As we continue to explore the power of plants, spend more time outside and get back to nature, we are over the moon to have a very special guest post from the super-duper Elmley Nature Reserve. A little slice of heaven based in North Kent. Read on to find out more and also claim a very special offer on your future stay…
The vast skies and wild landscape are often what strike people most on the first visit to Elmley. The 3,300-acre estate, just 40 miles from London, on the Isle of Sheppey in North Kent, is, uniquely, the only family-owned and managed National Nature Reserve in the country.
Renowned for its abundant wildlife, Elmley offers the perfect opportunity for visitors of all ages to relax, spend time outside and connect with nature. Watch vast flocks take to the skies over the marsh, spot hares on the walking trails, book a wildlife tour, wild swim in summer – Elmley has its own private beach, or just soak up the views.
From secluded shepherd’s huts and cabins, and beautifully designed bedrooms in the recently restored Kingshill Farmhouse, to a self-catering cottage sleeping ten and bell tents for the summer months, Elmley has a collection of beautiful places from which to experience the Reserve, each of which has been designed as a retreat, so that guests can make the most of their time, and enjoy the restorative power of nature. `
Georgina Fulton, and her husband, Reserve manager, Gareth Fulton, run the Reserve, with the help of a small, passionate team. They are always delighted to be able to share Elmley’s unique landscape, and being off-grid, and with limited Wifi, guests really have the chance to disconnect, and fully immerse themselves in their surroundings.
Georgina said, “There is something so special about being able to share this landscape and the wildlife we have here, with our guests. There is always something to see and enjoy, whatever the time of year. The light can change in seconds, and we are often treated to the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
“For those visiting for the day, you don’t have to venture too far from the main gate to have your own UK safari experience - guests can treat their cars like bird hides on the two-mile entrance track.
“For those staying overnight, we have aimed to create beautiful spaces that allow guests to relax and enjoy views and spot wildlife from the comfort of their bed, or in the case of some of the Farmhouse rooms and some of our larger huts - the bath!”
Over 40 years, Elmley has restored nature to the Reserve, and with it, seen fantastic conservation successes for breeding wading birds such as Lapwing and Redshank. This year has seen record numbers of birds spending the winter at Elmley. Numbers of 20-30,000 wading birds and wildfowl are regularly counted each winter, but a December count saw a record of 45,000 birds at Elmley which is exciting.
Over 40 species of bird breed and raise their young at Elmley. Lapwing, redshank and grebe are just some of the species that can be seen alongside the entrance track and trails. Elmley’s resident nature guide Abbie runs both individual and group birdwatching tours and mindful birdwatching sessions for guests, as well as children’s activities in the school holidays.
One of the most impressive sights at this time of year has to be the swooping displays and ‘peewit’ call of lapwing over the marsh, and the arrival of spring migrants like swallows, swifts, yellow wagtails and house martins, and from late April, cuckoos from the Congo. Brown hares are common in ‘mad’ March and April, and their young – leverets, can also be spotted in May. Birds of prey, such as marsh harriers and buzzards, and the occasional short-eared owl, are also frequently sighted later in the season.
Elmley’s nature guide Abbie first visited Elmley with her family at the age of 3, and now in her mid-20s, and after a few years wildlife guiding internationally, she has returned to the Reserve, and shares her passion for birdwatching with Elmley’s guests.
We asked Abbie to share some tips for mindful birdwatching - something we can all do when we have some time and an outside setting, whether that is your garden, a park, by the sea, in the woods, or even on the marsh.
- Firstly, pick a habitat, ideally one local to you: coast, marsh, woodland, your garden or balcony!
- Choose a species of bird to focus on, and up to three, depending on how long you have, but allow for 45 minutes if possible.
- Get comfortable, and if seated, ensure your posture is good, with arms beside you. Set your pace of breathing, and visualise letting go of any stresses or worries you have at that moment.
- Watch for a while, assess the bird’s behaviour, what it is doing, it’s call, and surroundings, before focus on your own surroundings – what you are seeing, smelling, eg. Grass or if by the coast, the sea or salty air, and touching – maybe sand between your fingers if on the beach, or the wood of a bench.
- Continue to breathe calmly, and tune in with nature. Allow yourself to let go and switch off.
Fancy getting back to nature and trying some bird spotting of your own? Then enter our exclusive competition here or simply book your stay directly with Elmley and save 10% with an exclusive discount code: SECRETLINENSTORE. Code valid until 31st May 2022.