Reserve Name: Pegwell Bay Country Park
Managing Authority: Kent Country Parks
Address: Kent Country Parks, Invicta House, Maidstone, ME14 1XX
Phone Number: 03000 41 72 72
Website: Visit Website
Assessed by: Bo Beolens Late June 2017
The park is situated at Sandwich Road, Ramsgate, Kent CT12 5JB, there are no public transport links.
Parking & Toilet Provision
There is a pay & display car park with room for about forty cars. There are no specific disabled bays and in nice weather the carpark often gets full. There is a parking charge, but Blue Badge holders can get a concessionary season ticket that entitles holders to park in nine different country parks in the county. The current cost is just £3 and is available on-line.
The car park is divided into two and each part has hard standing throughout the far end from the road leads to the main track to the bird hide. However, just inside the carpark entrance on the right is a flat tarmac path that leads towards Stonelees. The bushes on either side hold plenty of summer visitors and some berry bushes are often favoured in waxwing years.
By the carpark is an open area with picnic tables and a children’s small play area.
There is a toilet block off the carpark with a disabled toilet with RADAR key access. The general facilities are sometimes locked up ‘out of season’ and when the car park is closed.
The carpark entrance is gated and the gate is locked at dusk (or 9pm whichever is earliest) and opens daily at 9.00am. It is open every day except Xmas day.
Description of Habitat & Facilities
Pegwell Bay forms part of the Sandwich and Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve. It has stunning views of Sandwich and Deal to the West and the cliffs of Ramsgate to the East. The Nature Reserve is a Ramsar Site of International Importance and is a wonderful place to explore with lots to see at different times of the year. The most obvious feature are the extensive (at low tide) mudflats. There is little disturbance (the occasional bait digger) and winter flocks of five to ten thousand golden plover are not unusual in winter.
To the west are chalk cliffs stretching to Ramsgate from the concrete platform left after the hover port was closed down. From the country park to the cliffs are hawthorn bushes and scrub which are favoured by firecrests and many other scarce birds at appropriate times. At the point where the road is closest to the park is a small brackish lagoon favoured by ducks egrets and occasional waders. In Autumn it can have a mass of hirundines above feeding up before the channel crossing. between the old hoverport and the mouth of the creek which separates it from Sandwich are areas of salt marsh and some quite large areas of reeds. One small part near the road has been dug out as a scrape but is only viewable from the footpath. Between the hide and the creek is another area of saltmarsh with some reedbeds. This area in particular is favoured by short-eared owls in winter.
Distant View of Creek from Hide
The mouth of the creek sometimes has a number of common seals.
The rest of the park is mostly scrub, with some mature trees on the footpath parallel to the road.
A great many rarities have been seen particularly in Spring and Autumn and the scrub areas hold lots of breeding warblers in summer. In the winter the foreshore and mudflats attract thousands of wildfowl and waders. Birds of prey, such as Merlin and Short-eared Owl can sometimes be seen at the site. Birdwatchers can use a public bird hide, which is also accessible to disabled visitors.
However, the park is very well used by picnickers, dog walkers and general visitors. The car park will fill quickly when the weather is nice and all paths are used by dog walkers.
The saltmarsh is part of the nature reserve and is off limits… this is not respected, on my last visit I watched three young anglers walk across it to cast their lures into the sea. The very few signs letting people know not to do this are small and obscured by vegetation.
Trails & Hide
There are two trails with several other inter-connecting footpaths through the fenced paddocks and scrub. The paddocks are grazed at times and when so used are not open to access.
Trail from the car park into the middle of the park
Sustrans Route 15 runs parallel to the Sandwich Road both ways from the carpark. This is lined with trees for the most part.
The Thanet Coastal Path runs along the other perimeter, along the line of the mud flats and marsh and then turning back inland to meet the other trail. About half way along this track is the hide. The footpath from the car park to the hid is paved for the first half, the rest is mown grass.
Virtually opposite the notice boards is a bench, which I have dubbed the impossible bench as I couldn’t use it. This is because the seat is very ‘shallow’. Having a curvature I can only perch in such a way as to be looking at my feet, or to lean back my butt slips of the seat!
The impossible bench
While I am not one for unnecessarily cutting back plants the area immediately in front of the bench is weedy.
The hide is marked on the map. For years this was a purpose made wooden building. There was a long history of misuse and vandalism with it being burnt down at least once. It has been replaced with a converted shipping container.
This is certainly a substantial hide and has storm shutters across the glass windows in places. However, the internal configuration is less than perfect.
The hide interior
Much of it is pretty well standard although the benches are slightly higher than the norm and some are moveable. It has been lined with hardboard making it less severe and also somewhat more insulated staying relative cool in summer and relatively warm in winter. The doorway is sufficiently wide to accommodate wheelchairs and there is no lip so entry is on the flat.
The disabled access slot is slightly deeper than the other viewing slots, with a much lower and substantially wider elbow shelf… although the reason for the extra width is to allow a wheelchair user to get their knees under the shelf as there can be no knee alcove without breaching the container integrity.
The ‘accessible’ viewing position
However, this does NOT allow for fully independent viewing. If the window is down there is no way that a wheelchair user can prop it open as the ‘latch’ is a hook!
The impossible latch
To hook the window up (or indeed to release it to shut the window) one would need to be able to stand. Given that proper latches have been used elsewhere in the hide this seems a pretty silly oversight. That would, at least, enable someone to push the window into an open position. Given that the position is at one end of the hide the window could have been hinged so it could open to the right.
This is a real shame as the hide is well placed to observe much of the mudflats and hide-tide roosts. On our visit one could clearly see a ‘hauled up’ seal.