Reserve Name: Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory
Managing Authority Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory Trust
Address: SBBOT, Guilford Road, Sandwich Bay, Sandwich, Kent CT13 9PF
Phone Number: 01304 617341
Website: Visit Website
Assessed by: Brian Anderson August 2010
Restharrow Scrape re-assessed by Bo Beolens April 2017.
The bird observatory is situated a few miles 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 Sandwich Bay Golf Club. This situation has resulted in a toll charge of £7 being levied on visitors by the estate owners. Members of SBBO (Annual membership £20) get free vehicular entry to the observatory and reserve beyond the toll but NOT other areas of the estate.
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 are two disabled parking bays. One located directly in front of the main entrance, and the other is close to the ground floor flat, which is incorporated in the main building.
In practice these are NOT respected by staff or members.
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 bays are a concrete pad.
The Observatory has fully accessible toilets.
Admission Charges: None (but unless you are a member there is a toll (£7) to access Guilford Road
Description of Habitat & Facilities
On Tuesday, 1st April 2003 I visited the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory and stayed two nights in the accommodation provided. The visit was at the behest of Bo Beolens of the Disabled Birders Association and Kevin Thornton – then the Observatory manager.
The purpose of my visit was to make an assessment of the observatory and its facilities as it may affect physically disabled people. I was able to provide a very relevant “hands on” assessment as I am a permanent wheelchair user and I carried out the assessment unaided.
Main Observatory Building
The observatory building has a large main hall for meetings etc., a laboratory, a library, various types of accommodation, kitchen, toilets and an office.
The main entrance has wide doors that are easy to negotiate. All areas are at ground floor level except for a small step (no more than 2- inches) on the way to the connecting door to the ground floor flat.
The accommodation within the main building is very flexible as there are bedrooms for up to two, four or eight people, as well as a ground floor flat. There is also a large disabled toilet.
The Ground Floor Flat.
The flat – (2017 which costs £40 per night for members and £50 for non-members) – consists of a fully fitted kitchen, a bathroom, one bedroom with two single beds, a sitting room with a settee, a small dining table, sideboard and television. There are no specific disabled aids fitted anywhere in the flat. Surprisingly, though, all the plug sockets are placed at a good height for wheelchair users and for people unable to bend low.
The main entrance to the flat is straight off the sitting room. Entry is gained via a newly constructed concrete slope onto a level base large enough to turn a standard-sized wheelchair. I was able to get up and down the slope quite easily.
There are two connecting doors to the main hall of the observatory and these can be locked. If entering the flat through this door it is necessary to go down the small step already referred to and then through a staff sitting room.
All the doorways in the flat are very wide with plenty of turning space at each door entrance.
The kitchen is fully fitted with plenty of kitchenware, crockery and utensils supplied.
The bathroom has a washbasin, sink and bath. Access is o.k. but tight.
The bedroom was roomy and the two single beds comfortable and at a good height for wheelchair user.
Full central heating is provided.
Suggestions for improving facilities in the flat for disabled people.
Many suggestions were made to improve the facilities for disabled and these have all been carried out.
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.
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 plans are in hand to create a boardwalk within the wood and to provide benches – this will make it wheelchair accessible and much better for those whose range is limited. If you push beyond the observatory area there is varied habitat where there are great opportunities to see a variety of birds according to season. (2017 update – there are a few benches, but the boardwalk has never materialised… the surface is either woodchip or grass)
2017 – A wetland area has been created (Restharrow Scrape) that attracts waders and wildfowl etc.. Water levels vary greatly over a season. The whole crape can be seen with binoculars.
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 lapwing, waterfowl and an occasional rarity.
It includes an accessible bird hide together with a gradually sloped, fully wheelchair friendly path with occasional seating along the way to assist those who can only manage short distances.
It has a concrete pad disabled parking bay.
There was a plan to provide a raised viewing ramp which would afford views across the scrape, marsh and surrounding fields. The ramp was to be fully wheelchair accessible… nothing seems to have come of this.
The hide has some lower viewing slots.
There is also a wheelchair bay with a hinged seat that can be folded 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.
Date Last Updated 26.04.2017