Harbour is a large natural harbour in Dorset
, southern England
, with the town of Poole on its shores. The harbour is a drowned valley (ria) formed at the end of the last ice age and is the estuary of several rivers, the largest being the Frome. The harbour has a long history of human settlement stretching to pre-Roman times. The harbour is extremely shallow (average depth: 48 cm), with one main dredged channel through the harbour, from the mouth to Holes Bay.
Poole Harbour has an area of approximately 36 square kilometres (14 sq mi) and is one of several which lay claim to the title of the World
's largest or second largest natural harbour (including Cork Harbour in Ireland
Harbour in Canada
). There are many significantly larger natural harbours, however, such as New Zealand
's 947 km sq (366 sq mi) Kaipara Harbour or San Francisco Bay in California with a conservative estimate of 1,040 km sq (400 sq mi) covered.
Holes Bay is a tidal inland lake which lies to the north of Poole Harbour. It is a designated harbour quiet area. The entrance to the bay is a small inlet from the main harbour. Spanning the inlet are two bridges: Poole Bridge and the new Twin Sails Bridge, the latter officially opened in 2012 and costing around £37,000,000.
Islands of Poole Harbour
Poole Harbour is the location of a number of islands, of various sizes. These islands include:
- Brownsea Island is near the sea entrance at Sandbanks.
- Furzey Island is south of Brownsea Island.
- Green Island is directly south of Furzey island.
- Long Island is near the Arne Peninsula.
- Round Island
- Gigger's Island is in the west of the Harbour near The River Piddle outlet.
- Drove Island is in the south of the Harbour in Brands Bay.
- Pergin's Island is in the north of the Harbour in Holes Bay.
- Stone Island lies between Brownsea and Studland. It is a ridge of gravel and sand, possibly the remains of an old recurved shingle spit, which is only visible between high tides, and as such is a danger to sailors. It is now gradually being submerged by rising sea-level.
Marine activity :
Once a major port, freight transport has declined, but the port is still served by regular cross-Channel passenger ferries with Brittany Ferries offering a passenger and freight service to Cherbourg as well as a freight only route to Santander twice a week on the MV Cotentin. Condor Ferries operate to the Channel Islands and St Malo as well as joint high speed service with Brittany Ferries to Cherbourg.
Ecology and nature conservation
Much of the north side of the harbour is a built up area, including the town of Poole, and the conurbation which continues 10 miles (16 km) eastwards along the coast. The west and south sides of the harbour and part of the Purbeck Heritage Coast are important wildlife havens, as are the five large islands in the harbour which are home to the endangered Red Squirrel.
Four rivers drain into Poole harbour, the largest being the River Frome, which flows from the west through Dorchester and Wareham. The harbour is very shallow in places and has extensive mud flat and salt marsh habitats, as well as muddy and sandy shores and seagrass meadows. The area is an extremely popular recreation and tourism area, and local authorities and organisations have to carefully manage the tourism to prevent damage to the habitats.
The popularity of watersports such as Water skiing, Wakeboarding, Windsurfing and Kitesurfing, Poole Harbour Commissioners have designated areas within the harbour almost exclusively for sport participation - virtually unrestricted from most regular harbour rules.
Poole is also fortunate in that wind conditions are variable; wind conditions can be calm for sports such as Wakeboarding, and a short while later strong for sports such as Windsurfing. Most of these sports benefit from the harbour's generally flat water conditions. As a result, local watersport businesses operate around the harbour.