Serene, green and wildlife-packed, Kent's nature reserves let you recharge, retune, and reconnect with the natural world.
The county boasts 11 out of the 37 National Nature Reserves (NNRs) in south east England, places recognised as having the finest habitats, geology, wildlife and species.
On the Isle of Sheppey, the mudflats, saltmarshes and beaches of the Swale NNR support rare plants, waterfowl, short-eared owls, avocets and brilliantly-coloured butterflies. At the neighbouring, Elmley NNR, marshes swarm with bird-life, especially between November and March, when large flocks of wintering waterfowl descend. Just next door, the Oare Marshes Local Nature Reserve overflows with still more birds, including lapwing, snipe, curlew, and whimbrel.
The wide horizons and wrap-around views of Romney Marsh are home to the Dungeness National Nature Reserve. Here beach, shingle, wetlands and grazing marsh shelter one of the south-east's most significant breeding colonies of gulls and terns, as well as migrating Bewick's swans and gadwalls.
Just south of Ramsgate, the crumbling chalk cliffs, mudflats and saltmarsh of the Sandwich and Pegwell Bay NNR draw waves of migrating and overwintering wildfowl and waders; while sand dunes support marsh helleborine, and lizard, pyramidal and southern marsh orchids.
Other natural highlights include the 11 square miles of Blean Woods; one of England's largest areas of ancient woodland (land that's been constantly wooded since 1600). While up on the Kent Downs, near Ashford, the chalk grassland of the Wye NNR has wide-ranging views.
The Kent Wildlife Trust, looks after an impressive 61 nature reserves. If visiting them all is out, start off at Tyland Barn with its microcosm of Kent's diverse habitats and wildlife; a stroll here takes in pond, meadow, chalk bank, hedge, scrub and even a shingle beach.