1HR 20 MINUTES 51 MILES AWAY
2 ISLE OF SHEPPEY, KENT
The Thames Estuary has one of the great wilderness reserves of England, Elmley Nature Reserve, a privately owned, 3,200-acre swathe of unfenced marshland and upland meadows on the Isle of Sheppey. Off the M2, you take the A249 to the Old Sheppey Bridge (an earlier rendition, built in the reign of Edward I, was washed away by a tidal wave). Hang a right at the ubiquitous brown sign that signifies a British tourist landmark, and a few minutes later, turn off the engine. You come here for the birdlife – for the golden plover, teal and curlew, marsh harriers, merlins and short-eared owls – and to walk on an English saltmarsh that was reclaimed in the late Middle Ages with the building of the first seawall. On a slight rise is a clutch of three shepherd’s huts, with a fourth opening this month (from £100, or $145, a night for a double) decked out in Romsey Wool blankets, with ensuite bathrooms. When you don’t want to cook, head to the pretty seaside town of Whitstable where you can pick up some oysters at The Royal Native Oyster Store, or treat yourself to Thornback ray with brown butter at The Sportsman, a Michelin-starred, but unpretentious inn at Seasalter, a 15 minute-drive from the edge of Elmley. For home-foraging inspiration, The Wild Kitchen leads walks along the shore near Deal, teaching you which seaweeds to eat and which to avoid; then go back to your shepherd’s hut and pick your own.