Elmley National Nature Reserve



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Elmley NNR, on the south of the Isle of Sheppey, is the only National Nature Reserve in Britain that is owned and managed by a farming family. The Merricks family grazes about 700 cattle on the marshes and it is this wide expanse of grazing marsh which provides such a special habitat for wildlife. You might see boxing hares on the meadows in the spring, but Elmley is perhaps best known for its large numbers of breeding waders and birds of prey on the marshes. Flocks of golden plover, curlew, pintail and teal can be seen here, as well as hunting hen harriers, marsh harriers, merlins and short-eared owls in winter. A myriad of dragonflies and damselflies patrol the freshwater ditches, where you might also see the shy water vole and grass snake. Crickets and grasshoppers can be heard chirruping in the grasslands while several species of rare bees buzz between the wildflowers.

Elmley National Nature Reserve


About the area

Discover Kent

The White Cliffs of Dover are an English icon – the epitome of our island heritage and sense of nationhood. They also mark the point where the Kent Downs AONB, that great arc of chalk downland stretching from the Surrey Hills and sometimes known as ‘the Garden of England’, finally reaches the sea. This is a well-ordered and settled landscape, where chalk and greensand escarpments look down into the wooded Weald to the south.

Many historic parklands, including Knole Park and Sir Winston Churchill’s red-brick former home at Chartwell, are also worth visiting. Attractive settlements such as Charing, site of Archbishop Cranmer’s Tudor palace, and Chilham, with its magnificent half-timbered buildings and 17th-century castle built on a Norman site, can be found on the Pilgrim’s Way, the traditional route for Canterbury-bound pilgrims in the Middle Ages. 

In the nature reserves, such as the traditionally coppiced woodlands of Denge Wood and Earley Wood, and the ancient fine chalk woodland of Yockletts Bank high on the North Downs near Ashford, it is still possible to experience the atmosphere of wilderness that must have been felt by the earliest travellers along this ancient ridgeway.

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