Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve is located on the New Forest coast between the Lymington River and the village of Keyhaven and is particularly important for wintering birds. It covers an area of 500 acres of coastal grazing marsh, lagoons and former salt marshes
During the winter months the reserve is home to a wide range of wintering waders and wildfowl. On Pennington Marsh flocks of several hundred Black-tailed Godwit and Golden Plover are regular along with good numbers of Teal, Wigeon and Brent Goose.
There is a wintering population of up to a dozen Spotted Redshank. Avocet and Spoonbill are now also regular during winter. Eider, Red-breasted Merganser and small numbers of Slavonian Grebe can be observed offshore from the seawall. Wintering raptors include Marsh Harrier, Peregrine and Merlin along with occasional Short-eared Owl.
During spring and summer three species of tern can be seen from the seawall with sometimes large numbers of Mediterranean Gull. The calls of Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Warbler and Bearded Tit emanate from the reedbeds at Butts Lagoon and Keyhaven.
In late summer and autumn a wide range of passage migrant waders can be observed on the lagoons with rarities occurring most years.
There are a number of access points to the reserve with the following list starting at the northern end of the site.
From Lymington High Street take Church Lane directly opposite St Thomas Church. Stay on Church Lane which eventually becomes Broad Lane until you reach a staggered crossroads where it meets All Saints Road. Directly in front of you is a large white house and to the left of this the entrance to Normandy Lane. Follow Normandy Lane for around 1/3 of a mile until you see a five-bar gate on the left just before a sharp right-hand bend. There is some roadside parking here. Go through the adjacent pedestrian gate taking the gravel track out to the seawall. Here you can turn left to go around the Normandy Lagoon circuit or right to head towards Salterns Marsh and the 8 Acre Pond. By continuing along Normandy Lane you can find further roadside parking as it becomes Maiden Lane. There are tracks here leading out to the seawall either end of the 8 Acre Pond.
If you are looking to access Pennington Marsh the best route is to follow the A337 out of Lymington in the direction of Christchurch. At the first roundabout take the first exit down Rigdeway Lane and then turn almost immediately right down Lower Pennington Lane. Follow for the road for over a mile until you reach a right hand bend. There is limited road side parking on the corner which provides excellent views over Pennington Marsh. Continue along Lower Pennington Lane for several hundred yards and you reach a small car park. From here there are footpaths to Keyhaven along a gravel track with views over the new Efford Lake or through a pedestrian gate out to the seawall with views over Butts and Fishtail Lagoons.
To reach the Keyhaven end of the reserve follow the A337 until you see the turning for Milford on Sea (B3058). Take the first left off the B3058 called Lymore Lane. This road will take you to Keyhaven bypassing Milford on Sea. At the bottom of Lymore Lane turn left into Keyhaven. There are several parking options here depending on how busy it is. There is free parking on the causeway overlooking Keyhaven Harbour but if this is full a pay and display car park in front of the Gunn Inn is available. From Keyhaven you can walk round the seawall towards Keyhaven Lagoon.
Words by Pete Durnell, Hampshire County Council Warden
Links and further information
Hampshire County Council – Lymington and Keyhaven Marshes
Hampshire County Council – Lymington and Keyhaven Marshes reserve leaflet
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust – Lymington and Keyhaven Marshes
A map showing the names of the various lagoons on the reserve can be seen here
The Milford on Sea Conservation Volunteers run a hide overlooking the Avon Floods area. The hide is accessible with a key fob – details on how to obtain one can be found here