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]

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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

Theme Life

Welcome to Theme Life

Walking around Sandwich and the surrounding countryside as l do daily, weekly and monthly, I take several thousand photographs. More authentic reflections of quantity might be closer to 3500 assorted photos digitally taken monthly once all the poorer quality ‘click images’ are extracted.

Of this figure, ten to fifteen per cent, are held back in folders and will be used in the blog’s gallery features, prompts, or published articles.

My main focus is wildlife, so flora and fauna mostly, but also l have a hankering sometimes for unusual shots, or things of a quirky nature. 

It appeals to my sense of humour, and sometimes these ‘strange’ shots are edited and kept for a ‘rainy day’ gallery or a prompt in the future or because l just like them, and they might make for an interesting themed gallery, pretty much like this series. 

Not all the galleries here will be specifically themed all the time. They might focus on specific events or moments that were happen chanced upon or simply hold a fascination for me.

Hope you enjoy the series

Music Score – Smooth

Bench Life
Photographs l have taken around Sandwich of benches and the Life around and on them.

A bench, as opposed to a pew, is usually a longish freestanding seat and can be found in gardens and parks, whilst a pew is generally found in churches but also happens to be an extended seating area. Benches can be fixed or stand-alone. Old benches were usually crafted out of either wood or stone. They are ideal in parks and recreational grounds as well as churchyards as they provide a seating area for those who may be looking at the scenery or in reflective thought.

However, they do attract quite a bit of life of their own when not being sat upon by humans and provide for some wonderful imagery.

Theme Life Directory

Main Image – Crow on Bench – The Ropewalk

Check out The Gallery for more Photographs

Worm World

Howdy Folks/Greetings, earthlings!

We can’t be the only ones genuinely fascinated with the residents of the worm farms and or the compost piles. 

It’s the very essence of why l became so enthusiastic with worm farming and composting in the first place over that of the more traditional gardening experience and rewards that offers. 

The one thing l noticed when l started researching worms and compost critters was the lack of the actual specific ‘worm’ images there was, and l figured, well, maybe that is something that worm fanciers like myself might appreciate seeing more of.

By taking these close-ups and macro shots of the worms, l came up with the idea of the Earthen Wurmin brand.

These galleries display to the reader the true inner beauty of earthwormery. Hundreds of photographs of the wormeries and the residents every month are taken, but only the best ones are displayed here.

Please feel free to use any of these images should you wish. Another reason for the gallery was because l could never find ‘just the right worm shot’. All l would ask of you is to award Earthly Comforts a credit.

The Autistic Composter/Earthen Wurmin
I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Worm World Ewww Gallery
Vermicomposting Content Directory
Ewww Quick Tips Directory

Slideshow – Images from the compost soil wormery’s
Season 2

Earthen Wurmin’s Worm Facts & Quotes
The Microchaetus rappi of South Africa is the largest species of segmented earthworms. It can easily attain average lengths of 55 inches, and extraordinary lengths of up to 200 plus inches have been recorded. In 1967 one such specimen was measured at 6.7 metres or 21 feet in length!

Tales from Gazen Salts

A Brief History to Gazen Salts Nature Reserve

[Part 1]
See Here for more Episodes of Tales from Gazen Salts Nature Reserve Directory

Design l had made for the Volunteers which we all now wear as pin badges on the days that we are volunteering in the reserve..

A Brief History to Gazen Salts Nature Reserve

[Part 1]

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 acres 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 Dennis Harle [see gallery below] was asked to lay out 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 witnessed 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.

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 also home to flora species, such as primroses, celandine, dog rose, oak, ash, wild cherry, elm, field maple, wild privet, marsh marigold marshmallow, meadowsweet, blackbush, 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.

A tidal surge in 2013 caused extensive damage and extensive flooding to the Reserve. Additionally salt waters corroded many of the trees causing the loss of up to 450 of them. Gazen Salts Nature Reserve finally reopened 18th June 2018 after it was completely closed down in 2013.

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 that year and have been an active volunteer since.

This series is about what l do on the days l work there. The main design gallery at the top of this post 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 very wet and dismal Saturday!

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 – but we don’t do those hours. It involves clearing brush, pollarding trees, chipping pathways, cleaning pondlife, trimming, cutting back, sawing, and burning brush. The list is endless.

These photos from 1973 show the reserve at its creation. Dennis Harle and Mike Briggs are planting trees, standing roughly where the bird feeders are now, near the lake. Note the Richborough cooling towers in the background.

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

Part 2 – A Brief History to Gazen Salts Nature Reserve Next Episode

Tales from Gazen Salts

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

A typical volunteer day on a Wednesday. Not that you can see me properly, but l am on the far left in the blue/white lumberjack shirt.

Gazen Salts Nature Reserve Facebook Photo

Introduction to Tales from Gazen Salts Nature Reserve

Five times a month, l volunteer at the Gazen Salts Nature Reserve in Sandwich. It’s every Wednesday and the last Saturday of every month. Many of the photographs from the Natural Encounters gallery features are from the reserve through the seasons.

I have volunteered there since early June 2021, so it’s now fast coming on to my first year, and l enjoy it immensely for the community spirit, the feeling that you are doing something worthwhile and learning more about flora and fauna, which happen to be passions of mine.

I first discovered Gazen Salts Nature Reserve on a bright sunny autumn day in October 2020. I moved to Sandwich from Kingsdown [along the coast towards Dover] in June. During one of the covid lockdowns, l stumbled across the nature reserve purely out of curiosity to discover more about Sandwich’s town during the many walks l was enjoying daily.

Back then, the reserve had been closed for some seven years due to significant flooding back in 2013 when the River Stour breached the banks due to a tidal surge not once but twice in a matter of hours in December of that year.

Following that and the reserve then began to struggle financially. And without funding or the ability to raise funds to repair the flood damages, there was sadly no other choice but to close Gazen Salts down.

In October 2020, l remember walking around this forgotten nature wonderland, thinking if only they could do something with it, how fabulous it would be for the town of Sandwich and the residents.

I didn’t know how large the reserve was back then like l do today. All l could see was an area of land disappearing into the heavy overgrowth, where paths that initially must have been maintained had fallen into severe disrepair.

Fallen and uprooted trees, wild bracken and high weeds, dangerous dog rose, and bramble dominated everywhere. At one point somewhere in its yesterdays, I could see that this reserve must have been a thriving hub of wildlife. The now green algae-covered laden streams, so murky and hidden and sad, had to have been host to various birdlife.

In October 2020, it took me approximately 15 minutes to walk once through the reserve as much as l could due to fallen logs and overhanging branches and heaps of other detritus and clogging weeds. I took a second walk around the different half paths, another five or six minutes.

I exited the reserve that day, not even knowing it was called Gazen Salts. Even though there was a big noticeboard outside the area with photographs of various birds suggested to be inside, it also had an abandoned feel.

Such a shame, l thought. If only some organised body or a charity would take up the gauntlet of challenge and breathe new life back into this greenland, how marvellous that would be.

In the following January, when the rains of November and December had ceased to fall and the sun of that cold day shone, l thought l would try a second walkthrough. Imagine my surprise and delight when l found out that the local council was digging the entrance grounds to the reserve? The town of Sandwich had decided that they needed the nature reserve to breathe again.

It would be three months before l would again walk in that reserve. And so, in April, on a beautifully bright sunny spring day, l walked again and was overwhelmed by just how big the area was that they had cleared, and according to the resident warden, they had only cleared a quarter, and there was way more work to do.

From April through to late May, l walked in Gazen Salts daily, always astonished at how much more groundwork had been achieved. I had gotten to know the warden a little during that time, and we discussed one Friday how the reserve had taken on a small body of volunteers at the beginning of May and how more people were needed.

You would be right if you guessed this was when l volunteered my time at Gazen Salts Nature Reserve; l started the following Wednesday.

Photographs – 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

Part 1 – A Brief History to Gazen Salts Nature Reserve Next Episode