Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1964, Chichester Harbour is a unique blend of land and sea. It is the smallest AONB in the south east and comprises a series of tidal inlets with a narrow mouth to the sea. Picturesque villages encircle the intricate shoreline, which straddles the boundary between Hampshire and West Sussex. The saltmarsh and mudflats are a haven for birds which reside in or visit the harbour throughout the year. In the autumn and winter thousands of ducks, geese and waders feed here. The area is especially important for over-wintering brent geese, often seen in large flocks. Look out for waders such as curlew and oystercatcher, and ducks including shelduck and wigeon, as well as other birds like the ubiquitous black-headed gull. This has a black head in summer only, a white head with a black eye spot in winter.

The harbour provides some of the best sailing waters in the UK, used by boats of all shapes and sizes. Walkers can enjoy the sights from the shoreline paths, which afford wonderful views across the water, with the South Downs as a backdrop. It’s worth taking a pair of binoculars for bird watching.

This out-and-back walk starts from the charming old fishing village of Emsworth in the far east of Hampshire, near the border with West Sussex. It lies at the north end of an arm of Chichester Harbour, the Emsworth Channel. In the past Emsworth was a busy port and particularly famous for its oyster industry, which reached its peak in the late 19th century. The remains of Emsworth’s old oyster beds - timber-lined ponds built to store oysters and grow immature oysters - can still be seen on the foreshore. Emsworth’s Oyster Trail (downloadable leaflet and information boards) provides more information. Also of note are Emsworth’s three mill ponds, the town millpond to the west and the Slipper millpond and Peter Pond to the east. These were created by damming the River Ems and the West Brook stream. Grain from the area was ground into flour by the tidal mills.

The walk heads westwards along the shoreline to Langstone, following a stretch of both the Solent Way and Wayfarer’s Walk, which share the same route here – both long-distance paths finish at Emsworth. The former is waymarked with a tern, the latter with the letters WW, both on a green arrow. Both also omit a section of the coastline around Conigar Point, since this is flooded at high tide, heading inland via Warblington Church. However, the foreshore is walkable when the tide is low enough, so it’s well worth checking the tides and timing the walk so you can do so for either the outward or return leg.

On reaching Langstone you’ll pass another millpond, which once powered Langstone Mill, unusual for having both a windmill and a watermill. After the mills stopped working they were converted into a house, today privately owned and a local landmark.

The walk

Great British Life: Emsworth Harbour with its pretty rowing boats and tranquil waters is a lovely place to sit and relax (c) Fiona BarltropEmsworth Harbour with its pretty rowing boats and tranquil waters is a lovely place to sit and relax (c) Fiona Barltrop

1. (SU749057) Turn right out of the car park and head down South Street to the quay. Keep ahead along the waymarked path which runs along the top of the wall between the Mill Pond and the harbour. Pass Emsworth Sailing Club on your left and continue along a surfaced path above the shoreline. After crossing a short stretch of shingle and a low bridge you’ll reach a fork just before Nore Barn Woods.

Great British Life: Enjoy a stroll along the seawall west of Emsworth, which forms part of the Solent Way-Wayfarer's Walk (c) Fiona BarltropEnjoy a stroll along the seawall west of Emsworth, which forms part of the Solent Way-Wayfarer's Walk (c) Fiona Barltrop

2. (SU739054) Fork left along the edge of the woodland. At the far corner, assuming the tide is low enough, continue along the foreshore besides trees and a sea wall on your right. Where you spot a kissing gate up on the right, the public footpath (the combined route of the Solent Way and Wayfarer’s Walk) rejoins the shoreline.

Great British Life: Langstone Mill is unusual for having both a wind and a watermill (c) Fiona BarltropLangstone Mill is unusual for having both a wind and a watermill (c) Fiona Barltrop

3. (SU727052) Either clamber up onto the sea wall or continue a bit further to where it finishes. Carry on along the foreshore, then up onto the sea wall path which leads to Langstone Mill Pond and the Old Mill just beyond. Continue past the Royal Oak, cross the end of a road and carry on to the Ship Inn, which is situated at the north end of the bridge to Hayling Island, between Langstone and Chichester Harbours. To extend the walk you could continue along the Solent Way or cross the bridge and follow the Hayling Billy Coastal Path as far as you like, returning the same way.

Great British Life: The foreshore between points 3 and 4 (c) Fiona BarltropThe foreshore between points 3 and 4 (c) Fiona Barltrop

4. (SU719047) Retrace your steps to waypoint 3. Here fork left through the kissing gate and cross the field. Go through a gate into the churchyard, then turn left at the waymark post and right past Warblington church, which dates to the Saxon era although subsequently rebuilt. The churchyard is notable for its two grave-watchers huts. The tall brick tower which you may have spotted from the shoreline path is what remains of nearby Warblington Castle (the property, including an adjoining country house, is privately owned). Beyond the church follow the Solent Way/Wayfarer’s Walk field paths back to Nore Barn Woods continuing along its northern edge to rejoin the outward route at waypoint 2. Retrace your steps to the start.

Compass points

Start/finish: South Street pay & display car park, Emsworth (SU749057)

Map: OS Explorer OL8

Distance: 5¼ miles (8.25km)

Terrain: Surfaced shoreline path, sea wall, foreshore, field and woodland paths. Check tides beforehand since section round Conigar Point floods at high tide.

Time: 2½ hours.

Refreshments: Choice of cafés and pubs in Emsworth; Royal Oak (02392 483125) and Ship Inn (02392 471719), Langstone

Public transport: Bus service Stagecoach 700 between Portsmouth and Littlehampton via Havant and Emsworth; also First bus 27 between Rowlands Castle and Emswo