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Our History

The Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group (MWHG) has been a registered charity since 2011 and has worked to promote and protect the environment and history of the Manhood Peninsula in West Sussex, since its creation in 1997. After originally forming as the Selsey Parish Map Group, the name of the Group was changed in 2011 to MWHG, to reflect the increasing scope of conservation work undertaken. 

Selsey Parish Map Group in 1997

MWHG was originally established as the Selsey Parish Map Group in 1997, by local residents Joe Savill and Jill Sutcliffe, with the aim of mapping the heritage and natural habitats of the Parish of Selsey, in order to celebrate and help preserve them for the future. 

Jill Sutcliffe



When the Group was formed, Jill was running the local branch of the Sussex Wildlife Trust and had previous experience advocating for the environment as the first Education Officer at Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve.

Joe Savill



In 1997, Joe was an involved member of the community as a teacher at North Mundham Primary School. Joe and his mother Eileen Savill, who also taught locally, inspired young people to care for the environment.

The meeting to launch the Group included an engaging talk by Kim Leslie, from the West Sussex Record Office, which aimed to encourage local communities to produce posters for their upcoming Millennium Parish Maps Project. The Group’s members were keen to take part and develop their mapping skills, using surveying methods outlined by the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

A detailed map of Selsey’s habitats and biodiversity, known as the Phase 1 Habitat Survey, was created first. This map was eventually digitized to inform decisions concerning local conservation and was used as a template for the Group’s submission to the Millennium Parish Map Project. The project was a success, with over 75 parish maps created for the county, in total. The Group’s Selsey Parish Map was displayed in Selsey Library and later converted into a poster for sale to support the group, in 2000.

Selsey Parish Map

Selsey Parish Map

Phase 1 Habitat Survey

Phase 1 Habitat Survey

After the mapping of the parish was completed, MWHG went on to develop a number of sub-groups and projects to extend their conservation work to the peninsula’s 11 parishes and neighbouring areas. Members also teamed up with the local Mulberry Divers, to ensure both on land and off shore habitats were protected.


Biodiversity Action Plan – 2001

The Selsey Parish Biodiversity Action Plan was drawn up based on the original biodiversity map. It was the first Parish Biodiversity Action Plan in the UK and comprised of a series of actions designed to ensure that proposed local measures met identified national and regional conservation targets. 

Selsey Biodivisty Action Plan

View the 2005 version of the Biodiversity Action Plan


Manor Green Park Group – 2003

This Group, originally named the Selsey Doorstep Green Action Group, was set up to work with Selsey Town Council to transform and upkeep this green site, given to Selsey residents in mitigation for local housing developments. Manor Green Park is now a multi award-winning outdoor space, designed for all to enjoy.


East Beach Pond Group – 2003

This group was formed to convert the neglected Selsey pond into a wonderful area for wildlife and the local community. The volunteers have since won a number of awards for maintaining the site to a high standard.

Manhood Wildlife Officer – 2004

A Selsey Wildlife Officer was appointed to implement the Selsey Biodiversity Action Plan and later, as Manhood Wildlife Officer (MWO), raise awareness of vulnerable wildlife populations, encourage local conservation action and engage with local landowners, schools, and government authorities.

In 2010, the MWO took on the role of Community Wildlife Officer at Chichester District Council (CDC) to lead a Recreational Disturbance Mitigation Project in Chichester and the surrounding area. This role was managed in partnership by CDC and MWHG, with the Group being responsible for implementing this project across the Peninsula, until its end in March 2021.


Medmerry Realignment - 2009

MWHG was involved as a member of the stakeholder group appointed by the Environment Agency (EA) during the coastal realignment project, completed in 2013. The wetland area, now known as Medmerry Nature Reserve, was created by the EA to protect Selsey from flooding and to replace habitat being lost on the Solent.

Various archaeological finds were discovered on the site, including a large medieval fishing trap which supported evidence that the area had been a main supplier of fish to the south of England.


The Queen’s Award - 2010

MWHG was awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which is the highest award available to volunteer groups in the UK and is given in recognition of those providing a valuable service to their local community.

In 2010 MWHG was awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

Eileen Savill Award - 2012

The annual award was created to commemorate the life of Eileen Savill, a founder member of MWHG who devoted her life to supporting young people. As a teacher for 23 years at Manhood School (now The Academy, Selsey), she always saw the potential in young people and nurtured it. This award continues her legacy, by recognizing young people, 25 years and under, who care for their local environment.


Water Vole Project - 2012

A National Lottery Heritage Fund grant was secured for the Water Vole Project, after previous research by the Group showed that loss of wetland habitats had contributed to increased local flooding events and a national decline in water vole populations.

The purpose of the three-year project was to train a Water Vole Patrol of volunteers in surveying techniques and map the presence of water voles on the Peninsula. From this data, the Water Vole Action Plan was produced to define habitat management and propose recommendations, which would protect the mammal long term.

Action Plan for Water Voles 2011-2020

Action Plan for Water Voles 2011-2020

This action plan is currently being updated to cover 2021 to 2030, with funding from Portsmouth Water.

Sidlesham Heritage Project - 2013

The project was established to research the local impact of the Sidlesham Land Settlement Association (LSA), which brought unemployed miners and ship builders from north-east England and South Wales to the parish in 1935. Stories of the families and staff of the LSA have been shared through publications, a designated website, a film, and exhibitions at The Novium Museum and Weald and Downland Museum.

Other historical events of the parish are also celebrated and in 2020, the Sidlesham Heritage Centre was stationed at Lockgate Road (PO20 7QQ), to share this rich heritage through regularly changing displays.


Wetland Management Guide - 2015

Funding was received from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to produce a comprehensive wetland management guide for land owners, and groups who had received funding aid from Operation Watershed, a West Sussex County Council scheme to help flood risk areas. The guide uses local case studies to demonstrate how wetlands can be improved.  The newest version, now called 'Ditch Management for People and Wildlife', was updated in 2021 and is available to view here.

Ditch Management for People and Wildlife

Ditch Management for People and Wildlife 2021


Fixing and Linking Our Wetlands (FLOW) Project - 2016

In 2016, MWHG received funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a five-year habitat restoration project, which aimed to ensure healthy wetland connections were created and maintained across the Peninsula. The wetland links between the protected sites of Chichester Harbour, Pagham Harbour, and Medmerry Nature Reserve, would also be increased as a result.

This approach prevented local flooding by allowing excess rainfall to flow out sea freely, and supported vulnerable wildlife populations, including bats and water voles, who benefit from improved water quality and habitat connectivity. Planting trees and replenishing hedgerows, were key aspects of the wetland restoration process.


Selsey Photo Archive Project – 2018

After the Selsey Society dissolved in 2015, the vast collection of historical photographs amassed by the Society were selected to be catalogued and professionally archived. The Selsey Photo Archive Project was launched by MWHG, Selsey Town Council, the West Sussex Record Office, and former members of the Selsey Society, to carry out this process.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded the project a grant for its first year of work, including the building of website to display a selection of the 4000+ photos in the collection, with the aim to make a visual record of Selsey’s history available to all.

Community Conservation Partnership (CCP) - 2019

Over the course of the Fixing and Linking Our Wetlands (FLOW) Project, working relationships were established with local parish councils and residents. The CCP was developed to continue this network and monitor the legacy of FLOW, by supporting parish volunteers who maintain the completed wetland conservation work.


West Wittering Tree Nursery Project - 2021

This new project has been created to continue the tree planting legacy of the Fixing and Linking Our Wetlands Project. In 2020, West Wittering Parish Council granted the project an area of land on their Allotments for a tree nursery to be developed. Seeds grown will be collected from the Peninsula, and the resulting trees will be planted locally.

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