

The Visitor Centre building has received three awards 

2008Best Sustainable Development at the Local Authority Building Control South West Region Building Excellence Awards.
 International Green Apple Award for the Built Environment and Architectural Heritage
2009Chairman’s Award in the Best Coastal Town in South & South East in Bloom.
The judges said, “The new Visitor Centre at Stanpit Marsh is a credit to all involved with its planning and completion”.

Stanpit Marsh together with the Visitor Centre has received three awards  –

2010Certificate of Excellence from the South & South East in Bloom
2011Silver Gilt in the Best Country Park category in the South & South East in Bloom (the Marsh being a highlight of the tour). The Friends of Stanpit Marsh were awarded a Certificate of Excellence.
2012Gold Award in the South and South East Britain in Bloom as ‘Conservation area of the Year’