An update from us at Elmley

  • 06/05/2020

News from us at Kingshill Farm

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We do hope you and your families are well and coping as best as you can.

Even in normal times Elmley is a world away from normal life and runs at its own pace, ‘Elmley time’ as we know it. At the moment the nature reserve seems even further adrift to the ‘normal world’ as the natural world carries on with a gathering energy. Hopefully this is reassuring to you in a time of disruption and change for much of our normal lives.

The story from nature is one of positivity. The winter marsh landscape, subdued after the departure of many of our winter birds has burst into life. For a visual Elmley fix there are pictures and videos on our Twitter and Instagram feeds.

At Elmley, we are swapping between home schooling, catching up on maintenance and carrying on with our essential farming and conservation activities. Our huts are looking very smart and Vanellus has an exciting addition…more news to follow.

After seven years of sustaining the reserve, improving our habitats, renovating our listed buildings and introducing many people to, or back to nature, (not to mention making lots of people very happy and relaxed) it is a very odd feeling to not have any company at Kingshill Farm! And we are so sad not to be sharing this incredible Spring with our guests.

Many of are wonderful team are furloughed, thank goodness for that scheme for now, with the live onsite Reserve team of the Miller brothers and Gareth carrying on work across the the reserve.

As you’ll know closing our accommodation and events for the foreseeable future is a heavy blow to the financial sustainability of the Elmley, so we are so grateful to the very many guests who have been able to postpone stays. We know it is a difficult time for so many, so thank you.

And we are particularly grateful to our wedding couples who after months of planning are facing the stress of having such an important event. We know its not just a day, it is the start of a marriage and the time when you come together with your most loved family and friends. Our couples have been truly amazing throughout this time and we cannot wait to celebrate with them all.

We are waiting for the next Government announcement and will post an update after this. We had been due to reopen in June, so if you have a stay booked after then we will be in touch with you directly, but if you have any questions before then please do get in touch - and we'd be more than happy to help.

We are busy ensuring that when we do reopen we can welcome guests safely and also make sure all of our team have a safe place to work. We might come out of lockdown into a different world but we hope we can give you the same experience of an wonderful escape at Elmley. Our lovely team might not be able to meet you in person for the foreseeable future but we will still be there making sure your stay is as special and as safe as ever.

We are so thrilled that during this time we've been mentioned in some wonderful press pieces - you can read them here.

If you’re searching for gift ideas at the moment or if you want something to look forward to later this year or next you can book a future stay or buy gift a voucher. And we know you may be concerned about making a booking with the future so uncertain so we have changed our booking terms to make sure you can book without worry.

The effects of this virus will be felt for quite some time, particularly amongst the most vulnerable. We’ve starting working with Kent Community Foundation to support our local community when it needs it most. We had an incredible number of nominations to our involvement in the #treatournhs instagram initiative and we are delighted that we will be hosting a very deserving ICU nurse in the huts.

As you know, whatever the weather or season the wildlife is always our priority and our conservation work hasn’t stopped. April and early May’s highlights have been our earliest return of a cuckoo on 12th April, along with the first lovely lapwing chicks hatching just as the first wheatear arrived on 13th.

As always we are enjoying watching the barn owls gliding over the marsh in front of the huts. They are now in pairs so we’re looking forward to seeing owlets peeking out from the boxes soon! The hares are excitable, many are still boxing and we’re spotting lots of leverets.

And it is joyful to watch the returning swallows over the farmyard

We also have the always very happy sight of yellow wagtail in their bright breeding plumage. They have returned in good numbers and are enjoying flycatching amongst the small herds of cattle which are gradually turning out onto the growing grass with their very sweet calves at heel.

We have all had a brief experience of empty shelves and limited supply of the foods we take for granted in normal times so that has really focused our mind here on the need to produce quality food as close to the people eating it whilst continuing to nurture our abundant and very special wildlife. More on that in the future...

We are allowing lots of natural regeneration to take place around the margins of our hay meadows. The hardy hawthorn is a joy now it’s in flower. With the blossom have emerged our Spring butterflies – orange tips, peacock and red admirals along with the first few broad bodied chaser dragonflies around farm yard.

Our newly planted woodland is doing better than we could have hoped. We were worried about such a dry few weeks but the trees must have long roots as most are doing well and we are excited about watching the increasing changes to woodland habitat. Our marsh frogs have also been in full chorus on the warmer evenings. What a spectacle it is to hear so much life in full voice (or croak) from the waterways across Elmley after dark, so whilst we’re missing neighbours to clap with on a Thursday we’re enjoying the support from the marsh frogs!

Mallard and gadwall hen birds seem to have infiltrated every nook in the farmyard, including the earliest nest in metal bins (lid off!) which successfully produced 12 ducklings. Life finds a way.

Much of life at Elmley continues as ever and will be here whenever we can all carry on with our lives safely.

Wherever you are in lockdown, or indeed doing essential work, we send our very best wishes,

Gareth, Georgina and family

Elmley Nature Reserve Sunrise