Published: 09:53, 20 June 2018
A prime wildlife site which was devastated by severe flooding four and a half years ago is celebrating its reopening.
Gazen Salts Nature Reserve, once dubbed "the jewel in Sandwich's crown", lost 450 trees during the December 2013 tidal surge.
But following years of tireless work by a committee who sourced tens of thousands of pounds to make the site safe, it partly reopened on Monday afternoon.
Toby Cobb, vice-chairman of Gazen Salts Nature Reserve, said: "It's not fully restored but we've made significant progress.
"Since the reserve was devastated by the flooding, it's just been a case of letting nature take its course and to sort trees as they've fallen.
"It's a silt based area. Now the ground has firmed up, we've opened 50% of the reserve and we plan to open the rest over the next two years."
The 15-acre nature reserve in Strand Street was established in 1973. It was home to some 160 species of birds until it became submerged by 5ft of salt water in December 2013.
Mr Cobb said: "The wildlife is returning. Some of the ducks are back, the usual native birds are nesting and we hope that 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."
The outer ring is still out of bounds for safety reasons and it is stressed that visitors should observe the signs and barriers.
He said: "In the outer ring, there's still a number of trees that have died but haven't been felled safely so they're a danger to the public."
The opening follows a promise from the nature reserve’s committee in January which was that 2018 would be the year that the site returns to its former glory.
Trustee of Gazen Salts, Cllr Dan Friend, said: "After years and months of tireless effort, I am delighted that Gazen Salts Nature Reserve has re-opened 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 re-opening.
"A huge thank you to warden Karen Potter and the other trustees. I would like to also express thanks to the public who have been exceptionally patient since the reserve closed after the flooding some years ago."
A grand opening is expected to take place later this year as a thank you to Dover District Council and Sandwich Town Council who have contributed funds, in addition to a Tesco Bags of Help grant.
The Friends of Gazen Salts have also been acknowledged for their donations and membership.
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