Published: 06:00, 16 September 2020
A nature reserve, formerly owned by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, has been deemed safe to open after seven years.
Monks Nature Reserve in Sandwich spans 70-acres of mainly lowland wet grassland and is home to several species of duck and water birds.
When Pfizer reduced its presence in the town in 2011, the land was gifted to Sandwich Town Council on the condition it was managed as a nature reserve for the benefit of local wildlife and the interest, education and enjoyment of residents and visitors.
But two years later, in order to allow the Sandwich Town Tidal Defence Scheme - a partnership between the Environment Agency, Pfizer and Kent County Council - to progress, it was closed.
Now after seven years, the council has resolved all health and safety issues and reopened the gates. It has also scrapped a former permit visitor system.
Reserve warden Ken Chapman was joined by the Mayor Paul Graeme and Mayoress Sue Graeme, Mark Chandler of Finns Management and KCC Cllr Sue Chandler for the reopening on Friday.
Those wishing to visit can find the main entrance through the car park off Monks Way, just before the junction with the A256.
Alternatively, visitors may park on the quayside at Sandwich and walk in from the eastern end at Stonar.
A circular path allows people to walk around the main part of the Reserve and there are two public viewing hides.
Though rarely seen, water voles are present along with otters, insects and wildflowers. The site also boasts areas of scrubland, hedgerows and reed-bed, attracting birds of prey such as the common buzzard and marsh harrier.
The ground underfoot is often rough and uneven and unsuitable for wheelchair users or those with limited mobility.
Some areas remain ‘off-limits’ due to grazing livestock and the presence of deep water.
In order to protect livestock and also ground-nesting birds, dogs are not allowed except for assistance dogs and these should be on a lead at all times. No angling is permitted.