Grove Ferry and Stodmarsh Nature Reserve from Wingham

Description: An undemanding walk though meadows initially, followed by a saunter through the Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve, returning through arable farmland. The nature reserve will appeal to ornithologists.

OS Ref: TR244576
Length: 10 Miles
Approximate time: 3½ – 4 hours
Parking: Free car park in St. Mary's Meadow, Wingham
Refreshments: Pubs in Wingham, also the Grove Ferry Inn at Grove Ferry

Black-spots: None really, but some parts of the nature reserve can be a bit muddy after lengthy periods of rain.

The walk

Turn left out of the car park then use the crossing, turning right after. Walk to the junction with Preston Hill, then bear left along it. Just opposite a cream coloured bungalow, bear left along Wenderton Road, following the signpost to Wenderton and Deerson. After a short while the lane descends gradually. Keep on to a converted oast house, bearing left just in front of it. Carry on, past a number of orchards – the road becomes more track-like after a while. Just after a gate to the left, the road bends right. Soon after take a footpath to the left, through an iron gate (1).

The path gently descends after a while, becoming a bit steeper later, coming to an area marked Deadmill Bridge on the OS map. Go past a kissing gate, to take the middle of three paths. It’s possibly a bit confusing here, but you should end up in a northerly direction – anything else, you’ve just taken the wrong turn! A bit of care may be needed in places here, as the path slopes towards a river (The Little Stour), without much room to tread. Go through a gate, then keep the river to your left for  about 1¾ miles (2¾ km). There are 6 or so gates t go through on this section. The little village of Preston is to the right after a while with the church of St Mildred, a bit detached from the village also visible.

On coming to a road, cross it then walk left a few paces, crossing the river. Go through a gate by a footpath signpost. Bear left to cross a stile, sticking to the left of a field after. Pass to the left of a ditch (which had a stile to cross at some time). Follow a way-marker in the far left corner of the field, to go right, walking towards a bridge on the left (2). Cross it, then turn right onto a road after. Follow the road left at the next corner (with chevrons). Keep ahead until you come to a signpost. Follow it to go through a gate, keeping left after to walk through an enclosed section.

Further on, go though a gate, keeping ahead after to eventually come to a car parking area with a picnic spot by it. Just after some toilets on the left, go through a gap to the side of a barrier, then go immediately right to walk through the car park for the Grove Ferry Inn. Here is an ideal spot for some refreshment, should you so desire.

The other side of the car park, turn left onto a road for a short while, turning right at a footpath signpost, thus joining the Stour Valley Walk (3). This is a 51 mile route, between Lenham (where the river Stour rises) and Pegwell Bay. Follow an enclosed path to a gate, which enters the Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve. This large area, nearly 1500 acres, is an important area for reed beds and open water, making it ideal for breeding birds. There is a great expanse of water further on, which was formed by collapsed mines. Anyway, keep the Great Stour to you right for about 1¼ miles (2 km).

Occasionally, you will hear trains the other side of the river. Some of the trains which use this track are the high-speed service, which runs between Ramsgate and St Pancras International, London. Named the Javelin service, as the route formed part of the transport infrastructure for the 2012 Olympics. The train sets bear names of some of the participating athletes!

Carry on past a “hide”, used for bird-spotting. Keep straight ahead when a path comes from the left, to walk in the same direction. Follow a bend right further along, then follow the path round to the left by a sign for the “reed bed hide” (4). Go through a large kissing gate to carry on in the same direction the other side, the track becoming more grassy. Soon bear right onto a road, which serves the car park for the nature reserve. The way is tarmacked from here into the pretty village of Stodmarsh.

Turn left at a triangular green onto the main road in Stodmarsh, following it to the right by the attractive church. Follow the road right again, before turning right at a public footpath signpost, walking diagonally across a field (5). Make for another signpost which is visible from here. Cross a road at the signpost, to walk up a bank continuing in the same direction. Go through a gap the far side of th e field then bear left at a way-mark post immediately after, to walk along the left of this field.

On coming to a track with another way-mark post, turn right, then left at yet another way-mark post to walk between two fields with poly-tunnels on them. The path becomes concrete after a while, shortly going through a farmyard. Cross the farmyard to a gate on the far side, going through it to walk across a grassy area to another gate. Bear slightly left onto a road called The List (6). Where the road bends right in front of a tiled house, carry on a few paces to a way-marker, turning right, then follow the enclosed path to the left. At the end of the alley, walk a few paces left, then right at a footpath signpost over a stile, walking to the far left of a meadow. Alternatively, use the road round to this point.

Walk past Seaton Mill (a house to the right), over a stream, coming to a footpath signpost on the right. Follow the left finger on the ‘post, to walk in a southerly direction. Cross Baye Lane to follow another signpost turning half-left, now in a SE direction. Keep ahead for just over ½ mile (nearly 1km), going through a narrow belt of trees then crossing a bridge. Follow a path across the next field for about 500 metres, the church spire of St Mary’s soon coming into view. Go through a kissing gate the other side, cross a bridge then walk through an enclosed path into Wingham. Turn left to follow the road (7), going left after passing the church. Keep ahead to use the pelican crossing, turning right then left along St Mary’s Meadow, back to the car park.

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