Oare Marshes Reserve (Kent Wildlife Trust)
Reserve Name Oare Marshes Reserve
Managing Authority Kent Wildlife Trust
Kent ME13 OQA
The reserve is not accessible by public transport to those with mobility problems, it being over two kilometers from the nearest bus stop in Oare Village (Bus number 333 from Faversham, Sittingbourne & Maidstone).
From A2 northwest of Faversham & Ospringe take the right hand turning B2045 signposted to Oare. At the junction turn left and go through the tiny village of Oare turning right down Church Road at the pub (signposted to Harty Ferry). This road transects the reserve; continue to the south bank of the Swale estuary and park opposite the Visitor Centre.
Parking & Toilet Provision
The main car park is at the very end of the road opposite the old watch house and with care can take a dozen cars, but there is a small, 3-car car park for those with disabilities where Church Road first enters the reserve, on the right where the path leads to a hide overlooking the East Flood. (The blue badge sign is often disrespected)
There is no longer a visitor centre and no toilet facilities. The nearest accessible toilets are back through Oare Village along the B2045 and either at the Sainsbury Supermarket (left hand turning) or a little further on (right hand turning) at the Gunpowder Works Country Park (also worth a visit see assessment).
Cars have often been broken into so leave nothing of value and nothing in view.
All Day, All Year
Description of Habitat & Facilities
The Oare Marshes LNR is an SSSI, SPA, ESA & Ramsar site that consists of 170 acres (69 hectares) of saltmarsh that is drained by freshwater and brackish dikes, with grazing marsh, reedbeds, pools and extensive scrapes. Management, by Kent Wildlife Trust, is largely through livestock grazing and the manipulation of water levels. It is bordered to the north by the seawall and the Swale Sea Channel (with extensive mudflats and ‘Horse Sands’ where Common Seals often lay up) and to the east by Faversham Creek. A road, which leads down to the Swale where the Harty Ferry operated until the 1946, bisects the 81-acre reserve. The road is narrow and barely wide enough in places to allow two cars to pass.
The Swale is just over this rise (steep but manageable when self wheeled)
The old Watch House visitor centre at the north end of Church Road is no longer in operation (mainly due to episodes of vandalism) and there are no toilets, nor is there anywhere to get a hot drink.
One often sees people filling large plastic containers with water from this spring to fill their aquariums etc.
The main car park is opposite this building but there is a small, 3-car car park for those with disabilities where Church Road first enters the reserve, on the right where the path leads to a hide overlooking the East Flood. By the car park is an information board that includes birds seen during the current month, although it can be some days out of date.
It had been vandalised when I last visited (30.04.17) with a notice saying signage was in the process of being re-evaluated.
The sea wall is accessible in both directions, with a steepish path to wheelchair-friendly ‘kissing gates’. The wall to the west eventually become impassible but even wheelchair users can get a considerable distance to scope all the pools and reedbeds of the west flood.
Access to the western seawall
The length of the seawall forms a path and the circuit is completed in the southern border, Church road transects the site and from these paths all of the reserve can be observed, no further access is allowed.
One hide overlooks the Swale and Creek at the northeast corner. One hide serves the ‘west flood’ on the two thirds of the reserve to the west of the road and another hide serves the ‘east flood’.
Kissing gate to eastern seawall
A wheelchair-friendly kissing gate serves the path leading to this hide (c.150m from the road and three-car disabled car park) that is accessible to wheelchairs even to the extent of having a protruding section at the front so a wheelchair user can get close to a viewing slot without their knees being jammed against a wall. Beyond this hide there are also a couple of simple benches. The seawall path by the Swale has wheelchair-friendly kissing gates in both directions.
Gate from road to east hide
Close-up of mechanism
Path going east
Path going back to road
The path to the east of the road, on the south side can be accessed by wheelchair with help, or with difficulty, as the path can be muddy in winter and rutted at other times. My wheelchair-using friend told me it was relatively hard work for him to ‘push’ himself to the hide, but much harder still to go beyond, especially as it also has a 1:8 gradient. Buggy or Pram pushers will find it hard going too. The entire 1500m long seawall path is compacted limestone (as is the main car park) and so difficult terrain especially in wet weather for a conventional wheelchair; there are no benches on this stretch. On one visit I watched a man push someone around the entire eastern path that was clearly really hard work at times and includes a high step to and from the gangway over the sea outfall. The path to the west [guarded by a non-friendly kissing gate] is relatively narrow and uneven and has steps in places.
However, Oare has a crowning glory in that there are two bays on the east side of the road each allowing birding from up to three vehicles each. Those with mobility problems can look across the east scrape with birds literally a few feet away and seemingly oblivious to the watchers. A notice advises birders to not leave cars here but in the car park where, at the northern end, there is room for about 25 cars… often very full if there is a good bird about with the road virtually impassable for major twitches.
Oare Marshes has seen an impressive number of rarities and regularly plays host to sought-after birds, particularly waders and wildfowl and is also good for migrants that are scarce in the southeast. Around 250 species are possible most years.
The East Flood with spoonbill
Winter is best for seeing water rails when the dikes freeze over and a real variety of ducks with grebes, herons and resident waders, roosting gulls and overhead raptors. Look across the Swale too for divers, sawbills and grebes on the water and raptors over Sheppey.
Autumn is terrific for waders, and passing migrants of the ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ type. Late autumn blows can turn up birds usually glimpsed far out to sea like auks, skuas and the rarer gulls.
Late spring abounds with bearded tits, avocets, resident waders and visiting ducks.
Summer evenings and early mornings are good for owls, the sound of marsh frogs and a plethora of butterflies along with breeding water-loving warblers etc.
Description of Trails
There are two main trails – one to the east and one to the west both starting along the sea wall. The east is accessible throughout but only the seawall section on the west is accessible – both start with wheelchair friendly kissing gates.
However, disabled visitors can view from a couple of stopping niches on the road overlooking the east flood – sometimes even the rarest waders can be seen well down to a few feet.
These lay-bys can get crowded and busy and are not always respected. Although cars cannot be left while people walk the trails some selfish people do do this. Moreover, although priority is supposed to be given to disabled birders don’t expect anyone to move to let you in.
Beside the lay-by is a bench to sit and view the east flood.
For the most part trails are compacted but can become muddy after rain. It is possible for wheelchair users to push a circuit around the east flood in a wheelchair but there is a bit of a step up to the sluice gate and the path, especially to the south, can be rutted in spring and summer and muddy in autumn and winter.
Side path to hide
Hide path gate mechanism
Path away from hide
Path hide gate from hide side
Number of Hides 3
Description of Hides [By name or number]
The hide to the west is down a narrow path with inclines and cannot be accessed by wheelchair or pushchair.
Hide seen from road c.150m path
The hide overlooking the east flood is fully accessible, has wheelchair viewing position with knee room and is ramped… this is the place most waders of interest can be seen from.
Conventional fixed benches and viewing slots with overhead latches
However, while there is a moveable bench and lower window and elbow bench the viewing slot shutter is impossible to open and latch from a wheelchair.
Wheelchair viewing position showing moveable bench and lower elbow shelf
Not only does it open upwards, but it then has to be secured by attaching a chain to a hook, this is only achievable if you can stand up!
Viewing hatch and latch chain
All Year: Black-tailed Godwit (several hundred!), Avocet, Green Sandpiper, Water Rail, Bearded Tit, Marsh Harrier, Little Egret, Barn Owl, Little Owl, Cetti’s Warbler.
Winter: Divers, Grebes, Red-breasted Merganser, Bar-tailed Godwit, Pintail, Merlin, Rough-legged Buzzard, Short-eared Owl, Rock Pipit, Water Pipit, Kingfisher, Twite.
Spring/Summer: Garganey, Mediterranean Gull, Hobby, Little Tern, Little Ringed Plover.
Passage: Common, Curlew & Wood Sandpipers, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Greenshank, Little Stint, Whimbrel, Whinchat, Wheatear, Redstart, Ring Ousel, Skuas, Black & Arctic Tern, Osprey, Leach’s Petrel, Little Gull.
South Swale Local Nature Reserve
The 850-acre South Swale Local Nature Reserve is just across Faversham Creek and, apart from the road system is inaccessible to anything other than fit walkers [much of the old North Kent Grazing Marshes from Oare right through to Herne Bay and Thanet are either already nature reserves or being restored as such as part of a long-term plan].
The Old Gunpowder Works nature trail through woodland is great for breeding summer visitors including spotted flycatchers. Some paths have barriers, uneven muddy paths with inclines. However, there is a trail (yellow) designed specifically for those with mobility issues and has no impassable barriers or steep inclines. The path is even, solid and flat and is designed for wheelchairs and light mobility scooters. There is an open area with picnic tables.
Across the Swale is the Isle of Sheppey (See Elmley RSPB & Harty Ferry Road).
Contributor Bo Beolens
Contributors Email Fatbirder@gmail.com
Date Last Updated 30-04-2017