Tales from Gazen Salts

A Brief History to Gazen Salts Nature Reserve

[Part 2]

Mike Briggs – Conservationist – standing in the Gazen Salts main gateway as the works began in January 2021.
Gazen Salts Nature Reserve Facebook page

[Main image – Mallard duck – Central Lake]

See Here for more Episodes of Tales from Gazen Salts Nature Reserve Directory

Gazen Salts Leaflet 1 2010

Gazen Salts Leaflet 2 2010

Above Gazen Salts map of grounds in a leaflet from 2010. Displaying clearly water canals and streams, round pond, new pond, north and south lake and scrape reed bed. Today’s projects for the charity are to bring the reserve back to its original glory but 2022 style. The map of the reserve today is displayed in the drawing below.

Below – Drone footage displaying the Reserve in 2019 before the operational rennovation works began in 2021 displayed in the second image.

A Brief History to Gazen Salts Nature Reserve

[Part 2]

I introduced you to Gazen Salts Nature Reserve in the first couple of episodes, where l volunteer from 9 am to midday five times a month. I am with a group of volunteers, primarily retirees interested in the environment and conservation. 

I first stumbled upon the Reserve in October 2020 when it was an overgrown jungle of fallen trees, overgrown green bushes and wild and carefree shrubbery! 

In May 2021, Gazen Salts started the volunteer programme, and l joined that programme in the last week of June. I have been an active volunteer since.

Gazen Salts was established in 1973 and sits on 15 acres of silt-based grounds. In 2013 it became submerged by five feet of saltwater after a massive flood surged the banks of the River stour and flooded parts of Sandwich, resulting in the Reserve being closed for several years. Gazen Salts, before the floods of 2013, was home to 160 species of birds.

Not all who visit the area know the full extent of the damage to the Reserve in 2013. They didn’t understand how an overspill from the River Stour could cause the damage it did. They didn’t know of the 450 trees lost or that the pathways were under five feet of salted water and for how long. Visitors didn’t know that everything was in an absolute state of disaster for the Reserve for such a long time.

Once the floods had receded, the reserve grounds had to dry out and firm up before new works in recovery and repair could begin again, which started in January 2021. Today, 70% of Gazen Salts has reopened/cleared, with the remainder of the area available to visitors by 2024.

In 2018, Toby Cobb, vice-chairman of Gazen Salts Nature Reserve, in an interview, had this to say, said: “It’s not fully restored, but we’ve made significant progress. The wildlife is returning. Some of the ducks are back, the usual native birds are nesting, and we hope the water voles will return in due course. It’s such a peaceful area. It’s a sanctuary of calm in an oasis of a busy world, where people can reunite with nature.”

in the same 2018 article, Trustee of Gazen Salts, Cllr Dan Friend, said: “After years and months of tireless effort, I am delighted that Gazen Salts Nature Reserve has reopened for the public to once again enjoy. “Although I have only been a part of the trust since the beginning of this year, it has been fantastic to have been able to drive forward progress to enable the reopening.”

Gazen Salts was closed down from January 2014 to June 2018. A small team of new wardens and other organisations started work on the project in 2018.

By January 2021, new grants and funding had been released, and the new ‘trainee warden’ alongside several conservationists and part-time training wardens, the Dover council, the Environmental Agency and a voluntary board of directors and trustees started to work towards taking Gazen Salts into the future.

Gazen Salts Nature Reserve has roughly 1 to 2 miles of footways and safe paths to walk upon and are available to visitors to the Reserve. A good 85% of the original pathways are all present again, and a further 10% of newer tracks have been introduced.

Whilst Gazen Salts will not run out of jobs to do. We might run out of volunteers. We have a comprehensive listing of thirty-five names who ‘signed up to help with the projects’, but as can be the way at times, the realities of goodwill are not always forthcoming and less so if the weather is less than desirable.

The average weekly volunteer turnout figure or boots on the ground is between 12 to 15, although, on the odd occasion, we can see higher numbers. But with holidays and, sadly, Covid cases still taking a toll, the volunteer numbers can drop.

The recent introduction of the last Saturday of the month volunteer day for those who would use the excuse working Monday to Friday still sees the usual volunteer crowd turn up, although we have had some Duke of Edinburgh’s Award candidates turn up, and they do a smashing job.

My first-ever volunteering day was Wednesday, June 23rd 2021. It was a hot and humid day, and one of my first tasks was to work on the central lake with the other volunteers clearing duckweed [ Lemna minuta], a floating weed that can be invasive if left to its own devices.

It is a rapid spreader under the right conditions. The ‘right conditions’ are typical slow-moving or still waters. They are quite often seen in garden ponds, although they are rife on the canals we have around Sandwich. Also, it is a quick reproducer and can double its mass and continue to do so every few days. If left unmanaged, it can cover an entire lake in a short time indeed. It did so cover the lake rapidly during June.

I had been walking daily in Gazen Salts since April 2021, and long before l became a volunteer, the canals and streams had been clear of the weed until the end of May. In the first week of June, it was in small areas, but by the third week, it was everywhere.

Even though that first summer we had successfully cleared it, it is still present in certain areas. We have more significant problems afoot as far as aggressive floating weeds go. However, this will be discussed in further episodes.

In the next episode, l will write about my first nine months as a volunteer. But for the time being, l hope you enjoy the galleries displaying how Gazen salts looked between January 2021 to mid May just before the volunteers started their first day.

January 2021 – Gazen Salts Nature Reserve – works begin.
Gazen Salts Nature Reserve Facebook pag

Memorial Stone Raised to Dennis Harle who was the creator of Gazen Salts Nature Reserve
Dennis F. Harle (1920–2001) 

Gazen Salts Nature Reserve Facebook page

February to mid – May 2021 – Gazen Salts Nature Reserve
Gazen Salts Nature Reserve Facebook page
Tales from Gazen Salts Nature Reserve is about my time and stories of my work with this project.

Hopefully, you enjoyed this introduction, and I’ll see you next episode. Thanks for reading.

Gazen Salts Nature Reserve
Sandwich, Kent, England, UK

Nine Months A Volunteer!A Brief History to Gazen Salts Nature Reserve Next Episode

Published by The Autistic Composter

Earthly Comforts is a wildlife journaling scrapbook focusing on the countryside, wildlife biodiversity and environmental conservation, flora and fauna volunteering projects, gardening, composting and vermiculture, inspiration, poetry and photography.

8 thoughts on “Tales from Gazen Salts

  1. I love the graphic Lisa made!! It’s beautiful 😍
    Wow!! Such a huge difference you guys have made! You deserve congratulations!! It must be very satisfying to see all your hard work paying off in such a visible way!

    Quick question… are any of the pathways paved for people in wheelchairs or Unsteady feet? Just curious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are not, but we make a good job of all of our pathways and trust me on this, as l spend hours of my life walking in there as much as l am working on smooth pathways.

      I saw an electric wheelchair in the other day coping very well and l have seen manual chairs being pushed well also.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely, Rory! I enjoyed reading the article, even though I had read the information in your other posts. Surely new readers will find it both interesting and informative.

    I find it most fascinating how quickly anything can recover with the focused attention and TLC of concerned Humans. I’m sure it has been hard work to get so far so quickly, but must feel very rewarding to be able to recognize the difference your efforts have made. So many little lives are now being spent happily living in their paradise, Gazen Salts. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Betty, ah you see you are a regular to this series, so you know the backstory 🙂

      I wanted to cement the story and series into this blog before l start the journey from where we are today. The next episode, you will be familiar with also. But from that point onwards, there will be more new information.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You and the other volunteers should be proud, Rory. Your hard work is paying off to bring Gazen Salts back to life for all to enjoy. I enjoyed your narrative and the photos. What a beautiful and scenic area in a lovely natural setting. The colors and layout of this post compliment your subject superbly. Displaying images in an oval shape is also very appealing, IMO. That graphic by Lisa is beautiful!


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