Nature with Nik Mitchell: A romantic ramble for Valentine’s Day

See the ponies on your ramble Photo Nik Mitchell

Thanet nature expert Nik Mitchell, from Minster, runs the Wildlife Conservation in Thanet page on facebook:

Tomorrow it’s Valentine’s Day (February 14) and with all the restrictions in place what better way to spend it than a romantic ramble, enjoying the great outdoors.

Nature is beautiful and there’s nothing quite like a relaxing romantic stroll on Valentine’s Day.

I’m going to tell you about one of my favourite places to head for:

Pegwell Bay Country Park (CT12 5JB).

Pegwell Bay forms part of the Sandwich and Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve. It has stunning views of Sandwich and Deal to the west and the cliffs of Ramsgate to the east, a play area, picnic area and mobile refreshments.

The Nature Reserve is a Ramsar Site of International Importance, it’s a wonderful place to explore with lots to see at different times of the year. The main coast path from the car park is surfaced and flat and provides a great route for taking in the views of the bay.

The park is on a former landfill site. After the site closed, the area was capped and landscaped then it was re-opened as a picnic site by Kent County Council in 1983. It was later officiated by none other than Sir David Attenborough when it was declared a nature reserve in July 1999.

So, here’s my route (see map in this article) and if you have a pair of binoculars, take them.

I normally start off in the car park where the refreshments are then I head down the Sustrans route (black on map) that runs SW parallel to Sandwich Road, it’s so important on this walk to really take your time and immerse yourself in the great outdoors, disconnect yourself from the fast pace of day-to-day life.

This is a long gravel track that has a large chalk bund to your left and lots of scrub to your right. Take a bit of time to look in the bushes to your right, you get some wonderful birds there, recently I’ve seen a kestrel perching and some mistle thrush singing.

Keep heading straight, past the large gravel area then look to your left and you may see the beautiful Kent Wildlife Trust’s wild ponies. Livestock grazing is essential for the management of wildlife habitat. The ponies are wonderful workers, please show your respect by refraining from feeding them.

Eventually you’ll get to a good old romantic ‘kissing gate’ on your left, go through the kissing gate (you know what to do) and you are now on the Thanet Coastal Path (red on map).

Join this path and really take your time. Keep heading along this path until you get to a mound on your left with a picnic bench and a pond. This is the best quiet spot to sit, take-in the view and the sounds of the natural world, if you have your binoculars look over towards the mouth of the River Stour and you might be lucky enough to see the odd seal or flocks of resting winter birds.

Photo Keith Ross

From here you can finish the Thanet Coastal Path round a loop to get back where you started but I never do that. This area is a little mosaic of about 6 paddocks and I like to slowly wander around to see where it takes me, all the while feeling the excitement of what I might see. I can easily spend an hour doing this.

Eventually, if you head towards the coastline, you’ll find the big green bird hide unfortunately, the hide is currently closed due to Covid restrictions. However, this is still a great spot to look and appreciate the beauty of the bay, in my opinion it’s the best panoramic view in Kent.

Following this, gently make your way north (with the coast to your right) back to the car park. I finish of my visit with a sit down and a super coffee from Campuccinos café or a bite to eat from the Salty Seal café. Pegwell Bay is one of the best open spaces Thanet has to offer, I really hope you get down there, have a romantic ramble and connect with the natural world.

Forget the gifts and cuddly toys, enjoy a peaceful, romantic walk on the wild side.