Reserve Days

Episode 1 – 19th Dec 2021
Mallard Ducks – Drake and Hen

I first discovered Gazen Salts Nature Reserve last year, October 2020. I remember mentioning my experience there in an episode of Morning Musings. However, the original photographs are no longer present in the archive here.

At the time, the Reserve was unbeknownst to me under the management of Wardens or Rangers as they are sometimes referred to here apparently. Still, it was lacking in frequent funding.

Regular readers of my blog are all too familiar with some of the photography l manage to capture during many of my morning and afternoon walks on the grounds in other series l publish here. But last year, those grounds, although prominent, were undercover and hidden from sight by shrubbery, fallen trees and wild bracken and weeds and disused pathways were clogged up with overgrown detritus! I recall thinking if anyone ever cleared this area up, it would be wonderful ….

Gazen Salts Nature Reserve
Leaflet from 2010

Gazen Salts owes its name to the leaseholder of the ‘Saltings’ John Gason, who was once a 17th century resident of Sandwich, Kent. In 1970, the Town Council of Sandwich selected the 15 acred area of wildland comprising abandoned allotments, drab grazing fields, a disused builder’s yard and rubbish tip. It then designated it to be a nature reserve within the town itself.

A local naturalist and wildlife artist, combined called Dennis Harle, was asked to layout the actual Reserve’s design and act as a consultant and adviser to all the organisations involved with the project. Mr Harle was the first appointed warden of the Reserve and actively kept that post until May 1985.

During that construction period, the Reserve saw witness to the bulk of the creation present today regarding the trees of the woodland, the waterways and ponds and original pathways. In 2004 Gallows Field was added to the reserve grounds.

Once known as the execution spot for the town of Sandwich, where villains and witches were hung, burned, drowned or dunked in the Guestling stream and or buried alive till 1790.

The victims’ bodies were then displayed to act as a deterrent to ‘no gooders’ visiting the town of Sandwich. Gallows Field is on the roadway, leaving the town itself, leading to Canterbury Gate, which once was one of the main entrances to Sandwich.

Gazen Salts Lake

The Guestling stream joins the Delf, one of the main waterways in Sandwich. Many of the streams in the town were present to help monks drain the lands when used for farming and to prevent flooding to the crops. After the 1457 raid by the French, many of the streams were widened and deepened and used as an additional line of defence and fortification.

The lake and the waterways in the Reserve are sustained by a sluice gate connected to the River Stour. The waters further feed and play host to a diverse range of wildlife, including species such as sticklebacks, pond skaters, diving beetles, frogs and toads, newts, kingfishers, moorhens, bats, rats, shrews, weasels, stoats, foxes, hedgehogs, moles, water voles, grass snakes, mallard, tufted, pochard and shoveler ducks, warblers, woodpeckers, blackcaps, sparrowhawks, grey squirrels, parakeets and others including many butterfly species too.

The woodlands are home to many species of flora also such as primroses, celandine, dog rose, oak, ash, wild cherry, elm, field maple, wild privet, marsh marigold, marshmallow, meadowsweet, black bush, yellow iris and many other exciting plants of interest.

Today Gazen Salts is controlled and managed by a voluntary board of directors, trustees and an apprentice warden and supported by volunteers.

… therefore, l am sure you can imagine my delight when l discovered that they were looking for volunteers this year. The programme to regenerate life into the Reserve came about with fresh funding in April 2021. The winter rains of 2018 and 2019 had caused severe destruction to the Reserve. In December 2019, the grounds were being reported as being in some areas 18″ underwater.

More money was found and awarded to the Reserve to aid in the cleanup and resurrection of Gazen Salts which had fallen into a state of disrepair following the serious floodings and mismanagement of funds by previous wardens. The official renovations began in January 2021, and once they had finished, the volunteer programme was created and launched in May 2021. I joined the programme in late June this year and have been an active volunteer.

This series is about what l do on the days l work there. The main image design is a design l had created and made up into Pin Badges, which l then gifted the rest of the team in preparation for our first Open Day on the 27th of November.

We had 100 people turn up and raised £375, which wasn’t bad for a highly wet and dank dismal Saturday!

Originally Reserve Days was to be a series in the business blog Earthly Comforts alongside Nature Diary. However, l decided that it might be too ‘personal’ a series and not so business-oriented, so I transferred the two series here.

The Reserve is never short of work, chores or tasks. It is a job that could keep volunteers busy from 8 in the morning to 8 at night seven days a week. It involves clearing brush, pollarding trees, activating pathways, cleaning pondlife, trimming, cutting back, sawing, burning … the list is endless.

I hope you’ll enjoy the series as much as l enjoy my time in the Reserve every Wednesday!

Gazen Salts Lake

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12 thoughts on “Reserve Days

    1. Hey Gary, yes you could spend a few hours in here if you wanted to. Sit down on one of the many benches scattered throughout the reserve and chill 🙂

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