Dungeness RSPB Reserve (RSPB)
Reserve Name Dungeness RSPB Reserve
Managing Authority RSPB
Midway between Lydd and Dungeness, the reserve is well signposted off the Lydd to Dungeness Road.
Views of the reedbeds can be had from behind the reserve along Dengemarsh Road. Where the metaling peters out the road becomes very hard to drive with huge potholes etc. Access to the road is restricted at times when the Army Range is in use. Red flags warn of live firing.
You can also reach the reserve by public transport (12 bus from Lydd to the reserve or 11 bus from Ashford). The service does not run on Sundays. Further information from the reserve.
For cyclists Sustrans National Route 2 runs through Lydd.
Parking & Toilet Provision
There is a large carpark for around 50 cars by the visitor centre. There is also a smaller carpark by the new workings opposite the farmhouse with space for a dozen cars – and also a great place for Tree Sparrow.
Open every day except Xmas Day and Boxing Day from 0900 until 2100 or dusk if earlier.
RSPB and Wildlife Explorer members free.
Non-members: adults £3, concessions £2, under 16s £1, families (up to two adults and four children) £6.
Description of Habitat & Facilities
Few people would describe this as a pretty reserve. The RSPB reserve consists of lakes and wetlands reclaimed from gravel workings on a spit of land that is Europe’s largest shingle area. Its position makes it ideal for migration and a rarity magnet as well as superb for overwintering wildfowl and summer breeders associated with water or scrub. In winter one can often see four grebe species, thousands of ducks including regular Smew in double figures and continental Bitterns. In spring the areas of gorse and scrub is alive with warbler song.
Background Information and Birding Tips
The reserve occupies nearly 1000 hectares of the Dungeness peninsular, the largest shingle formation of its kind in Europe. It is part of the Dungeness National Nature Reserve and an SSSI. 75% of the reserve is the well-established area south of the Lydd to Dungeness Road but former Hanson ARC gravel workings to the north have been added in recent years.
The unique shingle habitat is home to nearly one third of Britain’s plant species and 1,550 invertebrate species, some of which are unique to the area. The extensive lakes, scrapes and reed-beds make for a rich variety of bird species, 200 species annual breed, winter or pass through with more than 300 having been recorded. In spring and summer it is good for great-crested newts, frogs, dragonflies and butterflies as well as birds. It is internationally important for medicinal leeches.
Grassland areas are managed with grazing sheep and cattle to extend the flowering season, with fields flooded in spring for waders. A 25-hectare reedbed is being established in the hope that wintering Bittern will stay on and breed.
The reserve is open from 0900 to 2100 [or sunset if earlier] every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The visitor centre is open 1000 to 1700 daily and 100 to 1600 November through February. Entry to the nature trail is free to members but there is a small charge to non-members. Entry to the visitor centre and the Hanson ARC site is free to all.
There are regular family events at the Reserve ranging from an Easter treasure hunt, nestbox making to children’s birdwatching.
This is one of the most accessible sites in England; despite the difficulty of shingle as a surface every effort has been made to make this accessible for wheelchairs, the ‘hard of walking’, without altering the essential character of this unique habitat. The trails are mainly compacted gravel with some areas using boardwalks.
Disabled people can drive to all but one hide [simply as there is one area where the instability of the shingle makes vehicular access treacherous] where concrete pads have been created so wheelchair users have solid ground from car to hide. Scott Hide can be driven to from the visitor centre and Denge Marsh Hide from the bridle track. The ARC viewing areas can be accessed through a gate with a RADAR key [available at the centre]. To make use of these concessions disabled visitors must ask at the centre for gates to be unlocked.
The car park is sufficient for more than 50 cars including several designated disabled bays with hard-standing right beside the visitor centre. There is a good-sized visitor and education centre with flat access to wide doors. Floor to ceiling glass enables good viewing from here. There is no café but there is a hot drinks machine and close to the centre is a picnic area with some benches and tables (all tables include space for wheelchairs) and a small tarmac path for those wheeling pushchairs etc.
There are adequate separate toilets including a fully accessible disabled one complete with alarm chord, all cleaned daily. [Passing Wheatears and Black Redstarts on passage often use its roof]. Close by are well maintained feeders that attract a variety of tits, buntings and finches including Tree Sparrows, which have re-established a presence on the reserve.
Along the main trails there are several well-spaced benches, and a good number of ‘perches’ where one can rest and view pits and reeds. All hides have ramps as needed and each has at least one large window with movable seating, which makes for easy scoping as well as being accessible to those using wheelchairs. All viewing slots are glazed although they open upwards and would be out of reach of wheelchair users and small children and are, in any event, quite heavy to raise for clearer viewing.
The one hide without vehicular access, Christmas Dell hide is about 500m from Scott Hide or 300m from Denge Marsh Hide and is not easy to reach by wheelchair… sadly this is the best place to view wintering bitterns from.
Description of Trails
There is one circular track around the main reserve with hides at regular intervals and lots of benches and perches for those with walking difficulties. For this reason it is one of the very best from a disabled birders perspective.
The trails are all shingle – some is well compacted but it can be hard to push a wheelchair at times. However, all but one hide can be driven to.
Number of Hides 7
Description of Hides [By name or number]
All hides a ramped and have good wheelchair provision although some viewing slots only open upwards – too high for those who cannot stand.
All Year: Marsh Harrier, Tree Sparrow, gulls and wildfowl
Winter: Divers, Black-necked and Slavonian Grebes, Bittern, Goldeneye, Smew, Gooseander, Pintail, Gulls, Kingfisher. Bewick and Whooper Swans roost on Hanson ARC pit.
Spring/Summer: Garganey, Hobby, Little-ringed Plover, Terns, Pipits & Wagtails, Cetti’s Warbler.
Early migrants passing through include: Wheatears and Black Redstart.
Autumn: Green and Common Sandpiper, Firecrest
Dungeness Bird Observatory is too close to miss out. This is a constant effort site with a trapping area in the shadow of the Atomic Power station. So many rarities have been found here and on the surrounding shingle there can hardly be a twitcher in the UK who had not visited.
In recent years the site has played host to Crested Lark, Dark-eyed Junco, Slender-billed and Adouins Gulls to name but a few. Hardly a year goes by without a mega putting in an appearance.
It is also a renowned sea-watching site with the patch, an area of warm water where the power station discharges water from its cooling system, attracting many gulls. When the weather conditions are right there may be a passage of Skuas or Shearwaters, Divers, Grebes, Ducks and Geese.
The area around the obs is shingle with low gorse and grass tufts and is not easy to work for those with mobility problems or wheels, but much can be scoped from parking areas and roadsides.
Contributor Bo Beolens
Contributors Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Date Last Updated 07-08-2010