Updated: Jan 30, 2020
If like us you are walkers, we are spoilt for choice here on the east Kent coast. There is no shortage of stunning coastal & countryside walks from White Cliffs Country, Samphire Hoe, The Stour Valley, Saxon Shore Way, Sandwich Bay & Nature Reserve, Pegwell Bay, Pilgrims Way routes & Canterbury city walks, amongst many others.
We stumbled across a fabulous walk a couple of weeks ago which we're still talking about. We went for a really great pub lunch at The Red Lion in the tiny village of Stodmarsh near Canterbury, about a 20 minute drive from Lodge Cottage. Our friend Nick, who runs foraging courses recommended it to us. We weren't disappointed. The lunch was delicious, not your average Sunday lunch pub fayre but inventive & unexpected flavours presented in the most creative, modern way and produced from mainly local & foraged ingredients. A couple of standout dishes were the pigeon & home made 'milk bread' with home churned butter, sprinkled with a dash of flaky sea salt, OMG..! More on the Red Lion another time...
After lunch we curiously followed a sign towards Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve worrying that we had left it a bit late to make the most of the walk as the light was starting to dim. We had no idea this beautiful nature reserve existed and we had the walking routes all to ourselves, apart from a couple of small groups of bird watchers whispering amongst themselves. Stodmarsh NNR is a square mile of internationally important reed beds, fens, ditches, wet grassland and open water, which provide an ideal habitat for breeding and wintering birds, invertebrates & rare plants. It's also an important site for the rare Ramshorn snail, water voles & marsh harrier, bird of prey. We spotted herons, swans, dragonflies, ducks & the Konik pony. We learnt that medieval monks began to graze these ponies on this landscape and they still remain. The clear waters of the River Stour on the reserve are also home to aquatic wildlife such as eels & marsh frogs.
It was a feast for the eyes in the beautiful golden light and low winter sun, with the reeds gently blowing in the wind - really magical. A landscape & wildlife photographers dream...we kept saying "Ooh!" "Ah!" "Look at this!" We both happen to love photography so we had the opportunity to take some beautiful pictures. There are several wooden wildlife spotting hides situated in different areas of the reserve where you can quietly sit and observe the river, reed beds & lake. It was beautiful in mid-winter, so we can only imagine it will be lovely with every changing season and new things to see. We plan to go back in springtime for another hike and again in summer with a picnic!
You can find out more information about Stodmarsh Nature Reserve at www.naturalengland.org.uk