We love getting out to places that are within easy reach of London and, for our first night out of the city since March, we only had to drive for an hour to get to Elmley Nature Reserve. Located on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, Elmley is a breeze to get to, especially if you’re based in east London – before you know it, the city will be long behind you and you’ll be in a beautiful nature reserve with just cows and birds for company.
You can head out to Elmley just for a day trip, a walk and a bit of bird spotting, but where this place really comes into its own is for an overnight stay. There’s a few different options for accommodation, ranging from simple bell tents all the way up to a beautiful stone farm house that sleeps up to fourteen people. But we reckon the sweet spot is in the middle, with the shepherd huts. These are essentially hotel rooms on wheels, dotted around the reserve, so that you have all the feeling of being out in the wild camping but with all the home comforts you need.
The cabins are cosy, but they manage to fit in a full double bed, small kitchen, and bathroom with shower. Some even have an outdoor tub too. They’re decorated very nicely too, with whitewashed walls and chunky wooden fixtures – basically if even the idea of glamping turns you off, we reckon you’ll be right at home in one of the Elmley Shepherd Huts. Waking up in the morning and looking through the fully glazed wall at one end of the hut out to the reserve is not a bad way to start the day, particularly if you have a bacon sandwich and tea delivered by the Elmley team.
The huts are fine for self catering and as long as you’re not doing anything too adventurous, you can whip up nice simple meals with no trouble. If even that sounds like too much effort however, Elmley do offer a bit of food – the aforementioned breakfast sandwiches, plus packed lunches and a two course set menu in the evenings. We think it’s more fun to make your own however, and then sit outside your hut in the evening by the fire pit toasting marshmallows (each hut has a ready supply).
The reserve itself is beautiful and there are lots of walking paths that wind you through the marshes. You’ll be able to spot lots of birds, cattle, rabbits, hares, butterflies at the very least. Depending on the time of year you visit, you may even be able to spot migratory birds before they journey back to Africa.
For an easy trip back to nature, Elmley is well worth the short journey.
Shepherd huts from £145 a night. Book at elmleynaturereserve.co.uk