“ Address: Fowlmead Country Park / off A258 / Sholden / Nr Deal / Kent / CT14 0BF / Tel: (01304) 615390 „
Fowlmead Country Park is located in Sholden which is close to Deal in Kent. The Country Park is 200 acres and was built upon the shale spoil tip of Betteshanger Colliery which closed in 1989. The Betteshanger Colliery was the last of the four coal mines that closed in Kent and the land remained unused until 2000 when the South East England Development Agency set about redeveloping the site.
Fowlmead was opened in May 2007 and is now a popular attraction for activities such as running, cycling and walking. It is also popular with dog walkers, bird watchers and photographers. Inside the Country Park there is a two mile cycling track which can be used by the general public and can also be hired by clubs etc for cycling events. As well as the cycle path, there are other paths, which are referred to as 'leisure paths' and these can be used to walk, cycle or skate around the park. These paths lead through woodland, and around the various lakes that are in the park.
Fowlmead is open from 8am until 8pm every day. There is a back gate to Fowlmead which is located in Southwall Road in Deal. IT is accessible by cyclists and walkers and the gate opens 15 minutes before the stated opening times and closes 15 minutes after the stated closing times.
There is a rather large car park at Fowlmead which costs £1.50 for all day parking Monday to Friday. Weekends and Bank Holidays are charged at the slightly higher rate of £2 for all day which I think it fairly reasonable.
Just to the side of the car park, there are two portacabins which act as a visitor centre and hire centre for the site and a café. The bike hire is open every day from 9.30am until 7pm although last hire time is 6pm. The café is open every day except Tuesdays. Opening hours are from 10am until 5pm.
The creation of Fowlmead took lots of hard work and planning. In order to change the site from the spoil tip of a colliery into a nature reserve, they planted thousands of trees and shrubs, created protected areas within the park, making it a great environment for birds such as long eared owls and created areas suitable for other wildlife including bats, spiders, beetles and reptiles. They built a wildlife tunnel underneath the busy A258 so that the nearby wildlife is able to move between the country park and the business park opposite.
As well as being a wonderful place to see wildlife, Fowlmead is also a popular venue for national and international cycling events. The tarmac track within Fowlmead has been described by British Cycling as 'the best in the country'. Other sporting events at Fowlmead include Archery, Orienteering and Adventure Racing.
Fowlmead is also a popular venue for Educational Days. The Country Park aims to teach young people about the heritage and history of the former Betteshanger Colliery site, while also allowing them a place to be able to enjoy leisure pursuits while enjoying the countryside. Events for school partiers that have previously been held at Fowlmead include shelter building, pond dipping, confidence courses and fossiling.
So, as you can see, Fowlmead had quite a lot to offer to its visitors. In all honesty, the main reason for my visits to Fowlmead is to look for wildlife and take photographs. You are allowed to take dogs with you to Fowlmead although they must be kept on a lead at all times which can be a bit of a pain for me as I like them to be able to roam off their leads. Having said that, it's nice for my partner and I to take our whole family (our baby and our other two babies (the dogs)) out for the day and Fowlmead is a great place for us to do this. We usually pack ourselves a picnic and plan to spend most of the day there. There are plenty of picnic tables dotted around the site so you can always easily find somewhere to eat your lunch.
Overall, Fowlmead is a wonderful attraction and obviously it's great that it is local to me. I love the fact that such a unique park was built on a site that was otherwise unused and had been for many years. The park itself provides a safe place to take part in various sporting activities; it is a haven for wildlife and also plays its part for educating children. Fowlmead is well worth a visit if you are ever in the Kent area.
We are very fortunate that my in-laws own a second property in the Deal area, so we have the opportunity to visit the area frequently for cheap breaks. Very essential when you have little ones.
We came across this little gem while staying there last October. We are big fans of geocaching. It is a hobby where you use a GPS (global positioning system) and the website geocaching.com to find a 'treasure' placed at a set co-ordinate with a clue.
We were attracted to Fowlmead firstly because there is a series of geocaches located within the park that i have to say are the cleverest ones we have ever been and hunted for in a year of pursuing this hobby.
The next thing that struck us, was, it is a cheap place to go for a visit. There is no entry fee. The only cost you have to pay is car parking, which is a bargainous £1 for the whole day.
The site used to be Betteshanger colliery. It has been reclaimed as a nature reserve, yet retains a few features to remember the old activities on the site. It covers an area of 200 acres, and has been designed for being used for leisure pursuits. As well as the geocaching, there is a 2 mile tarmac road cycle route. You can take your own bike or hire one from the hire centre on site. There is also archery, and fossil hunting. (We saw an area that was still like it would have been at the pit tip, with smashed rocks that could be looked through at certain times with a guide.) It also seemed to be rather popular with bird watchers.
We followed several miles of pedestrian paths which were easy to walk around with a buggy but some were quite steep and required us to be energetic. It is a really beautiful site with a lake, and woods. We found it really easy to navigate our way round, and there were some picturesque spots where we could picnic.
There was also a visitors centre on site and a cafe. We only popped in here for a quick comfort break so could not really comment on how good the cafe is, but the visitors centre seemed to be the usual sort of affair providing lots of information about the prior use of the land and the local area.
Our day we spent there was very enjoyable, and i would highly recommend it for a nice walk, and if you are into geocaching then it is one to do, especially if you like really cryptic clues.