Strong Island Co.

Strong Island Clothing Co

Ten Years In A Portsmouth Slum – New Book Release

Hi everyone I’m very pleased to introduce myself as the new Strong Island shop manager and I’ll be featuring some of our products on here over the next few weeks. After the popularity of Portsmouth Fairy Tails For Grown Ups we were eager to stock a new book Ten Years In A Portsmouth Slum from Pompey publisher Life Is Amazing.

ten years in a portsmouth slum

“Originally published in 1895, the book tells the true story of Father Robert Dolling, a priest sent to perform missionary work in Portsmouth after his successes doing similar work in Stepney, London. Dolling arrived in Portsmouth in 1885, and was immediately thrown into the rough, violent and impoverished world of the narrow streets and courtyards around Conway Street, which used to stand between Charlotte Street and the Dockyard wall. His stories of local people are funny, shocking and surprising.

The sight of a “Landport Dance” in the town on his very first day would have shocked more modest Victorians. A teenaged boy and girl had swopped skirts and trousers and were dancing topless in the streets in front of a large crowd. One woman in the crush was so drunk she fell down, and when Father Dolling reached down to pick her up, he was greeted by a shower of stones from the crowd, who clearly didn’t like priests meddling in their business. Only when a sailor stepped in and told the crowd to leave the “Holy Joe” alone did they stop. Later, a younger girl who was in his Sunday School explained that the girl dancer was a prostitute who had basically been advertising with a client. The younger girl knew this because because she worked as cleaner in the “bad house” where the older girl plied her trade. The younger girl was eight years old.

It was an introduction to a world filled with vice, violence and also deep laughter. Dolling worked to bring out the more civilising aspects for his parishioners, concentrating less on religion and more on their earthly needs. In his time he set up a gymnasium for the children and young men, a dance class to bring finesse into the rough courtships of the young men and women, and even a knitting circle and tea party to encourage the strictly clannish women to talk to those from other streets. He recalls the old ladies he took on an excursion to the Isle of Wight getting drunk and playing skipping on the pier when they got back, and the men he took on a trip to a wealthy benefactor’s house in Winchester, whose orchard they stripped of apples.

Dolling himself personally raised a subscription to replace the dilapidated church of St Agatha’s Landport, and though the streets were wrecked by the Conway Street Bomb during the Portsmouth Blitz, the church he built survives to this day – a lone testament to the extraordinary work of this man over a decade.

It’s a true account of an area long gone that drips with the authentic essence of Victorian Portsmouth. Tough, funny, vibrant and rich in local detail, Ten Years In A Portsmouth Slum provides you an insight into Portsmouth life you won’t find anywhere else.” – Matt Wingett, Life is Amazing

Not one to miss and I personally can’t wait to find the time to read it all. Available in store 12 Highland Road, Southsea and online


Summer Work Experience with Sam and Imogen at Strong Island

Over the last couple of weeks two young people who have been undertaking their summer work experience with Strong Island. Sam is studying at Horndean Technology College and Imogen is studying at Highbury College and both have spent time working with us. Sam has been on a two week placement with Strong Island Media working with us on film & photography projects and Imogen has been working in Strong Island Co looking at all things related to fashion design through to merchandising and marketing. A huge thank you to both Sam and Imogen for all their help!

Sam & Imogen
Sam & Imogen.

We asked Sam and Imogen to share what they have been up to in their own words.


My name is Sam and I’m a photography and music student from Horndean. I’ve done two weeks of work experience with Paul at Strong Island.

My first day, I was actually dropped in at the deep end, assisting Paul teach a load of students that where my age from Chichester High School for Boys. This meant I had to use my photography skills right from the start. This was a good learning curve for me, being one of the people stood at the front of the class for once. The Wednesday of my first week I had the opportunity to go on the unopened HMS M.33 in the historic dockyard to sort out some filming which will go ahead later this month. This chance wasn’t the sort of thing you get everyday and it was cool to see it before everyone else had the opportunity to. I also learnt how to prep for some filming and directing. Later on that Wednesday I went along to the last Strong Island Recordings gig at the Cellars in Eastney. Here I was able to do some music photography of Gang who are on the label, along with some other acts. I really enjoyed the tunes and got some really good photos!

Sam on Photo Workshop
Sam on Photo Workshop.

GSNG - Photo by Sam
GANG – Photo by Sam.

Tuesday and Wednesday of the second week we had a technology company come into the shop and I assisted with some product shoots. This really gave me an idea on how to set up and capture a photograph in the way they wanted, for example with a white background and reflections. This was also unreleased military and police technology which was, again, cool to get an exclusive on. At the end of the second week I got the chance to do some more freelance, independent photography down by Canoe Lake and on Southsea Seafront. I found the opportunity to do relaxed work like this helped inspire me. You can see some of the results below!

Sam Photographing Products
Sam Photographing Products.

I did have a few days that were helping around the shop, doing anything from helping in the storeroom to putting up exhibitions from photo workshops. I’ve also been doing various photo shoots in store of 22 new designs we got in store. This meant that some of my photography has been featured on their social media. I also wrote 5 or 6 articles on the Strong Island website which gave me a chance to get closer to the culture scene in Portsmouth.

Last of all I’d like to say thanks to everyone at Strong Island for having me… it’s been a really good experience!

Photo by Sam
Photo by Sam.

Photo by Sam
Photo by Sam.

Photo by Sam
Photo by Sam.


Being at Strong Island has been a really great experience, even in such a short amount of time they have given me the opportunity to do lots! I have had the chance to do stock checks, visual merchandising, work the till/serve customers, update the website, learn how to work bits on Adobe Illustrator and was even able to put together my own research including mood boards and sketches for new products ideas. Strong Island hasn’t only been brilliant in providing me with interesting experience, but they’ve also been fantastic in welcoming me to the store and I’ve felt like part of the team since day 1 with the lovely Lara and Paul. Not only were the people absolutely great but the store is such a nice place to be, and the amazing interior decor just tops it off!

Imogen on Digital Design

Imogen & Lara

Imogen Product Design

Strong Island Clothing Co. Spring Tee Range

As sunnier weather finally approaches, it’s surely time to start stocking up on new tees for the all your temperate outdoor activities. Our Spring range for this year is a mix of fresh reworkings of classic designs and further expansion of our ‘Down the Hatch’ motif, with a tee to fit any situation.

A short sleeve alternative to our popular ‘Down the Hatch’ zip hoodies, the new ‘Down the Hatch’ tee features the same two-colour screen printed back and chest designs as the hoods but on a super soft Galapagos blue tee.

Our ‘Local’ design makes its shirt-based return after a successful run adorning our tea towels. Hand screened in off-white on neutral heather indigo, it makes for a fantastic base to accessorise from with a nod to the rich marine wildlife found in our local waters.

For all those avid twitchers out there, this white on heather cardinal reprint of our classic ‘Langstone Harbour’ is a must-have, styled out with a pair of binoculars and a Field Notes notebook for jotting down your spots for later reference.

Adding to our range of ‘Branded’ tees is this limited edition version featuring the same super reflective 3M ink used on our black ‘Strong in the Leg’ tee. The ink works in a similar way to the coating employed on road signs – catching any indirect light and throwing it back out in dazzling fashion. Perfect for those that prefer to lay low during daylight hours but stand out when the stars come out to play.

We’ve also re-printed the ever-popular ‘Wander’ motif in white on pastel blue making for a subtle, unobtrusive tee designed to slot in with your standard spring/summer colour palettes.

All the tees are just £22 and available for purchase from our Strong Island Co store on Highland Rd or online at Strong Island Clothing Co as ever. Don’t forget, you can order online and collect in-store to save money on postage and also pick up a loyalty card to earn yourselves a free t-shirt and ceramic mug when you complete it.

Strong Island 2014 Review Part 1 – January to June

This took a little longer than hoped but for the first time we thought we’ld try and make a note of all the things Strong Island got up to last year. We’re not the best at letting people know what we do (too busy sharing what you lot get up to). Some of the headlines, as it were, included:

– Two large exhibitions
– Working with almost 1000 young people and adults with photography, film & animation workshops
– Two stages at two festivals
– Three releases by the record label
– Opening of Strong Island Co

So if you’ve ever wondered what a year in Strong Island is like, here is part one, covering the first six months of January through to June. Part 2 later this week!


Strong Island went straight in to a hectic first month of 2014 with a few ongoing projects running through from 2013. Our main 2013 project was Creating Balance which brought together ten Portsmouth artists/designers and teamed them up with 10 Portsmouth photographers, with all groups given an Anglepoise lamp for inspiration. The project had heavy coverage in national newspapers and had two very successful exhibitions in 2013, one in London at the London Design Festival and one in Winchester. In Late January we opened the Creating Balance exhibition at Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth, with an opening night that was the busiest yet for the gallery.

Back in November we had joined the Portsmouth Shipbuilding consortium as one of the founding members and the month saw the new website going up and the continued lobbying of trying to continue shipbuilding in the city.

Our animation project with young people from Portsmouth Autism Support Network finished with a film screening at John Pound Centre. The film was written, designed and animated by the group who also recorded all their own music and sound effects. The project was part of Artswork’s Strong Voices programme of activities and involved working with Portsmouth’s Arthur Conan Doyle Collection.

Creating Balance (1)

Creating Balance (2)


February was a busy month for Strong Island Media with many children and young people workshops in film, animation and photography in Portsmouth, Basingstoke and Gosport. We also worked with the University of Portsmouth and Sharon Court on the Far From Home project which connected university students with ex-service personnel and their families.

Our 4th Strong Island Homebrew competition saw the most brews entered in the history of the competition. The winner went on to be brewed by Irving & Co and sold in pubs and bars in Portsmouth and beyond.

February also saw the launch of Strong Island Recordings’ first album: the awesome Something by Yoofs. The band and the release were featured on many websites including Vice.

4th Annual Strong Island Homebrew Competition


Possibly the businest month ever for Strong Island media with a solid month spent in Winchester on a Lottery Heritage Fund project with Winchester Theatre Royal and ten groups from 9 Winchester schools. Each school had two days on the project, the first day a film or animation workshop and the second spent writing & filming or animating their own film about the history of the theatre. The project involved working with almost 250 young people with 10 films produced.

The month also included filming at night with Portsmouth visual artist Jez Stevens on a film commission from Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Jez created a number of projections on both the soon to be opened Babcock Galleries and The Submarine Museum. The films were used to promote the opening of both cultural attractions.

In March the Tricorn exhibition opened at Portsmouth City Museum and included two aspects that Strong Island had worked on. The first was the large community photography panel. We had in previous months asked people to submit their photography of the Tricorn and the best images were put together in to a large wall section. Strong Island also worked with nine local artists, photographers and designers in producing the Tricorn Artist Series of prints depicting the structure. These prints were displayed in the exhibition and on sale in the museum shop.

The Far From Home project exhibition was held in the brand new exhibition space in the new Eldon wing of Portsmouth University. The exhibition included photography, film, illustration and more by final year students, work inspired by the lives of local ex-service personnel and families. The exhibition saw all participants come down and enjoy the event.

Kings Worthy

St Bede Group B


Tricorn Exhibition

Tricorn Exhibition


With the arrival of the sun and spring a new film project began with two schools as part of the Entrenched Project, working in partnership with Hampshire County Council and two other Hampshire based production companies. Strong Island Media worked with Crofton School in Stubbington and Wildern School in Whiteley on films relating to the First World War.

Workshops also began on the My Life project, run with the award winning SPUD group. The film & photography workshops begun with a youth group in Netley View, focusing on their local community and how young people are represented.




In the run up to the end of May’s Portsmouth Street Games event at Guildhall Square three short teaser films were produced by Strong Island Media featuring My Dog Sighs, Effraim Catlow & Most Wanted, showcasing the street art, BMX and street dance aspects of the event.

The My Life project continued, this time working with a group of young carers in Romsey who created a film that tried to tackle local misconceptions on young people and their contribution to society. Their film was screened to their friends and family and local dignitaries. A third group for the My Life project was a youth group in Burley in the New Forest. The group focused on photographing their local areas looking for what made the area both good and bad to live in as a young person. The group exhibited their photography at a final exhibition to family and local councillors.

Burley Photo Exhibition

My Life Project - Burley

My Life Project - Burley

My Life Project - Burley


The month began with the Portsmouth Street Games weekend. Strong Island Media were the official media partners for the event and produced a film for the organisers and participants.

A series of four adult photography workshops for Chichester Harbour Conservancy began, with them running through the summer months. The workshops looked at photography in Bosham, on the beach of Hayling Island and from the Solar Heritage boat out in the harbour. Photography workshops were also given to GCSE students from the Chichester High School for Boys at Chichester Harbour Conservancy’s education centre at Dell Quay. For the third year running these workshops introduced photography skills on ‘walkshops’ around the harbour shoreline.

Strong Island worked for Anglepoise through to June producing a series of short films on four of their product collections, these films were for their new website. The films can be viewed HERE.

June also saw the release from Strong Island Recordings of the Sandscrape EP by GANG.

Conservancy Photo Workshop - People 2014

Conservancy Photo Workshop - People 2014

Conservancy Sailing Photography Workshop

Conservancy Sunset Workshop

Conservancy Photo Workshop - Chichester High School for Boys

Strong Island Co. Extended Christmas Openings

In the run up to this years’ festive celebrations, we will be extending our opening hours from our usual 10-6 Thursday to Saturday at the Strong Island Co. shop on Highland Rd. Starting from next week, we’ll be doing two late shopping evenings on Thursday 18th December and Saturday 20th December until 8pm alongside usual hours on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th for all your last minute gift needs.

If that’s still not enough, you can always order through our online store though you’ll have to get your orders in by Thursday 18th to guarantee delivery in time for Christmas and you’ll miss out on fantastic shop exclusive stocking fillers like the beautiful Field Notes notebooks we now distribute.

Hope to see you all in the shop soon!

WIN a Strong Island Care Package by Representing at Bestival

It’s that time of the year when dozens (if not hundreds) of Strong Islanders head over to the Isle of Wight for Rob Da Banks Bestival extravaganza. Since it’s beginnings the Southsea contingency has gone from strength to strength, and this year will be no exception.

As always we’re super excited to be going over and it looks like the weather is going to be on our side this year. I know I’m leaving my wellies at home, that’s for sure! The sneak peaks of sunshine is getting everyone even more eager than normal to go get involved.

Over the years we’ve seen a nice steady increase of people representing our tees and this year we hope to see even more. If you’re going over and fancy a chance to win a Strong Island Care Package full of goodies then it couldn’t be easier. Get a photo of yourself, your friends, a stranger or just a RAD photo of someone repping Strong Island and having fun.

You can email the photo’s to or simply hashtag #strongislandclothingco or #strongrepresent on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook for your chance to win. Make sure to tag all your friends.

Whether your going over to the festival or staying at home in Southsea have a great one and enjoy the sunshine.

Strong Island Clothing Co ‘Down the Hatch’ Enamel Mug Now Available in Shop Ahoy

It took us two years of searching for just the right manufacturer but finally this summer we we’re able to release the ‘Down the Hatch’ Strong Island enamel mug at Victorious Festival. Built from scratch in Gdansk, Poland by a company steeped in enamelware heritage, we have been able to work with the manufacturer on the two colour, three point design (front, back and base) as well as carefully selecting the paint colours inside & out, including the hand-painted mug handle. Not your every day mug and rough, rugged and ready to be used out camping, sailing, cycle touring and at home. Every mug comes carefully boxed in Southsea with a handstamped tag plus Down the Hatch sticker, pin badge and beermat.

This run of enamel mugs in limited to just 100 and due to the really strong demand at Victorious (we are now down to the last 20 or so) it has taken a little while to get them online but as of now the mugs are available in Shop Ahoy HERE for £14 plus P&P.

This design is also available on an extra special Down the Hatch navy pocket tee too.

Thank you for being patient and thank you as always for your incredible support!

Strong Island Clothing Co 'Down the Hatch' Enamel Mug Now Available in Shop Ahoy (1)

Strong Island Clothing Co 'Down the Hatch' Enamel Mug Now Available in Shop Ahoy (2)

Strong Island Clothing Co 'Down the Hatch' Enamel Mug Now Available in Shop Ahoy (3)

Strong Island Clothing Co 'Down the Hatch' Enamel Mug Now Available in Shop Ahoy (4)

FREE Strong Island Clothing Co. Tees

With payday just around the corner we’re offering a free tee to the first 10 people to make a full price purchase of any Strong Island Clothing Co. tee over at Shop Ahoy. This offer is only available on Friday 1st August 2014 so you’ve got to be in it, to win it…

Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 - Dell Quay

Strong Island Clothing Co. Collections - Summer 2014 (5)

Strong Island Clothing Co. Collections - Summer 2014 (2)

Strong Island Clothing Co. Collections - Summer 2014 (8)

Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 14 Drop Now Available

The initial drop of the new summer 2014 collection by Strong Island Clothing Co. is now available to buy online in the Shop Ahoy store HERE. We’ve also put together a quick video lookbook from the recent Dell Quay shoot to, have a watch below. To coincide with this drop we’ve given the website a little tidy up and fixed a few things here and there too.

Check the full lookbook HERE and below are a few photos of the new designs and colours:

Hand Type x Strong Island Collaboration Video

The Summer 2014 collection from Strong Island Clothing Co includes two collaboration tee designs by multi award winning designer and hand type virtuoso Andy Lethbridge aka Hand Type. Over the last two years Andy has become an exceptional talent able to create beautiful type all by hand. For the first logo tee the design is drawn with brush pen, the second is all hand formed with pencil…each taking an impossibly steady hand and awe inspiring skill and dexterity. The work behind these two designs was captured on film by Andy, who produced this short film for the collaboration.

We are exceptionally proud to have worked with this University of Portsmouth graduate who is destined for a very bright, creative future. To see more Hand Type goodness and Andy’s other incredibly good graphic design visit:

Hand Type x Strong Island Collaboration (1)

Hand Type x Strong Island Collaboration (2)

Hand Type x Strong Island Collaboration (3)

Hand Type x Strong Island Collaboration (4)

Next »


CHAOS – 20 years & out!

20 years!!!! That has to go in the books as Southsea longest running night? Give or take, most people you bump in to have been to a least one Chaos night, and most spent a grimy late one down the pier dancing like idiots and spilling Newcastle Brown all over the place. I’ve a lot of fond memories of the earlier days at Chaos, mostly after skating and sitting in the pub saying I’m not going. Not this week. Then 8 pints later jumping in a taxi…

If you have any stories or cool photos from Chaos we’d love to see them. Or even some of the old flyers. There have been some pretty interesting designs over the years. I’ll always remember the photo flyer of the kid on the dance floor with a girl and his ‘wandering hands’.

Jay Dunstan got in contact and had this to say:

“To coincide with our 20th Birthday on Saturday 26th November – we’re announcing that this will be the last ever “Chaos”.

Starting in 1991 at South Parade Pier, moving to the Wedgewood rooms in 2008 – we’ve been crowned the South Coasts longest running Independent Club night, winning The Guide Awards “Best club night”, “Best DJs” (x 2) and the promoters Ped & Jay being awarded a special award for contribution to the Portsmouth Music Scene. Chaos has provided Dj’s and club nights at Guilfest, Southsea Fest & Isle of Wight Festivals.

Having been a constant in our lives and the Portsmouth clubbing & music scene for 2 decades – Its been a very tough decision to stop the regular club night. But we feel that now is the best time to unplug the speakers for the last time.

Chaos was always quite literally about being ‘alternative’ – alternative in music policy, but also offering an alternative to the traditional and mainstream clubs. Our ethos was always simple – play music we liked, to people to we liked & do it prime time on a Saturday night 52 weeks a year!

Our feeling is that the current scene is very different now and although still loving every element of the gigs, festivals and guitars – a regular club night offering everything we did, now isn’t whats required. Clubbers will always want an alternative, but the music scene is now so split and venues, pubs & clubs are all competing for survival – we felt it was a good opportunity to step back, take a deep breath & raise a glass to rock n roll!

We want to thank everyone who has contributed to the success of Chaos over the last 20 years – venue managers, bar staff & door stewards – sound & light technicians – – street teams – performers & bands and of course the roll call of DJ’s past & present that have provided the soundtrack to so, so, so many silly, drunken and above all fun Saturday nights.

Hey ho, lets go!”

The 20th Birthday & Last EVER Chaos – Saturday 26th November 2011

Flyer: Chaos Flickr

Tearing Down The House – Roller Hockey Club

It has been on the cards for a while now but finally yesterday the old Roller Hockey Club House at Southsea Skatepark was torn down. It had become unstable and hadn’t been used for a while. I was lucky enough to gain entry back last year and took a few photographs. If anybody has any old photographs of the club house seen in better times then please let us know.

The Old Days - Roller Hockey Club
Free Art and Live Painting Event at Southsea Skatepark

Lots of exciting plans at the Skatepark so watch this space.

This photo of Cody taking a leap of faith form the club house roof has always been a winner in my book.

Holy Cody Batman

Cody needs no introductions, ever. The nicest guy you’ll ever meet with a heart of a gold and the skateboard mentality of an escaped mental patient.

If you need conformation of that statement then check this photo I grabbed from some site called Facebook. Off the clubhouse roof into the flat bank down Southsea Skatepark. Nuts…


Shortly after I posted this insane photo of Cody going nuts down the skatepark, he sent a reply. Thought i’d post it up so people that know him can have a read.

“Thank u for the nice word. I just have to say thank you to all the peeps and friends that have help and shape me as a sk8er and as a human being. The love that i have been shown over the years is so big. The friend and peeps i have met and change my life and change my path to some thing good. I truly say it with my heart that i love you all and i hope to make more friends and to have more good time. Here a shout out to all the u.k sk8 scene and the southsea boys and girl sk8er or not, much love. and to the guys like strong island crew and bored sk8 for keeping the u.k. scene going. So if u up for a sk8 drink or chill u find me in southsea. 1 love bye cody x”

Local Photographer – Eamon Lane

A recent arrival to Portsmouth, Eamon Lane has been out and about the city recently shooting photos on the street and at local events such as Love Your Bike. Below are a few examples of Eamon’s photography, visit I Love Slugs to see more.

After skating…

…the boys enjoy a sit down at the seafront on a Sunday. Photo courtesy of the ever busy Quiet Corners lensman Paul Gonella. Perfect days, albeit still cold.

Created Local – Carl Partridge

Portsmouth’s Carl Partridge is a local artist and photographer currently studying MA Communication Design up in that there London at Central St Martins. As well as all the awesome artwork on his website we particularly liked his Lomo Diana photos from round Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. Be sure to look through the good work over at



Pier and Snow

Here are a few photos from a walk down to the pier on Wednesday during the snowfall. There are some more over on Forever Circling.

Whiteout #2


Walk Together

Seafront Lights: Adam Wintle

Southsea web designer and photographer Adam Wintle has recently been taking some really nice photos of the Southsea promenade lights and of the pier at night. Be sure to look through his Flickr for loads more great photos.




Rolling right Inuit part II

Following on from the previous post about the Igloo seen on Southsea Common, Khalid Saleh was kind enough to get in contact with some more information and some photos. It took Khalid and 6 of his friends 5 and a half hours to build the Igloo using what looks like icecream tubs and glow sticks were donated by passers by from the Navy.

It’s still standing today and Meridian will be doing a short interview with them. Not sure when that will air, but hopefully I’ll catch it.







Our Langstone Harbour Trip with the RSPB

On a grey yet thankfully dry Sunday morning if I had a Portsmouth bucket list, I had one of the items near the top ticked off with a boat trip with the RSPB. Personally, I’ve always loved Langstone Harbour. When I first moved to Portsmouth I lived at the Furze Lane Langstone campus of the University of Portsmouth and the harbour was on my door step and one of the first places I explored with my bike and camera. Throughout the years I’ve been lucky enough to explore every yard of its edge plus the sandbank and the Phoenix Breakwater with my camera, from high tide to low, but I haven’t had a chance to explore the islands.

The thing, for me, that makes Langstone Harbour extra special is that it is a wild habitat right on the doorstep of the most densely populated city in the UK. Considering the close proximity to well over two hundred thousand people, the harbour is surprisingly biodiverse and a key nesting location for birds on the south coast. More surprising is that for birds, Langstone Harbour has way, way more calling it home through the seasons than its neighbour Chichester Harbour. So…all of this wildlife shares Portsmouth with us, and us with them. Particularly at this time of year: nesting season. So for the very, very novice twitcher side of me, a boat trip out to see the birds with the RSPB was a fantastic opportunity.

We set off from the slipway at Broadmarsh Costal Park south of Havant with Wez at the boat controls and Dawn to help both myself and Tristan find out more about the wildlife and what the RSPB do in regards to the harbour and the bird populations. It was a good start with lots of Mute Swans seeing us off from the quayside and even a low flying Heron passing overhead. We travelled south, in parallel with the shore of Long Island, one of many different islands in the harbour that have (since the late 1970s) become protected bird preserves of the RSPB. We passed the southern tip of the island, which is one of the few areas where the public can land (we saw kayakers taking a break on the small shingle beach) before moving south west to Round Nap Island.

Long Island.

I’ve always been intrigued by the harbour’s islands and as they are off limits to the public this was my first chance to see them up close. Round Nap Island is quite small and at high tide seemed like a very flat and precarious home to the nesting birds and visiting birds too. On the shingle we saw Black Headed Gulls with their brown, fuzzy and big chicks who will be very soon flying themselves. Also on the island we saw quiet Cormorants taking a rest from fishing and curious Oyster Catchers exploring the shingle and waterline for food.

Round Nap Island.

Cormorants on Round Nap Island.

The RSPB routinely (at times, daily) check the nesting islands to ensure the birds aren’t effected by the many different dangers to them, their nests and their young. At low tide some of these islands are accessible by the mudflats so some islands have electric fences to protect against foxes and other predators. Another serious danger to these birds are storms and surging tides. Recently a storm washed away nests and seriously effecting the breeding of some of the harbours most important visitors.

Black Headed Gull.

From Round Nap Island we set off to the much larger South Binness Island, the most southerly of the islands in the harbour. As we travelled along the southern shore of the island we saw hundreds and hundreds of Black headed Gulls and their young plus the sharp edged Sandwich Terns, Common Terns and our first sighting of the beautiful Little Terns that visit the harbour each year. The Little Terns have struggled in recent years to raise young due to weather and tides and in 2013 this island was raised up with 500 tonnes of aggregate with the hope that their ‘scrapes’ would be better protected.

South Binness Island.

Oyster Catcher and Black Header Gulls on South Binness Island.

South Binness Island.

Black Headed Gull chicks on South Binness Island.

South Binness Island.

Sandwich Tern.

Little Terns are very special visitors to Portsmouth. Unknown to me until fairly recently, Portsmouth and Langstone Harbour is home to one of the largest colonies of these special birds, along with Blakeney Point and Great Yarmouth in Norfolk and Minsmere in Suffolk. You might find the birds in much smaller groups around the coast of the UK, including Scotland…but right here in Portsmouth is a key nesting site in the UK. Sadly these birds have difficulty in producing young as our weather has been bad in consecutive years but they will continue to try through the rest of the season. There are only 1,900 (approx.) breeding pairs in the UK so the work done locally by the RSPB to support and help these birds is vital. To put it in context, on South Binness Island alone in 2008 the island had 4,886 nesting pairs of Black Headed Gulls.

Little Tern.

Little Tern.


We travelled west past the island and out to a place I have wanted to visit for years, Oyster Island. Many years ago this small island was home to an oyster watchman’s house built in 1819. I had heard that you could still see the foundations and remains of the house (which was possibly washed away in a storm) still on this tiny island south of Farlington Marshes. As we approached you could clearly see on this tiny island the timber beams of the house plus bricks and more. Hard to believe that someone could live out here, right on the harbour.

Oyster Island.

Oyster Island.

From here we travelled to Baker’s Island with it’s northerly wild side. The RSPB obviously tries to not disturb the birds but there are occasions when it is necessary to land on one of the islands. Routinely the RSPB need to count the nests and check for any issues. Sometimes they have to fix fencing and maintain signs, etc, on this occasion Wez had to replace the electric fence battery so we grounded the boat on the beach for a few minutes. Obviously it is vital these islands are not visited by the public so this was an unexpected privilege to see this habitat up close for a minute or two.

Baker’s Island.

Oyster Catcher on Baker’s Island.

Surrounding the boat at Baker’s Island.

We set off from here and travelled east across the harbour and midway saw a large commercial vessel leave the quay at the Lafarge Tarmac site and travel towards the harbour entrance. It was a good reminder that despite being a quiet harbour there is still commercial activity on a day to day basis. There are also fishing vessels that work within the harbour too.

Commercial vessel passing Round Nap Island.


The old oyster beds on Hayling Island’s north westerly edge (next to the ‘Billy’) have a long history, from farming huger amounts of oysters for consumption in London (ending due to pollution) to them being neglected until recent years when they were restored and made a protected RSPB area. These interlinking beds are now home to many different birds and access is prevented from Hayling Island as well as from boats. From here we saw a harbour favourite the Little Egret and also a solo Great Crested Grebe before it dived under the water and disappeared. On the way back to Broadmarsh we were lucky to see about a dozen Common Terns feeding, with them circling, hovering and then diving in to the harbour waters. We also saw some Little Terns too, who only feed around one kilometre from their nesting sites.

Little Egret at Hayling Island Oyster Beds.

Diving Common Tern.

In only a matter of two hours we had an incredible trip around the harbour and were introduced to not just the birds that call Portsmouth home but also the dedicated work by the RSPB, who with a very small team have to protect the habitats and birds. If you want to keep up to date with the work done by your local RSPB team be sure to follow their blog HERE. A huge thank you to Wez and Dawn for the trip!

Interested in seeing some of these birds yourself? It is actually pretty easy from the shoreline of the city of Portsmouth. We’re working with the RSPB on a series of articles starting tomorrow and we’ll be running a competition too. More details tomorrow.

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