A beauty spot saved after the Kentish Gazette revealed it could be closed to the public is thriving under its new charitable ownership. A year ago the future of the Hambrook Marshes in Canterbury, where the Great Stour cycleway runs to Chartham, was thrown into doubt after the land was put up for sale. We revealed there was no legal protection for the cycle route, despite Sustrans and the city and county councils spending tens of thousands of pounds creating it. But an anonymous wildlife lover stepped in to buy the land and with supporters established the Love Hambrook Marshes charitable trust. As well as ensuring the popular cycling and walking route remained open, the trustees, supported by the Friends of the Hambrook Marshes, have started on a programme of conservation work designed to enhance wildlife habitats. Trustee David Lewis said supporters of the marshes had been galvanised by the story in the Gazette to save the area from any future threat. He said:
“The pattern of the past year has been one of steady progress through the support of trustees, volunteers, Friends of Hambrook, Kentish Stour Countryside Project, the local authorities and others. The payback for all of us is the knowledge that this large wetland site, lying so close to the city centre, will be there for future generations who seek open space, peace and solitude.”
A priority has been the replacement of fencing so that cattle can return once again to perform the necessary grazing. Large areas of the river bank have been improved both in appearance and accessibility for the public, during ‘which lots of discarded cans, bottles and general litter were picked up and disposed of. Continuing litter problems are being tackled by a small band of dedicated litter pickers and two new extra bins have been installed. A contract set up with the Kent Stour Community Project has resulted in their volunteers recently tackling scrub clearance on the historic railway embankment, again improving the habitat for wildlife.
The trustees are now investigating ways of keeping open the flood prone sections of the cycle path, possibly by use of raised stepping stones. There are also plans to design and install new sign boards. Links have been established with Canterbury Christ Church University, and the Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group and the trustees welcome inquiries from schools and youth groups who might want to get involved. The charity has also launched the Love Hambrook Marshes website, which includes updates on the conservation work as well as monthly bird reports written by Michael Walter and photographs of wild flowers seen on the marshes. The Friends of Hambrook Marshes also post updates of its work. Anyone wishing to help can make contact via website.
Herne Bay Gazette, March 12th 2015