History of SBBOT

The Sandwich Bay coastline and all the marshes inland to the River Stour have been created by the northerly drift of sand and shingle, together with deposits of alluvium over many centuries.

This process is still taking place. It is interesting to reflect that almost all of the area of the Sandwich Bay Nature Reserve has been laid down since the 18th century. Great changes have taken place since the Sandwich Tern and the Kentish Plover regularly bred here and were first described by Dr John Latham, the eminent naturalist of the day, from specimens taken at Sandwich Bay in 1784 and 1787 by William Boys, Sandwich historian and Fellow of the Linnaean Society.

An aerial view of Sandwich Bay
An aerial view of Sandwich Bay

The sandhills still attract naturalists to study the rich flora and fauna of the area, a stretch of coastal dunes unique in the County of Kent and recognised as being of the highest scientific value. Bordering the dunes, a colony of Little Terns was wardened for many years in conjunction with the Kent Trust for Nature Conservation, but as with most colonies of this species in this country, they have declined or deserted, in this case largely due to disturbance.

Sandwich Bay was one of the country’s first independent ringing stations, founded in 1952. Official Observatory status was achieved in 1962 when, with the kind co-operation of Mr A Daw and sons we were able to move onto the site of our present headquarters. The ringing and recording are still carried out within the rules of the Bird Observatories Council and the British Trust for Ornithology.

Charitable trust status was achieved in 1984 and two years later 22 acres of land, known as Restharrow Dunes Nature Reserve, was purchased. A fascinating area home to rare plants and invertebrates.

In 1994 the Trust created a fresh-water wader scrape to attract migrant waders in spring and autumn at Backsand Point, and a second scrape was created opposite Restharrow Dunes in 2002. The latter continues to flourish attracting hundreds of visitors each year.

The current Field Centre was opened in 2002 and has allowed the work of the Trust to expand in more comfortable and better-equipped surroundings; such as the fantastic reference library or the range of accommodation provided.