Reserve Name – Stodmarsh Reserve (& Grove Ferry)
Managing Authority: Natural England
English Nature, The Countryside Management Centre, Coldharbour Farm, Wye, Ashford, Kent, TN25 5DB
Phone Number: Stephen Etherington: 07767 321053
Website: Visit Website
Google Map Link: See Location on Google Map
Facilities: There is no visitor centre nor permanent staffing. Limited resourcing has meant management of the reed beds and woodland has been somewhat sporadic but has arguably improved in recent years partly thanks to the participation from and by an active volunteer group
(From Natural England Website) The reserve has the largest reed bed in the south east of England, which supports a range of specialised birds and insects. The reed beds are an excellent sanctuary for migrating birds such as swallows and house martins in the summer and starlings in the winter. Bittern, marsh harrier, kingfisher, great crested grebe, water rail, reed bunting, bearded reedling can all be seen.
The reserve supports a large variety of invertebrates (including dragonflies and moths) and rare plants. It also has a strong population of water voles. Marsh Frogs abound and their is a dipping platform for school parties.
Stodmarsh has over 6 kilometres of footpaths, including a circular walk around the whole site. There are short and long easy access ‘sensory’ trails at the Stodmarsh end of the reserve, both with wheelchair access.
For more information see the leaflet for this reserve.
Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve is situated five miles east of Canterbury. Travelling from Canterbury take the A257, Sandwich Road and turn left 200m beyond Canterbury Golf Course into Stodmarsh Road. Follow the road to Stodmarsh village (c5 miles) turning left immediately past the Red Lion pub. A narrow metalled track (with a couple of passing places and speed bumps) takes you, after c.400m, to a carpark with several dedicated disabled bays and toilets including one accessible to wheelchairs.
Stodmarsh carpark and toilet block from the disabled bays
Access from the Grove end is from the minor road opposite the Grove Ferry Inn. This road is off the A28 in Upstreet, which is signposted to Grove Ferry. There is a small pull in sufficient for about three cars by the entrance gate and plenty of parking opposite the entrance in the Kent Country Parks Pay & Display carpark (and in the pub car park, although charges are made to non-patrons). Fortuneately, there is a Kent Country Parks carpark season ticket available at just £3 for Blue Badge holders. This covers one for a dozen parks including Pegwell Bay.
There is a picnic area by the car park and toilets including a disabled toilet with a ramped entrance accessible with a RADAR key
The road can be busy and access across it is on a bend so be very cautious! Once across the road there is a ramped entrance for wheelchairs etc. Access to the reserve is down a long flat and wide drive. This can be difficult as some stretches are sandy and others have loose gravel but it is mostly compacted earth.
The nearest train station is in Sturry, 5km to the southwest, which is served by South Eastern and regular bus services along the A28 from Sturry to Upstreet are provided by Stagecoach East Kent.
Stodmarsh is on the path of the Stour Valley Walk and on Route 1 of the Sustrans National Cycle Network.
At the Stodmarsh end carpark there is a toilet black with a wheelchair accessible toilet.
At the Grove end there is an accessible toilet at the entrance to the Country Park carpark – see above.
All Day every day
There is free, open access to the reserve at all times
Description of Habitat & Facilities
Family Facilities: There is a small car park down a paved track from Stodmarsh Village, a fully accessible toilet, a ‘shelter’ where groups can await pick-up or eat a packed lunch, three hides nearest to the Stodmarsh end (one which is fully accessible), two nature trails (one which is easy access), footpaths and information panels.
Although always low lying, Stodmarsh (and nearby Collards Lake) were created by water being pumped out of flooded mine workings leading to the formation of the most extensive reedbeds in southeast England. The reserve consists of reedbed, open water, and grazing marsh with some wet woodland (plus a growing, if inaccessible, birch copse on the old tip and is bordered to the north by the River Stour. It is managed with some grazing and rotational reed cutting with periodic removal of invasive scrub from reedbeds and fields.
Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve covers 241 hectares. It is a Special Protection Area and also a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. English Nature manages this National Nature Reserve.
Birders often treated the reserve as if it is TWO reserves; either end being separately accessible and, for quick visits for particular species (and a good number of twitches) this makes a lot of sense. For many disabled visitors the length of paths and their surfacing makes full access from just one end unlikely.
Trails & Hides
There are, effectively, four trails. On the Stodmarsh side a 1100m trail passes from the carpark through wet woodland and to the main lake and Tower Hide, then back to a fork on to the Reedbed Hide and then back, to the carpark. A second trail of 600m follows the same path from the car park to the fork via the Reedbed Hide and back through the wood to the car park.
A third trail of c.6k follows a circular path from the wet woodland along the river to Grove Ferry and back via viewing ramp, and the other hides.
The final ‘trail’ leads from the Grove Ferry entrance to the viewing ramp 350m) on to the Harrison’s Drove Hide and back along the river and around to the viewing ramp and so back to the entrance.
The beginnings of all trails are OK for wheelchairs and pushchairs but only the two short routes are accessible all year throughout their length. It is a long push from Grove to Harrison’s Drove but the viewing ramp is well worth the effort.
The Stodmarsh End
There is a dedicated car park with designated disabled bays and toilets including one which is wheelchair accessible at the Stodmarsh end.
The ‘Stodmarsh end’ includes a small circuit through wet woodland to the main lake and a reedbed hide.
Some trails are accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs (see overview). The path from the car park direct to Reedbed Hide is rolled gravel and natural surface and can have muddy bits when well trodden in the winter months.
From the car park there is a flat firm path leading to the wet woodland. This passes through a newly (2017) cleared area where shallow pools have been created with reeds and rushes growing up.
There is a hard surface/boardwalk through the wet woodland and a welcome park bench, although the path is liable to occasional flooding. (In the past there were several benches)
This is useable all year with the surface passable by wheelchairs and not slippery underfoot. Streams and ditches are crossed by bridges with only small gaps and decent handrails.
Looking back through the wet wood in the direction of the carpark
Once past the trail that goes off to the tower hide there is another bench.
Rolled gravel, compacted limestone, boardwalk and natural surfaces as above.
There are three hides.
One accessible hide (Reedbed Hide) looks out over a small pool, part of the main reedbed and has a distant view of the main lake. In this case accessible means one can reach the hide from a flat path that inclines at a shallow gradient to the entrance, and a wheelchair can enter.
However, all the windows are (too) high as is the ‘elbow’ shelf. There is no wheelchair slot.
The views from this hide can include roosting bittern on winter evenings, currying water rails and perching kingfishers as well as waders, wildfowl, raptors and terns.
The view from the Reedbed Hide
One hide (Marsh Hide) gives good views over grazing marshes and (mostly) more distant reedbeds.
The hide is approached up an incline and has stairs into the hide.
Internally is a standard format with single height viewing slots and upward opening windows.
Tower hide is accessible only by steep steps and overlooks the main lake and reedbeds. Inside is the standard format.
It has great views of the majority of the northern end of the reserve.
The trail from here leads to the river (Stour) and back to the Grove End.
The Marsh hide is along a trail down the centre of the reserve leading to the Harrison’s Drove hide and the Grove end.
The Grove Ferry End
An information board gives a plan and information at the entrance gate.
There is an official entrance opposite the Pay & Display carpark with a ramp down a slope and back up to the path with a small shelter overlooking the fields and then back up to a gateway and the main path through the reserve. (if you’ve been able to use the small pull in this is where you’ll enter the reserve).
The ‘Grove Ferry’ end has a short walk (c.300 meters) to a prominent viewing ramp over looking a pond, scrape and reedbeds giving a 360 degree view of around one third of the reserve. This is a wonderful location all year where one can watch wildlife and waders, reedbed specials, scrub warblers and passing or resident raptors.
Just past the ramp is a new hide and a platform for pond dipping, but this is not for general public access.
The track leads from the ramp Feast’s Hide with a sturdy backless bench part way along the track. This track is mostly compacted stone or mown grass but there are some patches of sand and although this has been stabilised with plastic mesh it may prove difficult for some chairs.
An accessible hide (Feast’s Hide – sometimes called Green Hide or Crake Hide) overlooks a small mere and reedbeds. There is a small tern raft on the mere and several perches often used by kingfishers. Winter sighting of bitterns are sometimes possible and rails have featured over the years.
Heading towards the Stodmarsh end at a T-junction turn left for Harrison’s Drove Hide (160m) which overlooks another scrape. Beyond the T-junction are wet fields famed for water pipits etc. traversed by the path to the Marsh Hide (access via a kissing gate & unsuitable for wheelchairs)
The path from the Grove end to the ramp is compacted limestone and is accessible all year, beyond the ramp is mostly good but can get soggy in winter. The spur from the ramp to the river has a bench but there is an incline to the riverbank and that river path is quite narrow and not recommended for wheelchairs.
Rolled gravel, compacted limestone, boardwalk and natural surfaces as above.
The viewing ramp at the Grove end overlooks a scrape, lake and reedbeds in all directions as far as the River Stour, it has a n accessible incline and the benches provided are screened on one side to minimise disturbance.
There are two public hides and a public viewing platform. The hides are accessible and ramped and there is a large viewing ramp at the Grove end which is sufficiently shallow gradient to be accessible to (fit) self-propelled wheelchair users.
At the top of the ramp before the viewing area is another information board.
The viewing ramp has several benches and is partially screened to reduce disturbance. There are also steps down from the ramp to the path for the able-bodied.
This hide and platform for pond dipping is not generally open to the public.
Feast’s hide is entered via a short, stone path from the main trail. Either side of the path are two wet ditches alive with Cetti’s warblers.
The hide overlooks a mere and reedbeds, with a handily placed perch sometimes used by Kingfishers. The area can be good for Crakes and Rails on passage and sometimes Bittern, Snipe and occasional Jack Snipe in winter.
To the left are reedbeds in the direction of Stodmarsh and overhead is great in summer for hawking hobbies the high count for the area is over thirty birds!
To the right one looks back over the reeds towards the ramp. Facing forward across the mere are some bushes lining the River Stour beyond which is the railway and the village of Upstreet. The slope is tree covered and can be good in summer for Cuckoos and Turtle Doves.
Inside the hide there are sturdy but moveable benches and a low viewing window as well as standard slots. However all are opened upward which are out of reach to a wheelchair user.
Harrison’s Drove Hide
Access into Harrison’s Drove hide is ramped.
Internally it has a standard format.
A trail goes from Harrison’s Drove Hide to the river (Stour) and loops along the river and around either to rejoin the Stodmarsh end via the Tower Hide or the Grove end on the road or with a cross path to the Viewing Ramp.
The whole site is an excellent reserve with special birds in all seasons and regularly appears on the pagers when rare or uncommon birds turn up (for example the site has a good track record for wintering Penduline Tits). Winter ducks and geese (more unusual species are often best seen on the approach road) and raptors as well as over-wintering Bittern attract birders and the Stodmarsh wet woodland has been excellent for Siskin and Redpolls, Woodcock, Treecreeper, Great-spotted and Green Woodpecker and winter tit flocks should be checked for Firecrest.
Both the main lake and the viewing ramp can be alive with swifts, hirundines and hobbies (high count of 42 in 2009) in summer.
In passage times both ends and the middle attract waders, terns, raptors, wildfowl and crakes as well as top rarities year after year.
All Year: Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Barn Owl, Bearded Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Water Rail, Kingfisher, resident ducks and waders.
Winter: Grebes, Smew, Goldeneye, Greylag Geese (regularly joined by other grey geese), , Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Buzzards, Bittern, Green Sandpiper, Long-eared Owl, Redpoll, finch & tit flocks in woodland
Spring/Summer: Gargany, Hobby, Cuckoo, Turtle Dove, Nightingale, water-associated warblers.
Passage: Spoonbill, Common, Curlew & Wood Sandpipers, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Greenshank, Little & Temminck’s Stint, Whimbrel, Black & Arctic Tern, Osprey, Red Kite, Red-backed Shrike, Whinchat, Wheatear, Ring Ouzel.
Rarities have included: Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, American Coot, Baillon’s & Spotted Crake, Black-winged Pratincole, Red-footed Falcon, Penduline Tit, Savis Warbler & a host of others.
For sightings see: Stour Valley Sightings
This lake can be viewed distantly from the ridge along which the road into Stodmarsh village runs from Canterbury. You can pull off c800m from the Red Lion and view from a gateway. A scope can pick out Goldeneye (regular) and other diving ducks and it is a good spot to scan for raptors (in May dozens of Hobby may be present but also check for Red-footed Falcons (which are almost annual in the valley) In winter, check the Greylag flock for scarcer geese.
Trenley Woods & ‘Cow Corner’
The woodlands further along the road have held Lesser-spotted Woodpecker and the usual species.
A field to the south of the road at near ‘Cow Corner’ (at the junction with Elbridge Hill) is good for Little Owl. Pulling off by a gateway here gives you a good view across the distant Westbere Lakes. Early morning viewing from here is good for the whole owl calendar.
Contributor Bo Beolens
Date Last Updated 25-05-2017