Reserve Name: Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory Trust
Managing Authority Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory Trust
Address: SBBOT, Guilford Road, Sandwich Bay, Sandwich, Kent CT13 9PF
Phone Number: 01304 617341
Website: Visit Website
Resource: A mobility scooter is available for free, but a session (morning or afternoon) must be booked in advance and a form filled in on arrival. Accessible toilets.
First Assessed by: Brian Anderson August 2010
Last Assessed by Bo Beolens July 2022.
The bird observatory is situated a few kilometres out of the town of Sandwich and is located within the grounds of the privately owned Sandwich Bay Estate, and is also adjacent to the Royal St Georges Golf Club (one of three clubs adjacent to one another – Princes Golf Club to the north and Cinque Ports Golf Club to the South). This situation has resulted in a toll charge of £7 being levied on visitors by the estate owners. Members of SBBO (Annual membership £25-£40) get free vehicular entry to the observatory and reserves beyond the toll gate but NOT other areas of the estate. (Blue Badge holding members can drive to Restharrow Scrape beyond the further toll booth). Non members can tell the tollgate that they are going to the observatory and are then charged just £1.00p, but this allows you to drive to the car park only NOT ELSEWHERE.
Parking & Toilet Provision
On passing the toll barrier the bird observatory is located a short distance on your right where you then enter a large car park in front of the main observatory building. There is one disabled parking bay located directly in front of the main entrance. The car park surface, though flat, was hard to negotiate because it was constructed of a course material and it was quite difficult to push over a surface where the small front castors of the wheelchair were continually being impeded by stones and grit. The disabled bay has a concrete pad.
The Observatory has fully accessible toilets. There is a shop (Monday to Thursday10.00am to 12.30pm and Friday to Sunday 1.00pm to 4.00pm) with a (limited) range of snacks and cold drinks, and visitors are welcome to use the lecture hall and make themselves a hot drink in the kitchen. There is a wildlife library available to members.
Admission Charges: None (although see note about toll)
Description of Habitat & Facilities
Main Observatory Building
The observatory building has a large main hall for meetings etc., a classroom, a library, various types of accommodation, kitchen, toilets and an office.
The main entrance has wide doors that are not easy to negotiate as there is another internal door. All areas are at ground floor level.
The accommodation within the main building is very flexible as there are bedrooms for one, two and five people, as well as the warden’s ground floor flat. There is also a large accessible toilet.
There are now a lot of activities centred on the observatory including guided walks, programmes for youngsters, talks and courses (mostly conducted over Zoom). All details on their super new website!
When leaving the observatory building to go bird watching it is first of all necessary to negotiate the car park (already described), but once this is achieved you then get onto a metalled estate road that continues beyond the observatory area across flat countryside. This road is flat and easy to push along in a wheelchair. Because it is a busy estate road one should be aware of traffic hazards at all times. Along the road on the left is ‘Middle Field’ with restricted access but somewhere to watch over for butterflies, odonates and migrant birds.
The bird watching is primarily looking over farmland and marsh but after a few hundreds metres from the observatory there is some woodland (known as ‘the elms’) to add variety. The tiny woodland is a natural migrant trap and there are several benches. Opposite is the ‘Little Elms’ with a newly created (wood chip) path through to the Jubilee field and dragonfly pond which has the UK’s rarest damselfly breeding. The ‘push’ over bumpy meadow is really hard work… but there are hopes of improvement.
West of the observatory a bridal way take you tom the start of a footpath that leads eventually across the railway line into Worth marshes and the Pinnock Wall. part of this is now an RSPB reserve. The footpath is VERY variable and not yet accessible. SBBOT is working on making this accessible to mobility scooters and wheelchairs but it is a long-term plan dependent on finance and landowner permissions.
If you push beyond the observatory area to the toll road there is varied habitat where there are great opportunities to see a variety of birds according to season. (See below for Middle Field, The Elms, Little Elms, etc) Surfaces are woodchip or grass in the reserves. Beyond these lies Restharrow Scrape (below) and Restharrow Dunes. Beyound the scrape where the road turns to the right (Dickson’s Corner) there is a path along side the Dunes and eventually to the sea. This has recently been opened up with a wide entry either end to accommodate scooters and wheelchairs. The surface is a bit uneven and grass covered, but is passable to scooters and (if you are strong enough) to wheelchairs.
View from the fist hide (July 2022)
A wetland area has been created (Restharrow Scrape) that attracts waders and wildfowl etc.. Water levels vary greatly over a season. The whole scrape can be seen with binoculars. It has recently been extended (thanks to a lottery grant) and another hide built which is fully accessible with a sliding door and wheelchair bays. Windows are the lifted sort that may be a barrier.
There is interest all year round with large teal flocks and other wildfowl in winter, interesting waders on passage, and passerines dropping in to drink in summer, as well as nesting gulls, lapwing, avocet, waterfowl and an occasional rarity. Mediterranean Gulls are present throughout the year.
There is a fully wheelchair friendly path, with occasional seating along the way to assist those who can only manage short distances, all the way to both hides.
There is a concrete pad for disabled parking with bays for two cars as well as a wheelchair-friendly gate which can be opened right out to allow mobility scooter access. Further down the road opposite Cinq Ports Golf Club, there is a plan to provide a raised viewing ramp, which would afford views across the RSPB reserve, marsh and surrounding fields. This is a long-term wish.
The First Hide
The hide has some lower viewing slots. There is also a wheelchair bay with lightweight plastic chairs that can easily be moved out of the way to allow a wheelchair into place. However, the viewing slot hasn’t been lowered at this bay! Moreover, it is upward opening, impossible from a low wheelchair.
Interpretation Board by First Hide
The Sliding entry door to the new hide (above) and the view from that hide (below)
Date Last Updated 11.07.2022