Published: 00:01, 30 March 2014
A new scheme has been set up to help pave the way for improvements at a Sheppey wildlife attraction.
Elmley Nature Reserve unveiled its not-for-profit initiative, called Friends of Elmley, this week.
Visitors can now pay £20 for a membership – or £30 for a couple or family – which entitles them to return as many times as they like for a year, instead of the £5 suggested donation each time.
It will be spent on the day-to-day running of the bird-watching hot spot as well as improving facilities.
Elmley receives no public money, and at the moment financial pressures, such as the cost of maintaining the track to the site, make it unsustainable.
The site, off Sheppey Way, has been open to the public for the past 20 years.
It was operated by the RSPB until May last year, when it was taken over by farmer Philip Merricks.
It is now the only family farm in the UK that is also a national nature reserve.
Mr Merricks’ daughter, Georgina Fulton, and her husband, Gareth, now help to manage the site, where they also live with their three-month-old daughter, Eleni.
Mrs Fulton said the scheme got off to a good start, as 90 people had signed up.
She said: “I think what it has done already, is it has brought a community of people here, so it’s nice that we are getting to know everyone.
“Everyone feels like they are contributing to the future.”
Mrs Fulton added that dogs were not allowed on to the reserve because they could scare the birds.
As well as a yearly pass, members will be invited to extra
Children over nine can learn about photography and the natural surroundings at special workshops with wildlife photographer Jodie Randall.
The classes run on Friday, April 11, from 10am to 12pm.
Participants, who need to be accompanied by an adult, should bring basic cameras and wear suitable clothing. The sessions costs £8 per child, and there’s a maximum of 15 spaces per group.
For more information, visit www.elmleynaturereserve.co.uk
To make bookings, contact Gareth Fulton on 07786 333331, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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