Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Kent - Select A-Z from the menu below
Alex Farm Pastures
This site consists of two adjoining pastures separated by a small pond and shallow stream. The pastures represent one of the best surviving examples in Kent of unimproved neutral grassland, a nationally rare habitat. The grassland sward contains a range of plant species characteristic of slightly acidic Wealden clay, and supports several scarce butterflies.
Though grazed in the past by either cattle or sheep the pastures have not been grazed by stock for many years. Some of the grassland has been lost to encroachment by bramble Rubus fruticosus, and hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, although areas of high species diversity are maintained by rabbit grazing. The pastures are a type of unimproved herb-rich neutral to slightly acidic grassland, characterised by heath grass Danthonia decumbens, crested dog's-tail Cynosurus cristatus and common knapweed Centaurea nigra. The grasses include a variety of species, such as common bent Agrostis capillaris, creeping bent A. stolonifera, sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina, and red fescue F. rubra. Features of the sward are the abundance of dyer’s greenweed Genista tinctoria and pepper saxifrage Silaum silaus, and the presence of sneezewort Achillea ptarmica and spring sedge Carex caryophyllea. Other widespread and frequent species are devil's-bit scabious Succisa pratensis, common knapweed, cuckoo flower Cardamine pratensis, adder's-tongue fern Ophioglossum vulgatum, and tormentil Potentilla erecta. There is a large population of common spotted orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii. Glaucous sedge Carex flacca and hedge bedstraw Galium mollugo occur where there is base enrichment. The pond adds to the diversity of the site, supporting species such as water violet Hottonia palustris and water dropwort Oenanthe aquatica. The pastures also support a number of declining butterfly species, including the nationally scarce1 pearl-bordered fritillary Boloria euphrosyne and the only known colony in Kent of the small pearl-bordered fritillary B. selene. Other species of interest are grizzled skipper Pyrgus malvae and dingy skipper Erynnis tages.
1 Nationally scarce: recorded from between 16 and 100 10km x 10km squares in Britain.
Alkham, Lydden and Swingfield Woods
This site comprises several woodlands situated on the steep slopes of dry chalk valleys. The soils vary from calcareous loams on the slopes to acid-neutral clays on the plateaux. Ash-hazel is the main woodland type with field maple on the more calcareous soils and hornbeam on the heavier clay. There is some unimproved chalk grassland in the site near Lydden. A number of uncommon plants occur including lady orchid Orchis purpurea in the woods and burnt orchid Orchis ustulata in the grassland. These woods have been managed by coppicing. Ash and hazel are the common coppiced species with some field maple, hornbeam and sweet chestnut under pedunculate oak standards. Other trees and shrubs include wild cherry, birch, hawthorn, blackthorn and also wayfaring-tree and dogwood on the calcareous soils. There is some dense hawthorn scrub in places. The ground flora is varied but generally dominated by dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis, bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta and brambles Rubus fruticosus. Among more abundant flowering plants are wood anemone Anemone nemorosa, yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon and wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides. Some uncommon plants also occur, particularly on the chalk soils. These include green hellebore Helleborus viridis, herb paris Paris quadrifolia, fly orchid Ophrys insectifera, greater butterfly orchid Platanthera chlorantha and lady orchid. The latter is restricted in Britain to Kent. The chalk grassland is dominated by sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina, tor-grass Brachypodium pinnatum and glaucous sedge Carex flacca. Many flowering plants typical of improved chalk grassland occur such as dropwort Filipendula vulgaris, salad burnet Sanguisorba minor, small scabious Scabiosa columbaria and several orchids including burnt orchid.
Allington Quarry is an important site for Pleistocene geomorphology, providing an extensive section through a series of loess-filled gulls. The gulls do not appear to have been affected by downslope mass movements and are probably the produce of ice- wedging and other periglacial processes. Allington Quarry is exceptional in demonstrating the lateral extent and depth of gulls and for the rare opportunity it presents to study the formation and development of gulls in the absence of downslope mass movements. The gulls and loess, together with the fossil faunas contained in the latter, also provide a record of Pleistocene processes and environments.
This pit, which dates back over a century, provides excellent exposures of fossiliferous Medway Terrace deposits overlying (Cretaceous) Folkestone Beds. In addition to numerous mammalian bones, the site has also yielded a wealth of Paleolithic artefacts. Although well known and often visited its geographical isolation has made precise correllation with the main Thames sequence uncertain. The remaining exposures at this, the most important Medway Pleistocene site, will continue to be of major interest and significance.
A key Pleistocene site exposing a complex sequence of periglacial and temperate climate deposits, including solifluction, freshwater and possible estuarine deposits. These are associated with the Ebbsfleet Valley, and they have yielded mammals, molluscs, and two different palaeolithic industries. The first of these is a well established flake industry, while the second has included worked bone fragments. The interdigitation of solifluction (slope) deposits and temperate freshwater sediments implies that more than one glacial period is represented but research so far has failed to provide sound evidence for relating the Ebbsfleet deposits and their associated industries to either the Pleistocene chronological sequence or to the Thames Terraces. The solution of this problem is of high priority and the Bakers Hole site is likely to receive considerable attention in the future.
Bourne Alder Carr
Bourne Alder Carr is a representative example of Wealden valley alderwood, with a rich flora including several locally-distributed plants. The site is situated at the base of a shallow valley formed by the river Bourne cutting down through Hythe beds to expose the impervious Atherfield Clay below. The springline at the juncture of these beds is responsible for continuous flushing of the woodland with nutrient-rich water. This is significant to the botanical communities which have
developed. The woods consist mostly of coppiced alder Alnus glutinosa, with frequent willows Salix spp. In some localised areas osier S. viminalis dominates. The ground flora varies in its diversity and is extremely rich in places; pendulous sedge Carex pendula and great horsetail Equisetum telmateia occur throughout, with abundant wild angelica Angelica sylvestris, meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria, and opposite-leaved golden saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium. The rare alternate-leaved golden saxifrage C. alternifolium is also found here, together with other locally-restricted plants including large bitter-cress Cardamine amara, and common valerian Valeriana officinalis. Drier woodland away from wet flushes on the valley sides is of coppiced hazel Corylus avellana, ash Fraxinus excelsior, and Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus, below pedunculate oak Quercus robur standards. Elder Sambucus nigra, guelder-rose Viburnum opulus and the introduced snowberry Symphoricarpos rivularis are also present. The ground flora here also reflects the drier conditions, dominated by dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis, brambles Rubus fruticosus, and bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta. The parasitic plant toothwort Lathraea squamaria is found here associated with the roots of hazel. A small area of open swamp surrounding an artificially-created fish pond is dominated by reed sweet-grass Glyceria maxima, and adds to the habitat diversity of the site.
The special interest of this site centres on the variety of woodland stand types present, with the area of alder Alnus glutinosa woodland being of particular note. The ground flora is also diverse. Where silty clay and clay loams overlie the Wadhurst Clay, soil moisture is high, but drier conditions prevail where sandy loams have formed. In these drier parts coppiced hazel Corylus avellana, ash Fraxinus excelsior and field maple Acer campestre predominate under oak standards Quercus robur, whilst the wet areas support alder woodland with some aspen Populus tremula and willow Salix sp.
The shrub layer is fairly sparse over most of the wood but includes guelder rose Viburnum opulus, holly Ilex aquifolium and elder Sambucus nigra. Bramble Rubus fruticosus generally dominates the ground flora, but in the extensive flushes pendulous sedge Carex pendula is the most abundant species. A number of plants indicative of ancient woodland are also present including wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella, wood anemone Anemone nemorosa and violet helleborine Epipactis purpurata; wood horsetail Equisetum sylvaticum, a rare plant in Kent, occurs in the dampest places. Marsh valerian Valeriana dioica, a scarce and declining species in the county, used to occur but has not been recorded recently. A few small streams flow through the wood and these support a rich community of bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) together with a few higher plants, such as opposite-leaved golden saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium.
Charing Beech Hangers
This site is representative of woodland on Middle and Upper Chalk. Much of the site lies on a steep, south-west facing escarpment which is chiefly dominated by mature pedunculate oak-ash beechwood, although hazel coppice is also abundant. The diverse ground flora is characteristic
of the thin chalk soils and includes a number of scarce species. Invertebrates recorded include the rare slug Limax tenellus and the square spot moth Ectropis consonaria.
Beech woodland is best represented at the south-eastern end of the escarpment, especially on the upper slopes where beech occurs in association with oak, ash and sycamore. There is prolific sycamore regeneration, and the dense shade results in an impoverished ground flora of bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta and bramble. On the lower slopes beech is less abundant, and there is a more varied understorey which includes yew, field maple, wayfaring tree, wild privet and elder.
The sparse ground flora is chiefly dominated by dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis with false brome grass Brachypodium sylvaticum, bramble and ivy Hedera helix occurring frequently Spurge laurel Daphne laureola and nettle-leaved bellflower Campanula trachelium are also present. Several scarce plants indicative of long-established woodland occur, including yellow bird’s nest Monotropa hypopitys, tall broomrape Orobanche elatior and the orchids white helleborine Cephalanthera damasonium, violet helleborine Epipactis purpurata, fly orchid Ophrys insectifera and bird’s nest orchid Neottia nidus-avis. Broad-leaved helleborine Epipactis helleborine is found in scattered
grassy clearings with fairy flax Linum catharticum and common rockrose Helianthemum nummularium. Woodland dominated by beech, hazel, ash and sycamore, has become established in disused chalk pits at the top of the slope. The understorey layer is similar to that on the lower slopes but also includes hazel, ash, whitebeam and dogwood coppice. The north-western half of the escarpment is dominated by hazel coppice with some ash under a few large standards of beech and ash. The ground flora is diverse and the species composition resembles that on the lower slopes to the south-east. This woodland type merges with sweet chestnut and hornbeam coppice under pedunculate oak standards on theupper slopes. The sweet chestnut has been cut recently but the hornbeam is more mature.
Invertebrates recorded from the site include the rare slug Limax tenellus and several scarce moths, including Xestia rhomboidea, Depressaria douglasella, Ectropis consonaria, Pandemis cinnamomeana, Anania stachydalis and Ptycholomoides aeriferanus.
This woodland is representative of coppice-with-standards woodland on the London Clay, which is a scarce habitat in Kent away from the Blean Woods. The site is also of importance for its breeding birds. Rough Shaw which is an area of neutral grassland with scattered scrub forms a valuable addition to the woodland. The standards are largely pedunculate oak Quercus robur but ash, field maple, aspen, gean and the scarce wild service also occur. Ash is the most frequent coppice species with hazel and hornbeam also present. Sweet chestnut also is locally frequent and has recently been planted in the southern part of the woods. There is also a varied shrub layer with hawthorn generally predominant but with other species such as birch and wayfaring tree also present. The ground flora of the woodland is dominated by bluebells Hyacinthoides non- scripta, except under coppice which has remained uncut for many years where the flora is sparse. Brambles Rubus fruticosus and other climbers, particularly dog rose Rosa canina and honeysuckle Lonicerapericlymenum are abundant in some areas. Several scarce plants are present including the early purple orchid Orchis mascula and stinking iris Iris foetidissima which is largely restricted to the chalk in Kent.
The breeding birds of the woods include considerable numbers of typical woodland species such as the woodpeckers and of coppice-nesting species such as the turtle dove and several species of warbler. Nightingale and hawfinch are among the less common birds to breed here. The woods were a classic entomological locality during the nineteenth century when for example wood white, heath fritillary, large tortoiseshell and purple emperor butterflies were recorded. Although few recent records exist the woodland is probably still rich in insects.
Rough Shaw is an interesting area of rough neutral grassland with scattered scrub of hawthorn, gorse and brambles. Several uncommon plant species grow in the grassland, with saw-wort Serratula tinctoria which is now very scarce in Kent, being the most notable. Other species include pepper-saxifrage Silaum silaus, dyer’s greenweed Genista tinctoria, lady’s bedstraw Galium verum and burnet-saxifrage Pimpinella saxifraga. None of these is found in more improved grassland.
Chequer's Wood and Old Park
The woodland in the valley is a good example of a base-rich springline alder wood. Unimproved acidic grassland is present on the dry sandy plateau in the western part of the site. In addition a variety of other habitats are present including pedunculate oak-birch woodland, dense scrub and a pond. Some uncommon plants occur and the area also supports a diverse breeding bird community.
The mosaic of grassland, scrub and woodland gives this site considerable interest. The acidic sandy soils of the plateau contrast with the base-rich peaty soils of the valley bottom. There is consequently a wide variety of plants present.
The alder wood follows the stream along the valley bottom. Large bitter-cress Cardamine amara, lesser pond-sedge Carex acutiformis and the two British species of golden-saxifrage, opposite-leaved golden saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium and alternate-leaved golden saxifrage Chrysosplenium alternifolium are characteristic of this type of woodland. Small areas have been cleared at intervals along the stream and here plants such as southern marsh orchid Dactylorhiza majalis sub species praetermissa, ragged robin Lychnis flos-cuculi and lesser spearwort Ranunculus flammula occur. The grassland is dominated by grasses such as fescues Festuca species and bents Agrostis species and also contains a variety of other plants. The acidic nature soil is reflected by the presence of plants such as sheep’s sorrel Rumex acetosella and heath bedstraw Galium saxatile. Among the uncommon plants present are slender parsley piert Aphanes microcarpa, annual knawel Scleranthus annuus, bird’s foot Ornithopus perpusillus several clovers. The scarce greater broomrape Orobanche rapum-genistae occurs in the areas of gorse and broom scrub and is parasitic on both these species. The scrub is developing into hawthorn and oak woodland in places. The site is attractive to birds and supports a diverse breeding community. The three British woodpecker species breed here as do several kinds of tits and warblers. The alder woodland in particular is important as a breeding site for cetti’s warbler and nightingale. Fordwich Pit
This site exposes gravels of a high (probably pre-Boyn Hill) terrace of the Kentish Stour. The gravel here has yielded a rich Acheulian industry of primitive type, and seems likely to represent a rare example of the Early Acheulian culture in Britain. It compares with the Middle Acheulian archaeological site in a lower terrace at nearby Sturry. As yet no faunal or palynological (pollen) evidence for dating the Stour terraces has been discovered and their relationship to those of the Thames remains uncertain. Assigning the Fordwich gravels and their Early Acheulian industry to their correct position in the Thames chronology is one of the key requirements for the formation of a convincing Palaeolithic stratigraphy in the London Basin. The Fordwich Pit is therefore of considerable importance.
Church Woods, Blean
This site is one of the most extensive areas of broadleaved woodland remaining in the Forest of Blean and is representative of these woodlands which are situated on London Clay. One nationally rare species of butterfly the heath fritillary is present and in addition an outstanding assemblage of invertebrate species has been recorded.
The traditional coppice with standards management of the woods has, together with climatic, soil and other factors, given rise to the great biological interest currently present. In addition to the sweet chestnut, numerous native species of tree are found in the coppice with hornbeam, hazel, beech and oak among the most frequent. Both pedunculate and sessile oaks are found, as coppice and as
standards, but sessile oaks are more abundant. There is much birch present in the coppice and in less productive areas. Brambles Rubus fruticosus, bracken Pteridium aquilinum and bluebells Hyacinthoides nonscripta tend to be the dominant plants of the woodland floor but many other species are present. A number are more or less restricted to woodland such as this which has remained free of total clearance for centuries. These include greater woodrush Luzula sylvatica, wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides, butcher’s broom Ruscus aculeatus and wood melick Melica uniflora. Several small trees and shrubs also fall into this category – wild service tree and midland hawthorn are most frequent here.Many of the woodland rides have a rich flora, with such species as beautiful St John’s wort Hypericum pulchrum, purging flax Linum catharticum, common
centaury Centaurium erythraea, common spotted orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii and wavy hair grass Deschampsia flexuosa and on the most acidic, gravelly soils ling heather Calluna vulgaris.
Numerous uncommon invertebrates have been recorded from this site and especially from the National Nature Reserve, including beetles, millipedes and bugs. A good range of woodland birds is present, including three woodpecker species, eight warblers, and six tits. Several species which regularly breed here are elsewhere rather scarce in East Kent; these include woodcock, nightjar, redstart and wood warbler. The area has especially good numbers of nightingales.
This woodland and old parkland is representative of woods in North Kent which occur in part on acidic Thanet Sands and in part on chalk soils. One nationally rare plant species occurs in the arable land close to the wood. An outstanding assemblage of plants is present at this site which is also of importance for its breeding birds.
The flora of the woods reflects the range of soil types. The woodland itself, however, is largely sweet chestnut coppice with some coniferous plantations, while the parkland is now mature woodland, with some clearings, of oak, sweet chestnut, beech, hornbeam, and other species. The variation of soil types is shown by the distribution of the shrubs and plants of the woodland floor which have fairly distinct preferences. Thus there is a gradation from bracken and brambles in the more acidic areas through to bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta and eventually dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis in
the most calcareous areas. This same pattern is found with the less common plants, for example wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides and lily-of-the-valley Convallaria majalis are found mainly on Thanet Sands, with sanicle Sanicula europaea and enchanter’s nightshade Circaea lutetiana on the Chalk. In the past this area was well-known for the large number of beetles and bugs it supported, however, although suitable conditions still prevail, there is little recent information on these groups. The breeding birds are better known and the woods hold a good variety of typical woodland species including three species of woodpecker, nuthatch, treecreeper, hawfinch, and marsh tit. Some of these species occur at relatively high densities.Also included in the site is an area of arable land which is notable for the number of uncommon annual plant species which occur, especially along the field edges. The very rare and specially protected rough marsh-mallow Althaea hirsuta is perhaps of greatest interest – it has been known from here since 1792. Also present are such species as ground pine Ajuga chamaepitys, Venus’s looking-glass Legousia hybrida, blue pimpernel Anagallis foemina, and white mullein Verbascum lychnitis. Another rare plant which grows at the woodland edge in the same area is the meadow clary Salvia pratensis.
Combwell Wood is an ancient wood on Tunbridge Wells Sandstone, with deep-stream valleys (gills) in which peat has accumulated. The wood has a large number of plants that are typical of south-eastern ancient woodlands, these being particularly associated with the gills and the open rides. The former contain several uncommon ‘Atlantic’ bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) as well as two
nationally scarce** water beetles (Coleoptera). Much of the site has traditionally been managed as coppice, but undisturbed woodland cover has probably persisted continuously along the steep sided gills maintaining the moist mild climate suitable for the ‘Atlantic’ bryophytes. These are thought to be survivors from the Atlantic climatic period of Western Europe, about 5000 years ago.
The coppiced woods contain much sweet chestnut Castanea sativa with both silver and hairy birch Betula pendula and B. pubescens, and scattered oak Quercus robur standards. The ground flora contains much bramble Rubus fruticosus and bracken Pteridium aquilinum, but it is on the rides and open glades that particularly diverse plant communities occur. Here heather Calluna vulgaris is
abundant, with several species that are scarce in Kent* such as saw-wort Serratula tinctoria, allseed Radiola linoides, lesser centaury Centaurium pulchellum and the nationally rare*** moss Atrichum angustutum. The epiphytic lichen flora is also very rich, with a range of species characteristic of ancient woodland, such as Thelotrama lepachinum and the nationally scarce Cyphelium sessile.
In the gills, and other wet flushes alder Alnus glutinosa is frequent, over lady fern Athyrium filix femina, opposite-leaved golden-saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium and the bog-moss Sphagnum palustre. The moist mild micro-climate of the gills is suitable for several ‘Atlantic’ bryophytes that are most frequently found in Western Britain, and are rare in the South-east of England, such as the mosses Hookeria lucens and Hyocomium armoricum. In the flushes and shaded woodland pools there are two nationally scarce species of water beetles, Agabus chalconatus and Hydroporus neglectus, as well as several others that are local in distribution.
*Scarce in Kent: recorded from between 1 and 5% of the 2 km 2 km tetrads in
**Nationally scarce: recorded from between 16 and 100 10 km squares in Britain.
***Nationally rare: recorded from 15 or less 10 km squares in Britain.
This small meadow is one of the best remaining areas of unimproved neutral grassland in Kent. Numerous plant species indicative of a long history of lack of cultivation are present. The grassland sward shows variation between the wetter central part, and the drier remainder. The surrounding hedgerows are large, and contain a variety of shrub and tree species. The grassland is composed of a variety of grass species, including creeping bent Agrostis stolonifera, red fescue Festuca rubra, cock’s-foot Dactylis glomerata and several others, in contrast to the generally reduced diversity of more recently reseeded and fertilised swards. Among the other plants are some which are very
poor at recolonising cultivated grasslands; these tend to be restricted to meadows which have remained unploughed for very many years. The old meadow species found here include quaking grass Briza media, oxeye daisy Leucanthemum vulgare, pepper saxifrage Silaum silaus, sneezewort Achillea ptarmica, and several orchids including southern marsh orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa and early marsh orchid D. incarnata. The last species is now very scarce in Kent.
The central part of the meadow is very wet, and has vegetation dominated by hard rush Juncus inflexus. Three other species of rush, and seven species of sedge Carex species are found within the site, and most of these occur mainly in the wetter areas.
Hedgerows mainly of hawthorn and hazel surround the meadow except along the railway where it is wetter and alder predominates. Among the variety of other shrubs and trees present in these hedges are guelder rose Viburnum opulus, blackthorn Prunus spinosa, elder Sambucus nigra and dogwood Cornus sanguinea, as well as much dog rose and brambles. A small stream, shaded by the hedgerow, flows through the eastern end of the site.
Cowden Pound Pastures
This site, on one side of a valley, consists of a pasture divided into three by strips of scrub and bordered by a stream, woodland and scrub. The pasture consists of agriculturally unimproved neutral grassland, a nationally rare habitat, and is one of the few surviving locations for this
habitat in the High Weald. Traditional management in the form of grazing is required to maintain the grassland without scrub encroachment. The sward of the pasture is diverse and species-rich and is characterised by the grass crested dog’s-tail Cynosurus cristatus and common knapweed Centaurea nigra. Other grasses include common bent Agrostis capillaris, creeping bent A. stolonifera, sweet vernal grass Anthoxanthum odoratum, red fescue Festuca rubra and Yorkshire fog
Holcus lanatus. Among the many other plants are yarrow Achillea millefolium, bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus, field wood-rush Luzula campestris, ribwort plantain Plantago lanceolata, tormentil Potentilla erecta, devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis, betony Betonica officinalis (characteristic of the High Weald), brown sedge Carex disticha and heath-grass Danthonia decumbens (both scarce in Kent) and heath dog-violet Viola canina (rare in Kent). At the bottom of the slope,
by the stream, the meadow is bordered by an area of wet grassland. The damp soil of this area supports typical fen meadow species such as jointed rush Juncus articulatus, soft rush J. effusus, marsh thistle Cirsium palustre, greater bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus uliginosus and water mint Mentha aquatica. Other species of the sward include common knapweed Centaurea nigra, common marsh-bedstraw Galium palustre, tormentil Potentilla erecta and common sorrel Rumex acetosa. A narrow woodland borders the stream, which includes alder Alnus glutinosa, holly Ilex aquifolium and grey willow Salix cinerea. The ground flora includes opposite-leaved golden-saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium, yellow pimpernel Lysimachia nemorum and polypody Polypodium vulgare (scarce in Kent).
Dalham Farm is one of very few undisturbed areas which show mass movement phenomena on low-angled, inland slopes of London Clay. It shows failure by successive rotational landslipping on a slope of about 8º, the effects of which are visible as a series of ridges and small scarps crossing the slope. Dalham Farm illustrates what is possibly the lowest angled slope failure in Great Britain and is important in demonstrating slope degradation in the absence of coastal erosion and removal of material from the base.
Darenth Wood lies within the Dartford Green Belt.
This site comprises some of the most valuable areas of ancient semi- natural woodland in north-west Kent and includes several rare woodland types. The invertebrate fauna has been exceptionally well studied during the last two centuries and the wood has long been famous as a site supporting many rarities. There are recent records of 2 nationally rare** species and 32 nationally scarce species and historic records of a further 40 Red Data Book species and 200 nationally scarce species.
The wood has been managed as coppice-with-standards for centuries and this traditional management has given rise to broadleaved woodland with areas of open heathland forming extensive glades. Changes in traditional practices over the last 40 years have resulted in much of the site lying unmanaged. The range of soils that occur throughout the site has given rise to several
distinct woodland types. Acidic birch Betula spp -- sessile oak Quercus petraea woodland lies on the lighter soils of the plateau gravel covering the higher areas of ground. An unusual example, this woodland reflects the high chalk content of the soil and is more closely related to continental types than to those found elsewhere in Britain. Associated shrubs include field maple Acer campestre, dogwood Cornus sanguinea, wayfaring tree Viburnum lantana and midland hawthorn Crataegus
leavigata. The ground flora is dominated by bracken Pteridium aquilinum and bramble Rubus fruticosus and includes much lily-of-the- valley Convallaria majalis. Substantial bracken glades occur throughout this woodland type and locally acidic conditions favour broom Cytisus scoparius and gorse Ulex europaeus. The shallow chalk soils at the base of the slopes support sessile oak- hornbeam Carpinus betulus woodland. This particular type of woodland is very rare in Britain, being known only from North Kent, and Darenth Wood is the largest known example. Common shrub associates include field maple, ash Fraxinus excelsior and spindle Euonymus europaeus whilst the wild service tree Sorbus torminalis has also been recorded. The field layer is dominated by dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis withwood anemone Anemone nemorosa and bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta as frequent associates. White helleborine Cephalanth damasonium and bird's-nest orchid Neottia nidus avis are also found in this woodland type. The more acidic light to medium soils of the Blackheath sands found on the sloping ground support an acidic hazel Corylus avellana-sessile oak woodland. It has a rich tree and shrub flora including downy birch Betula pubescens, wild cherry Prunus avium, holly Ilex aquifolium and elder Sambucus nigra. Bramble and ivy Hedera helix are found most frequently in the field layer although species such as bittersweet Solanum dulcamara and cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense also occur. Many of the invertebrate species that have been recorded here are associated with dead wood and include the nationally rare beetles Agrilis pannonicus and Platypus cylindricus, both species living in dead or dying oak timber. Numerous bugs, beetles and moths, including the cloaked carpet moth Euphyia biangulata and the ground bug Trapezonotus dispar, are associated with the more open conditions found along the edges of the glades. Immediately to the west of Darenth Wood is a small area of chalk grassland. The area supports a wide range of chalk-loving plants including the nationally rare and specially protected field eryngo or Watling Street thistle Eryngium campestre and the nationally scarce ground pine Ajuga chamaepitys and man orchid Aceras anthropophorum.
* 'A Nature Conservation Review' edited by D A Ratcliffe 1977.
** Listed in the Red Data Book: 2, Insects, edited by D B Shirt 1987, NCC.
Dover to Kingsdown Cliffs
The coastline from Dover harbour to Kingsdown is of extreme importance geologically and physiographically, and for its varied floral and faunal communities which include many rare species.
The vegetation of the cliff tops consists mainly of chalk grassland interspersed with areas of scrub. Much of the grassland is dominated by tor-grass Brachypodium pinnatum or upright-brome Bromus erectus, though there are numerous areas of species-rich open grassland with a range of typical chalk-turf grass and herb species. These include sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina, salad burnet Sanguisorba minor, wild thyme Thymus praecox, and horseshoe vetch Hippocrepis comosa. A number of nationally-rare plants occur. These include early spider orchid Ophrys sphegodes and ox-tongue broomrape Orobanche loricata which are both at the northern extreme of a continental distribution. Dense areas of scrub occur locally, eg at Fan Hole. The main constituent species are gorse Ulex europaeus, wild privet Ligustrum vulgare, hawthorn Crataegus monogyna and bramble Rubus fruticosus. There are a few scattered individuals of juniper Juniperus communis, this species now has only a few remaining native sites in Kent.
On the sheerest chalk-cliff faces, vegetation is largely confined to crevices and narrow ledges. In places where gullies have formed (particularly around Langdon Bay), the vegetation is more extensive and consists of mixed communities of plants typical of both maritime and chalk grassland habitats. National rarities include wild cabbage Brassica oleracea, hoary stock Matthiola incana and
Nottingham catchfly Silene nutans, while more locally-rare species include wild madder Rubia peregrina. At the northern end of the site, at Kingsdown beach is a broad shingle plateau
with a succession of plant communities influenced in their extent and composition by increasing shingle-stability. Typical species include sea sandwort Honkenya peploides and the rare sea pea Lathyrus japonicus, while more secure shingle inland supports a sward of sheep’s fescue and other grasses together with further colonies of the early spider orchid. Of particular note is a prostrate oak tree Quercus robur which instead of a trunk has branches radiating from its root-base.
The invertebrate fauna of the site is rich, including important communities of Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) and Coleoptera (beetles). Locally-restricted species found here include the adonis blue butterfly Lysandra bellargus, the scarlet tiger moth Callimorpha dominula, a ground-beetle Bradycellus distinctus, and some rare weevils of the family Apionidae. There are numerous breeding sea birds along the cliffs including fulmars, rock pipits and lesser-black backed gulls; kittiwakes have been established since 1967, their expanding population now exceeds 1100 pairs, but are still found nowhere else in Kent. The South Foreland valley at St Margarets is a significant landfall for migrant birds in the spring and a gathering point for dispersal in the autumn. More importantly many migrants breed here including whitethroat, blackcap, grasshopper and other rarer warblers. Old wartime fortification-systems, of which there are several within the site, attract black redstarts. Near Kingsdown is one of the two cliff-nesting colonies of house martins in Kent. In addition the site includes important chalk foreshore habitats, particularly those at St Margarets Bay. These support the most species-rich littoral chalk algal flora in south-east England. The wide wave-abrasion platform at the foot of the cliffs provides a diverse range of rock formations and habitats colonised by rich and complex seaweed communities, the lower shore red algae being particularly luxuriant. Examples of algae characteristic of lower salinities are present where freshwater springs emerge on the shore, and the cliff face supports well developed examples of the unusual algal communities characteristic of this habitat, exhibiting clear vertical zonation patterns.
Dover to Kingsdown is an internationally important stratigraphic reference site which provides extensive and near continuous cliff and shore exposures of the Cenomanian, Turonian and Coniacian Stages (the Lower, Middle and Upper Chalk). The site is historically very important as many geological principles, such as biostratigraphic zonation were tested here during the early development of geology. Many parts of the succession are fossiliferous and, in particular the upper parts of the Turonian and lower parts of the Coniacian are rich in Micraster, which have contributed, and still are contributing to our knowledge of evolution.
This is also a key site for coastal geomorphology, providing an excellent example of structural controls on coastal cliff morphology. It also provides significant evidence for understanding contemporary form/process relationships in a cliff- shore platform-beach system. Historically, retreat of the cliffs has averaged 0.5 m per year but, in contrast to Foreness on the Isle of Thanet, erosion takes place mainly as large slides affecting much of the cliff face. The present beach closely relates to contemporary erosion of the cliffs and a well-developed shore platform extending to below low water mark. Geomorphologically, Dover to Kingsdown is an essential member of the network of chalk coastal sites in Britain.
This site lies on a steep south east facing slope and includes both unimproved and semi-improved chalk grassland with some areas of scrub and the edge of an ancient broadleaved woodland. These habitats support a diverse assemblage of plants including two nationally scarce* species, a nationally scarce butterfly and a nationally endangered moth. The feature of greatest interest on the site is that it supports the largest known British colony of the nationally endangered+ black-veined moth Siona lineata (Red Data Book category 1). This moth is specially protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. There are also 28 butterfly species found here including the nationally scarce Duke of Burgundy Hamearis lucina. Traditional grazing management ceased several years ago on this site and scrub has now invaded the grassland. The character of the remaining grassland has also altered but although it has become dominated by tor grass Brachypodium pinnatum, it retains a variety of other chalk grassland plants such as bird's-foot
trefoil Lotus corniculatus, marjoram Origanum vulgare, rock rose Helianthemum chamaecistus and salad burnet Sanguisorba minor. The combination of tor grass and herbs such as these form the habitat which supports the black-veined moth. The grassland also contains plants which are of particular interest such as the nationally scarce small bedstraw Galium pumilum, and man orchid Aceras anthropophorum along with Cypress spurge Euphorbia cyparissias which is scarce in Kent**. The colony of man orchids is one of the largest in Kent, numbering several hundred plants scattered between the grassland and the woodland edge. The woodland edge contains beech Fagus sylvatica, yew Taxus baccata and whitebeam Sorbus aria forming an open tree canopy interspersed with areas of chalk grassland. Other plants which occur here are butcher’s-broom Ruscus aculeatus, and orchids such as broad-leaved helleborine Epipactis helleborine and white helleborine Cephalanthera damasonium.
+ Red Data Book: 2 Insects, edited by D B Shirt 1987, NCC. Category 1: Endangered.
* Nationally scarce: recorded from 15–100 km squares in Britain.
** Scarce in Kent: recorded from between 11 and 52.4 km squares in Kent.
Dryhill is an inactive quarry located on the south-western edge of Sevenoaks in west Kent. The site is well known and provides a classic and nationally significant exposure through the ‘rag and hassock’ facies of the Aptian-aged Hythe Beds. This facies exhibits characteristic sedimentological features including sediment silicification and the early development of chert nodules. The site is also famous for its rich and diverse fossil brachiopod and bivalve fauna which is crucial for palaeoecological studies and international correllation of the Aptian Stage. Dryhill is a famous and well-documented Aptian site, which is of undoubted national significance for its sedimentological and palaeontological features and stratigraphical interest.
Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay
Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay is a nationally important site by reason of a diverse range
of biological and geological features, specifically the coastal geomorphology of Dungeness and Rye
Harbour and the following nationally important habitats: saltmarsh, sand dunes, vegetated shingle,
saline lagoons, standing waters, lowland ditch systems, and basin fens. These habitats and others
within the site support the following nationally important species interests: populations of four
vascular plant species listed in Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended);
an assemblage of Schedule 8, nationally rare and nationally scarce vascular plants; populations of
the vulnerable Warne’s thread-moss Bryum warneum; populations of water voles Arvicola
terrestris; an assemblage of breeding birds associated with shingle beaches and saltmarsh, lowland
damp grasslands, lowland open waters and their margins, and scrub; breeding numbers of 16
species of bird; assemblage of over 20,000 waterfowl in the non-breeding season; wintering
numbers of 17 species of bird and three species during passage periods; metapopulations of great
crested newts Triturus cristatus; endemic species and subspecies of invertebrates; populations of
two invertebrate species listed in Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as
amended); populations of ten endangered, vulnerable and rare invertebrate species; assemblages of invertebrates occurring on ‘dry’ coastal habitats; and assemblages of wetland invertebrates.
Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay is a nationally important site with a diverse coastal
landscape comprising a number of habitats which appear to be unrelated to each other. However,
all of them exist today because coastal processes have formed and continue to shape a barrier of
extensive shingle beaches and sand dunes across an area of intertidal mud and sand flats. The site
contains the largest and most diverse area of shingle beach in Britain, with low lying hollows in the
shingle providing nationally important saline lagoons, natural freshwater pits and basin fens. Rivers
draining the Weald to the north were diverted by the barrier beaches, creating a sheltered saltmarsh
and mudflat environment, which was gradually in-filled by sedimentation, and then reclaimed on a
piecemeal basis by man. Today this area still contains relict areas of saltmarsh (the largest areas of
this habitat in East Sussex) and an extensive network of ditches which drain areas of grazing marsh,
arable farmland and reedbed. Human activities have further modified the site, resulting in the
creation of extensive areas of wetland habitat due to gravel extraction. This highly unusual coastal
landscape has varied soils and shingle deposits which help to explain the way in which Romney
Marsh and Rye Bay were formed, and may evolve in the future.
Dungeness and Rye Harbour comprise the largest cuspate foreland (a low-lying triangular foreland)
in Britain and form part of a system of barrier beaches that can be traced 40 km from Fairlight to
Hythe. The foreland represents some 5,000 years of coastal evolution and environmental change,
which are well documented through both geological study and historical records. The important
features include the eroding and accreting coastline, exposed shingle ridges, buried shingle ridges,
cuspate foreland (ness) development and associated sediments, such as marsh interface deposits and peat. The major phases of development of the foreland are represented in a series of morphological and sedimentological zones each of which provide distinct and critical evidence.
The surface and subsurface shingle ridges are dominated by flint. The ridges can be directly related
to the development of the barrier beach system, formation of which probably began to the west,
extending and evolving through a series of beach recurves, and the destruction and rebuilding of
barrier beaches. The surface ridges evident today provide only one element of the evidence for the
foreland development. The subsurface, or buried, ridges are important as they allow mapping of the
foreland evolution. Finer grained material (including peat deposits) occurs between the barrier
beaches, representing backwater environments. The presence of palaeo-environmental information
from these deposits allows for detailed interpretation of the environmental conditions at the time of
deposition. Dating of the deposits allows for a chronology of coastal evolution to be developed.
Interpretation of the coastal and environmental changes at the site relies heavily on the relationship
of the shingle ridges and associated deposits. The lateral and vertical variations in the deposits, and
the ability to correlate and date the backwater and shingle ridge sequences is a key factor in
furthering our understanding of the foreland development. The continuing evolution of the foreland is itself of interest. The site is responding to a variety of influences including reduction in sediment supply, coastal defence works, recycling for beach management, training walls at Rye Harbour and sea-level rise, including that caused by climate change. However, despite these influences the site continues to evolve, and understanding the ongoing evolution, including comparison to historical changes and the influence of human activity, is a key element of the interest. In this context the site is one of a suite of five south-west facing beach systems along the coast of the English Channel which all show contrasting characteristics in relation to sediment supply, erosion and orientation to the dominant wave direction.
The saltmarshes in the estuary of the River Rother show a complete succession from cord-grass
Spartina spp. saltmarsh and pioneer marsh of glassworts Salicornia spp. and annual sea-blite
Suaeda maritima, through low-mid and mid-upper marsh communities, to a drift line dominated by
common couch Elytrigia repens and upper marsh common reed Phragmites australis swamp.
Downstream of the Monk Bretton Bridge in Rye, the site supports higher saltmarsh communities on
raised areas adjacent to the river, dominated by common saltmarsh-grass Puccinellia maritima and,
where the saltmarsh is grazed, red fescue Festuca rubra. The nationally scarce sea-heath Frankenia laevis occurs in parts of the upper saltmarsh. Low-mid marsh communities of common saltmarsh- grass and sea-purslane Atriplex portulacoides, with sea wormwood Seriphidium maritimum and sea aster Aster tripolium, occupy the inner areas of the marsh. In the immediate vicinity of Rye Harbour, there is a pure stand of sea-purslane. The Rother upstream of the bridge is canalised and there are only narrow strips of saltmarsh habitat along the flood banks. These areas are characterised by the low-mid marsh sea-purslane saltmarsh community, although the sea couch
Elytrigia atherica drift line community is also represented.
The site includes three sand dune systems at Camber, Romney Warren and Greatstone, representing different structural types of sand dune and sand dune formation associated with the shingle structures of Dungeness and Rye Harbour. Camber Sands is a ness/cuspate foreland dune system that has developed over a series of shingle ridges radiating from its eastern end. The system supports a typical successional sequence of dune habitats. The foredune vegetation contains a
classic sequence of sand couch Elytrigia juncea dune and marram Ammophila arenaria dune with
sand couch and red fescue Festuca rubra. The foredune also supports sea buckthorn Hippophae
rhamnoides scrub, although some of this has been planted as a stabilisation measure. Further from
the sea, the semi-fixed marram vegetation leads into fixed dune grassland. Locally this includes
small patches of more lichen-rich open dune vegetation. In areas with a taller sward there is a
tendency for mesotrophic (moderate nutrient status) grassland to develop with sea couch Elytrigia
atherica and, on the higher ground, marram.
Greatstone Dunes are a narrow bay dune system and consist largely of a successional sequence of
dune habitats from foredune to mobile dune and dune scrub habitats. An important feature of these
dunes is the transitions they demonstrate between vegetated shingle beach and foredune
communities. For some of their length the dunes are also fronted by a strandline community. The
foredunes support a narrow and discontinuous band of sand couch fronting marram-dominated
mobile dunes, which make up the majority of the dune system. There are also areas of sea
buckthorn scrub. Where the dunes are broader towards the north of the site, the mobile dunes grade
into areas of semi-fixed dune and fixed dune grassland.
Romney Warren is a stable ness/cuspate foreland dune system developed over a series of ancient
shingle ridges. There are two main types of fixed dune grassland communities. Grasslands in the
south and south-east are dominated by mixtures of red fescue, common bent Agrostis capillaris, sea
couch, smooth meadow-grass Poa pratensis, crested hair-grass Koeleria macrantha and sand sedge Carex arenaria. In contrast, the northern end supports dense species-poor swards dominated by sand sedge and sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina, developed over acidic sands. In the south-west, dense mesotrophic grassland has developed over richer soils. This is dominated by false oat-grass Arrhenatherum elatius and sea couch, with cock’s-foot Dactylis glomerata and red fescue.
The shingle beaches at Dungeness and Rye Harbour support a range of vegetated shingle
communities and transitions between them. These communities reflect the geomorphological
patterns of the shingle structure, reflecting both the time since deposition and the particle size and
matrix of finer material present. A wide range of successional communities are present at
Dungeness. One of the most unusual pioneer species is prostrate broom Cytisus scoparius ssp.
maritimus which is an important component of the vegetation just inland of the pioneering driftline
and false oat-grass grassland communities. On older shingle ridges the broom is eventually
replaced by other species such as sweet vernal-grass Anthoxanthum odoratum, wood sage Teucrium scorodonia and common sorrel Rumex acetosa, and a rich lichen sward and ‘thin heath’ develops, with natural variation occurring where the shingle grades into grazing marsh, and on the eroding south coast of the site. Another important aspect of the vegetation is the range of blackthorn Prunus spinosa that occurs on low-lying areas of shingle, varying from 2m high shrubs to prostrate forms. The older blackthorn shrubs have a very rich epiphytic lichen flora dominated by Usnea spp.,
Evernia prunastri or Hypogymnia physodes. This lichen community is unique to shingle and has its
best representation at Dungeness. Lydd Ranges supports the only known example of a “holly Ilex
aquifolium wood” on shingle. Around the landward edge of the shingle beaches (such as at the
northern end of Lydd Ranges) there are relict areas of sandy shingle which probably represent old
dune systems. Even the areas of apparently bare shingle are in fact ‘vegetated’ by encrusting
lichens, including the near-threatened species Rinodina aspersa.
On naturally bare shingle ridges near the coast at Rye Harbour, soil development is limited and only
a few specialised pioneer plant species can colonise, such as sea-kale Crambe maritima, sea pea
Lathyrus japonicus ssp. maritimus, sea campion Silene uniflora and curled dock Rumex crispus. As
finer material accumulates within the gravel matrix, more species become established including
viper’s-bugloss Echium vulgare, yellow horned-poppy Glaucium flavum and herb-robert Geranium
robertianum ssp. maritimum. After several centuries, a thin, well-drained soil develops on the older shingle ridges and a variety of grassland species occur, including buck’s-horn plantain Plantago
coronopus, common stork’s-bill Erodium cicutarium, sand spurrey Spergularia rubra, the
vulnerable smooth cat’s-ear Hypochaeris glabra and some fifteen species of vetch and clover.
Around Camber Castle there are unique ancient ridges that have an extremely specialised grass
flora. Where the shingle has been disturbed or removed in the past to a level above the water table
there is a succession of different species to those found elsewhere. Here, species such as Danish
scurvygrass Cochlearia danica, common bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus, rue-leaved saxifrage
Saxifraga tridactylites and the endangered least lettuce Lactuca saligna occur.
Natural shingle wetlands: saline lagoons, standing waters and basin fens
The vast shingle beach at Dungeness contains a number of natural wetlands (unlike the extensive
flooded pits created by gravel extraction), referred to as the Open and Fossil Pits, within Dungeness
RSPB Reserve and Lydd Ranges. These wetlands have been subject to colonisation by vegetation
and (the Open Pits at least) display stages of a classic hydroseral succession, from open water and
marginal reed-swamp, through a form of marsh or fen, to grey willow Salix cinerea carr.
Some of the pits have reached a stage in the hydroseral succession where they have little or no open water. Most have floating rafts of vegetation, varying in the degree to which they have stabilised. These floating rafts of vegetation are typical of the “Schwingmoor” type of basin fen, where layers of peat are separated by lenses of water. The pits contain a range of fen types from nutrient-rich to poor fen, with vegetation ranging from single species swamps to more complex communities. Much of the vegetation comprises common reed swamp but poor fen communities are dominated by tall-herb fen, with marsh cinquefoil Potentilla palustris, the nationally scarce marsh fern Thelypteris palustris, common cottongrass Eriophorum angustifolium and bottle sedge Carex rostrata. Some pits have hummocks of bog-moss, including blunt-leaved bog-moss Sphagnum palustre and spiky bog-moss S. squarrosum, and one pit contains a small stand of great fen-sedge Cladium mariscus. The oldest of the pits are now on the eroding south coast of Dungeness (in Lydd Ranges) and have reverted to saline conditions. They are typical, relatively stable, shingle percolation lagoons. The fauna of the pools that lie seaward of the embankment is comparatively diverse and includes the lagoonal specialist mud-snail Ventrosia ventrosa. The maritime influence of these pools is shown by the presence of the bivalve mollusc Abra tenuis and the polychaete worm Capitella capitata. The remaining pools lie landward of the embankment. They are surrounded by grassland with sea- purslane and sea aster, and have a dense submerged flora of tasselweed Ruppia spp. The tasselweed is well colonised by Ventrosia ventrosa, whilst the benthos predominantly comprises oligochaetes and opportunistic insects, but ragworms Nereis diversicolor are also common. The lagoons demonstrate a range of salinities and all show landward transitions to vegetated shingle habitats and to the shingle ridge geomorphology of Dungeness.
Lowland ditch systems
The extensive systems of ditches and dykes (such as those which drain Walland Marsh and Pett
Level) are important examples of lowland, slow-moving and eutrophic (nutrient-rich) waters. There
is a brackish influence near the sea and also inland in the large ditches or where peat deposits,
which leach salt, lie close to the surface. The majority of the ditches have high plant species
The Dowels contains the greatest proportion of freshwater ditches on Walland Marsh and has the
highest plant species diversity, with the nationally rare sharp-leaved pondweed Potamogeton
acutifolius and several nationally scarce species, including greater water-parsnip Sium latifolium
and marsh-mallow Althaea officinalis. Although components of this diverse flora are also found in
the adjacent northern end of Snargate, the majority of Snargate is similar to Fairfield, Woolpack and
Cheyne Court, where most of the ditches contain a characteristic but less diverse brackish
community. The typical aquatic species are soft hornwort Ceratophyllum submersum, spiked
water-milfoil Myriophyllum spicatum, fennel pondweed Potamogeton pectinatus, brackish water-
crowfoot Ranunculus baudotii, thread-leaved water-crowfoot R. trichophyllus and horned pondweed Zannichellia palustris. The dominant emergent species in these areas are sea club-rush
Bolboschoenus maritimus, common reed and lesser bulrush Typha angustifolia. The ditch banks
support a number of upper saltmarsh species, such as saltmarsh rush Juncus gerardii, sea-milkwort
Glaux maritima and sea arrowgrass Triglochin maritimum. The large area of grazing marsh at East
Guldeford also contains predominantly brackish ditches, although overall it is less brackish than
Snargate, Fairfield and Woolpack. The ditch banks which are ungrazed or only lightly grazed are
particularly important for marsh-mallow.
The grazing marsh ditches on Pett Level range from freshwater to brackish, and this contributes to
the diversity of the fauna and flora. Recently cleared ditches rapidly become invaded by aquatic
plants, such as fennel pondweed, soft hornwort and bladderwort Utricularia australis in the
brackish ditches, and rigid hornwort Ceratophyllum demersum, broad-leaved pondweed
Potamogeton natans and hairlike pondweed P. trichoides in those with a freshwater influence. The
brackish ditches eventually become invaded by emergent species such as sea club-rush and grey
club-rush Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani, while arrowhead, lesser bulrush, greater pond-sedge
Carex riparia, and water dock Rumex hydrolapathum are more common in the freshwater ditches.
Eventually, the late succession ditches become dominated by common reed.
The site supports populations of four plant species that are listed in Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and
Countryside Act 1981 (as amended): Jersey cudweed Gnaphalium luteoalbum grows on the
margins of gravel pits in Dungeness RSPB Reserve; least lettuce occurs in vegetated shingle at Rye
Harbour Local Nature Reserve (LNR); there is a small colony of the early spider-orchid Ophrys
sphegodes growing on an area of disturbed shingle adjacent to the nuclear power stations at
Dungeness; and there are colonies of lizard orchids Himantoglossum hircinum (further details about
the locations of these colonies are confidential due to the threat posed by illegal plant collectors).
The extensive areas of natural and semi-natural habitats, including shingle beaches, sand dunes,
saltmarsh, grazing marsh, waterbodies and fens, support a large assemblage of nationally rare and
nationally scarce vascular plant species (including the four Schedule 8 species listed above).
Foremost amongst this assemblage are the suites of species associated with shingle beaches, grazing marsh and saltmarsh (including brackish wetlands in the shingle beaches and brackish ditches). The shingle beaches of Dungeness and Rye Harbour support at least six nationally scarce species (in addition to least lettuce and early spider-orchid), including the critically endangered red hemp-nettle Galeopsis angustifolia, and the near-threatened Nottingham catch-fly Silene nutans and yellow- vetch Vicia lutea. Saltmarshes and other brackish wetlands are equally rich, with at least eight nationally scarce species, including the vulnerable sea barley Hordeum marinum and Borrer’s
saltmarsh-grass Puccinellia fasciculata, and the near-threatened sea-heath. Grazing marshes,
especially the extensive ditch systems of Walland Marsh, Denge Marsh and Pett Level, support the
nationally rare (and critically endangered) sharp-leaved pondweed and at least six nationally scarce
species, including the endangered greater water-parsnip, and the vulnerable divided sedge Carex
divisa and rootless duckweed Wolffia arrhiza.
The vulnerable Warne’s thread-moss Bryum warneum is a colonist of unshaded calcareous sand that must be persistently damp all year but not inundated by standing water. Warne’s thread-moss
occurs on wet sand beside a large freshwater gravel pit in Dungeness RSPB Reserve. Several
smaller satellite colonies have become established beside small pools to the north of the main
The extensive network of grazing marsh ditches, some in association with areas of wet reedbed,
provides habitat for large populations of water voles Arvicola terrestris. The SSSI contains the core
areas of an extensive distribution of this species in the Romney Marsh and Rye Bay area. The
densest and most persistent population occurs at the southern end of Walland Marsh, between East
Guldeford and Jury’s Gap. Water voles also occur in large numbers further north on Walland Marsh at Woolpack, Fairfield and The Dowels, as well as in Rye Harbour LNR and on Pett Level.
The population fluctuates in numbers and range, largely dependent on summer water levels. The
area is particularly favourable for water voles because many of the ditches hold water in the
summer, stretches of ungrazed ditch bank provide vegetation cover, and predatory mink Mustela
vison occur at a low density.
Breeding, wintering and passage birds
The SSSI is regularly used by an assemblage of at least 40 breeding bird species typical of shingle
beaches and saltmarshes, lowland damp grasslands, lowland open waters and their margins, and
scrub. This assemblage regularly includes nationally important breeding numbers (exceeding 1% of
the Great Britain breeding populations) of gadwall Anas strepera, garganey A. querquedula,
shoveler A. clypeata, pochard Aythya ferina, tufted duck A. fuligula, little grebe Tachybaptus
ruficollis, water rail Rallus aquaticus, avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, black-headed gull Larus
ridibundus, sandwich tern Sterna sandvicensis, common tern S. hirundo, little tern S. albifrons,
Cetti’s warbler Cettia cetti and bearded tit Panurus biarmicus. Whilst many breeding birds use
habitats throughout the SSSI, there are four areas that support particular concentrations associated
with different combinations of habitats: Dungeness (particularly the RSPB Reserve); Rye Harbour
LNR; Pett Level (particularly the Pannel Valley); and Cheyne Court. In addition to the assemblage,
the SSSI supports nationally important breeding numbers of cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, in
two colonies at Dungeness RSPB Reserve and Rye Harbour LNR, and Mediterranean gull Larus
melanocephalus, primarily at Rye Harbour LNR.
The extensive areas of open water, grazing marsh, reedbed and intertidal habitat in the SSSI provide safe feeding and roosting sites for nationally important numbers of waterfowl, together regularly supporting in excess of 20,000 individuals of more than 60 species. As well as the waterbird species listed below, which individually occur in nationally important numbers (exceeding 1% of the Great Britain populations), this assemblage regularly includes large numbers (greater than
12,000 individuals) of lapwing Vanellus vanellus. Sixteen species of waterfowl regularly winter
here in nationally important numbers: mute swan Cygnus olor, Bewick’s swan C. columbianus
bewickii, European white-fronted goose Anser albifrons albifrons, wigeon Anas penelope, gadwall
A. strepera, teal A. crecca, shoveler A. clypeata, pochard Aythya ferina, little grebe Tachybaptus
ruficollis, great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus, cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, bittern Botaurus
stellaris, coot Fulica atra, golden plover Pluvialis apricaria, ruff Philomachus pugnax and
sanderling Calidris alba. Two species of waterfowl regularly occur in nationally important
numbers during migration periods: whimbrel Numenius phaeopus in spring and common sandpiper
Actitis hypoleucos in autumn. The SSSI also supports nationally important numbers of hen harrier
Circus cyaneus in winter and aquatic warbler Acrocephalus paludicola on autumn passage.
Great crested newt
The particular combination and distribution of aquatic and terrestrial habitats in the SSSI provide
exceptional breeding, foraging and hibernation conditions for great crested newts Triturus cristatus.
The SSSI supports three metapopulations: one centred on Lydd Ranges; one extending from
Dungeness RSPB Reserve to Lydd Airport; and one at Romney Warren. The newts depend on
water for breeding, which takes place in spring, and particularly favour moderately deep, well-
vegetated pools without fish. During the first two or three years of life before breeding starts, and
outside the breeding season, great crested newts are dependent on terrestrial habitats to provide
foraging areas and places to hibernate. The habitats which occur around and between the
waterbodies are therefore as important as the presence of suitable breeding ponds.
The invertebrate fauna of Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay is extremely unusual in a UK
context, comprising a range of assemblages of thermophilic (warmth-loving) and wetland species.
Foremost amongst these is the assemblage associated with vegetated shingle. The assemblage
includes nationally important populations of seven endangered, vulnerable and rare species: the jumping spiders Pellenes tripunctatus and Euophrys browningi that can often be found inhabiting
old whelk shells; the case-moth Coleophora galbulipenella and white-spot moth Hadena
albimacula whose larvae feed on Nottingham catchfly; the spider Apostenus fuscus that occurs in
open false oat-grass grassland around the Long Pits; and the flea beetle Dibolia cynoglossi which is
associated with red hemp-nettle at Dungeness and Rye Harbour. Some of this assemblage is
thought to be endemic to Dungeness, including the leafhopper Aphrodes duffieldi. Several sub-
species and forms are also known solely from Dungeness, including the pale grass eggar moth
Lasiocampa trifolii flava. The vegetated shingle also supports a nationally important population of
the Sussex emerald moth Thalera fimbrialis, which is listed in Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and
Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). Sussex emerald is restricted as a British resident to
Dungeness, where larval populations of the species occur mostly on areas of disturbed sandy
shingle within and around the perimeter fence encircling Dungeness Nuclear Power Stations.
Sand dunes support a nationally important population of the rare click beetle Melanotus
punctolineatus, which breeds in areas of sparsely vegetated coastal dune, and are also noteworthy
for a range of bees, wasps and ants. These assemblages include the spider-hunting wasp Evagetes
pectinipes, a species that is restricted in the UK to this site and just one other on the Kent coast.
The sand dunes share many features in common with some of the man-made shingle workings in
which fine sands and silts have been deposited to form banks and shallow edges. In drier areas,
assemblages of solitary bees and wasps, including the bee Dasypoda altercator, can be substantial
and in places are accompanied by nest parasites, such as the bee-fly Bombylius discolor (which also occurs in grazing marsh), and typical sand dune species such as the tiny bee-fly Phthiria pulicaria. Where fine open sandy material interfaces with open water, assemblages of species normally associated with dune slacks include a nationally important population of the endangered ground beetle Omophron limbatum, along with the ground beetle Dyschirius obscurus, and the flies Tachydromia terricola and Chersodromia alata.
The SSSI is permeated by a complex network of water bodies ranging from the natural shingle
wetlands to gravel pits and ditches. These wetlands exhibit a number of similar characteristics,
apart from the deep, cold and largely sterile open waters of the main gravel pits. Shallow open
water and emergent vegetation largely comprising common reed and bulrush Typha latifolia
supports a rich water beetle assemblage including four species of Dytiscus and the great silver
diving beetle Hydrophilus piceus. It also supports a substantial dragonfly assemblage. Other
noteworthy aspects of the invertebrate assemblage include a suite of reed beetles Donacia spp.,
snail-killing flies (Sciomyzidae) and soldier-flies (Stratiomyidae) that are typical of coastal
marshes. Much of this assemblage is to be found within the ditch systems of Walland Marsh, Pett
Level, Rye Harbour and Denge Marsh. Walland Marsh supports a nationally important population
of the endangered marsh mallow moth Hydraecia osseola hucherardi, and is one of just two
localities in Great Britain for this specialist whose larvae feed within the roots of marsh-mallow.
The range of shallow, well-vegetated waterbodies provide ideal conditions for a nationally
important metapopulation of medicinal leeches Hirudo medicinalis, a species listed in Schedule 5 of
the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).
Assemblages associated with particular plants are also noteworthy, foremost of which are the moths
and beetles whose larval stages feed on viper’s bugloss Echium vulgare. This assemblage includes
a nationally important population of the (provisionally) vulnerable micro-moth Ethmia terminella,
as well as the moths Ethmia bipunctella and Cynaeda dentalis, and the spectacular weevil
Ceutorrhynchus geographicus. Other noteworthy plant associations include the extensive
population of dodder Cuscuta epithymum which supports two tiny weevils Smicronyx coecus and S.
jungermanniae, yellow horned-poppy in whose roots lives the weevil Ceutorrhynchus verrucatus,
and prostrate broom which has a distinctive fauna both as live plants and dead stems.
East Blean Woods
This site includes a Kent Trust for Nature Conservation reserve.
East Blean Wood is one of the best remaining examples of primary deciduous woodland in the Blean Woods complex north of Canterbury. The wood comprises mixed coppice with oak standards, sweet chestnut coppice and also a small plantation of Scots pine. The diverse ground flora includes some species indicative of a long history of woodland cover. The smaller, outlying Childs Forstal, Buckwell and Clangate Woods are similar. Also of interest is the insect fauna, particularly the moths and butterflies. The rare heath fritillary butterfly Mellicta athalia, a species specially protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, occurs in these woods. Hornbeam, hazel and ash are the main coppiced species, but a wide variety of other trees and shrubs also occur including the uncommon midland hawthorn Crataegus laevigata and wild service tree Sorbus torminalis. Oak is the predominant standard tree with some ash, sycamore and cherry also present as standards. Old oak and hornbeam pollards can be found along the old boundary banks within the woods.
The woodland ground flora is varied and rich in species. Bramble and bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta are usually the most common plants but wood anemone Anemone nemorosa, yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon and dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis are also plentiful. Less common plants include spurge laurel Daphne laureola and butcher’s broom Ruscus aculeatus. In the more calcareous parts of the wood herb paris Paris quadrifolia, bird’s nest orchid Neottia nidus-avis and the greater butterfly orchid Platanthera chlorantha are found. A number of small streams, flushes and ponds are present in the woods. These damper areas have a distinctive flora, often dominated by pendulous sedge Carexpendula. Other plants such as cuckoo flower Cardamine pratensis, marsh marigold Caltha palustris and common spotted orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii are also common. Common cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense occurs in the more recently coppiced
areas. This species is important as the food plant for the caterpillars of the rare heath fritillary which is now found only in the Blean Woods complex and a few sites in Devon and Cornwall. The woods are also of interest for birds. A wide range of woodland species breed including nuthatch, nightingale, hawfinch, three species of woodpecker, and several tits and warblers.
This ancient woodland site contains several uncommon woodland types. Sessile oak-beech predominates on the acidic sandy soils in the central and eastern parts of the wood. Hornbeam with pedunculate and sessile oak occurs on the clay soils of the western valley. Other types are also present including small plantations of sweet chestnut coppice. The wood has a diverse flora with over 250 higher plants and 300 fungi present. Large numbers of insects including three nationally rare species have been recorded. The area also supports a diverse breeding bird community.
Sessile oak and beech coppice with sessile oak standards is common in the central and eastern parts of the wood, with rowan, holly and wild service tree also present. The ground flora is dominated by great woodrush Luzula sylvatica and common cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense. Hornbeam, ash and field maple coppice with pedunculate and sessile oak standards occurs in the western valley. Here, bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta, wood anemone Anemone nemorosa, yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon and brambles Rubus species are common. High forest of sessile oak, beech and ash occurs on the valley sides. A number of small ponds and streams are present in the wood. The ponds are acidic and dominated by bog moss Sphagnum species.
Coppicing has recently been reintroduced as part of the reserve management and this has resulted in an increase in the numbers of breeding birds such as wren and blackcap. In addition some areas have been promoted to high forest, to produce a diverse woodland structure. Birds breeding regularly include nightingale, green woodpecker, great-spotted woodpecker, nuthatch and several tits and warblers. Kestrels have bred near the woodland edge in recent years.
The insect fauna is diverse with numerous moths, butterflies, bugs and beetles recorded including
some uncommon species such as the brindled white spot moth Ectropis extersaria. Two nationally rare flies Lophosia fasciata and Syntemna nitidula and a rare beetle Cicindela hybrida have also been found. The mammals of Ellenden Wood have also been well recorded. Among the smaller animals are dormouse, wood and harvest mouse, and two species of shrew. Predators include fox, stoat and weasel. There are also badger setts in the wood.
This site is representative of woodland in Kent on Eocene deposits overlying Chalk. The ground flora is particularly rich and there is also a varied invertebrate fauna. A series of ponds in the centre of the wood supports several species of amphibian.
Thanet sands, and Woolwich and Blackheath Beds cap the Chalk giving rise to a range of soil conditions which, combined with the continuity of woodland cover, has resulted in the presence of a rich ground flora. Bramble Rubus fruticosus and bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta are generally dominant, but a number of species uncommon in Kent occur including lily-of-the valley Convallaria majalis, Solomon’s seal Polygonatum multiflorum and bird’s-nest orchid Neottia nidus-
avis. There is also a colony of the nationally scarce Deptford pink Dianthus a??ria.
The canopy and shrub layers are similarly varied. Trees present include pedunculate and sessile oak Quercus robur and Q. petraea, hornbeam Carpinus betulus and ash Fraxinus excelsior, although some areas consist almost entirely of planted sweet chestnut Castanea sativa coppice, especially on the more acidic soils. Shrubs are best represented on the more chalky soils and include spindle Euonymus europaeus, wayfaring tree Viburnum lantana and guelder rose V.
opulus. Amongst the invertebrates, a number of species indicative of ancient woodland occur including certain beetles and the hoverfly Brachypalpoides lanta. Therationally rare fly Volucella inanis has been recorded recently.Additional habitat variety is provided by the ponds in the centre of the wood. Although there is little aquatic vegetation, the ponds support 3 species of newt including the uncommon great crested newt Triturus cristatus.
Folkestone to Etchinghill Escarpment
This extensive area of chalk grassland and scrub is located on the steep escarpment north of Folkestone. The site is one of the largest remaining areas of unimproved chalk downland in Kent. Three nationally rare plants listed on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and
specially protected by law, are present; late spider orchid Ophrys fuciflora, early spider orchid Ophrys sphegodes and bedstraw broomrape Orobanche caryophyllacea. Asholt Wood at the western end of the site is regarded as one of the best examples of a coppiced ash woodland in the county. It has an outstanding lichen flora and a diverse breeding bird community. The site also supports an outstanding assemblage of insects including many local and rare species. Part of the
site, Holywell Coombe, is of importance for its fossil remains. Most of the downland is dominated by tor-grass Brachypodium pinnatum and fescues Festuca species in a mixed sward of quaking grass
Briza media, crested hair-grass Koeleria cristata and upright brome Bromus erectus. Many herbs characteristic of unimproved grassland are present such as horseshoe vetch Hippocrepis comosa, salad burnet Sanguisorba minor, squinancywort Asperula cynanchica and small scabious Scabiosa columbaria. There is a thin scattering of shrubs, mainly hawthorn, along most of the escarpment. Extensive areas of dense hawthorn and gorse scrub are present, particularly along the top and bottom of the slopes. Ash and oak have become established in some areas and are developing into secondary woodland. Among the dense scrub at Holywell is a marshy area dominated by greater willowherb Epilobium hirsutum and hemp- agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum. A number of springs emerge from the foot of the escarpment. The site supports a diverse insect fauna including a number of nationally rare flies, moths and butterflies. Of special interest is the annulet mothGnophos obscuratus which is noted for its different genetic colour forms. This is the only known locality in Britain for the form fasciata. In addition the nationally rare straw belle moth Aspitates gilvaria is found
here. Among the butterflies the locally uncommon adonis blue Lysandra bellargus and small blue Cupido minimus are two species with a restricted distribution. Asholt Wood is situated on the Gault Clay at the foot of the escarpment. The soils are poorly drained and range from highly calcareous near the chalk scarp, to neutral with some mildly acidic patches. The woodland has been managed as coppice-with-standards in the past but most has been neglected for many years. Ash and hazel with some field maple are the main coppiced species beneath pedunculate oak
standards. Coppiced alder occurs along Seabrook Stream which runs through the middle of the wood. Small patches of hornbeam coppice are present in the more acidic areas. The shrub layer is sparse but varied and includes several species characteristic of calcareous soils such as dogwood and spindle. The woodland ground flora is dominated by dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis, enchanter’s nightshade Circaea lutetiana, tufted hair-grass Deschampsia caespitosa and brambles Rubus fruticosus. Uncommon plants such as thin-spiked wood sedge Carex strigosa, stinking iris Iris foetidissima and fly orchid Ophrys insectifera also occur. The breeding bird community includes many typical woodland species such as great spotted woodpecker, tawny owl, nuthatch and treecreeper. The geological interest of Holywell Coombe can be defined as follows: 'An important Pleistocene sequence of Devensian, Late-glacial and Flandrian spring and slope deposits containing fossil molluscs, plant remains and fossil beetles occurs within this Chalk coombe. A key feature of the deposits is that they allow changes in the fossil molluscan fauna to be compared with vegetation zones and standard pollen zones. A series of mollusc assemblage zones defined on the basis of the successive mollusc faunas at Holywell Coombe is now established as a standard against which to compare and date other sites in southern England where similar mollusc assemblages occur. Holywell Coombe is therefore a key Pleistocene reference site.'
Folkestone Warren is of considerable biological, geological and physiographical interest. The site spans the coastline between Folkestone and Dover and encompasses the range of marine and terrestrial habitats associated with the chalk cliffs, and with the underlying Gault clay and Lower Greensand exposed at the ??stern end of the site. These habitats support outstanding assemblages of plants and invertebrates, together with individual species which are nationally uncommon.
On the cliff tops and further inland are small areas of chalk grassland, whilst on the chalk cliff ledges and slopes are plant species with a preference for maritime or calcareous habitats. Several are rare nationally and some with mainly continental distribution reach their northernmost point in Great Britain at this site. Their survival on this stretch of coast may be largely attributable to its warm, south facing, sheltered climate, which is comparable to that of re g ions several degrees latitude to the south. Many rare invertebrates breed within the site, representing several taxonomic groups and
also including species with a preference for warm climates. The site is also a major landing place for migrant insects from the continent which may form temporary colonies.
The site contains one of the most Important localities for marine interest between the Isle of Wight and Flamborough Head, by virtue of the combination of intertidal habitats and communities, another rare species which are present. Also of considerable interest are the plant and animal communities of the adjoining sublittoral zone.
Chalk is exposed for much of the length of the site, the underlying gault clay creates instability in the chalk and landslips occur from time to time resulting in a mosaic of cliff ledges, scree, bare faces and undercliffs, of varying slope and aspect. This configuration is best developed at the eastern end of the site where the cliffs are undefended. The cliff vegetation is predominantly calcareous grassland but scrub Is present on the more stable undercliffs, and there is a characteristic assemblage of plant species at the spray-line which includes such national rarities as sea-heath Frankenia laevis, curved hard-grass Parapholis ??crva and golden samphire Inula crithmoides. Above the sprayline, plant
species typical of calcareous grassland and of maritime habitats grow side by side, resulting in plant communities which are considered rare in Europe. Several nationally scarce plant species are represented here, including wild cabbage Brassica oleracea and the Dover variety of Nottingham catchfly Silene nutans var. nutans, whilst the humid climate favours the growth of species which inland are restricted to woodlands on calcareous soils, such as stinking iris Iris foetidissima and wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides. The clove-scented broomrape Orobanche caryophyllacea, in Great Britain only known from five sites in East Kent, is also present. The areas of chalk grassland on the cliff tops and inland are chiefly dominated by sheep's-fescue Festuca ovina, tor-grass Brachiopodium pinnatum and upright brome Bromus erectus, and a variety of herb species characteristic of chalk soils are present. These include early spider-orchid Ophrys sphegodes, and horseshoe vetch Hippocrepis comosa, food plant of the larvae of the Adonis blue butterfly, which breeds within the site.
The Gault and Lower Greensand cliffs at the western end of the site are unstable and sparsely vegetated. In the Warren, landslips have given rise to a succession of steep, broken slopes where scrub and woodland is developing and there are several small ponds. The combination of southerly aspect, chalk substratum and maritime influence of the site provides favourable conditions for a wide diversity of invertebrate species, several of which occur sparsely if at all outside south east England. These include the harvestman Trogulus tricarinatus and the millipede Polydesmus testaceus. A number of rare Lepidoptera species have bred within the site including the fiery clearwing moth Bembecia chrysidiformis, known only from Folkestone Warren in Britain. Regular migrants to the site from the continent include the sub-angled wave moth Scopula nigropunctata. The ornithological interest of the site includes cliff-nesting and wintering bird species and migrants, particularly passerines such as chats and warblers in the autumn, which make landfall in Folkestone Warren and in other areas of scrub. The site contains one of the two cliff-nesting colonies of housemartins in the county and fulmars breed on the cliffs in reasonable numbers for Kent. Small numbers of purple sandpiper overwinter on the rocky foreshore at Copt Point and below Shakespeare Cliff.
The range of geological substrata exposed on the shore provides a diversity of intertidal habitats and these are colonised by a wide variety of marine plants and animals in characteristic assemblages. Many species found here are rare in south east England or nationally and reach their eastern limit of distribution in the Eastern Channel at this site. The chalk shore at Abbots Cliff and Shakespeare Cliff are among the better examples of their type in south east England. They possess full vertical shore zonations and a wide range of plant and animal assemblages characteristic of this soft rock are present on the wave cut platform and chalk boulder habitats, the latter being continually renewed from the unprotected cliff face. The wave exposed headland at Abbots Cliff Is animal dominated in contrast to the Shakespeare Cliff site with its luxuriant algal growths. The clay bands of the Lower Chalk form wave cut intertidal platforms between Shakespeare Cliff and Abbots Cliff, and in East Wear Bay These clays support characteristic and unusual assemblages of small algal species with many ephemerals and including rarities such as Scinaia forcellata, Sphacellana spp and Derbesia tenuissima, and species well outside their normal limits of distribution, such as Chorda filum. Copt Point, formed principally of hard Lower Greensand, is a unique site in Kent and south east England. It supports algal assemblages more typical of northern and western England including the fucoid algae Pelvetia canaliculata and Ascophyllum nodosum, which are very rare on natural substrata in the south east. The intertidal fauna are a so unusual for south east England, beingparticularly species-rich and with some species rarely recorded east of the Isle of Wight.
Whilst the SSSI boundary follows Mean Low Water Mark, there are also marine communities of interest on the lower shore and in the sublittoral which itself falls into three fairly distinct regions. Off Copt Point Folkestone, the sea-bed is rocky (greensand), but the presence of the sewage outfall has resulted in much of the area becoming dominated by extensive mats of mussels, upon which are feeding large numbers of starfish Species diversity here is low, although potentially could be high in
East Wear Bat the sea bed in the shallow sublittoral is predominantly sandy, and supports polychaete worms, bivalve molluscs and many juvenile flat fish. The most interesting area is off Abbot’s Cliff and Shakespeare Cliff where there is an almost continuous belt stretching to around 300 m offshore which consists of chalk bedrock overlain with chalk boulders up to 2m high. In places, clay and marl bands in the Lower Chalk are exposed, so providing a variety of different substrata for the flora and fauna There are rich growths of algae, including kelps, and animal ‘turf’, together with a range of larger animals. The sublittoral chalk habitat is scarce in Kent, and the site
may mark the eastern limit of distribution along the English Channel of species such as the kelp Laminaria nyperborea.
The coastline between Folkestone and Dover contains two internationally Important reference sites for stratigraphic studies of certain stages of the Cretaceous Period in geological history, and the formations present are of Importance for the vertebrate and invertebrate fossils which they yield in addition the succession of coastal landslips which has taken place in Folkestone Warren Is of considerable geological interest. The series of cliff sections at the western end of the site, with some 50m of Folkestone Beds and Gault, represents the most important single locality for studying the sedimentology and stratigraphy of these formations in England. The sequence has been the focus of extensive research and represents the historical type section for both the Folkestone Beds and the Gault. This is an historic locality of international importance for stratigraphic and palaeontological studies in the Albian the Cretaceous period. In addition, the East Wear Bay section of the Gault Cliffs has yielded a selection of reptiles from several horizons and is considered to be the best Gault reptile site in Britain. The reptiles are often well localised, and they may be dated by abundant ammonites. The reptiles are mainly marine forms; turtles Rhinochelys, ichthyosaurs Opthalmosaurus, plesiosaurus Cimiliosaurus, pliosaurs Polyptychodon, and pterosaurs Ornithocheirus. The East Wear Bay section has produced type specimens of several species, and fresh erosion maintains the potential of the site. The chalk sections which span this site together with those which fall within the Dover to Kingsdown Cliffs SSSI are an internationally important stratigraphic reference site which provides extensive and near continuous cliff and shore exposures of the Cenomanian, Turonian and Coniacian Stages of the Cretaceous Period (Lower, Middle and early Upper-Chalk). The site is historically very important as many geological principles, such as biostratigraphic zonation were tested here during the early development of geology. Many parts of the succession are fossiliferous and, in particular, the up per parts of the Turonian and lower p arts of the Coniacian are rich in Micraster, which have contributed, and still are contributing to our knowledge of evolution. The area of coastal landslides at Folkestone Warren which includes both Chalk and Gault, has probably been more intensively studied than any other of comparable size in
Great Britain. This is largely because it is crossed by the main Folkestone-Dover railway line, which on occasion has been displaced by slipping (notably in 1915), creating an immediate demand for detailed studies and monitoring. The site has suffered twelve major slips since 1765, and is now protected by a complex of coastal defence works whose long-term effect on the movements provides a field of future study.
This area of marshy grassland on peaty soils has developed from an acidic valley bog and still retains many features characteristic of a bog. The site is also notable for its invertebrates, particularly moths. The marshy grassland contains patches of relict bog vegetation such as purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea, bog moss Sphagnum species, heath-spotted orchid Dactylorhiza maculata and bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata. The cessation of grazing and increased nutrient inflow from the surrounding farmland have probably contributed to the change in character of this site.
Another important feature of the site is the alder carr. The ground flora contains a number of fen plants, including opposite-leaved golden saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium, marsh marigold Caltha palustris and yellow flag Iris pseudacorus. On the sandy soils in the east there is dry acidic grassland with bracken and gorse. In places around the perimeter of the site there are hedgerows of oak, birch and hawthorn. The site also contains a small pond and stream. The invertebrate fauna is varied and includes two local moths; the white-barred clearwing Synanthedon spheciformis, recorded from the alder carr, and the silver hook Eustrotia uncula which is associated with the marshy grassland.
Great Crabbles Wood
This site is representative of woods on North West Kent Tertiary sediments; these comprise a succession of strata over Upper Chalk ranging from Blackheath gravels to Woolwich loams and Thanet sands, which give rise to a range of soil types. Most of the woodland is mixed coppice under oak standards, with sweet chestnut as the dominant species. A number of scarce plants occur, including lady orchid Orchis purpurea and man orchid Aceras anthropophorum. Acidic Blackheath gravels form a ridge in the northern part of the wood; this slopes away gradually to the south east, with neutral Woolwich loams on the upper slope and calcareous Thanet sands underlying the southern half of the wood. Chalk outcrops in the south-east corner. The succession of soils is
reflected in the species composition of the tree canopy, shrub layer and ground flora.
Dry, open oak-birch woodland with a ground flora of bracken and bramble on the Blackheath gravels merges with sweet chestnut coppice under oak standards on the damper Woolwich loams. The oak standards are chiefly pedunculate oak, although sessile oak also occurs, especially on the ridge. Other coppice species present include hornbeam, ash, field maple and hazel, and the ground flora is dominated by dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis and bramble. The woodland on
the calcareous Thanet sands is similar to that on the loams, but the scarce plant bird’s foot Ornithopus perpusillus has also been recorded. A strip of woodland along the southern boundary is dominated by hazel and ash coppice, with some field maple, sweet chestnut and hornbeam coppice under pedunculate oak standards. The shrub layer is varied and includes spindle, wayfaring tree and traveller’s joy, which are all characteristic of the calcareous soils. The diverse ground flora is dominated by dog’s mercury with ivy Hedera helix and several scarce species are present. These include lady orchid, man orchid, white helleborine Cephalanthera damasonium, bird’s nest orchid Neottia nidus-avis, wild liquorice Astragalus glycyphyllos and spurge laurel Daphne laureola.
Great Shuttlesfield Down
The site is a good example of unimproved grassland. A variety of plants is found including the rare late spider orchid Ophrys fuciflora. The adonis blue butterfly Lysandra bellargus is well established on the lower slopes in the south of the site.
The grassland is dominated by sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina, upright brome Bromus erectus and tor-grass Brachypodium pinnatum. The turf is kept short by cattle and sheep grazing, and is rich in other plants. Several are more or less restricted to undisturbed chalk pastures, such as yellow-wort Blackstonia perfoliata, carline thistle Carlina vulgaris, autumn gentian Gentianella amarella, bee orchid Ophrys apifera and fragrant orchid Gymnadenia conopsea. The more level ground at the top and bottom of the slopes lies on deeper soil, and is less rich in plants. There are a few areas of very scattered scrub, mainly of hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, on the grassland and there are hedges along parts of the fence line.
The invertebrate interest of the area is centred on the adonis blue butterfly mentioned above. Other, more widespread species of moths and butterflies characteristic of short turf also occur, and two notable species of solitary wasp, Crossocerus cetratus and C. styrius have been recorded. The small area of woodland consists of pedunculate oak Quercus robur, and ash Fraxinus excelsior, with a dense understorey of hawthorn and hazel Corylus avellana. It is open to the grazing stock, and consequently the ground flora is sparse.
This pit is a classic Cretaceous ammonite locality and is of vital importance in biostratigraphic research on the Gault of the Weald. The celebrated and extremely fossiliferous ‘lautus Zone nodule bed’ which represents local condensation (thin, very slowly deposited beds), and containing faunal elements of nitidus, daviesi and cristatum Subzone ages, is well exposed near the top of the succession. The lautus Zone Gault is absent or greatly attenuated over much of the Weald and therefore its presence here fills a considerable gap in the local succession.
Halling to Trottiscliffe Escarpment
This site consists of an extensive area of the North Downs west of the ‘Medway Gap’. The site is representative of Chalk grassland in west Kent and beech woodland on the chalk. Outstanding assemblages of plants and invertebrates are present.
A mosaic of habitats is present at this site with areas of grassland, scrub and various types of woodland. The herb rich open downland is no longer grazed by stock and consequently only small areas remain. A full range of different types of scrub through to ash, yew, and beech woodland is present. The woodland includes mature beech and yew on the steep slopes, oak standards and predominantly sweet chestnut coppice with some hornbeam on the more level higher ground; these two types of woodland support contrasting ground floras. The chalk grassland, on warm south-facing slopes, is dominated by upright brome Bromus erectus and sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina but supports many other plants which are characteristic of unimproved downland. Among these are dwarf thistle Cirsium acaule, chalk milkwort Polygala calcarea, clustered bellflower Campanula glomerata, horseshoe vetch Hippocrepis comosa, and several species of orchid including the scarce musk orchid Herminium monorchis and man orchid Aceras anthropophorum. This range of food-plants and the warm conditions are ideal for insects and the area is of great entomological importance. It is the only known location in Britain for the moth Hypercallia citrinalis and several other very scarce moths, beetles and grasshoppers also occur.Some of the scrub is of entomological interest; there is an uncommon bug Psylla viburni which feeds on wayfaring tree for example. Overall hawthorn is the predominant species in the scrub but wayfaring tree and dogwood are also
common. Climbers too are well represented with several rose species including the local burnet rose Rosa pimpinellifolia as well as traveller’s joy Clematis vitalba which is abundant. The later stages of scrub succession resemble woodland with increasing numbers of trees such as ash, yew and beech present in addition to the shrubs.
The beech and yew woodland is on thin chalk soils and where the ground flora is not shaded dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis predominates. Associated with it is stinking iris Iris foetidissima and several very scarce species such as lady orchid Orchis purpurea and stinking hellebore Helleborus foetidus. The ground flora of the plateau woodland is quite different with bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta most abundant and with other species such as rosebay willowherb Chamaenerion angustifolium and bracken Pteridium aquilinum: these are generally restricted to non-calcareous soils. The site supports a wide variety of birds with each of the habitats having its own
characteristic community. Of greatest interest perhaps are the woodland birds; all three species of woodpecker breed here as do nuthatch and other hole-nesting species. Hawfinch is present at a higher density than in most other parts of Kent.
Ham Street Woods
This site forms a nationally important representative of its main woodland type, and includes a series of broadleaved woodlands to the north east of Ham Street village. It supports outstanding bird and
invertebrate communities. Centuries of traditional management in British woodlands have resulted
in semi-natural 'ancient' (more than 400 years old) woodland rich in characteristic plant and animal species. During recent decades modern forestry (especially coniferisation), development and conversion to agriculture have led to the loss of much of this natural diversity, and richly wooded areas such as this part of the Weald are now rare. This site lies on the edge of a plateau of sands and clays which is cut into by a number of small valleys. The higher parts of the site have acidic soils, supporting woodland mainly dominated by pedunculate and sessile oaks Quercus robur and Q. petraea, downy and silver birches Betula pubescens and B. pendula and hornbeam Carpinus betulus; other trees include wild cherry Prunus avium, wild service Sorbus torminalis an aspen Populus tremula. The ground vegetation includes bracken Pteridium aquilinum, honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum, wood anemone Anemone nemorosa, bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta and in the most acidic areas ling heather Calluna vulgaris, gorse Ulex europaeus and tormentil Potentilla erecta. The soil of the valley-sides is damper and more nutrient-rich, and here the woodland also includes ash Fraxinus excelsior, hazel Corylus avellana, hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, midland hawthorn C. laevigata and in the wettest areas alder Alnus glutinosa. The ground vegetation is often dominated by dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis andincludes greater butterfly orchid Platanthera chlorantha and early purple orchid Orchis mascula. Most of the site has been managed in the past as coppice-with-standards and in parts the coppice is still cut regularly on rotation. This allows plants such as bluebell, primrose Primula vulgaris and wood anemone to
flourish, and plants of open areas such as goldenrod Solidago virgaurea and heath cudweed Gnaphthalium sylvaticum to colonise. The complex structure of the woodland provides a wealth of micro-habitats which together support a large number of specialised and often scarce or rare invertebrates. A particularly rich invertebrate fauna is associated with dead and rotting wood and also with wet areas within pools, woodland and shaded streams. Twelve scarce or rare dead-wood species are known to occur, including the nationally rare beetle Tomoxia biguttata; species associated with wet areas include a rare fly Anthomyza bifasciata which breeds in the seed-heads of lesser reed-mace Typha angustifolia in forest ponds, as well as two scarce dragonflies, and scarce species of fly, waterbeetle and lacewing. Recently-coppiced open areas and rides support a number of scarce species, in particular those associated with aspen. The site supports many breeding bird species characteristic of woodland. These include common species such as treecreeper Certhia familiaris, spotted flycatcher Muscicapa striata and redpoll Carduelis flammea as well as less common ones such as nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos, hawfinch Coccothraustescoccothraustes and sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus.
This locality shows exposures of the controversial Lenham Beds; deposits variously assigned a Miocene, Pliocene or Pleistocene age by geological authors in the past. They are now, on the basis of their marine gastropod and bivalve fauna, placed in the Pliocene. Lenham Beds lithologies of sand, flints derived from the underlying Chalk and ironstone are present here in pipes up to six metres deep. This is an important site showing deposits from a period otherwise poorly represented in Britain.
This site is of special interest for its unimproved acidic grassland, a scarce habitat in Kent, and its ancient pollard woodlands, the latter supporting the richest epiphytic lichen community in the county.
The acidic grassland is the remnant of a formerly much more extensive deerpark, and the turf here is believed to have remained unbroken for the last 500 years. This continuity has resulted in a relatively species-rich sward dominated by common bent-grass Agrostis capillaris and sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina, but also containing such species as field wood-rush Luzula campestris, sheep's sorrel Rumex acetosella, heath bedstraw Galium saxatile, bird’s-foot Ornithopus perpusillus, and upright chickweed Moenchia erecta, the last two being scarce in Kent. However, where bracken Pteridium aquilinum has colonised the grassland fewer herbs are present. Scattered trees occur over much of this area, principally oak Quercus robur, ash Fraxinus excelsior, beech Fagus sylvatica, and hornbeam Carpinus betulus. The deer park is grazed by a managed herd of mainly fallow deer Dama dama. Associated with the deer park are several artificial ponds with adjacent areas of marshy grassland. The latter harbours several plants which are uncommon in Kent
including bottle sedge Carex rostrata, marsh speedwell Veronica scutellata, and lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica. There is also an acidic flush dominated by bog mosses Sphagnum spp. and rushes Juncus spp., as well as a small area of dense sallow Salix species scrub.
The woodlands are varied, but most are of ancient origin with pollarded oak and hornbeam predominating. Pollarding has been practised on the site since mediaeval times, and this is one of the very few examples remaining in Britain of actively managed pollard woodland. There are also some small plantations consistingmainly of broad-leaved trees. The mature trees and pollards support 101 species of lichen, including Opegrapha prosodea for which this is the only locality in south-east England. The ground flora is generally sparse; bracken and bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta are the most frequent species with dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis and rose-bay willow-herb Epilobium angustifolium occurring locally.
The site is also of importance for the mature timber habitat supporting beetles (Coleoptera) and hole-nesting birds such as nuthatch, stock dove, and 3 species of woodpecker.
High Rocks is a key geomorphological site for sandstone weathering features developed on the highest cliffs in the Weald. The Ardingly Sandstone is gently cambered (deformed) and the joints have opened out to form spectacular gulls (tension cracks) which are wide enough in places for a person to enter. Open gulls are comparatively rare in Britain, except in the central Weald, and they are nowhere better displayed than in the great extent of open passages at High Rocks. The Ardingly
Sandstone is friable and poorly cemented, but the surface develops a protective crust and displays a variety of micro-weathering features, notably honeycombing and polygonal cracking. The origin of this cracking is problematic but may relate to freezing and thawing under periglacial conditions during the Pleistocene. It is found in Britain only on the sandstone outcrops in the central Weald, and is nowhere better displayed than at High Rocks.
This site is a good example of a pedunculate oak-hornbeam woodland on Wealden Clay. The wood comprises mainly hornbeam coppice-with-standards and oak- hazel woodland with some sweet chestnut coppice. There is an outstanding assemblage of insects: moths and butterflies are particularly well documented. The wood also supports a diverse breeding bird community. Coppicing has been the traditional management of the wood in the past but only a small part is still cut regularly. Ash, hazel, hornbeam and sweet chestnut are the usual coppiced species beneath oak standards. The central part of the wood is on acidic soils and largely open woodland of oak, birch and sweet chestnut with clearings of bracken and heather Calluna vulgaris. The ground flora is dominated by bracken, brambles and creeping soft grass Holcus mollis. The woodland rides are more varied with hedge woundwort Stachys sylvatica, wood sage Teucrium scorodonia, and common cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense.
The remainder of the wood is more calcareous: hornbeam and ash are common and there are many shrubs associated with calcareous soils such as dogwood Cornus sanguinea and purging buckthorn Rhamnus catharticus. Brambles and bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta are the commonest plants in the herb layer. Many other plants also occur including sanicle Sanicula europaea, common twayblade Listera ovata and broad-leaved helleborine Epipactis helleborine. The rides are fairly wet and meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria, hemlock water-dropwort
Oenanthe crocata and gypsywort Lycopus europaeus occur along them. The moths and butterflies have been well documented and include two nationally rare species, the black-veined moth Siona lineata and the broad-bordered beehawkHemaris fuciformis. Another rare moth, the sub-angled wave Scopula nigropunctata may occur here and many local and scarce species have also been recorded. A variety of birds breed in the wood including nightingale, woodcock, nuthatch, great-
spotted woodpecker and several kinds of tits and warblers.
Holborough to Burham Marshes
This site lies along the flood plain of the River Medway, which at this point is still tidal. A variety of habitats are present including extensive reedbeds, open water, fen, grassland, scrub and woodland. The many different habitats support a wide variety of breeding birds and the site is also important for wintering wildfowl and waders. A number of scarce wetland plants occur and it is also a locality of a rare moth, a rare beetle, and 3 rare bee species.
The extensive reedbeds, subject to occasional tidal flooding, are dominated by common reed Phragmites australis. Scarce plants include marsh sow-thistle Sonchus palustris and marsh mallow Althaea officinalis; the latter is the larval an o e nationally rare marsh-mallow moth Hydraecia osseota which is also found here. Many typical reedbed birds breed in areas including reed warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus, water rail Rallus aquaticus and occasionally bearded tit Panarus biarmicus. In addition large flocks of swallows Hirundo rustica, and sand martins Riparia riparia roost in the reed beds in autumn together with wagtails Motacilla species which remain for the winter.
Fen and grassland
The area of fen in the western part of Holborough Marshes has the most species-rich plant community. Sedges Carex species and rushes Juncus species are the dominant plants. Many wetland plants which now have a restricted distribution are present including slender spike-rush Eleocharis uniglumis and brookweed Samolus valerandi. A number of orchid species also occur.
Alluvial grassland is an increasingly uncommon habitat; here it is dominated by grasses such as creeping bent Agrostis stolonifera, red fescue Festuca rubra and cock’s foot
Dactylis glomerata and the scarce divided sedge Carex divisa is also round. The ditches and dykes within this habitat, are of botanical interest; the majority are dominated by common reed and greater pond-sedge Carex riparia. On the eastern bank of the Medway however the ditches tend to be fairly brackish and also contain plants such as sea club-rush Scirpus maritimus and soft hornwort Ceratophyllum submersum which are tolerant of these conditions. Those of Holborough Marshes on the western bank are less brackish; opposite- leaved pondweed Groenlandia densa and greater bladderwort Utricularia vulgaris grow in this area, both of which are scarce in Kent.
The diversity of habitats supports many interesting invertebrates, including a good representation of characteristic wetland species and a significant number of nationally scarce species together with 5 nationally rare species including the marsh-mallow moth and rove beetle Stenus calcaratus and the blue carpenter bee Ceratina cyanea. Standing water frequently collects on the pasture during wet weather and attracts many birds. Lapwing Vanellus vanellus and redshank Tringa totanus regularly breed in these areas and in winter many wildfowl and waders gather including teal Anas crecca, shelduck Tadorna tadorna and snipe Gallinago gallinago. Woodland and scrub There are several areas of dense scrub within the site consisting mainly of hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, blackthornPrunus spinosa with alder Alnus glutinosa in the wetter areas. At the southern end, surrounding a large reedbed is a damp woodland of alder and crack willow Salix fragilis with some ash Fraxinus excelsior and oak Quercus robur on drier ground. The ground flora, particularly in the wetter areas resembles that of the adjacent reedbed with a predominance of common reed in places. Yellow flag Iris pseudacorus, great horsetail Equisetum telmateia and hemlock water-
dropwort Oenanthe crocata also occur. Typical woodland birds such as tree creeper Certhia familiaris and great spotted woodpecker Dendropus major breed. Many other birds breed both in the wood and the patches of scrub, including nightingale Lucinia megarhynchosand on occasions the rare cetti’s warbler Cettia cetti.
Abbey Mead Lake
This is regarded as the most attractive to birds of the several flooded gravel pits in this area. It is especially important for wintering flocks of wildfowl including tufted duck Aythya fuligula, pochard Aythya ferina, gadwall Anas strepera and wigeon Anas penelope particularly in very cold weather when pochard may occasionally be present in nationally significant numbers. There is some marginal aquatic vegetation of lesser and greater reed- mace, Typha angustifolia and T. latifolia, common reed, sea club-rush and greater pondsedge. Around the periphery of the lake there is some pasture with scattered hawthorn, some small reedbeds and patches of dense scrub. The bankside vegetation and surrounding scrub support a variety of breeding birds including nightingale, lesser whitethroat Sylvia curruca, reed Acrocephalus scirpaceus, grasshopper Locustella naevia and sedge warblers Acrocephalus schoenobaenus and in most recent rears cetti’s warbler. Cetti’s warbler is a very restricted breeding species in Britain, and prior to the hard winter of 1986/87 the number of pairs around Abbey Mead Lake was of national significance.
This section of the North Downs escarpment supports a variety of habitats characteristic of calcareous soils, including unimproved chalk grassland and beech woodland with oak and ash. A number of plant species indicative of the chalk soils are present, including the rare mat-grass fescue Vulpia unilateralis, musk orchid Herminium monorchis and man orchid Aceras anthropophorum.
Chalk grassland overlies the steeper slopes of the escarpment and has become established in disused chalk workings. The sward is dominated by tor-grass Brachypodium pinnatum, upright brome Bromus erectus and sheep’s-fescue Festuca ovina, and a number of typical downland herbs are present. These include horseshoe vetch Hippocrepis comosa, salad burnet Sanguisorba minor and dwarf thistle Cirsium acaule. Less common plants which occur include chalk milkwort Polygala calcarea and, in an old chalk pit, musk orchid and man orchid. In a chalk quarry, whitebeam and yew scrub has developed over a herb rich turf which includes the very rare mat-grass fescue. Elsewhere in the site, areas of scrub are chiefly of hawthorn and elder, over a sward of tor-grass. The scrub is most dense on the heavier soils at the top of the scarp. Much of the south-eastern part of the site comprises mixed deciduous woodland. On the plateau, sweet chestnut coppice with standards of pedunculate oak, ash and sycamore merges with an extensive area of very large hawthorn at the top of the slope. There is some secondary woodland of ash and yew, and on the steeper escarpment slopes beech high forest is present with some hazel coppice. The understorey and ground flora of much of the woodland is sparse, although in secondary woodland areas and on woodland edges several shrub species indicative of calcareous soils are present. These include wayfaring-tree Viburnum lantana, dogwood Cornus sanguinea and traveller’s-joy Clematis vitalba. The ground flora is generally dominated by dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis, with bluebellHyacinthoides non-scripta on the heavier soils. Less common species present include white helleborine Cephalanthera damasonium and fly orchid Ophrys insectifera, which are found on the thin chalky soils of the steeper slopes. At the western end of the site there are some small areas of woodland dominated by pedunculate oak and ash with an understorey mainly of hawthorn and elder. Purging buckthorn Rhamnus catharticus is also present, indicative of the chalk soils.
Hothfield Common contains the best example of a valley bog in Kent; the associated heathland, though fragmented, forms a good example of the vegetation type. Both of these habitats are scarce in Kent. The entomology has been well studied and an outstanding assemblage of over 1,000 species of insects has been recorded, including several notable species found nowhere else in Kent. The common also has an interesting breeding bird community. Acidic bog communities have formed in four small valleys at Hothfield Common where springs emerge at the junction of the sandy Folkestone Beds and the impervious Sandgate Beds. Changes in management since 1940 have resulted in scrub encroachment and the loss of true bog conditions in all except one valley. Elsewhere various types of marshy grassland and fen are now present, although recent management has attempted to reverse the encroachment by scrub in some areas. The areas of true bog are dominated by bog mosses Sphagnum species; twelve species have been identified including two for which this is the only locality in Kent. Several species of flowering plant are present which are very scarce in Kent, including bog asphodel Narthecium ossifragum, marsh St John’s wort Hypericum elodes, round-leaved sundew Drosera rotundifolia; flea sedge Carex pulicaris and cotton-grass Eriophorum angustifolium. The relict bogs are now dominated rushes Juncus species, grasses especially purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea, and mosses, and in the northern valley, greater tussock-sedge Carex paniculata. Some remnants of the former plant communities remain, including some Sphagnum moss, and bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata in the northern valley. Invasion of the bogs by birch and sallow has been a serious problem since grazing ceased about 1940, but attempts are now being made to prevent further encroachment. The majority of the common was formerly a patchwork of heather- dominated heathland and acidic grassland. Invasion by birch and bracken following the cessation of grazing and serious fires have resulted in the loss of most of the grassland, and about half of the heathland. The remnants are of interest, however, since these plant communities are uncommon in Kent. The heathland is dominated by heather Calluna vulgaris, with cross-leaved heath Erica tetralix and purple moor-grass being generally frequent. Several uncommon plants also occur, including petty whin Genista anglica, dwarf gorse Ulex minor and heath rush Juncus squarrosus, and there is a good lichen flora which includes several Cladonia species. The acidic grassland is especially notable for the presence of several 'spring ephemeral' plants, such as whitlow-grass Erophila verna and bird’s-foot Ornithopus perpusillus, and eight species of clover have been recorded, including the scarce clustered clover Trifolium glomeratum. These are now restricted to small patches of grassland beside the roads, but bracken control is being carried out, with the intention of re-establishing the grassland. Much of the site now colonised by bracken and woodland. Of the latter, most is fairly recent but the Tolls on the east side of the common were planted with a variety of trees including beech, oak, Scots pine, sweet chestnut and Wellingtonia during the nineteenth century. Silver birch is predominant elsewhere, but some oak, sallow and other species also have become established. The woodland supports a good breeding bird community, including woodpeckers, treecreeper and tree pipit. Draining the common on its western side are a series of small streams, and there is also a small pond. All three British species of newt have been recorded in the pond. The common has outstanding entomological interest. The insects associated with heathland and bog are of special importance in view of the limited amounts of these habitats in Kent. Bugs, moths, Hymenoptera (bees, wasps and ants) and flies are especially well represented, with several species which are nationally rare, including the bee Lasioglossum semilucens and two species which have only been recorded in Kent at Hothfield; the bug Pachybrachius luridus and the cranefly Tipula holoptera. Several other species also have here their only locality in Kent.
Houlder and Monarch Hill Pits, Upper Halling
Upper Halling is important for Quaternary studies. It provides lithostratigraphic and biostratigraphic evidence for environmental changes during the Late Devensian. The sequence of sediments infills a dry valley and comprises 1) Late Devensian gelifluction deposits overlain by 2) two sheets of Late-glacial gelifluction and hillwash deposits separated by a fossil soil assigned to the Late- glacial Interstadial. The Late-glacial deposits contain a fauna of land Mollusca. Variations in the faunal assemblages together with associated lithological changes provide a valuable record of Late-glacial environmental history in south east England.
This is an important locality for Quaternary periglacial deposits and landforms, particularly solifluction features. The earliest and most extensive of the solifluction deposits at Hubbard’s Hill are
probably Wolstonian in age (c. 130,000 BP). They are now highly dissected but their former extent and volume imply considerable periglacial erosion of the Lower Greensand escarpment. The youngest deposits form a series of prominent lobes overlying a fossil soil. The latter has a radiocarbon age of 12,500 BP, so that the lobes must have formed during the late Devensian Stadial (last glaciation). This suite of landforms can be clearly dated and forms some of the largest and best preserved solifluction lobes of late Devensian Stadial age in lowland England. Hubbard’s Hill is therefore a particularly important locality for the study of the periglacial erosion processes affecting southern England during the Quaternary.
Ileden and Oxenden Woods
The site is representative of east Kent plateau woodland on Upper Chalk and thin chalk drifts. The range of soil types present is reflected in the variety of stand types and the diversity of the ground flora. Two of the stand types represented on this site are nationally rare. The rotational coppicing of large areas, combined in a mosaic with high forest stands adds to the structural diversity of the wood and has resulted in the presence of a very rich breeding bird community, including nightingale (17 pairs in 1985) and hawfinch. Two nationally rare plants also occur.
Three woodland stand types can be distinguished on this site. Ash-maple woodland tends to predominate on the driest soils, where there are very few oak Quercus robur standard trees. Oak-ash-beechwood occurs chiefly on the thinnest soils, whilst oak-hornbeam stands are mainly confined to areas where the deepest head and dry valley deposits have accumulated. Past management has obscured these woodland-types in some areas, ie where the widespread planting of sweet chestnut Castanea sativa and blocks of coniferous trees has taken place. Coppiced hazel Corylus avellana occurs throughout the wood, while whitebeam Sorbus aria, holly Ilex aquifolium, wild cherry Prunus avium and sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus are locally frequent. Where the canopy is not too dense, the shrub layer is well developed. Species such as wayfaring tree Viburnum lantana and wild privet Ligustrum vulgare indicate the calcareous nature of the substrate whilst others such as midland hawthorn Crataegus oxycanthoides and spurge laurel Daphne laureola are indicative of ancient woodland.The ground flora is very rich, especially in the southern half of the wood where the soil is more calcareous. Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta, dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis and bramble Rubus fruticosus are the most abundant species, but a number of others characteristic of ancient woodland also occur including herb paris Paris quadrifolia, wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides and early purple orchid Orchis mascula. Other orchids present include fly Ophrys insectifera, lesser butterfly Platanthera bifolia and two rarities, the lady orchid Orchis purpurea a species largely confined to Kent and the narrow-lipped
helleborine Epipactis leptochila. Most of these woodland floor plants grow best in the years immediately following coppicing, but a continuation of woodland cover with alternating
periods of shade and light as the coppice grows and is re-cut, is necessary for their survival in the longer term. Some of the middle section of the wood is of recent secondary origin and provides an interesting contrast to the structure and species composition of the ancient woodland. Although as yet unrecorded, it is likely that this site supports a rich invertebrate
Knole Park Site of Special Scientific Interest includes areas of acidic grassland, parkland, woodland and several ponds. It was a dead wood and ancient woodland invertebrate fauna which is regarded as the finest in Kent, and supports a rich fungus flora. The first emparkments took place in the fifteenth century and probably included woodlands and have been managed as parklands to the present day. This continuity of habitat and management has led to the development of a parkland with ancient pollards believed to provide a direct link with the wildwood, together with more recent plantations. The site lies on the Folkestone, Sandgate and Hythe Beds on top of the Lower Greensand escarpment. The soils which derive from these strata are generally acidic and well-drained and support woodland stands dominated by sessile oak Quercus petraea, beech Fagus sylvatica and sweet chestnut Castanea sativa with some field maple Acer campestre, ash Fraxinus excelsior, downy birch Betula pubescens, sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus and hawthorn Crataegus monogyna. Grazing by fallow deer Dama dama and the Japanese species sika deer Cervus nippon and the acidic soils have formed species-poor ground floras and have severely limited the growth of a shrub layer and natural regeneration of tree species. Woodlands beyond the pale, or park boundary, have a more representative ground flora dominated by bramble Rubus fruticosus. Areas of dense bracken Pteridium aquilinum are also present on the woodland edge.
The central plateau supports species-poor acidic grasslands between the woodland areas. Common bent Agrostis capillaris dominates the turf, with sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina, sweet vernal-grass Anthoxanthum odoratum, heath grass Danthonia decumbens, tormentil Potentilla erecta, sheep’s-sorrel Rumex acetosella and heath bedstraw Galium saxatile. The sward contains numerous ant hills. More fertile grasslands occur on the golf course and in the valley bottoms. These are dominated by common bent and Yorkshire-fog Holcus lanatus together with crested dog’s-tail Cynosaurus cristatus. The trees, turf and masonry of walls and buildings support a lichen flora of county importance. The first British record for the lichen Parmelia elegantula was made from a sycamore at Knole.
The site supports a range of nationally rare*l and nationally scarce*2 invertebrate species which depend upon the parkland and woodland habitats, particularly on their dead wood components. A nationally rare beetle Platypus cylindrus is found in the ancient broad-leaved forest and parkland, boring into thick oak bark. A number of nationally scarce invertebrates occupy various ecological niches in the woodlands and parkland of this site. Cerylon fagi lives under bark and in dead wood
habitats. Bolitochara mulsanti is a small rove beetle found under fungus- infected bark and in decaying fungus. Dienerella elongata is a tiny beetle found in leaf litter, moss and fungi on this site. The park supports several nationally scarce and local dung beetles, including Aphodius
zenkeri and Aphodius borealis which feed on the dung of the deer. Many species of fungus have been recorded from the site. Among the many which have restricted distributions are some living under trees, such as an earth star Geastrum fornicatum and a tube-gilled toadstool Boletus pruinatus, and many associated with dead wood. The latter include: Fomes fomentarius on beech, a polypore bracket fungus rare in the south east, but more common in Scotland on birch Betulus species, and two gilled bracket fungi, Panellus serotinus growing on standing trees, and Schizophyllum commune on recently fallen timber. Many commoner species have been recorded, including many species of Coprinus, Mycena, and wax-caps Hygrophorus.
*1 'Nationally rare': recorded from 1--15 10km x 10km squares in Britain.
*2 'Nationally scarce': recorded from between 16 and 100 10km x 10km squares in Britain.
Larkey Valley Wood
Ash-maple coppice is the predominant woodland type on the slopes of this dry chalk valley. This grades into beech high forest on the thin calcareous soils of the upper slopes with hornbeam coppice on the deeper soils in the valley bottom. The varied ground flora includes a number of uncommon plants. The wood also supports many breeding birds.
The ash-maple woodland has a varied coppice layer under pedunculate oak standards. While ash and hazel are the most common coppiced species, field maple, birch, sweet chestnut and wild cherry are also present and hawthorn is a common shrub. In the valley bottom the coppice is more uniform. Hornbeam and hazel are the predominant coppiced species with occasional ash and field maple and a few oak standards. The high forest on the upper slopes is dominated by mature beech with some oak. The shrub layer under the beech is sparse in heavily shaded areas but elsewhere, especially along the woodland edge, there is a variety of species including wild privet, spindle and wayfaring tree; shrubs characteristic of chalk soils.
Much of the coppice has not been cut recently and consequently the ground flora is poor. Bramble Rubus fruticosus, bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta, dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis and wood anemone Anemone nemorosa are the most abundant plants. The flora is more varied in the recently cut coppice, and includes wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides and caper spurge E. lathyrus.
Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina and lesser celandine Ranunculus ficaria grow in the wetter areas in the valley bottom. Beneath the beech high forest the flora is diverse except where there is heavy shade. Sanicle Sanicula europaea, sweet woodruff Galium odoratum and wood melick Melica uniflora occur with a number of orchids; bird’s-nest Neottia nidus-avis, fly Ophrys insectifera and lady Orchis purpurea. The latter is a scarce species restricted in Britain to Kent and is characteristic of Kentish woods on chalk soils. A variety of woodland birds breed, including tree pipit, nuthatch, hawfinch and several tits and warblers.
This is a Geological Conservation Site known as Pivington Quarry.
This locality shows a section of the problematic Lenham Beds, variously ascribed in past accounts to the Miocene, Pliocene or the Pleistocene. The consensus of opinion presently assigns these rocks to the Pliocene time period, on the basis of their contained marine gastropod and bivalve faunas, as well as serpulid worms, brachiopods, bryozoans, scaphopods and echinoids. This fauna is important for it makes possible the placing of this deposit in a time period which is otherwise poorly represented in the rocks of the British Isles.
This site includes old pollard trees and other woodland supporting important communities of invertebrates, lichens, breeding birds and fungi. The woodland is dominated by very tall mature trees, particularly beech Fagus sylvatica as well as pedunculate and sessile oaks Quercus robur and Q. petraea, hornbeam Carpinus betulus, ash Fraxinus excelsior and sweet chestnut Castanea
sativa. The ground vegetation is dominated by bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta, dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis and bramble Rubus fruticosus and sometimes bracken Pteridium aquilinum. Some of the trees were planted in the 18th century, but many of the pollards are thought to be 400 or more years old. These trees are very large, with girths up to about 10 m (about 30 feet) but have not been polled or about 150 years. The bark of these ancient trees supports over 60 species of
epiphytic (‘growing harmlessly on plants’) lichens. The lichen community, unusually rich for these pollution-sensitive organisms close to large urban areas, includes many typical of old forest, such as Lecanactis lyncea and Enterographa crassa on oaks and Thelotrema lepadinum on hornbeam.
The site’s long continuity of woodland habitats including abundant dead-wood and many fungi has encouraged the development of a species-rich invertebrate fauna. Over 340 beetles have been recorded, including over 30 nationally scarce and 2 nationally rare species: a fairy-winged beetle Ptenidium gressneri, and a scirtid beetle Prionocyphon serricornis. More than 270 moths and butterflies are known to occur; the many scarce moths present include the barred hook-tip
Drepana cultraria and the satin lutestring Tetheella fluctuosa. A scarce money- spider Porrhomma microphthalmum and the scarce Roman snail Helix pomatia also occur. A number of the invertebrates found here have not been recorded elsewhere in Kent.
Over 500 species of fungi have been identified from this site including several rarely recorded in Britain and one, an Amanita species, which is new to science and has yet to be described and named. The site’s well developed woodland structure and the abundance of invertebrates
has led to the presence of an outstanding community of breeding birds, including
sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes and lesser- spotted woodpecker Dendrocopus minor. Some formerly open areas have been colonised by scrub, especially hawthorn Crataegus monogyna and elder Sambucus nigra, though there remains a large
population of adder’s tongue fern Ophioglossum vulgatum, a plant which is scarce in Kent.
Lydden and Temple Ewell Downs
This site includes some of the richest chalk grassland in Kent, with outstanding assemblages of plants and invertebrates. Four insects, a snail and one of the plants occurring here are all listed as having become so rare in Great Britain that they are now afforded special protection under the 1981 Act. Areas of scrub and woodland add to the site’s interest.
Most of the grassland is situated on the steep south-west facing slopes on the thinnest soils. Over deeper soils on the shallower slopes, scrub and woodland has developed: principally of hawthorn Crataegus monogyna and gorse Ulex europaeus on the drift at the top of the slope, and as modified oak-ash-beech woodland at the foot of the slope.
The grassland is dominated by tor grass Brachypodium pinnatum, sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina, creeping bent Agrostis stolonifera, and upright brome Bromus erectus. Grazing pressure varies over the length of the site, resulting in a gradation within the habitat from a rank tor grass sward to a close-cropped fescue grassland. The history of continued grazing on this site has resulted in the retention of many characteristic downland herbs such as squinancywort Asperula cynanchica,
horseshoe vetch Hippocrepis comosa, chalk milkwort Polygala calcarea, fragrant orchid Gymnadenia conopsea and autumn lady’s tresses Spiranthes spiralis. A number of rarities also occur, most notably the early spider orchid Ophrys sphegodes, but also burnt orchid Orchis ustulata, musk orchid Herminium monorchis, and slender bedstraw Galium pumilum.
The abundance of food-plants supports an outstanding invertebrate fauna including a number of typical downland butterflies such as the marbled white Melanargia galathea, adonis blue Lysandra bellargus, chalkhill blue L. coridon, and the very rare silver-spotted skipper Hesperia comma. Two rare moths, the dew Setina irrorella and the straw belle Aspitates gilvaria are also present as well
as the rare carthusian snail Monacha cartusiana. The spectacular great green bush- cricket Tettigonia viridissima can be found in areas of taller grass and light scrub, and the rare wart-biter bush-cricket Decticus verrucivorus has occurred in the past.
The dense scrub and woodland provides further habitats for different invertebrate communities and offers shelter for mammals and nesting birds. Linnet and yellowhammer breed here, and there is also an active badger sett.
The site consists of a steep escarpment of Kentish ragstone formed by the Hythe Beds of the Lower Greensand. Ragstone is a hard sandy limestone which produces calcareous soils. The grassland and woodland of this site are among the best remaining examples of semi-natural habitats on ragstone in Kent. Wet ash- maple is the predominant woodland type with a small area of calcareous ash- wych elm wood. Many plants usually associated with chalk soils occur in the
grassland. The south-facing slope is close to the sea and the resulting mild humid conditions encourages the growth of ferns and mosses. Numerous springs and flushes occur at the base of the escarpment at the junction of the ragstone and the Atherfield Clay.
Lympne Park Wood is the largest remaining example of ash coppice woodland on the ragstone escarpment. It is thought to be of ancient origin with a long history of woodland cover. Most of the wood is ash, field-maple and hazel coppice with oak and ash standards. Wych elm is present in a small area in the south-east corner. Many of the mature elms have been killed by Dutch elm disease but some saplings have survived. The calcareous nature of the soil is shown by the presence
of shrubs such as spindle Euonymus europaeus, wayfaring-tree Viburnum lantana and privet Ligustrum vulgare. The ground flora is mostly dominated by brambles Rubus fruticosus but other plants present include stinking iris Iris foetidissima, early-purple orchid Orchis mascula and common spotted orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii.
Outcrops of ragstone are frequent on the upper slopes of the escarpment. The vegetation here is dominated by grasses such as fescues Festuca species cock’s- foot Dactylis glomerata, false oat-grass Arrhenatherum elatius and tor-grass Brachypodium pinnatum. Grazing helps to minimise a diverse flowering plant community including cowslips Primula veris, carline thistle Carlina vulgaris and hound’s-tongue Cynoglossum officinale which are associated with calcareous
soils. Due to the high humidity of the area wood sedge Carex sylvatica and stinking iris, species usually restricted to woods, are able to grow in the open
Past landslips have produced much scree at the foot of the escarpment and the grassland here is dominated by tor-grass. The marshy ground below the springline has tall herb vegetation including plants such as great horsetail Equisetum telemateia, great willowherb Epilobium hirsutum, ragged-robin Lychnis flos-cuculi and water figwort Scrophularia auriculata.
This is a good example of a traditional coppice-with-standards woodland containing a variety of tree species. Ash-maple and pedunculate oak-hornbeam stands are the main woodland types on the eastern side of the valley. On the western slopes there is ash and sweet chestnut coppice, both with pedunculate oak standards. The site is also noted for the presence of several uncommon
plants, particularly the lady orchid Orchis purpurea, a species restricted in Britain to Kent.
The eastern woodlands, Fryarne Park Wood and Mill Bank, are the most varied. Hazel and ash are the most common coppiced species on the chalk soils of the lower slopes with ash and hornbeam on the clay-with-flints soils of the upper slopes. Pedunculate oak and beech standards are present throughout. Other species include birch, field maple, whitebeam and shrubs such as wayfaring tree.
The western part of the site, in Atchester Wood, is more uniform. Here either sweet chestnut or ash, both as coppice, are the most common trees. There are also some oak standards and the occasional birch, willow or hornbeam. Part of this area has been felled and replanted with larch and beech. Some oak standards have been retained and there is also some regrowth of other species.
The ground flora of all these woods is varied and includes several plants considered to be indicative of woods that have had continuous tree cover since mediaeval times, such as yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon and wood anemone Anemone nemorosa. Many uncommon plants also occur including wood vetch Vicia sylvatica, herb paris Paris quadrifolia, green hellebore Helleborus
viridis, Solomon’s seal Polygonatum multiflorum and goldilocks Ranunculus auricomus. Dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis, bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta and brambles Rubus fruticosus are the commonest plants.The woods are also important for breeding birds including tawny owl,
grasshopper warbler and hawfinch. The area is also noted for the high numbers of nightingales.
The principal interest of this site is the chalk grassland on the steep slopes which supports a herb rich plant community, including the nationally rare Kentish milkwort Polygala amarella. The site also
incorporates neutral grassland, scrub and a variety of woodland. Sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina and upright brome Bromus erectus dominate the species-rich grassland areas. Associated herbs include
characteristic downland plants such as dwarf thistle Cirsium acaule, common rockrose Helianthemum nummularium, squinancywort Asperula cynanchica and horseshoe vetch Hippocrepis comosa. Seven orchid species occur in the grassland, particularly in the northern part of
the site, among them the scarce man orchid Aceras anthropophorum. The Kentish milkwort is present in small numbers, in areas of more open turf. Where the slopes are less steep, fewer species generally occur and some of the grassland has become rank, dominated by upright
brome and cock’s foot Dactylis glomerata. The deeper soils of the valley floor support neutral grassland. Woodland is scattered throughout the site, but is most frequent on the
plateau over the Clay-with-Flints. Ash Fraxinus excelsior, oak Quercus robur and beech Fagus sylvatica are the most common standard trees with ash and hazel Corylus avellana widespread in the coppice layer. Other tree and shrub species, such as wild cherry Prunus avium, field
maple Acer campestre and hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, are also present. The ground flora on the upper slopes is bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta dominated, with bramble Rubus fruticosus and occasionally bracken Pteridium aquilinum. Dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis predominates on the thinner soils of the steeper slopes. In addition, a number of species indicative of ancient woodland occur, including midland hawthorn C. laevigata on the clay soils and spurge laurel Daphne laureola on the more chalky soils. Lower Wood contains a narrow chalky bank with mature beech and yew Taxus baccata and here the ground flora, though sparse, includes the saprophytes yellow bird’s-nest Monotropa hypopitys and bird’s-nest orchid Neottia nidus-avis;
these plants derive their nourishment from decaying organic matter. Both species are scarce in Kent.
Scrub is present in former woodland clearings and has also developed along hedge-lines and wood edges as well as in some of the ranker grassland. Hawthorn is generally the dominant species although bramble, traveller’s joy Clematis vitalba and roses Rosa spp. are abundant in places. Lime-loving species, such as whitebeam Sorbus aria and privet Ligustrum vulgare are also frequent.
The fauna of this site is not well known. However, two locally distributed butterflies are found here, viz the chalkhill blue Lysandra coridon and the brown argus Aricia agestis.
This site is one of the best examples of unimproved neutral grassland remaining in Kent. This habitat type is increasingly uncommon owing to habitat destruction. The ponds and old hedgerows are also of interest. The three meadows are cut annually for hay and then grazed. Several scarce species are present which indicate that the meadows have not been ploughed for many years. These plants include adder’s tongue Ophioglossum vulgatum, green-winged orchid Orchis morio and meadow saxifrage Saxifraga granulata. Grasses such as fescues Festuca, bents Agrostis and foxtails Alopecurus are abundant and the less common meadow brome Bromus commutatus also occurs. Oxeye daisy Leucanthemum vulgare, yellow rattle Rhinanthus minor, meadow buttercup
Ranunculus acris, bulbous buttercup Ranunculus bulbosus, bugle Ajuga reptans and common sorrel Rumex acetosa are among the typical meadow plants found on the site.
The ponds and hedgerows are thought to be of ancient origin. The most abundant plants in the ponds are bulrush Typha latifolia, lesser bulrush Typha angustifolia and branched bur-reed Sparganium erectum. Two scarce plants, water violet
Hottonia palustris and bladder-sedge Carex vesicaria are also found. The hedgerows are diverse with hawthorn Crataegus monogyna and hazel Corylus avellana being the most frequent species. The less common midland hawthorn Crataegus laevigata and wild service-tree Sorbus torminalis are also present.
Medway Estuary and Marshes
The Medway Estuary and Marshes form the largest area of intertidal habitats which have been identified as of value for nature conservation in Kent and are representative of the estuarine habitats found on the North Kent coast. A complex of mudflats and saltmarsh is present with in places grazing marsh behind the sea walls which is intersected by dykes and fleets. The area holds internationally important populations of wintering and passage birds and is also of importance for its breeding birds. An outstanding assemblage of plant species also occurs on the site.
The Medway Estuary is now believed to be the most important area in North Kent for wintering wildfowl with shelduck Tadorna tadorna, brent goose Branta bernicla, grey plover Pluvialis squatarola, ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula, pintail Anas acuta, dunlin Calidris alpina, and redshank Tringa totanus occurring in numbers of international significance. Also present in numbers of national significance are turnstone Arenaria interpres, black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa,
curlew Numenius arquata, great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus, shoveler Anasclypeata, teal Anas crecca, wigeon Anas penelope and white-fronted goose Anser albifrons. Passage migrants include ruff Philomachus pugnax, whimbrel Numenius phaeopus and avocet Recurvirostra avosetta.
The Chetney Peninsula is among the most important wildfowl breeding areas in Kent. Breeding species include avocet, shelduck, shoveler, pochard Athyia ferina, mute swan Cygnus olor, tufted duck Athyia fuligula, teal Anas crecca and gadwall Anas strepera. The saltmarsh, in addition to serving as a roosting area for waders at high tide, and supporting breeding birds such as redshank Tringa totanus, blackheaded gull Larus ridibundus and common tern Sterna hirundo, also has an interesting flora. The most abundant plants include sea aster Aster tripolium, sea lavender
Limonium vulgare, cord-grass Spartina anglica and saltmarsh-grass Puccinellia maritima, but among the many others are several scarce species such as golden samphire Inula crithmoides*, perennial glasswort Salicornia perennis* and one-flowered glasswort Salicornia pusilla*. The estuary is one of the best places in Britain for the study of glassworts. The grazing marsh is a complex habitat of pasture, seawalls and counterwalls, and numerous dykes and fleets. Each of these has its own characteristic assemblage of plants and animals. Both breeding and wintering birds are of interest; the former include lapwing Vanellus vanellus, redshank, pochard, mallard Anas platyrhynchos and gadwall, while in winter large flocks of many wildfowl and wader species are present. The vegetation is primarily a mixture of several species of grass, but with a considerable variety of other plants, some uncommon, for example sea barley Hordeum marinum*, slender hare’s-ear Bupleurum tenuissimum*, oak-leaved goose-foot Chenopodium glaucum** and
sea clover Trifolium squamosum*. The dykes and their margins usually have sea club-rush Scirpus maritimus as the most abundant plant, but here too rarities can be found, sometimes in quite large amounts: annual beard-grass Polypogon monspeliensis*, small goose foot Chenopodium botryodes*, golden dock Rumex maritimus* and brackish water-crowfoot Ranunculus baudotii* are examples of these.
In addition to the habitats already described, the site includes smaller areas of scrub, reedbeds and sand dune which add to the variety of interest. The shell sand beaches of the Isle of Grain are of particular interest in that they are the only examples of such habitat remaining so far up the Thames estuary. They have a distinctive flora including sand couch Elymus farctus, sea holly Eryngium
maritimum, sea sandwort Honkenya peploides, sea rocket Cakile maritima and prickly saltwort Salsola kali.
The most important feature of the site is the heronry which at over 200 the pairs is the largest in Britain. There is a diverse breeding bird community and the insect fauna is also of interest particularly moths and butterflies. The site consists of mixed deciduous woodland and scrub with some open areas of grassland and bracken. A number of small ponds are present and also a few open ditches. The woodland, situated on London Clay, comprises damp oakwood and old hawthorn scrub invaded by sycamore. English elm was formerly abundant but has largely been killed by Dutch elm disease although there is now some vigorous sucker regeneration. The understorey and shrub layer of elder and hawthorn is dense in places. The ground flora is dominated by ivy Hedera helix, bramble Rubus fruticosus, bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta, dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis and bracken Pteridium aquilinum. However, overall the wood has a diverse flora with over 200 plants recorded, including trees and shrubs. The eradication of sycamore and thinning of dense scrub are part of the current management of the reserve to establish and maintain open areas for breeding shelduck, mallard, and heathland birds. The mosaic of woodland, scrub and glades
forms an attractive breeding habitat for warblers. A number of scarce moths have been recorded in recent years including the sloe carpet Aleucis distincta and least carpet Idaea vulpinaria. There is a colony of the white-letter hairstreak butterfly Strymonidia w-album on the Reserve, a species which has declined as a result of Dutch elm disease. In addition 9 species of dragonfly have been recorded recently including the scarce ruddy darter Sympetrum sanguineum.
Oaken Wood is a key geomorphological site. It provides the best example in Britain of ridge and trough topography produced by intense cambering and gulling during the Pleistocene (tilting and cracking of surface rock outcrops by periglacial processes or deformation of underlying weaker strata). The ridge crests rise up to 8 m above the level of the trough floors, which extend for about 0.5 km in an east- west direction. This unusual type of topography is confined to the Maidstone
area and the north Cotswolds and is most spectacularly developed at Oaken Wood.
Oldbury and Seal Chart
This site lies on the Lower Greensand ridge to the east of Sevenoaks. It contains acidic sessile oak woodland of ancient origin, more typical of northern and western Britain, together with relict heathland communities and more recently-derived secondary woodland. An outstanding
assemblage of fungi is present, numbering over 250 species and including several that are rare* or scarce** in Britain. Characteristic communities of invertebrates and bryophytes (mosses and liverworts also occur.
Most of the woodland on the Lower Greensand in Kent is of recent secondary origin, often having developed over former heathland. The fact that much of the woodland on this site is ancient makes it of particular interest. The composition of the woodland varies considerably: towards the north and east of the site sessile oak Quercus petraea coppice is widespread with beech Fagus sylvatica and sessile oak standards. Other tree species found here include birch Betula sp, rowan Sorbus
aucuparia, whitebeam S. aria and aspen Populus tremula. Towards the south and east the woodland is more open with much birch, sessile oak and Scots pine Pinus sylvestris. Further west, on the flatter ground, sessile oak and silver birch B. pendula predominate as both mature trees
and coppice whilst beech is more frequent on the steeper ground. Coppiced sweet chestnut Castanea sativa is scattered throughout the site as are shrub and scrub species such as hazel Corylus avellana, holly Ilex aquifolium and gorse Ulex europaeus.
The ground flora reflects the acidic nature of the soils: bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus is often dominant in the north of the site, whilst bracken Pteridium aquilinum is abundant to the south-east. Other species widespread on the site include ling Calluna vulgaris, wavy-hair grass
Deschampsia flexuosa and heath bedstraw Galium saxatile. Two other plants found are heath dog-violet Viola canina which is rare* in Kent and climbing corydalis Corydalis claviculata which is scarce** in Kent. The latter was first recorded here after the 1987 storm growing on the acidic
sandy soils exposed by fallen trees. The woodland supports an outstanding assemblage of lower plants, particularly fungi with over 250 recorded species including 10 species
which are regarded as rare or scarce in Britain. Of these two are considered to be species predominantly of the Scottish Highlands: Collybia distorta and Suillus fluryi. Of the mosses found on the site many are associated with the outcrops of Oldbury stone, a hard siliceous sandstone. Species of interest include a sandrock speciality Calypogeia integristipula, a species associated more with Western Britain Scaparia umbrosa and the rare Lophocia ventineosa var confertifolia.
The combination of ancient woodland, heathy vegetation and sandy soils supports a characteristic range of invertebrates. Amongst the bees and wasps recorded is a colony of the solitary bee Andrena lapponica found here at the only locality known for this species in Kent. It is considered
to be a northern species and forages particularly on bilberry blossom. Many of the invertebrates are restricted to ancient woodland sites including two species of mollusc: the slug Limax tenellus is scarce in Britain and the snail Phenacolumax major is rare and confined to southern England and South Wales.
One Tree Hill and Bitchet Common
Situated to the south-east of Sevenoaks, this site comprises an extensive area of woodland of varied composition on the Lower Greensand. Some plants and invertebrates of restricted distribution are present, including the slug Tandonia rustica at its only known British locality.
On the plateau, in the north of the site, the Lower Greensand is overlain by angular chert drift giving rise to acidic soils. To the south there is a steep scarp slope where the exposed ragstone (a calcareous sandstone) has resulted in contrasting soils of more base-rich status. These varying
soil types are reflected in the woodland composition. Much of the woodland is believed to be of ancient origin, though there are also areas of more recent and open secondary woodland.
Bitchet Common has acidic soils supporting mixed woodland: sessile oak Quercus petraea and beech Fagus sylvatica predominate together with coppice of birch Betula sp. and some sweet chestnut Castanea sativa. Other tree and shrub species present include hazel Corylus
avellana, holly Ilex aquifolium, yew Taxus baccata, whitebeam Sorbus aria and rowan S. aucaparia. The ground flora is dominated by bracken Pteridium aquilinum and bramble Rubus fruticosus agg. whilst other species such as heather Calluna vulgaris, bilberry Vaccinum myrtillus and heath bedstraw Galium saxatile are also frequent. The plateau of One Tree Hill supports a similar vegetation, though here there is also dense scrub principally of hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, blackthorn Prunus spinosa and elder Sambucus nigra. The top of Shingle Wood, and the upper slopes of Broadhoath, Wet Bank and Martins Woods are also on similar soils to Bitchet Common. More mature trees are present in these areas and bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta is locally dominant in the ground flora.
The valley of Martins Wood contains damp, more base-rich soils. Coppiced ash Fraxinus excelsior often predominates here though there is also much hazel, field maple Acer campestre and alder Alnus glutinosa. Some large pedunculate oak Quercus robur standards occur. Bramble
and bluebell are dominant in the ground flora of the drier areas whilst in the wettest parts they are replaced by species such as opposite-leave golden-saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium, pendulous sedge Carex pendula and great horsetail Equisetum telmateia.
The ragstone escarpment supports woodland of varied composition. There is much neglected coppice of ash and hazel together with some mature beech. Mature wych elm Ulmus glabra was formerly quite frequent but many specimens have been killed by Dutch Elm Disease A range of species characteristic of relatively base-rich soils is found amongst the ground flora: this includes dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis, early-purple orchid Orchis mascula and green hellebore
Helleborus viridis, the latter species being scarce in Kent*. Bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) are frequent, including a liverwort with a predominantly western distribution, Porella arboris-vitae -- found here at its only known locality in Kent. The escarpment is extremely steep in places and minor landslip are not infrequent. Such events open up the woodland and thus there are some areas containing dense scrub or ruderal vegetation. Although the invertebrate fauna has not been extensively, investigated, the ragstone escarpment in particular is known to support a variety of species of interest. The large and distinctive slug Tandonia rustica was discovered here, for the first time in Britain, in 1986. Also present are two nationally scarce** snails, the point snail Acicula fusca and Rolph’s door snail Macrogastra rolphii, both of which are typically found in ancient woodland. This is also the only known Kent site for the bristletail Dilta hibernica.
This large ancient woodland site near Ham Street is an important invertebrate locality of national significance. Several hundred invertebrate (mainly insect) species have been found there, including 39 nationally rare species (listed in the British Red Data Books: 2 Insects) and 134 nationally scarce species. Several species are known in Britain only from this locality.
Traditional woodland management on this site has given rise to broadleaved woodland crossed by wide herb-rich grassy rides, with a number of marshy areas and pools. This traditional pattern has been severely altered in the last 40 years by modern forestry techniques; large areas have been clear-felled and replanted, resulting in dense conifer woodland of limited conservation interest. However, the diverse native woodland has survived in many areas in strips along rides, which together with the rides themselves and tall scrubby vegetation in young plantations provide the wide variety of inter-connecting micro-habitats needed by the many different invertebrate species. In addition the storm of October 1987 felled large areas of mature conifers, leaving open areas available for the natural regeneration of native woodland. Broadleaved woodland within the site is mainly composed of oak Quercus robur and hornbeam Carpinus betulinus with other trees including sallows Salix caprea and S. cinerea, aspen Populus tremula, birches Betula pendula and B. pubescens, field maple Acer campestre and wild service tree Sorbus torminalis. The woodland floor supports bramble Rubus fruticosus, wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella, primrose Primula vulgaris, and yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon. A large number of the scarcest species of invertebrate
feed specifically on the foliage of several of the broadleaved trees and shrubs, the most significant of which are aspen and oak. The animals associated with aspen are exceptional: the lesser belle moth Colobochyla salicalis (not found elsewhere in Britain) and a rare micro-moth Nephopteryx hostilis feed on the foliage. A scarce longhorn beetle Saperda populnea causes galls on aspen stems, which are also inhabited by a rare micro-moth Cydia corallana. A rare weevil Dorytomus affinis, which feeds in aspen catkins has only been recorded in one other place in Britain recently. The foliage of oak supports a rare micro-moth Microthrix similella, the rare orange upperwing moth Jodia crocego, the rare 'scarce merveille-du-jour' moth Moma alpium and the rare dark and light crimson underwing moths, Catocala promissa and Catocala sponsa as well as a rare sawfly Pamphilius
sylvarum. Other trees and shrubs support a rare leaf beetle Crococephalus sexpunctatus and
the rare triangle moth Heterogenea asella. Many invertebrate species are dependent upon a variety of dead-wood habitats, and at Orlestone rare species include a jewel beetle Agrilus viridis, the beetles Tropideres sepicola, Tropideres niveirostris, Platypus cylindricus, Tomoxia bucephala and Cis coluber and a flat-bug Aradus aterrimus. Ponds and wet areas in the clay soils of the woodland support a further important range of species. The water beetle Limnebius crinifer has not been found elsewhere in Britain, and other rare species include the great silver water beetle Hydrophilus piceus, the water beetle Hydrovatus clypealis and a cranefly Molophilus lackschewitzianus. Scarce species include a northern heathland water beetle Acilus canaliculatus and 17 others. The rides and open areas within the woodland provide sheltered feeding areas for animals living in the surrounding woodland, and also support many species directly. The vegetation is acidic grassland, dominated by common bent Agrostis capillaris and creeping soft-grass Holcus mollis, with many broadleaved herbs including lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica, ling heather Calluna vulgaris and devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis. Invertebrates dependent on these habitats include an exceptional number associated with goldenrod Solidago virgaurea including the rare micro-moth Platyptilia calodactyla. Other invertebrates of these open areas include the toadflax brocade moth Calophasia bunula and a solitary wasp Symmorphus connexus; many scarce species include pear-bordered fritillary butterfly Boloria euphrosyne living at the edge of rides. The wide variety of habitats within the site also supports a diverse bird community: breeding species include lesser-spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos minor, nightingale Lucinia segarhynchos, hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes, crossbill Loxia curvirostraand woodcock Scolopax rusticola.
Otford to Shoreham Downs
This site includes areas of species-rich chalk grassland, and chalk scrub, and woodlands on a variety of soils. It supports a range of scarce and rare invertebrates.
The site lies in the valley where the River Darent has cut through the chalk escarpment. Both chalk and overlying deposits are close to the surface and these different rock types produce varied soils, which on the hill tops are clayey and poorly drained while others, mostly on the steep slopes, are thin, calcareous (chalky) and freely draining.
Much of the chalk downland was traditionally managed by grazing, mainly by sheep, which over centuries led to the development of very species-rich chalk grassland. A lack of grazing in recent decades has led to an overgrown form of this grassland over much of the site which is dominated by upright brome grass Bromus erectus. This is still very diverse, supporting over a hundred plant
species. Other plants in the sward include sheep’s fescue grass Festuca ovina, red fescue Festuca rubra, bird’s-foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus, salad burnet Sanguisorba minor, rough hawkbit Leontodon hispidus, ribwort plantain Plantago lanceolata, fragrant orchid Gymnadenia conopsea, stemless thistle Cirsium acaule, quaking grass Briza media and devil’s bit scabious Succisa
pratensis. Two nationally scarce*1 plants are found growing here: man orchid Acerus anthropophorum and chalk milkwort Polygala calcarea. The formerly widespread scrub species juniper Juniperus communis occurs here at one of its last Kent localities.
Much of the grassland areas grade into woodland through an intermediate scrub phase. Typically it is dominated by hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, ash Fraxinus excelsior, roses Rosa species, with traveller’s-joy Clematis vitalba, privet Ligustrum vulgare, black bryony Tamus communis and a variety of calcicolous (chalk-loving) species. The scrub communities vary greatly in age from
a few years to a number of decades.
The woodlands vary according to the underlying geology and contain both ancient*2 and more recent sites. Areas on the deposits overlying the chalk are dominated by ash, pedunculate oak Quercus robur standards, downy birch Betula pubescens, field maple Acer campestre, hazel Corylus avellana, and sweet chestnut Castanea sativa. The ground flora is dominated by bramble Rubus
fruticosus but includes a variety of other woodland species such as bluebell Hyancinthoides non-scripta, yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon and giant fescue grass Festuca gigantea.
The scarp slope woods are mainly beech Fagus sylvatica woodlands which grade into ash-field maple woodlands at the foot of the scarp. The stands contain a range of tree species including yew Taxus baccata, ash, field maple, whitebeam Sorbus acuparia, silver birch Betula pendula, hornbeam Carpinus betulus, wych elm and sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus. The open canopy produced by the storm of October 1987 has encouraged a ground flora dominated by bramble with traveller’s-joy, ivy Hedera helix, wood false-brome grass Brachypodium sylvaticum and other woodland species.
The variety of habitats support outstanding communities of woodland and chalk grassland invertebrate species. Amongst the nationally scarce*1 species present are moths: plumed prominant Ptilophora plumigera which feeds on field maple and Eudonia delunella which feeds on lichens and mosses on the trunks of ash, apple Malus species and occasionally on elms Ulmus species. A scarce hoverfly Cheilosia soror is present, found on the chalk downs visiting umbels in glades of
woods. It has been reported to breed in truffles.
This quarry shows the finest section through the Cretaceous Hythe Beds in East Kent and is of particular significance in showing the contact between this formation and the Sandgate Beds above. The Hythe Beds are especially fossiliferous at this locality and are unusually rich in ammonites of the deshayesi and bowerbanki Zones. A key stratigraphic locality, both for the formations it exposes and its correlatable ammonite faunas.
Park Wood, Chilham
This site is a good representative of long established woodland on chalk soils in Kent. It is largely hazel and hornbeam coppice under oak standards, with diverse rub and ground layers. Several plant species characteristic of calcareous soils are present, including the uncommon lady orchid Orchis purpurea. The wood also contains an outstanding assemblage of invertebrates which includes the rare wasp Crossocerus distinguendus and there is also a large breeding bird community. The wood lies on a south-east facing slope, and a dry valley runs up through the
centre of the site. A strip of chalk grassland runs along the south-western boundary; on the other boundaries and within the wood are earth banks marked by pollards of oak and ash, indicating the ancient origin of the wood. Much of the woodland is hazel and hornbeam coppice under standards of pedunculate oak, but sweet chestnut coppice is also abundant, especially in the north-western part of the wood. Other coppiced species include field maple, ash and birch, whilst mature tree species include ash, whitebeam, beech, birch and yew. There are dense stands of yew adjacent to the strip of chalk grassland and towards the north eastern part of the wood where there has been some recent coppicing. There are also some mature conifers scattered throughout the wood but
mainly located towards the southern corner; these probably date from the turn of the century.
The shrub layer includes hawthorn and several species characteristic of chalk soils, such as buckthorn Rhamnus catharticus, wild privet Ligustrum vulgare, wayfaring tree Viburnum lantana and guelder rose V. opulus. Bramble, dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis and bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta are the principal components of the ground flora, which also contains the less common
species wild liquorice Astragalus glycyphyllos and columbine Aquilegia vulgaris. Several uncommon species indicative of long established woodland occur, including wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides, een hellebore Helleborus viridus, stinking iris Iris foetidissima and herb paris Paris quadrifolia, and the orchids: lady orchid Orchis purpurea and butterfly orchid Platanthera
chlorantha. Ferns are frequent and include buckler fern Dryopteris dilatata, narrow buckler fern D. carthusiana and male fern D. filix-mas. The strip of calcareous grassland along the south-western boundary is dominated by the grasses tor grass Brachypodium pinnatum and sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina, but the herb-rich sward also contains nettle-leaved bellflower Campanula trachelium and the characteristic downland species dwarf thistle Cirsium acaule, common rockrose Helianthemum nummularium and horseshoe vetch Hippocrepis comosa. Many of the woodland shrub species are also present, together with spindle Euonymus europaeus, dogwood Cornus sanguinea, and elder Sambucus nigra.
Broom Cytisus scoparius and trailing St John’s wort Hypericum humifusum are present on less calcareous soils, and in the lower part of the dry valley are several clearings dominated by bracken and bramble. Invertebrates recorded in the wood include two rarities; the wasp Crossocerus distinguendus and the fly Stratiomys potamida, and several uncommon species including the woodland grasshopper Omocestus rufipes, plumed prominent moth Ptilophora plumigera, satin lutestring moth Tetheella fluctuosa and a butterfly, the Duke of Burgundy fritillary Hamearis lucina. Amongst the breeding bird species present are nightingale, nuthatch, green and great spotted woodpeckers and tawny owl.
The interest of this site is centred on the unimproved grassland on the west-facing slope of a dry valley. Dense scrub is present on the upper slope. The grassland is especially noted for its orchids including the nationally rare late spider orchid Ophrys fuciflora which is restricted to a few sites in East Kent. A number of other scarce plants also occur. The grassland, grazed by sheep and cattle, is dominated by tor-grass Brachypodium pinnatum and fescues Festuca species. A wide range of typical chalk downland plants are also present including dwarf thistle Cirsium acaule, lady’s bedstraw Galium verum, bird’s-foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus, common milkwort Polygala vulgaris and salad burnet Poterium sanguisorba. Columbine Aquilegia vulgaris also occurs here and the scarce slender bedstraw Galium pumilum is found at the north end of the site.
The site is well known for its orchids with at least ten species having been recorded. Fragrant orchid Gymnadenia conopsea and common spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii are probably the most numerous. Uncommon species include lady orchid Orchis purpurea and musk orchid Herminium monorchis, both of which flower intermittently. The latter is only found in a few sites in SE Kent and
here can sometimes number several hundred flowering spikes. Another interesting feature of the site is the colony of the rare monkey orchid Orchis simia which was introduced here by seed in 1958. It was first seen in flower in 1965 and since then the number of flowering spikes has increased to over 20 by 1983. Hawthorn and blackthorn scrub, with some neglected hazel coppice is present on
the deeper soils at the top of the slope. This is very dense in places with little ground vegetation present. Elsewhere the scrub is more open with some tall growth of bracken and brambles. The bracken and also thistles are encroaching on the grassland at the bottom of the slope. Typical scrubland birds breed in this area including nightingales.
Parsonage Wood is a good example of a wealden ghyll woodland. The damp stream banks support many species of fern, moss and liverwort, some of which are rare in eastern Britain.
The woodland is predominantly hornbeam, sweet chestnut and ash coppice under pedunculate oak standards, with a rich ground flora dominated by brambles and bluebells. The coppice layer includes some hazel, field maple Acer campestre and wild service tree Sorbus torminalis. In the ground flora are plants which suggest that this is ancient woodland, subject only to traditional woodland management for many centuries; these include butcher’s broom Ruscus aculeatus, violet
helleborine Epipactis purpurata, and pendulous sedge Carex pendula. The last species is especially abundant around the ponds in the north and west of the wood, but these are largely shaded and have little aquatic vegetation. The ghylls cut through the Wadhurst Clay to expose the hard Ashdown Sands. The steep-sided gullies are kept moist by their shape, the woodland canopy, and the streams flowing through them, so that plants, which otherwise are restricted to the damper western seaboard of Britain, can flourish here. Examples of these ‘Atlantic’ ferns and bryophytes are the hay-scented buckler fern Dryopteris aemula and the mosses Fissidens celticus, Hookeria lucens and Dichodontium pellucidum.
Pembury Cutting and Pit
The quarry in Newbars Wood exposes pebbly sandstones, sandstones and siltstone (10m) of the Ardingly Sandstone Member of the upper Lower Tunbridge Wells Sand Formation (upper Hastings Bed Group). Over a lateral distance of 120m, a wealth of sedimentary structures give evidence of flow conditions and directions (channel-in- channel forms, cross-bedding, texture, etc), while other erosion surfaces, intraformational conglomerates, contemporary ironpan and upstanding Lycopodites record events in a bigger braid-channel, subject to widely varying and episodic flow
and exposure. The A21 – Blackhurst Lane cutting exposes a 6.5m stack of two planar cross-bedded
(transverse bar) sandstones, each capped by thin cross-bedded (megatipple) sandstones. The two sequences are separated by a persistent clay seam and the lower is crowded with upstanding Lycopodites (1m) in life-position.
The quarry and road cutting sediments are postulated as having been deposited within a yet larger through-channel traversing the Lower Tunbridge Wells braidplain, of which the quarry in Robingate Wood may expose the 'normal' succession. The three sequences are to be contrasted with those at the Hastings-Pett Level sites, which formed in a more coastal meanderplain.
The sites are vitally important for interpreting conditions in the proximal (northern) area of the Hastings Group basin.
This site supports one of the largest populations of the great crested newt Triturus cristatus in Britain, a species afforded special protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Two other newt species also breed here together with frogs and at least two species of reptile. Little is known about the rest of the fauna of the site, although the areas of scrub are thought to support a
number of breeding birds. An active chalk quarry until about 20 years ago, Peters Pit has an undulating terrain in which many rain fed ponds, of various sizes, have developed. Those which dry up early in the season are of less interest, but five ponds are sufficiently large to support very substantial populations of amphibians, particularly the great crested newt. The value of the site for newts is enhanced by the presence, around the edges and between the ponds, of areas of scrub with loose rock which serve as day and winter refuges. Aquatic vegetation provides shelter in the pond environment. Terrestrial habitats represented include chalk grassland and ruderal vegetation as well as scrub and developing woodland. Many herbs characteristic of the chalk are present such as bee orchid Ophrys apifera, autumn gentian Gentianella amarella and basil thyme Acinos arvensis. Lime-loving shrubs are also widespread; wild privet Ligustrum vulgare, dogwood Cornus sanguinea and the climbing traveller’s joy Clematis vitalba being particularly frequent. Two aquatic plants which are scarce in Kent are found in the ponds, viz mare’s tail Hippuris vulgaris and the water crowfoot Ranunculus aquatilis. In addition to the large numbers of great crested newts, smaller numbers of the smooth newt T. vulgaris and palmate newt T. helveticus also occur, along with the common frog Rana temporaria and two reptiles: the grass snake Natrix natrix and the adder Vipera berus. Birds recorded from the site include nightingale and several species of warbler.
This small farm is a good example of unimproved and species rich neutral grassland. The field layout is believed to have remained unchanged for at least seven hundred years, and the hedgerows and shaws have many tree and shrub species.
Most of the grassland is dominated by red fescue Festuca rubra, creeping bent Agrostis stolonifera and cock’s-foot Dactylis glomerata, but at least 16 other species of grass are present. The sward contains many plants which are characteristic of long-established hay meadows, and which are seldom found in recently cultivated grasslands. These include pepper saxifrage Silaum silaus,
dyer’s greenweed Genista tinctoria, yellow rattle Rhinanthus minor, sneezewort Achillea ptarmica and adder’s-tongue fern Ophioglossum vulgatum as well as several orchids including green-winged orchid Orchis morio and southern marsh orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa. The differing botanical composition of the fields, brought about by various forms of management and soil types, are of
The hedgerows are very varied, with pedunculate oak, ash, hawthorn, willows, field maple and blackthorn all being abundant, as are dog rose Rosa canina and brambles. Other species of interest are midland hawthorn Crataegus laevigata, spindle Euonymus europaeus and aspen Populus tremula. The shaws tend to be more uniform, being predominantly hazel coppice under a canopy of mature pedunculate oak. Also within the farm are five ponds, most of which are heavily shaded and currently with little aquatic vegetation, and a small stream which is similarly shaded.
This is the last remaining area of fen vegetation in the Little Stour valley. Most of the site consists of beds of common reed Phragmites australis with scattered willow scrub. There is a small area of pasture with dykes that contain several uncommon plants. The site is one of only two known localities in Kent for the rare sharp-leaved pondweed Potamogeton acutifolius.
The combination of peaty soils and calcareous water has produced a diverse plant community. The peripheral dykes and those adjacent to the pasture have been kept open by management and are the most diverse. Uncommon plants such as opposite-leaved pondweed Groenlandia densa, arrowhead Saggitaria saggitifolia and slender-tufted sedge Carex acuta occur in these dykes and along their margins. The scarce whorled water-milfoil Myriophyllum verticillatum is also found here.
The aquatic flora of the Little Stour is restricted to a few species because of pollution by saline minewater from the Tilmanstone colliery. These plants, such as fennel pondweed Potamogeton pectinatus, water-star worts Callitriche species and unbranched bur-reed Sparganium emersum are present in large quantities. The site attracts many breeding and wintering birds. Lapwing and occasionally redshank breed on the pasture, and large numbers of reed buntings and reed and sedge warblers in the reedbeds. In winter large flocks of waders, especially lapwing and snipe, and wildfowl such as teal and wigeon, use the fields which are often flooded. At this time bearded tits and Cetti’s warblers usually roost in the reedbeds.
The site includes areas of chalk grassland, scrub and woodland. The grassland is of the upright brome Bromus erectus, sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina type and is extremely herb rich, with one nationally rare plant species occurring. Among the many chalk downland herbs to be found here are salad burnet Poterium sanguisorba, rockrose Helianthemum chamaecistus, horseshoe vetch
Hippocrepis comosa and autumn gentian Gentianella amarella. In addition to the nationally rare Kentish milkwort Polygala austriaca other uncommon species of plants are also found including several orchids for example man orchid Aceras anthropophorum, fragrant orchid Gymnadenia conopsea, and pyramidal orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis.
The upper part of the woodland, on the clay with flints soil, is predominantly hornbeam coppice, although Stone Acre Wood is more varied, with oak, ash and wild cherry among others. The woodland floor is covered by bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta, dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis, brambles Rubus fruticosus and some wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella and yellow archangel
Galeobdolon luteum. The steeper slopes are mainly hazel coppice with large beech trees, and the ground flora here is more varied, including several scarce plants, such as stinking iris Iris foetidissima, fly orchid Ophrys insectifera, and lady orchid Orchis purpurea, the last is another species restricted to Kent. There are also small areas of scrub on the woodland edge, of hawthorn and various chalk-loving species such as wayfaring tree.
In the grassland and woodland of this site two nationally rare plant species occur. In addition an outstanding assemblage of plants is present. The grassland and woodland of this site are on the south-facing slope of a dry chalk valley. The grassland is largely dominated by upright brome Bromus erectus and sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina with numerous plants characteristic of grazed
but otherwise undisturbed chalk grassland. Among the more interesting species are chalk milkwort Polygala calcarea, squinancywort Asperula cynanchica, horseshoe vetch Hippocrepis comosa and several species of orchids including the rare early spider orchid Ophrys sphegodes. Another rare plant present is meadow clary Salvia pratensis. The grassland is rich entomologically and two characteristic species, the adonis blue butterfly Lysandra bellargus and the rufous grasshopper Gomphocerippus rufus are found. Potter’s Wood is mainly sweet chestnut coppice with oak standards, but with beech, hazel and other species along the southern edge. The other areas of woodland and scrub are also dominated by beech, but hornbeam, hawthorn and several other species are also frequent. Dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis, bramble Rubus fruticosus and bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta are the dominant plants of the woodland floor, but among scarcer species are the lady orchid Orchis purpurea and yellow bird’s-nest Monotropa hypopitys. Some former grassland has been invaded by scrub in recent years; this scrub is of mixed species, including several, like wayfaring tree and wild privet, which are highly characteristic of the chalk soils.
The River Beult flows for most of its length over Wealden clay which influences its ecology. It is one of the few clay rivers in England which retains a characteristic flora and fauna. This type of river occurs predominantly in central England and has usually been canalised for land drainage purposes. The Beult flows through an agricultural catchment with sheep and cattle pasture,
orchards and arable land. River flows are dependent on surface run-off and weirs are placed in spring to maintain levels. In common with many lowland rivers, the Beult has suffered some enrichment with phosphate and nitrate from sewage effluent and agricultural run-off. The section of river being notified, from Smarden to the Medway confluence, excludes the upper river which is ditch-like with an impoverished fauna and flora.
The River Beult has a characteristically diverse clay-river flora, with many emergent (water edge) plant species and a smaller number of submerged or floating plants. The total for the river and banks approaches 100 species, including 11 mosses and liverworts.
The river channel is dominated by floating plants like yellow water-lily Nuphar lutea, arrowhead Sagittaria sagittifolia, and duckweeds, particularly Spirodela polyrhiza which can form a continuous cover over the water surface. Other common plants include white water-lily Nymphaea alba, flowering rush Butomus umbellatus, unbranched bur-reed Sparganium emersum and stands of bulrush Schoenoplectus lacustris. Submerged plants include five species of pondweed Potamogeton berchtoldii, P. crispus, P. obtusifolius, P. pectinatus and P. natans as well as rigid hornwort Ceratophyllum demersum and spiked water milfoil Myriophyllum spicatum. Characteristic river-bank plants include water chickweed Myosoton aquaticum, amphibious bistort Polygonum amphibium, celery-leaved buttercup Ranunculus sceleratus, great yellow cress Rorippa amphibia, water plantain Alisma plantago- aquatica, and purple loosestrife Lythrum salicaria.
The adjacent agricultural land use significantly affects these riverside plant communities, which in turn influence the insect and bird life. The most diverse plant communities occur where the river bank is relatively shallow and grades into a shallow berm grazed by cattle. The cattle-poached water edge supports fool’s water cress Apium nodiflorum, brook lime Veronica beccabunga, blue water-speedwell Veronica anagallis- aquatica, water figwort Scrophularia auriculata and water mint Mentha aquatica. Where the river bank is inaccessible to grazing animals, bulrush and branched bur-reed Sparganium erectum, reed canary grass Phalaris arundinacea, or reed sweet-grass
Glyceria maxima become dominant. The river bank next to arable fields has weedy vegetation of nettle Urtica dioica and thistles Cirsium spp, due to fertiliser run-off and pesticide spray drift.
Two nationally scarce invertebrates have been recorded from the River Beult; a water beetle Haliplus laminatus occurs in slow-flowing stretches of the river and the hairy dragonfly Brachytron pratense is found in sluggish, well vegetated areas. Sixteen species of dragonfly and damselfly have been recorded. The thick emergent fringes of vegetation on the banks are important for several of the scarce species such as the white-legged damselfly Platycnemis pennipes and the ruddy darter dragonfly Sympetrum sanguineum. The aquatic snail Bithynia leachi, is characteristic of species-
rich sites. Bare clay banks provide nesting sites for the kingfisher Alcedo atthis which occurs regularly along the river. Thick emergent fringes also provide cover and breeding sites for birds such as reed warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus and reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus.
Robins Wood is typical of the linear woodlands which have developed along deep stream valleys (ghylls) in the weald. The humid conditions prevailing in such places support a rich assemblage of ferns, mosses and liverworts including species which are rare in Kent.
The two main ghylls follow parallel lines of fracture (faults) in the underlying geological strata, and these fractures have brought contrasting beds of the Wealden series into contact along the stream bed, Wadhurst clays and the Ashdown sands. The valleys are likely to have retained a woodland cover since natural colonisation following the last ice age, and may thus be termed ‘ancient woodland’. The woods consist mainly of mixed hornbeam Carpinus betulus, ash Fraxinus
excelsior and hazel Corylus avellana coppice below oak Quercus robur and occasional beech Fagus sylvatica standards. In some areas the coppice layer has been restocked with sweet chestnut Castanea sativa, and here birch Betula spp. and aspen Populus tremula are also common. Guelder rose Viburnum opulus, and midland hawthorn Crataegus laevigata are present in the shrub layer, above a ground flora dominated by bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta, bramble Rubus
fruticosus and dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis. Other more locally-distributed species include wild daffodil Narcissus pseudo-narcissus, violet helleborine Epipactis purpurata, imperforate St John’s wort Hypericum maculatum, and early-purple orchid Orchis mascula. Over the streams alder Alnus glutinosa coppice becomes dominant, with willows
Salix spp. frequent above a ground flora reflecting the wetter conditions. Opposite-leaved golden saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium, yellow archangel Galeobdolon luteum and many species of fern occur here including therare hay-scented buckler fern Dryopteris aemula. The damp, mild microclimate is ideal for bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) and a rich assemblage of species has
been recorded. Several are more commonly found in the west of Britain and are present in Kent at the eastern-most extent of their national distribution; these include Hookeria lucens, Trichocolea tomentella and Campylosteum saxicola. Several ponds add to the habitat diversity of the site.
A key site for sandstone weathering features, complementing the interest at High Rocks and Chiddingly Wood. Rusthall Common is best noted for the spectacular Toad Rock, a classic landform of SE England comprising an isolated block of rock standing on a narrow pedestal formed by periglacial wind erosion. The site also possesses more intensive cambering; better developed rock platforms or pavements, and much deeper weathering pits than other similar sites.
Sandwich Bay to Hacklinge Marshes
This site contains the most important sand dune system and sandy coastal grassland in South East England and also includes a wide range of other habitats such as mudflats, saltmarsh, chalk cliffs, freshwater grazing marsh, scrub and woodland. Associated with the various constituent habitats of the site are outstanding assemblages of both terrestrial and marine plants with over 30 nationally rare and nationally scarce species, having been recorded. Invertebrates are also of interest with recent records including 19 nationally rare3, and 149 nationally scarce4 species. These areas provide an important landfall for migrating birds and also support large wintering populations of waders, some of which regularly reach levels of national importance5. The cliffs at Pegwell Bay are also of geological interest.
The sand dunes which stretch from the mouth of the River Stour to Deal comprise the most outstanding botanical habitat within the site. The dunes and associated dune slacks and coastal grassland support a distinctive flora with species including crown garlic Allium vineale, viper’s bugloss Echium vulgare, sea holly Eryngium maritimum and restharrow Ononis repens, whilst the nationally rare3 lizard orchid Himantoglossum hircinum and bedstraw broomrape
Orobanche caryophyllacea have their largest British colonies here. Many continental species have been recorded from the dunes and the dune grassland also support a high diversity of clover Trifolium species and many other leguninous plants.
The dunes support a diversity of invertebrates many of which are associated with warm dry conditions and include the nationally rare3 carthusian snail Monacha cartusiana and the nationally scarce4 grey bush cricket Platycleis albopunctata. The nationally rare3 moths restharrow Aplasta ononaria, pygmy footman Eilema pygmaeola pygmaeola and brightwave Idaea ochrata have also been recorded, whilst one of the damp hollows supports the only British colony of the moth
Stigmella zelleriella, the larvae of which mine in leaves of creeping willow Salix repens var. argentea. The chalk coastline around Pegwell Bay comprises a considerable diversity of cliff
and cave habitats which support a range of marine algal communities. The area is the type locality for one algal genus and three species new to science Chrysonema, C. littorale; Chrysotila lamellosa, Chrysotila stipitata and is one of the sites where Anand (1937) undertook pioneer ecological investigations. Typical chalk-cliff zonation comprises a ‘Chrysophyte’ zone (mainly
Apistonema carterae) at supralittoral levels. Enteromorpha spp. and other green algae and the lichen Arthropyrenia halodites at upper littoral levels; a turf of small filamentous red, brown and green algae is predominant at lower levels. The caves contain ‘Chrysophyte’ communities with species such as Chrysonema litorale and Thallochrysis littoralis, together with other typical cave species such as Pilinia rimosa and Pseudendoclonium submarinum.
Foreshore algal communities are typical of wave-washed shores, low in species diversity, although a unique feature (not seen on other chalk platforms in southeast England) of lower littoral levels is the dense population (zone-forming) of the Sand-Mason worm Lanice conchilega forming a bank extending for 100 m by the Ramsgate Western Esplanade.
The saltmarsh comprises a diversity of characteristic plants dominated by salt- marsh grasses such as Puccinellia maritima and common cord-grass Spartina anglica. Other abundant species include sea purslane Halimione portulacoides, sea aster Aster tripolium, sea lavender Limonium vulgare and the nationally scarce4 golden samphire Inula crithmoides. South of the River Stour saltmarsh grades into the sand dune system; this is the only Kent site for the long-bracted sedge Carex extensa, and also provides suitable conditions for a dense growth of the nationally scarce4 sharp rush Juncus acutus. Below the cliff at Cliffsend Point, where freshwater springs emerge at the foot of the cliff, the saltmarsh grades into a swampy type of vegetation where common reed Phragmites
australis and common reedmace Typha latifolia predominate. Further inland, the grazing marsh and associated dykes provide suitable conditions for a wide range of plants and animals. The grassland is dominated bygrasses such as meadow barley Hordeum secalinum, meadow foxtail Alopecurus
pratensis and crested dog’s tail Cynosurus cristatus. Some of the more uncommon broadleaved herbs that have been recorded, especially narrow leave bird’s-foot- trefoil Lotus tenuis, adder’s tongue Ophioglossum vulgatum, strawberry clover Trifolium fragiferum and divided sedge Carex divisa4. A more unusual vegetation type found within the site is the relict fen vegetation. This is found in and around the dykes of the farmland and in the marshes at Hacklinge. Fen plants such as
ragged robin Lychnis flos-cuculi, bog pimpernel Anagallis tenella and greater spearwort Ranunculus lingua occur here, most of these are now scarce in Kent. In addition the dykes contain a number of scarce aquatic plants including whorled water-milfoil Myriophyllum verticillatum4, fen pondweed Potamogeton coloratus4 and river water-dropwort Oenanthe fluviatilis4. This area is also the only known locality in SE England for least bur-reed Sparganium minimum. The wet alder wood at Ham Brooks also contains uncommon plants including great fen-sedge Cladium mariscus.
The ornithological interest of Sandwich Bay and Hacklinge Marshes is centred on the large numbers of waders and wildfowl which use the area in winter and during the Spring and Autumn migrations. Dunlin Calidris alpina is usually the most common wader present, found particularly on the mudflats where the rich invertebrate fauna also attracts a wide range of other common species such as
oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, curlew Numenius arquata, and redshank Tringa totanus. Grey plover Plurialis squatarola and sanderling Calidris alba both overwinter in nationally important numbers5, whilst ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula also occurs in nationally important numbers5 during migration. Wildfowl that occur on the site include mallard Anas platyrhynchos,
shelduck Tadorna tadorna and occasionally brent goose Branta bernicla. Many of the birds use more than one habitat, some for example feed on the mudflats at low tide and then move up to roost on the saltmarsh or grazing marsh. Breeding birds include ringed plover, oystercatcher and little tern Sterna albifrons, a species specially protected by law and listed on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and
Countryside Act 1981. Inland areas are also of interest supporting two nationally rare species of breeding birds.
Parts of the site are also of geological interest. The 16" shell bed at the base of the Reculver Silts (Thanet Formation) contains an important fish fauna. This is preserved as disarticulated fish debris, including a diversity of identifiable shark teeth. There is no other Thanetian site in Western Europe with this diversity of fauna which includes many, as yet, undescribed species plus the earliest records of other known Tertiary forms. The outcrop has very great significance because it
is the only outcrop which shows the bottom living fish assemblage which was subsequently destroyed by the North Sea volcanicity, for the ash falls by these volcanoes brought about an extinction event. Interesting conclusions can be drawn from this local extinction and the later recolonisation of the area; for example unspecialised, bottom living sharks survive across the event, presumably because a stock that was living elsewhere at the time was able to migrate back to this part of the basin and recolonise.
At Pegwell Bay the Upper Chalk is overlain by the basal Tertiary beds of the Thanet Sands. The junction is marked by the celebrated ‘Bull-head Bed’, an in situ weathering residue of unabraded flint nodules. This is a key section showing a demonstrable and regionally significant unconformity. Pegwell Bay is also the most important site for loess studies in Britain. The section shows up to 4 m of Devensian loess overlying Upper Chalk and Thanet Beds. The loess, an accumulation of wind-blown dust produced under periglacial conditions during the Ice Age is probably thicker here than at any other site in Britain, and is certainly the most closely studied example. Although leached in its upper part, the loess is calcareous below, with rootlet tubes and small concretions. Where the loess rests on the Chalk, there is often a highly frost-shattered zone with well developed involutions. In one part of the section where an infilled channel is cut into the frost-shattered chalk, the loess overlies chalky-flinty gravels and loams produced by solifluction. Pegwell Bay provides the best exposures of true loess deposits in Britain. They are exceptional in having escaped modification by solifluction; no other site provides such useful sections in highly calcareous loess that has not been reworked.
Scord's Wood and Brockhoult Mount
The site forms part of the Lower Greensand escarpment which runs through north Kent.
Consequently soils within the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) vary greatly depending upon the underlying geology. Soils forming on the greensand and head deposits tend to be acidic and well-drained; the outcrops of Kentish Rag lead to more calcareous soils and those on the Wealden Clay are poorly-drained and seasonally waterlogged. Much of the Chart was traditionally managed as wood-pasture until the mid-nineteenth century when it was enclosed through Act of Parliament. After the lifting of the grazing pressure the beech pollards and adjacent woodlands seeded into the open areas, and were managed as coppice for charcoal burning.
The site now contains the best examples of sessile oak Quercus petraea stands in Kent. The
shrubs on the plateau are dominated by beech Fagus sylvatica, sessile oak, pedunculate oak
Quercus robur, birches Betula species, whitebeam sorbus aria and rowan Sorbus acuparia.
Thuringian whitebeam Sorbus aria x aucuparia, a hybrid between rowan and whitebeam, is
found here on one of only four sites in Kent. The ground flora is dominated by bramble
Rubus fruticosus and bracken Pteridium aquilinum where the canopy has been opened by
the 'Great Storm' of 1987. Elsewhere, where there is a dense canopy, it is sparse and
includes bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus, wavy hair-grass Deschampsia flexuosa, heather
Calluna vulgaris. A holly Ilex aquifolium understorey is present in places.
Away from the plateau, pedunculate oak replaces sessile oak in the canopy and bramble, wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella, honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum and wood anemone Anemone nemorosa dominate the ground flora. Moving down the escarpment edge, species which require some lime such as ash Fraxinus excelsior, field maple Acer campestre, cherry Prunus avium, downy birch Betula pubescens and hazel Corylus avellana appear in the canopy and bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta and yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon in the ground flora.
The wetter, more nutrient-rich soils and springs in the woods on the Wealden Clay at the foot of the escarpment support woodlands dominated by oak species, beech, ash, field maple, alder Alnus glutinosa, aspen Populus tremula and guelder rose Viburnum opulus. The ground flora includes wood poa grass Poa nemoralis, bugle Ajuga reptans, stinging nettle Urtica dioica, sweet woodruff Galium odoratum, enchanter's nightshade Circaea lutetianna, dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis, town-hall clock Adoxa moschatellina, and thin-spiked wood-sedge Carex strigosa.
Grasslands on the acidic plateau soils are dominated by common bent-grass Agrostis capillaris, heath bedstraw Galium saxatile, sheep’s sorrel Rumex acetosella, often with heather Calluna vulgaris and bracken Pteridium aquilinum. A pasture just south of Emmetts House has more neutral soils with wet flushes. Here the sward is dominated by common bent-grass, sheep’s fescue grass Festuca ovina, cock's-foot grass Dactylis glomerata and meadow foxtail Allopecurus pratensis; other plants include devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis, black knapweed Centaurea nigra, glaucous sedge Carex flacca, zig-zag clover Trifolium medium and common spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza fuschii. The number of plants scarce in Kent*2 have been recorded from this site. These include
lily-of-the-valley Convallaria majalis, common wintergreen Pyrola minor, lemon-scented Oreopteris limbosperma and green hellebore Helleborus viridus.
Located on the Wadhurst Clay, Tunbridge Wells Sandstone and river valley alluvium the site contains a variety of habitats including parkland with some unimproved grassland, several ponds and woodland. Associated with these habitats are a diverse community of epiphytic lichens, several plants which are scarce in Kent, a number of nationally scarce invertebrates and the dormouse
Muscardius avellanarius, a species which is protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
Much of the interest of the site relates to its management in the past. The woodlands are coppiced, the parkland is grazed, and several of the ponds are old marl pits. The moat is also man-made.
Broadham Wood consists of ash Fraxinus excelsior and hazel Corylus avellana coppice with pedunculate oak Quercus robur standards. There is a diverse flora which includes yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon and common cow wheat Melampyrum pratense. The damper parts of Broadham and Kilndown Woods are covered by alder Alnus glutinosa with ramsons Allium ursinum,
opposite-leaved golden-saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium and narrow buckler fern Dryopteris carthusiana. Much of Kilndown Wood is sweet chestnut Castanea sativa coppice. One ride through the coppice is particularly species- rich, with much heather Calluna vulgaris, and locally scarce plants such as allseed Radiola linoides and chaffweed Anagallis minima.
In the park the scattered large trees, mainly pedunculate oak, ash, field maple Acer campestre and beech Fagus sylvatica have a rich epiphytic lichen flora. This includes the nationally scarce species Gyalecta flotowii and Parmelia crinita at its only locality in Kent. The surrounding grassland is largely ‘improved’ but there are several species-rich areas. One of these, dominated by fine leaved grasses suchas sweet vernal-grass Anthoxanthum odoratum and red fescue Festuca rubra has a population of green-winged orchid Orchis morio, a species which has declined considerably in Kent in recent years. Another declining species is the adder’s tongue fern Ophioglossum vulgatum which occurs in several parts of the park. The ponds add to the diversity of the site. Where they are not shaded by trees the bankside flora includes yellow flag iris Iris pseudacorus, hemp agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum and marsh marigold Caltha palustris. Floating water lily Nymphoides peltata is recorded from the moat. Several scarce invertebrates occur on the site. The ponds support a number of dragonflies (Odonata), including the red-eyed damselfly Erythromma najas which hunts from the floating leaves of aquatic plants, and the brilliant emerald Somatochlora metallica, which hunts around the shady margins of the ponds. Old trees on the estate support several species associated with dead wood such as the black headed cardinal beetle Pyrochroa cocciniea. Broadham Wood supports the scarce Rolph’s door snail Macrogaster rolphii, while the dormouse can be found in the coppiced woodlands.
The interest of this site centres on the alder carr and fen communities that support an exceptional
number of cranefly species. The varied geology over the course of the stream has given rise to a
range of conditions in which different habitats have developed in close proximity.
Rising in a wooded valley below the Chalk of the North Downs near Folkestone, the Seabrook Stream crosses a belt of Gault Clay before cutting into the Lower Greensand. A springline occurs at the junction between the Folkestone and Sandgate Beds of the Lower Greensand series, resulting in
numerous seepages on both sides of the valley and a gradation from dry sandy conditions, towards the top of the valley sides, to saturated peat and tributary streams on the valley floor.
Base-rich springline alder carr has developed on the wettest soils and here the ground flora is varied. Characteristic species such as opposite-leaved golden saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium, lesser pond-sedge Carex acutiformis and common valerian Valeriana officinalis are frequent in some areas along with marsh marigold Caltha palustris and yellow flag Iris pseudacorus. In the west of the site where a tributary stream arises there are more willows Salix spp and the ground flora is dominated by sedges Carex spp and wood club-rush Scirpus sylvaticu. Where seepages arise above the woodland rich flush communities occur, generally dominated by great horsetail Equisetum telemateia and great willowherb Epilobium hirsutum but also including greater pond-sedge Carex riparia, marsh horsetail Equisetum palustre and common spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsia. There are several areas of reedswamp dominated by common reed Phragmites australis within the site, the largest extending to almost two hectares.
On the drier slopes of the valley there is woodland, scrub and neutral grassland. The woodland
canopy is dominated by oak Quercus robur, ash Fraxinus excelsior and hazel Corylus avellana with
bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta, red campion Silene dioica and moschatel Adoxa moschatellina
frequent amongst the ground flora. The scrub is principally of hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, elder
Sambucus niger and blackthorn Prunus spinosa. Within the grassland are found species characteristic of basic soils, such as stemless thistle Cirsium acaule as well as other species characteristic of more acid soils, such as heath speedwell Veronica officinalis.
The whole of the Seabrook valley supports an exceptional number of cranefly species, 67 having been recorded to date from this site alone. This total includes four nationally scarce species, one being Erioptera limbata, which lives on stream margins, known from only two other sites in Britain. It is the seepages within the alder carr providing a wide range of moisture regimes, that allow this site to support so many species. 14 other invertebrate species found on the site are nationally scarce: for example the caddis fly Rhvacophila septentrionis which lives in the stream itself and whose larvae feed on those of midges, mayflies and stoneflies; Osmylus fulvicephalus, Britain's largest lacewing, found by wooded streams and whose larvae feed on insects at the water margin; and the harvestman Homalenotus quadridentatus which occurs in the drier grassland further up the valley sides.
Breeding bird species present are known to include reed and sedges warblers, grey wagtail and sand martin. On a national scale sand martins have undergone major population changes in recent years and the quarry in the west of the site contains one of the few significant colonies known in Kent.
Sevenoaks Gravel Pits
The interest of this group of lakes, formed by the flooding of the former gravel workings and fed by the River Darenth, centres on its breeding bird populations. Extensive landscaping to create shallows, spits and islands, and the planting of trees and aquatic plants have provided conditions suitable for both breeding and wintering birds.
The most numerous breeding species are Canada and greylag geese, mallard and tufted duck. Many other water birds breed including great-crested grebe, kingfisher, moorhen and coot. Wintering and passage wildfowl include pochard, shelduck, teal and shoveler, and passage waders are also attracted including greenshank and green sandpiper. The uncommon little ringed plover is a regular breeding species here.
The woodland and reed beds support a typical range of song birds including whitethroat, reed, and sedge warblers. There is also a large rookery, and a sand martin colony in a sand face in the south of the site. Sand martins have undergone a major fluctuation in population levels in recent years and this face supports one of the few significant colonies in West Kent. The botanical and entomological interest of the site is also known to be developing. Thirteen species of Odonata (dragonflies) are present including the locally-distributed downy-emerald dragonfly Cordulia aenea. Plants of note
include small cud-weed Filago minima, dwarf elder Sambucus ebulus, and slender bird’s-foot trefoil Lotus angustissimus.
Sheppey Cliffs and Foreshore
This classic coastal section is one of the best known Palaeogene sites in Britain having been the focus of scientific study since the eighteenth century. The cliff and foreshore section between Warden and Minster comprise Eocene London Clay, capped by Pleistocene sediments except between East End and Cliff Farm where the cliff intersects an outlier of the Eocene Virginia Water Formation. This is the only extant section of the upper part of the London Clay and is geographically the most extensive section of this Formation in Britain. Some of the most detailed studies of Palaeogene stratigraphy have been produced for this section. Five informal divisions (A–E) have been recognised for the London Clay of which divisions C, D & E are exposed. The stratigraphical and palaeoenvironmental significance of the site is a reflection of its extremely well preserved fossil fauna and flora. A considerable invertebrate fauna has been recovered including bivalves, gastropods, brachiopods and nautiloids. Also encountered are the articulated remains of crabs and lobsters and occasionally well preserved insect remains. There is a particularly abundant microfossil fauna which has been used as a basis for defining the stratigraphical divisions A–E of the London Clay. Fossil vertebrates are equally important and here include fish, reptiles and birds. Some of the most important fossil vertebrate remains occur in resistant nodules within the London Clay. Bony material is also often concentrated on the beach from otherwise fairly unproductive horizons. Agassiz’s classic work of the 1840’s figures many fish from the Sheppey section. The fossil fish uniquely include articulated cartilaginous shark remains and complete fish skulls. More than 160 fish species (including sharks, rays and bony fish) are recorded from this site for many of which this is the type locality. Since the 1820’s the site has beenwell known for its fossil reptiles. These include turtles Argillochelys, Chrysemys, Eospargis, Puppigerus, Trionyx for which this is the most prolific Tertiary site in Britain, crocodiles Crocodylus, and snakes Palaeophis. The site is also a key avian
palaeontological site having yielded the first named fossil bird species, Halcyornis toliapicus (related to the kingfisher), in 1825. Since then 16 families (representing 12 Orders) have been identified and for some 20 species this is the type locality. The site shows the presence of a diverse fauna of shore and sea birds, as well as a large range of land birds from open and forest habitat. This site is the richest palaeobotany site in the London Clay. Divisions D and E have yielded the most extensive Eocene fruit and seed flora, with over 300 species being recorded. The flora is dominated by tropical lianas and also the coconut Nipa. This is the type locality for 285 species and 66 genera of plant. 200 of these species and 23 genera are unique to the Tertiary sediments of this site. Present day active processes have also been studied in considerable detail. At Warden Point, and to its west, a series of impressive, deep-seated, rotational landslips (bench shaped in plan) occur in the London Clay. Characteristically, each slip extends along the coast for distances between four and eight times the cliff height. The back-tilted blocks produced by failure are broken down by shallow slides and mudflows, the debris being removed by marine erosion. This in turn results in a progressive steepening of the cliff, and thus in further landslipping. This is the best locality in Britain to observe the cycle of rotational landslip typical of soft coasts.
The cliffs are of botanical interest in that they support a good population of the nationally rare* plant dragon’s teeth Tetragonolobus maritimus. A number of other uncommon species have also beenrecorded, including the nationally scarce** bithynian vetch Vicia bithynica.
* Nationally rare plants are those which occur in 15 or less 10 km squares in Britain.
** Nationally scarce plants are those which occur in 16–100 km squares in Britain.
Shorne and Ashenbank Woods
Shorne and Ashenbank Woods form a complex of ancient and plantation woodland, and include a variety of stand-types associated with Tertiary gravels, clays and sands. The site supports an important and diverse invertebrate fauna, especially its Coleoptera (beetles), Hemiptera (true bugs), and Odonata (dragonflies).
The woodland varies from pure sweet chestnut Castanea sativa coppice, in places heavily invaded by sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus, to a more mixed broadleaved community, consisting of mature oak Quercus spp., sweet chestnut, and hornbeam Carpinus betulus. Although holly Ilex aquifolium, and yew Taxus baccata are frequent in the understorey, dense aggregations of rhododendron
Rhododendron ponticum sometimes suppress the development of a shrub and field layer. Elsewhere bramble Rubus fruticosus, bluebell Hyacinthoides non- scriptus, dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis, and bracken Pteridium aquilinum dominate the ground flora, together with typical indicator species of ancient woodland such as wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides, wood sedge Carex sylvatica, and wood anemone Anemone nemorosa. The locally-scarce caper
spurge Euphorbia lathyrus also occurs, often in abundance in recently cut compartments.
At Randall Heath an open area of former heathland is now dominated by bracken with occasional ancient oak and sweet chestnut pollards. Within Shorne Country Park an old series of clay-workings has been landscaped to provide wildlife habitats including a network of shallow ponds, which are developing an increasingly interesting flora and fauna. These include the plants blinks Montia
fontana and wood small-reed Calamagrostis epigejos, both rare in Kent, and several nationally scarce insects including the ruddy darter dragonfly Sympetrum sanguineum, and the satin lutestring moth Tetheela fluctuosa. The site has been well-recorded for its insect fauna in the past, with both
Coleoptera (beetles) and Hemiptera (true bugs) being well-represented. Rare species include the beetles Mordella holomelaena and Peltodytes caesus. The woodland breeding bird community includes hawfinch, marsh tit and all three British woodpeckers.
Sissinghurst Park Wood
This site is important for the number of rare plant species which occur in the rides. The wood is predominantly sweet chestnut Castanea sativa coppice with large amounts of birch Betula spp., and contains very few standards. In places alder Alnus glutinosa woodland occurs along the lines of small streams and in seepage areas; the latter type being particularly restricted in Kent.
The ride flora is the outstanding feature of this woodland. The community of plants present is representative of wealden woodlands and varies with factors such as dampness, the shading effect of coppice and other trees, and the use of the ride by vehicles. Where well-developed the vegetation is dominated by grasses, and with bugle Ajuga reptans, tormentil Potentilla erecta, heather Calluna vulgaris and other plants locally abundant. Of the rare plants found here, ivy- leaved bellflower Wahlenbergia hederacea is the most notable, this being its easternmost locality in Britain. Allseed Radiola linoides, chaffweed Anagallis minima, and creeping forget-me-not Myosotis secunda all very rare in Kent, are also present.
The sweet chestnut and birch woodland has a ground flora with limited diversity of species; bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta, bramble Rubus fruticosus, honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum, and bracken Pteridium aquilinum are the most abundant plants, but others such as hard-fern Blechnum spicant do occur. In the damper areas of the alder woodland there is greater diversity; pendulous sedge Carex pendula is often dominant, and other species include dog’s mercury
Mercurialis perennis, ragged robin Lychnis flos-cuculi, alder buckthorn Frangula alnus, and many other more locally-distributed species such as narrow-buckler fern Dryopteris carthusiana, and skullcap Scutellaria galericulata. The ground flora is best developed in the years immediately following coppice-cutting, and later in the cycle may be almost completely shaded-out.
A considerable area of the wood has been replaced in recent years by pasture and arable land.
South Thames Estuary and Marshes
The South Thames Estuary and Marshes SSSI from Gravesend to the eastern end of the Isle of Grain forms a major component of the Greater Thames Estuary. The site consists of an extensive mosaic of grazing marsh, saltmarsh, mudflats and shingle characteristic of the estuarine habitats of the north Kent marshes. Freshwater pools and some areas of woodland provide additional variety and
complement the estuarine habitats. The site supports outstanding numbers of waterfowl with total counts regularly exceeding 20,000. Many species regularly occur in nationally important1 numbers and some species regularly use the site in internationally important2 numbers. The breeding bird community is also of particular interest. The diverse habitats within the site support a number of nationally rare3 and scarce4 invertebrate species and an assemblage of nationally scarce plants.
The mudflats attract large numbers of feeding waders and wildfowl with the site being regularly used by redshank Tringa totanus in internationally important numbers. There is evidence from recent winter low-water counts that knot Calidris canuta and dunlin Calidris alpina exceed internationally importantnumbers when feeding on the mudflats. These counts also indicate that avocet
Recurvirostra avosetta and ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula regularly exceed nationally important numbers. During the high tide period, waterfowl disperse to roosts in marshes in north Kent and Essex. Nevertheless, high tide counts for this site clearly reveal species regularly reaching nationally important numbers in winter including European white-fronted goose Anser albifrons spp albifrons, shelduck Tadorna tadorna, gadwall Anas strepera, teal Anas crecca, pintail Anas acuta, shoveler Anas clypeata, grey plover Pluvialis squatarola, curlew Numenius arquata and black-
tailed godwit Limosa limosa. In addition, nationally important numbers of grey plover, curlew, black-tailed godwit, redshank and greenshank Tringa nebularia occur during autumn passage with redshank maintaining their nationally important numbers on spring passage. During the breeding season the south Thames marshes support an outstanding assemblage of breeding birds including rare5 species such as garganey Anas querquedula, pintail, avocet and bearded tit Panurus biarmicus. Specially protected birds6 found within the site include hen harrier Circus cyaneus, short-eared owl Asio flammeus, ruff Philomachus pugnax, common tern Sterna hirundo, avocet and golden plover Pluvialis apricaria.
The saltmarshes support characteristic vegetation dominated by the saltmarsh grasses Puccinellia, the glassworts Salicornia, sea aster Aster tripolium, sea lavender Limonium vulgare and sea purslane Halimione portulacoides, with nationally scarce plants such as golden samphire Inula crithmoides4 and Puccinellia fasciculata4. The grazing marsh complexes, including seawalls, counterwalls, fleets, dykes, runnels and seasonally wet depressions provide suitable conditions for a wide range of plants and animals. The grassland habitats range from the damp muddy areas near the dykes, where characteristic plants include divided sedge Carex divisa4, small goosefoot Chenopodium botryodes4 and golden dock Rumex maritimus4, to the dry seawalls and counterwalls which support scarce species in addition to many widespread plants. These scarce plants include slender hare’s ear Bupleurum tenuissimum4, sea clover Trifolium squamosum4 and sea barley Hordeum marinum4, all of which are more abundant in the Thames estuary than elsewhere in Britain. Some seasonally damp depressions in the grassland contain the bulbous foxtail grass Alopecurus bulbosus4 whilst the more level turf is dominated by a variety of grasses including other foxtails Alopecurus, bents Agrostis, rye-grass Lolium perenne and fescues Festuca, with various herbs such as clovers Trifolium and buttercups Ranunculus also present. The rare and
specially protected least lettuce Lactuca saligna7 which was previously recorded on seawalls in this site may still survive. The dykes and fleets which are an integral part of the grazing marsh have a range of salinities and consequently support an interesting range of plants. Those nearest the sea tend to be the most brackish, and generally have sea club-rush Scirpus maritimus, common reed Phragmites australis and fennel pondweed Potamogeton pectinatus as the most abundant species; some also include nationally scarce species such as brackish water-crowfoot Ranunculus baudotii4. In the freshwater dykes further inland there is a greater variety of species, plants such as branched bur-reed Sparganium erectum and reed-maces Typha spp. may become dominant. Nationally scarce plants associated with the dykes include soft hornwort Ceratophyllum submersum4 with water soldier Stratiotes aloides4 present in dykes near Higham. The mudflats have beds of eelgrass including Zostera angustifolia4 and Z. noltii4 and the Allhallows region of the site has areas of vegetated shingle with the nationally scarce sea kale Crambe maritima4 present.
This site supports a diverse invertebrate fauna and includes nationally rare3 beetles, flies and true bugs. The ‘scarce emerald damselfly’ Lestes dryas, listed in the British Red Data Book*, in the Cliffe area of the site. In addition, 100 nationally scarce species of invertebrate have been recorded including Lejops vittata (a hoverfly), Saldula opacula (a shorebug) and the dotted fan-foot moth Macrochilo cribrumalis, all of which are restricted to wetland, estuarine or grazing marsh habitats. The water beetle fauna is of particular interest and includes four species of Bagous (aquatic weevils), three species of Berosus and the great silver water beetle Hydrophilus piceus.
1 Nationally important numbers corresponds to more than 1% of the British population.
2 Internationally important numbers corresponds to more than 1% of the northwest European population.
3 Species regarded as nationally rare are recorded from 1–15 of the 10 10km squares in Britain.
4 Species regarded as nationally scarce are recorded from 16–100 of the 10 10km squares in Britain.
5 Listed in ‘Red Data Birds in Britain’, NCC/RSPB 1990.
6 Species listed on Annex 1 of the EEC Birds Directive (79/409/EEC).
7 Plants listed on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
This pit, in the lower Hastings Beds Group, shows a 20 m section in clays of the upper Wadhurst Clay Formation, overlain by 15 m of sandstones of the Lower Tunbridge Wells Sand Formation. This is the type locality of the High Brooms Soil Bed, which contains the aquatic horsetail Equisetes lyellii in growth position. This proves the presence of fresh or near-freshwater, of a depth less than 2 metres. The Soil Bed is intermittently exposed. The site is also important for showing the nature of the Wadhurst– Lower Tunbridge Wells transition, critical for sedimentological modelling. This is a key site for studies of sedimentation and palaeoenvironments in the Wealden.
Spot Lane Quarry
The eastern face of this quarry exhibits a cross-section through a series of cambered blocks, tilted downslope, and intervening loess-filled gulls (cracks). The features are formed in sandy limestone of the Hythe Beds, and slipping has taken place over underlying Atherfield Clay. The site provides the best cross-section through a series of cambers and gulls currently visible in Britain. Further, the loess in the gulls is noted for its fauna of land snails, possibly of Wolstonian age. Loess in Britain is typically unfossiliferous, and Spot Lane Quarry is one of very few sites available where loess fauna can be studied. Spot Lane Quarry is therefore a key Pleistocene site for periglacial, mass movement and palaeoenvironmental studies.
This wetland site located in the Stour valley contains a wide range of habitats including open water, extensive reedbeds, scrub and alder carr which together support a rich flora and fauna. The vegetation is a good example of a southern eutrophic flood plain and a number of rare plants are found here. The invertebrate fauna is varied and several scarce moths have been recorded in recent years. The site is also of ornithological interest with its diverse breeding bird community. Two rare British birds cetti’s warbler and bearded tit, regularly breed in nationally significant numbers.
The gravel pits
In the western part of the site are a number of disused and flooded gravel pits with many spits and islands. In places there is a fringe of aquatic vegetation although some areas have been eroded by boating and angling. Willow and bramble scrub is well developed around the margins and also on the relatively undisturbed islands. A variety of birds use the lakes for breeding and wintering. Notable among the breeding birds are great crested grebe and tufted duck: also the rare cetti’s warbler which favours the low bramble scrub.
The lagoons and reedbeds
Most o the central part of the site has subsided and flooded due to past mining at the nearby Chislet colliery. The resulting lagoons of various sizes are an important refuge for wildfowl and are also used for breeding by great crested grebe and coot. Some of the lagoons are open to the Great Stour and the water levels fluctuate with the tide. Extensive beds of common reed Phragmites australis have developed on the peaty soils around the lagoons. Reedbeds of this size are scarce in Britain and form an important breeding habitat for several birds such as reed and sedge warblers, reed buntings and the rare bearded tit. Large flocks of swallows, martins and wagtails use the reedbeds on spring and autumn passage. In winter there is often a large roost of corn buntings and in recent years up to 20 hen harriers have also been present. A variety of moths are also known from this habitat. Species characteristic of the reedbeds include the reed dagger Simyra albovenosa, obscure wainscot Mythimna obsoleta and silky wainscot Chilodes maritimus.
A number of scarce fen plants occur in areas where the reed has been cut, and also along the open dykes intersecting the reedbeds. Species include greater bladderwortUrticularis vulgaris, greater spearwort Ranunculus lingua and bog bean Menyanthes trifoliata. These dykes also contain some rare aquatic plants, for example sharp-leaved pondweed Potamogeton acutifolius and rootless duckweed Wolffia arrhiza.
The large area of grassland to the east of the reedbeds is mainly cattle-grazed pasture with intersecting dykes. The flora is similar to that described above, although in some places the dykes are choked with reed. Waders such as redshank, lapwing and snipe breed on the fields. In winter and at times of passage flocks of waders, ducks and sometimes geese feed and roost here.
The site is important for birds throughout the year, particularly in the breeding season Mallard is the most common breeding duck but scarce species such as gadwall, shoveler and pochard also breed most years. The first British breeding record for cetti's warbler was at Stodmarsh in 1972 and the species has since become more widely distributed. In winter large numbers of wildfowl including mallard, teal, wigeon, pochard and tufted duck are present.
The Pleistocene gravels of Sturry, which belong to the 3rd Terrace of the Kentish Stour (= ? Boyn Hill Terrace of the Thames) have yielded numerous ‘Middle Acheulian’ hand axes. They provide an important comparison with the ? Early Acheulian industry from the nearby, and higher Fordwich gravel, and the interpretation of these two industries is critical for the development of Palaeolithic and Pleistocene Terrace chronologies in the Thames basin. Further work will be required before the true relationship between the Sturry gravels and the Thames Terrace sequence can be established, and the remaining deposits and exposures at Sturry are therefore of considerable geological significance.
Swanscombe Skull Site
Barnfield Pit, Swanscombe, the only site in the UK to yield unquestionable Lower Palaeolithic human remains, is probably the most famous and arguably the most important site in the British Pleistocene. In addition to its palaeoanthropological interest the site is of great importance for stratigraphy, palaeontology and Palaeolithic archaeology. For example, it is the only site in
Britain which shows evidence of a Clactonian culture stratigraphically below an Acheulian culture and it therefore provides the basis for Lower Palaeolithic chronology in this country. The palaeontological record (molluscs, mammals and, somewhat controversially, pollen) provides evidence of climatic change, with at least one major interglacial represented. Within the sequence a major hiatus is recognised; the upper part of the beds below this level show the development of a
fossil soil, which represents a further important aspect of the stratigraphic evidence at Swanscombe.
The site contains one of the richest Pleistocene vertebrate localities in Britain, and by far the richest locality attributable to the Hoxnian Interglacial. The extreme rarity of faunas of equivalent (Holsteinian) age from Continental Europe makes Swanscombe a site of considerable importance, quite apart from the world-famous human skull. The faunas include 26 mammalian taxa (eg man, macaque, lion, straight-tusked elephant, 2 extinct rhinos, horse, several deer, aurochs and small
mammals) and many birds. A horizon of fossil footprints, unique in the British Pleistocene, occurs
immediately on top of the Lower Loam.
This site supports the largest single population of the large umbellifer hog’s fennel Peucedanum officinale in Britain, a nationally rare plant confined to a few coastal localities in Essex and Kent.
The north-facing slopes are composed of London Clay and support a tall herb community,dominated by hog’s fennel, together with some areas of neutral grassland where the most frequent species are meadow barley Hordeum secalinum, false oat-grass Arrhenatherum elatius and red fescue Festuca rubra. Associated herbs include spiny restharrow Ononis spinosa, smooth tare Vicia tetrasperma, grass-leaved vetchling Lathyrus nissolia and dyer’s greenweed Genista tinctoria. The last species is scarce in Kent. Halophytes, such as lesser sea spurrey Spergularia marina, are also present.
The fauna of Tankerton Slopes has not been documented although the nationally rare moth Agonopteryx putridella, whose larvae feed exclusively on the leaves of hog’s fennel, has been recorded from the site.
This site, extending almost uninterrupted from Swalecliffe to Ramsgate, comprises mainly unstable cliff and foreshore (including shingle, sand and mudflats), with smaller areas of saltmarsh, coastal lagoons, coastal gill woodland and cliff-top grassland. There are a number of biological, geological and geomorphological features of interest within the site.
The Thanet Coast is particularly noted for its bird populations, supporting both internationally and nationally important numbers of wintering birds, with one species breeding in nationally important numbers. Associated with the various constituent habitats of the site are outstanding assemblages of both terrestrial and marine plant species, including communities of marine algae that are of limited
occurrence elsewhere in the British Isles. Invertebrates are also of interest and there are recent records of three nationally rare** and one nationally scarce* species.
The ornithological interest of the Thanet Coast is centred on the large numbers of waders and wildfowl which use the area in winter and the many species of birds that feed and rest during the spring and autumn passage. Turnstones Arenaria interpres regularly overwinter in numbers of international importance, whilst sanderlings Calidris alba and ringed plovers Charadrius hiaticula and grey plovers Pluvialis squatarola are present in nationally important numbers. A colony of little terns Sterna albifrons, a species specially protected by law and listed on Schedule 1 of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, breed in nationally important numbers at Plumpudding Island.
The cliff section at Epple Bay is of considerable historic scientific interest, since it is the type locality for one genus and six species of algae. It forms part of the survey area where chalk cliff algal communities were first studied in Britain, and the remaining natural cliff exemplifies this type of vegetation. Botany Bay and White Ness exhibit a variety of geomorphological features such as stacks, promontories, caves and a tunnel and arch formation which are no longer common on Thanet, and which also support a variety of cliff algal communities. Of particular interest are the cave communities of algae of the group Chrysophyceae; these communities are not known from the caves in the harder rocks of western Britain. The North Thanet cliff algal communities are complementary to those of the chalk cliffs at Pegwell Bay, within the Sandwich Bay and Hacklinge Marshes SSSI, the only other notable site for chalk cliff algal communities in south-east England.
The littoral and subtidal plant and animal communities of Kent are generally impoverished compared with other parts of Britain; this is principally attributed to the extremes of sea and air temperatures, the turbid sea water and the soft, unstable substrates which are prevalent. However, the foreshore at Fulsam Rock is clean and silt-free, and supports a diverse fauna on the lower shore especially in the laminarian zone, which has a well developed crevice fauna. The algal flora is well developed, and includes species which have not been recorded elsewhere in Kent, such as Chondria dasyphylla, Hecatonema maculans and Griffordia secunda.
The shingle substrate occupying part of the foreshore has given rise, in places, to a distinctive flora with species including yellow horned poppy Glaucium flavum, viper’s bugloss Echium vulgare and the nationally scarce* plants sea kale Crambe maritima and sea pea Lathyrus japonica. The nationally rare** hog’s fennel Peucedanum officinale has also been recorded from the shingle at Swalecliffe. Small areas of saltmarsh are dominated by sea purslane Halimione portulacoides with sea aster Aster tripolium and sea worm Artesmia maritima also present, whilst at Plumpudding Island the western coastal lagoon contains abundant growth of the nationally scarce* aquatic plant, spiral tassel-weed Ruppia cirrhosa.
The exposed cliffs themselves are of interest for terrestrial plants, supporting populations of the nationally rare** hoary stock Matthiola incana and sea stock Matthiola sinuata as well as the nationally scarce* wild cabbage Brassica oleracea and sea heath Frankenia laevis. Bishopstone Glen is a short steep-sided valley cut through the clays and sands of Bishopstone and is the only feature of its kind on the North Kent Coast. The sheltered head of the Glen is dominated by ash Fraxinus excelsior and field maple Acer campestre woodland which is replaced further down the valley by hawthorn Crataegus monogyna and blackthorn Prunus spinosa scrub. Young smooth-leaved elm Ulmus minor is abundant throughout. The exposed cliff top east of Bishopstone supports a large area of coastal grassland. It is mown for hay and contains a wide range of species including early hair grass Aira praecox, barren fescue Vulpia bromoides, meadow vetchling Lathyrus pratensis, bulbous buttercup Ranunculus bulbosus and thrift Armeria maritima.
Within this site strips of grassland along the seawalls are dominated by couches Elymus species and fescues Festuca species. Other flowering plants include the nationally rare** hog’s fennel, found along the seawall at Plumpudding Island, and some nationally scarce* species such as slender hare’s ear Bupleurum tenuissimum and sea clover Trifolium squamosum. Some of the more common species recorded include spiny restharrow Ononis spinosa and grass vetchling Lathyrus nissolia. The drift line debris in the vicinity of Swalecliffe supports the only population of the nationally rare** isopod (woodlouse) Eluma purpurescens on mainland Britain, and the cliffs around Bishopstone support two nationally rare** digger wasps Ectemnius ruficornis and Alysson lunicornis. It is likely that further survey may reveal additional rare or scarce invertebrate species in the site. These particular cliffs also support one of the two largest sand martin Riparia riparia colonies in Kent.
The section of coast between Beltinge and Reculver exposes the Thanet Formation, the Woolwich and Reading Beds Formation, the Oldhaven Formation and the London Clay Formation. It is the key on-land Palaeocene site in the London Basin, and is one of Britain’s most important palaeobotanical localities. The Thanet Beds contain a range of plant organs including as-yet-undescribed fruits and seeds. In addition, this section is the only locality to yield determined wood from the Woolwich Beds and one of only two sites to have yielded plant material from the Oldhaven Beds. The clays here contain a substantial assemblage with two families, six genera and numerous species unique to this site in the London Clay flora. Three genera Palaeobruguier (mangrove), Shrubsolea (Rutaceae) and Jenkinsella (Ceridiphyllaceae) are unique to this site. A rich invertebrate and vertebrate fossil fauna also occurs within the site and the section has been extensively studied over many years. The best exposures currently occur on the foreshore, and many of the best are towards the Spring tide and Low Water mark. The stretch of coastline between Epple Bay and Ramsgate is the national reference locality for the Santonian stage of the Upper Cretaceous chalk in Britain.
The exposed sections at North Cliff together with the nearby Pegwell Bay complement the Folkestone Warren and Dover to Kingsdown Cliffs SSSIs and include several stratigraphically important marker beds such as Bedwell’s Columnar Band and Whitaker’s Three Inch Band. The top parts of the Santonian stage are very fossiliferous and the Marsupites zone contains a distinctive and famous band of the pyramidal-shaped sea urchin Echinocorys. The North Cliff is also important for Quaternary studies. It provides lithostratigraphic and biostratigraphic evidence for environmental changes during the Middle and late Devensian in SE England. The sequence of sediments exposed in the cliff overlies frost-disturbed chalk and comprises: 1) Middle Devensian Solifluction deposits; 2) Late Devensian loess and brickearths; 3) a series of Late- glacial Solifluction deposits separated by fossil soil horizons considered to represent the Bolling and Allerod Interstadials; 4) Postglacial hillwash. Foreness Point is a key site for coastal geomorphology and an essential member of the suite of chalk coastal sites. It is a classic cliff-shore platform system and contains the most extensive intertidal chalk shore platform in Britain. It has been studied in greater detail than most other cliff-platform sites and demonstrates particularly well the links between cliff and platform erosion and beach development. Cliff recession, historically at a rate of 0.3 m per year, contributes flint and chalk pebbles to the beaches, which also contain locally important accumulations of sand, much of it organic in origin. The cliffs and platform also show interesting relationships with bedrock structure. The cliffs at Walpole Bay and Grenham Bay consist of Upper Chalk, cut by a swarm of closely-spaced, vertical extension joints, striking NW-SE. The joints, which are well-developed here, are oblique to the main Thanet fold trend (E-W). They are particularly good examples of fractures formed in the ‘Late Cenozoic Stress Domain’, that is, structures formed as a result of extension related to late Alpine plate collision.
* Nationally scarce species are those which occur in 16–100 10 km squares in
** Nationally rare species are those which occur in 1–15 10 km squares in Great
The Swale includes the largest remaining areas of freshwater grazing marsh in Kent and is representative of the estuarine habitats found on the north Kent coast. The habitats comprise chiefly mudflats, saltmarsh, and freshwater grazing marsh, the latter being intersected by extensive dykes and fleets. The area is particularly notable for the internationally important numbers of wintering and passage wildfowl and waders, and there are also important breeding populations of a number of bird species. Associated wit the various constituent habitats of the site are outstanding assemblages of plants and invertebrates.
The mudflats of the Swale are extremely rich in invertebrates, over 350 species having been recorded. Some of these, such as the polychaete worm Clymenella torquata are known from nowhere else in Britain, while other more widespread species are present at high densities and provide food for the huge numbers of birds, especially waders, which use the Swale.
The saltmarshes are among the richest for plant life in Britain with for example particularly good representation of the saltmarsh-grasses Puccinellia and the glassworts Salicornia. Other abundant species include sea aster Aster tripolium, sea lavender Limonium vulgare, sea purslane Halimione portulacoides and common cord-grass Spartina anglica while less- common plants include small cord-grass Spartina maritima* and golden samphire Inula crithmoides*. As well as providing feeding and roosting places for many birds, the saltmarshes are of entomological interest; for example, this is the habitat of the scarce ground lackey moth Malacostoma castrensis*.Also on the seaward side of the sea walls are smaller areas of other habitats. The harder substrates of shingle below high water mark in places support large mussel beds, which in turn attract different birds from those of the mudflats, such as turnstone Arenaria interpres. There are several areas of shell, or shell sand beach, notably at Shellness on Sheppey and at Castle Coote west of Seasalter. These have an interesting calcareous flora with plants characteristic of both sand ant shingle beaches: sea kale Crambe maritima*, yellow horned-poppy Glaucium flavum, marram grass Ammophila arenaria and sea rocket Cakile maritima occur for example. Where undisturbed these beaches attract breeding ringed plover Charidrius hiaticula and little tern Sterna albifrons. The grazing marsh complexes, including seawalls, counterwalls, fleets, dykes, temporary runnels, etc. provide suitable conditions for a wide range of plants and animals. The grassland habitats range from the damp muddy areas near the dykes, where characteristic plants include divided sedge Carex divisa* and small goosefoot Chenopodium botryodes* to the dry seawalls and counterwalls which support several less-common in addition to many widespread plants. These less-common plants include the specially-protected hogs fennel Peucedanum officinale** and least lettuce Lactuca saligna**, slender hare's-ear
Bupleurum tenuissimum*, sea clover Trifolium squamosum* and sea barley Hordeum marinum*, all of which are more abundant in the Thames estuary than elsewhere in Britain. The more level grassland is dominated by a variety of grasses including foxtails Alopecuris, bents Agrostis, rye-grass Lolium and fescues Festuca with various herbs such as clovers Trifolium, and buttercups Ranunculus also present. The flora of the dykes and fleets varies according to the salinity. Those nearest the sea tend to be most brackish, and generally have sea club-rush Scirpus maritimus, common reed Phragmites australis and fennel pondweed Potamogeton pectinatus as the most abundant species. In the fresher water further inland there is a greater variety of species and plants such as branched bur-reed Sparganium erectum and reed-mace Typha latifolia may become dominant. Plants associated with the dykes include beaked tasselweed Ruppia maritima and soft hornwort Ceratophyllum submersum*. There is also a good invertebrate community with beetles, dragon and damsel-flies, and flies especially well represented. Other less extensive habitats in the Swale include water-filled disused clay-pits, and small patches of scrub and woodland. These provide additional variety and interest to the site, and in some cases also support uncommon plants or animals. The bird interest of the Swale is centred on the large numbers of waders and wildfowl which use the area in winter, and on autumn and spring migrations. Several species: wigeon Anas penelope, teal Anas-crecca and grey plover Pluvialis squatarola regularly overwinter in numbers of international importance+. Others, including shoveler Anas clypeata, knot Caladris canutus, dunlin Caladris alpina and spotted redshank Tringa erythropus are regularly present in winter in nationally significant numbers+. Many of the birds use more than one habitat, some for example feed on the mudflats at low tide and then move up to roost on the saltmarsh or on fields inland of the sea wall. The commoner breeding dry-land birds include skylark Alauda arvensis, meadow pipit Anthus pratensis and yellow wagtail Motacilla flava, and among the wetland birds mallard Anas platyrhynchos, shelduck Tadorna tadorna, coot Fulica atra, moorhen Gallinula chloropus, lapwing Vanellus vanellus and redshank Tringa totanus. Scarcer breeding birds include teal Anas crecca, gadwall Anas strepera, Anas clypeata and pochard Athyia ferina. Garganey Anas quercedula, pintail Anas acuta, ruff Philomachus pugnax and black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa have bred, orattempted to do so in recent years.
+ Wildfowl and Wader Counts 1987--88, D G Salmon et al, Wildfowl Trust 1988.
* Species regarded as 'scarce' in Britain (recorded from 16--100 of the 10 x 10km squares
** Species recorded as 'rare' in Britain (recorded from 1--15 10 x 10km squares) and listed
in British Red Data Books: 1. vascular Plants, 2nd Ed F H Perring & L Farrell, RSNC
Tower Hill to Cockham Wood
This site is of both biological and geological interest. It contains woodland representative of that on Tertiary deposits in Kent and supports a rich insect fauna. In addition, Upnor Quarry exposes a complete Tertiary stratigraphic sequence.
Much of Cockham Wood consists of neglected coppice, principally ash Fraxinus excelsior, with oak Quercus robur standards. The shrub layer, which is especially varied towards the central part of the wood, is dominated for the most part by elm Ulmus spp., field maple Acer campestre and hawthorn Crataegus monogyna. However, many other shrubs are also represented including some characteristic of base-rich soils, such as dogwood Cornus sanguinea, and others of more acid soils,
such as honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum. Amongst the ground flora brambles Rubus fruticosus, dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis, and nettles Urtica dioica are generally dominant.
To the west of the wood is an area of dense scrub, but with grassy clearings maintained by rabbits. Elm suckers and hawthorn dominate the vegetation. The ground flora here are sparse, though the clearings support a number of herbs typical of calcareous pastures including yellow-wort Blackstonia perfoliata and ploughman’s spikenard Inula conyza. A narrow grassy zone, dominated by sea couch-grass Elymus pycnanthus, occurs at intervals along the junction between woodland and intertidal mudflats. Minor slippages and wave action have led to erosion of this habitat. A number of scarce species were formerly found in this zone but only one, bithynian vetch Vicia
bithynica, remains. Tower Hill and Lower Upnor Quarry are sandy areas which support a very rich
insect fauna. Of particular note are the aculeate hymenoptera (bees and wasps), about a third of all British species being found here including 7 nationally rare species.
The geological interest of Upnor Quarry may be defined as follows: The Upnor Quarry exposes a complete Tertiary age stratigraphic sequence from the Thanet Sands, through the Woolwich and Oldhaven Beds, into the lower part of the London Clay. The Woolwich and Oldhaven Beds are of particular interest, both in the sedimentary evidence they afford of depositional conditions, and in
the abundant molluscan fauna that they yield. The complex lateral facies changes in these formations makes Upnor a vital site to be viewed in comparison with other Palaeogene localities in the eastern London Basin.
The site is within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
This site is one of few remaining examples of unimproved meadow in Kent and it supports a number of species scarce in the county. In recent years this habitat type has become increasingly uncommon as most fields have now been ploughed or drained with a resulting loss of interest.
These meadows lie on gault clay but are crossed by calcareous (calcium-rich) streams flowing from the point where the chalk meets the less permeable clay. They are farmed on traditional lines with an annual hay cut and winter grazing. The combination of relatively infertile conditions coupled with traditional management has led to the development of a rich flora containing a total of approximately 130 plant species. A wide variety of grasses and sedges occurs together with typical meadow species such as pepper saxifrage Silaum silaus, lesser knapweed Centaurea nigra, meadow buttercup Ranunculus acris and cuckoo flower Cardamine pratensis, whilst in the dampest areas rushes Juncus spp. and meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria are frequent. Also present are species
which are rare or scarce in Kent, such as marsh valerian Valeriana dioica and three sedges: carnation sedge Carex panicea, brown sedge C. disticha and ‘common’ sedge C. nigra. The fen areas also contain fen bedstraw Galium uliginosum along with ragged robin Lychnis flos-cuculi. A drier section of the most northerly meadow contains a large population of meadow cranesbill Geranium pratense which is scarce in Kent. Orchids found on the site include common spotted orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii and hybrids between this and the southern marsh orchid
Dactylorhiza praetermissa. The damp areas support a range of mosses including Calliergon cuspidatum, Brachythecium rutabulum and a rare calcareous marsh species Cratoneuron
filicinum.The meadows are surrounded by old hedges which provide a habitat for woodland plants such as bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta, traveller’s joy Clematis vitalba and honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum.
This site provides exposures in the Dartford Heath Gravel, a deposit which has been the subject of considerable controversy since the turn of the century. It has been variously attributed to the Boyn Hill Terrace, part of the Swanscombe sequence or to an older, higher terrace. The presence or absence of archaeological material in the gravel itself is questionable, but a working floor of Acheulian age has been discovered in loam overlying the gravel in Wansunt Pit. The question of whether or not the Dartford Heath gravel is equivalent to any part of the Swanscombe sequence, and what its relationship is to the Thames Terraces, is one of the more burning issues in the Thames Pleistocene studies, and therefore the exposures here are of considerable importance.
The site at Wateringbury contains a tufa deposit important for Quaternary studies. Tufa is a soft calcium carbonate commonly precipitated by springs which have flowed through chalk or limestone. Tufa is geologically important as it often provides a detailed and complete stratigraphy, preserving a rich and diverse fauna commonly in situ and therefore reflecting local and regional environmental
changes. The Wateringbury tufa contains a detailed record of early Flandrian (10,000 to 7,500 years ago) mollusc biostratigraphy (mollusc assemblage zones a to d). It is particularly valuable in demonstrating the order of species recolonisation after the late Devensian cold stage, and for the length and completeness of the record. It is also notable for the small area of deposition which allowed large numbers of terrestrial snails to be incorporated in the tufa. These are of greater value for interpreting regional faunal changes than are autochthonous (in situ) freshwater and swamp species. Related pollen, ostracod and vertebrate records are also available from the site making this a key locality for understanding the changing environments of the early Flandrian across southern England.
West Blean and Thornden Woods
West Blean and Thornden Woods, lying to the north of Canterbury, comprise a mosaic of ancient semi-natural woodland and conifer plantation within the ancient Blean Forest complex and include several rare woodland types. The area is noted for birds with over 50 species of breeding bird having been recorded The woodland also supports a diverse invertebrate fauna including 5 nationally rare** and 13 nationally scarce species. The woods are situated on London Clay and gravel drift deposits which have given rise to a range of free to poorly drained moderately acidic soils. Management within the broadleaved woodland compartments range from coppiced sweet chestnut Castanea sativa and birch Betula spp, through coppice-with-standard to high forest dominated by sessile oak Quercus petraea and beech Fagus sylvatica. Peripheral areas of more mixed coppice include hornbeam Carpinus betulus, ash Fraxinus excelsior, hazel Corylus avellana and field maple Acer campestre. About one third of the site has been clear felled and replanted with conifers such as Corsican pine Pinus nigra and Scots pine Pinus sylvestris. The high forest is characterised by a diverse shrub layer with many species typical of ancient woodlands including wild service tree Sorbus torminalis, midland hawthorn Crataegus laevigata, wild crab-apple Malus sylvestris and butcher’s broom Ruscus aculeatus. Ground flora is dominated by bramble Rubus fruticosus and bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta, with an abundance of honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum and lesser periwinkle Vinca minor. Bracken Pteridium aquilinum and heather Calluna vulgaris predominate the more open acidic areas within the forest, whilst dog’s mercury
Mercurialis perennis is found growing profusely on the more base rich slopes. The differing ages of the coppiced areas have given rise to a diversity of habitats that support a wealth of ground flora species including wood anemone Anemone nemorosa, hairy woodrush Luzula pilosa, wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides and common cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense. Permanently wet areas are common over the impervious London Clay. Associated with these are crack willow Salix fragilis, alder Alnus glutinosa, pendulous sedge Carex pendula and tufted hair grass Deschampsia
cespitosa. Lying to the north of Thornden Woods are several small agriculturally unimproved pastures which provide excellent feeding habitat for invertebrates and birds. The grassland supports a diversity of plants including pepper saxifrage Silaum silaus, dyersgreenweed Genista tinctoria, meadow vetchling Lathyrus pratensis and black knapweed Centurea nigra.
Many of the invertebrates that have been found here are associated with the early stages
of the coppice cycle and with other open areas in woodland. The site is a particularly important locality for the nationally rare and specially protected heath fritillary butterfly Mellicta athalia whose larvae feed on common cow-wheat. Other species that favour the more open spaces include the nationally scarce lead coloured pug moth Eupithecia plumbeolata and the pearl bordered fritillary butterfly Boloria euphrosyne. A nationally rare ladybird Coccinella distincta inhabits the nests of the red wood ant Formica rufa which are very abundant within coppice and at the edge of rides.
A small number of scarce species associated with mature timber and dead-wood habitats have been found, and two nationally scarcer water beetles Agabus chalconatus, found in shady woodland pools and Hydraena testacea, typical of flowing water are also recorded from the wood.
The wide range of woodland habitat types present within the site supports an exceptional diversity of birds, and the site has well-established breeding populations of many of the scarcer bird species found in the area. Species for which the site is particularly important include hobby Falco subbuteo, woodcock Scolopax rusticola, long-eared owl Asio otus, nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus, tree pipit Anthus trivialis, nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos, grasshopper warbler Locustella naevia, and willow tit Parus montanus.
This site also supports an important local population of the declining and specially- protected hazel dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius.
* 'A Nature Conservation Review' edited by D A Ratcliffe, 1977, Cambridge
** Listed in the Red Data Book: 2, Insects edited by D B Shirt 1987, NCC.
The principal interest of this site is the use of its abandoned ragstone mines by a variety of hibernating bats. The surrounding area is chiefly mixed secondary woodland on former heathland, with pockets of remnant heath. With the increasing scarcity of bats in south-east England and the continued loss of the few suitable hibernacula remaining available to them, these mines represent an important winter refuge for bats in the county. Five species have been recorded hibernating here: whiskered bat Myotis mystacinus, Brandt’s bat M. brandti, Daubenton’ bat M. daubentoni, Natterer’s bat M. nattereri and long-eared bat Plecotus auritus. The number of bats using the mines declined from the 1950s onwards, largely because of disturbance, but the fitting of grilles (allowing access for bats, but not humans) and devices to maintain the air flow through the mines is thought to have led to an increase in numbers in recent years. However, it is very difficult to locate all the bats using the tunnels and different species use them at different times during the winter. Thus it is extremely hard to estimate the true numbers using the mines.There is also evidence that some use is made of the
mines by bats in summer. A rich insect fauna exists in and around the tunnels, flies (Diptera) being particularly well represented, and some moths also hibernate in the mines. The mixed woodland around the old mines is typical of that which now covers much former heathland on the Lower Greensand in Kent. Oaks Quercus petraea and Q. robur, birch Betula sp., bracken Pteridium aquilinum and Scots pine Pinus sylvestris dominate the vegetation, but remnants of former heathland, including Calluna vulgaris, bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus and heath bedstraw Galium
saxatile, occur locally. The area has supported a rich heathland breeding bird community, including
This site is an example of one of the few remaining ancient woodlands on Gault Clay in Kent. The wood has a rich ground flora and an outstanding breeding bird community.
Westerham Wood is composed largely of oak Quercus robur maidens with hazel Corylus avellana and ash Fraxinus excelsior coppice. A range of other native trees and shrubs is present, including hornbeam Carpinus betulus, field maple Acer campestre and spindle Euonymus europaeus. Traditional coppice-with- standards management can be traced back to the late eighteenth century and was continued until earlier this century when large amounts of timber were removed.
Little management ensued up until the 1970s, when some coppicing was reinstated and a number of blocks were planted with conifers. Downwash from the Chalk and Upper Greensand has given rise to clays and sandy loams overlying much of the Gault Clay. The resultant variation in soil acidity and moisture content coupled with traditional management on a long- established woodland site, is reflected in the diverse ground flora. Bramble Rubus fruticosus, dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis and bracken Pteridium aquilinum are most abundant, but 34 plant species indicative of ancient woodland also occur, including herb paris Paris quadrifolia, wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides and green hellebore Helleborus viridis. Plants characteristic of wet woodland are an important feature, especially of the rides. 12 sedge Carex spp. have been recorded, including thin-spiked wood-sedge C. strigosa and pale sedge C. pallescens both of which are uncommon in Kent; common valerian Valeriana officinalis and opposite-leaved golden saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium are found in the northern part of the wood. In addition, 77 bryophyte species
(mosses and liverworts) and almost 300 species of fungi have been recorded. The insect fauna is also diverse.There are a number of ponds within the wood including those in the south originating from a series of old marl workings. Although most are silted up and heavily shaded, a number of aquatic plant species do occur including fine-leaved water dropwort Oenanthe aquatica, pink water-speedwell Veronica catenata and the water crowfoot Ranunculus aquatilis. The latter species is scarce in Kent. Seven dragonfly species have been recorded from the pond’s vicinity and frogs and toads are frequent. The wood supports a rich breeding bird community, including lesser spotted woodpecker and woodcock. Nightingales have also bred in the past.
Wouldham to Detling Escarpment
This 10 km stretch of the chalk escarpment to the north of Maidstone includes representative examples of woodland, scrub and unimproved grassland habitats on chalk, which support a number of rare** and scarce* species of plants and invertebrates. The Culand Pits are also of importance because of their rich and unique fossil fauna which includes a variety of fish and reptiles.
Much of the site would traditionally have been managed as open grazing land, but in common with most surviving rough grazing land in the south-east, continued lack of grazing has led to the development of scrub and woodland, leaving more limited areas of open grassland.
Although most of the woodland is recent in origin, it has already acquired a rich community of plants and animals. The tree canopy is dominated by various proportions of beech Fagus sylvatica, ash Fraxinus excelsior, whitebeam Sorbus aria, wild cherry Prunus avium, silver birch Betula pendula and yew Taxus baccata. Understorey shrubs include hazel Corylus avellana, hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, midland hawthorn C. laevigata, elder Sambucus nigra and privet Ligustrum vulgare, while the ground flora includes dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis, ivy Hedera helix, lords-and-ladies Arum maculatum and spurge laurel Daphne laureola. Scarce* plants include lady orchid Orchis purpurea and stinking hellebore Helleborus foetidus. Box Buxus sempervirens, a rare**
small tree, is native here at one of a handful of sites in the south-east. The storm of October 1987 has added variety to the woodland by opening up some of the areas with a closed canopy.
Scrub on the site includes the full range of succession from open grassland to the woodland already mentioned. Scattered clumps of hawthorn and wild rose Rosa spp. (including the scarce Kent+ species R. rubiginosa) gradually merge and a varied scrub develops, with more than a dozen shrub species, including dogwood Cornus sanguinea, privet, hazel, hawthorn, wayfaring tree Viburnum lantana, yew and the rare** box. Eventually tree species become dominant and woodland develops. The ground flora, which begins as rank chalk grassland, becomes shaded by the developing scrub,
eventually resembling that of the woodland. Chalk grassland survives as fragments within the scrub, and a number of larger areas also occur. The most open areas are dominated by fine grasses including red and sheep’s fescues Festuca rubra and F. ovina, with low-growing broadleaved plants such as stemless thistle Cirsium acaule, fairy flax Linum catharticum, bulbous buttercup Ranunculus bulbosus, wild thyme Thymus praecox and salad burnet Sanguisorba minor. Most of the grassland is taller, dominated by upright brome Bromus erectus with broadleaved plants including hairy violet Viola hirta, marjorum Origanum vulgare and cowslip Primula veris. Other plants in the grassland include: a number of orchids – fragrant orchid Gymnadenia conopsea, common spotted orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii, twayblade Listera ovata and pyramidal orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis; several plants scarce in Kent+ such as chalk milkwort Polygala calcarea, dropwort Filipendula vulgaris,
burnet rose Rosa pimpinellifolia and adder’s-tongue fern Ophioglossum vulgatum; several nationally scarce* species such as man orchid Aceras anthropophorum and ground pine Ajuga chamaepitys; and the nationally rare** meadow clary Salvia pratensis. The site supports a rich insect assemblage typical of southern calcareous grassland, including a number of uncommon species. The moths (Lepidoptera) of Culand Pits have been best studied and the fauna includes 11 scarce* species, most notable of which is the straw belle Asptitates gilvaria, and one rare** species. Oncocera obductella all associated with chalk grassland plants. A further 6 scarce* species of grasshopper (Orthoptera), bug (Heteroptera) and beetle (Coleoptera) have been recorded, as well as a rare bug Hallodapus montandoni, which is associated with ants in short grassland: these species are all typical of chalk grassland. In addition 3 scarce* woodland moths and one scarce*
beetle Mordellistena neuwaldeggiana typical of woodland edge, are known from the site.
The geological interest within the site occurs in the Upper and Lower Culand Pits. The sequence of Chalk in these pits has yielded rich and diverse collections of fossil fishes which complement those from Lewes in Sussex. The material is superbly preserved, frequently without significant crushing or distortion, and the fish are usually articulated, and thus have been the subject of much scientific research. Type fish material from this locality includes Cantioscyllium decipiens, Sardinoides
illustrans, Ischyodus incisus, Scyliorhinus antiquus, Pachyrhizodus basalis, Osmeroides levis and Plethodus pentagon. Most species from here have a widespread distribution; however, the site has also yielded some uncommon species of which the following are of importance: 4 species of Pachyrhizodus occur at this site -- this is a problematical teleost genus known from England, North America and Australia, whose relations are poorly known; Dinelops ornatus is known only from a handful of specimens; Tomognathus is poorly known and is the first reported member of the helosaurs, a group of deep-sea fishes of which only 3 are known, one from here; the type and only specimen of the shark Cantioscyllium is from this site – the specimen is a vertebral column and associated braincase, rarely preserved in sharks. The Lower and Middle Chalk (Cenomanian/Turonian) of these pits has been an important source of reptiles. These include turtles (Chelone, Protostega), plesios (Cimiliosaurua), pterosaursaurs (Ornithocheirus) and the type specimen of a lizard (Delichosaurus). These quarries have yielded one of the best Lower/Middle Chalk reptile
**rare: recorded from 15 or less of the 10 10 km squares in Britain.
*scarce (ie nationally scarce): recorded from 16 to 100 10 10 km squares in Britain.
scarce in Kent: recorded from between 1% and 5% of the 2 2 km tetrads in Kent.
Wye and Crundale Downs
This site contains a mosaic of different habitats including species-rich chalk grassland, neutral grassland, calcareous fen-meadow communities, scrub and woodland on chalk, and wet alder woodland. The grassland and woodland contain outstanding assemblages of plants including 2 rare species which are specially protected. It also supports an outstanding assemblage of invertebrates including many local and rare species. The species-rich grassland provides a particularly good habitat for moths and butterflies including a specially protected moth. The woodland and scrub also support a diverse breeding bird community. Part of the site, the Devil’s Kneading Trough, is of importance for its fossil remains and geomorphological interest which extends on to the Gault clay
plain to the south west. Throughout Britain calcareous (calcium-rich) grassland has been lost through agricultural intensification and lack of management. On this site most of the species-rich grassland is within the National Nature Reserve. In the grassland, tor-grass Brachypodium pinnatum, sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina, and upright brome Bromus erectus are the most abundant species, but the turf is rich in other typical downland plants. These include horseshoe vetch Hippocrepis comosa, autumn gentian Gentianella amarella, cowslip Primula veris, squinancywort Asperula cynanchica and common milkwort Polygala vulgaris. Also present are several orchids including the rare and specially protected early and late spider orchids Ophrys sphegodes and O. fuciflora, and the rare dwarf or Kentish milkwort Polygala amarella. In some places, scrub has developed; this is mainly hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, but other species characteristic of the chalk, such as wayfaring tree Viburnum lantana, wild privet Ligustrum vulgare and traveller’s joy Clematis vitalba are also found. A variety of woodland types are found on the site associated with different soils. On the steep chalk slopes beech Fagus sylvatica and ash Fraxinus excelsior high forest predominate; where heavier clay soils overlie the chalk, ash, hazel Corylus avellana and
hornbeam Carpinus betulus coppice occur under oak Quercus robur standards. The shrub layer includes field maple Acer campestre, wild cherry Prunus avium, wych elm Ulmus glabra and whitebeam Sorbus aria. The ground vegetation is dominated by bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta, dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis, wood anemone Anemonenemorosa and bramble Rubus fruticosus agg., together with a rich variety of other woodland plants. Of particular note are colonies of green hellebore Helleborus viridis, and lady orchid Orchis purpurea which is restricted in Britain to Kent. The woodlands support a rich community of breeding birds such as hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes, lesser-spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos minor and nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos. Beneath Wye Downs a calcareous (calcium-rich) stream flows through grassland and woodland on Gault clay, to give rise to marshy grassland, flushes and wet alder woodland-
habitats. The grassland and flushes support pepper saxifrage Silaum silaus, hay rattle Rhinanthus minor, adder’s-tongue fern Ophioglossum vulgatum, ragged robin Lychnis flos-cuculi, sedges and rushes including round-fruited rush Juncus compressus (scarce in Kent). Areas of taller vegetation are dominated by lesser pond sedge Carex acutiformis with giant horsetail Equisetum telmateia, hemp agrimony, Eupatorium cannabinum, fleabane Pulicaria dysenterica and wild angelica Angelica sylvestris. The wet alder woodland includes old alder Alnus glutinosa and ash coppice stools under scattered mature
oak standards. This area has a ground flora which includes pendulous sedge Carex
pendula, greater tussock sedge Carex paniculata (scarce in Kent), remote sedge Carex
remota, dog’s mercury and ramsons Allium ursinum; opposite-leaved golden saxifrage
Chrysosplenium oppositifolium grows beside the stream. Species-rich ground flora in drier
parts of the woodland includes herb Paris Paris quadrifolia and greater butterfly orchid
Platanthera chlorantha (scarce in Kent).
The mosaic of habitats within the site and in particular the species-rich grassland, support
an outstanding invertebrate community with records of at least 86 nationally rare or scarce
species. The site is important for moths and butterflies and 24 of those recorded recently
are nationally scarce including the plumed prominent moth Ptilophora plumigera and the
Duke of Burgundy butterfly Hamearis lucina. The rare black-veined moth Siona lineata
occurs here at one of its very few locations in Britain and is specially protected under
Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The Devil’s Kneading Trough Geological Conservation Review site is a key site for Quaternary studies, providing detailed lithostratigraphic, biostratigraphic and geomorphological evidence for Devensian Late-glacial and Flandrian environmental changes. An important part of the interest comprises a tufa deposit with molluscan faunas that permit a reconstruction of early to mid-Flandrian (Mollusc zones a to d) environmental changes at a time when the landscape became increasingly afforested. The site is an outstanding geomorphological and stratigraphic locality demonstrating a classic dry valley and associated scarp-foot fan. The deposits in the fan, which overlies a fossil soil and radiocarbon-dated marsh deposits, date from the Late glacial Stadial and represent remarkably intense and rapid erosion, possibly a product of local conditions. The fan deposits and those of postglacial age in the valley floor are particularly important for their Mollusca stratigraphy, which together with the lithostratigraphy, has provided very detailed evidence of changing environmental conditions over a period spanning from the Late Devensian to the present day. Devil’s Kneading Trough is therefore one of the most important periglacial sites in Britain for its classic forms, erosional history and the biostratigraphy and lithostratigraphy of its associated deposits.
* 'A Nature Conservation Review' edited by D A Ratcliffe 1977, Cambridge.
This woodland site is situated on the west-facing slope of a dry chalk valley. Hornbeam woodland, on the clay-with-flints soils on the gentle upper slopes, grades into beech with ash and field maple on the thin chalk soils of the steep lower slopes. The wood is noted for the many orchids that occur, including the scarce lady orchid Orchis purpurea. The uncommon round-leaved wintergreen Pyrola rotundifolia also grows in one of the open grassy clearings. A variety of woodland birds breed.
Hornbeam is predominant as old coppice on the upper slopes with some ash coppice and a few oak and ash standards. The ground flora is dominated by bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta.
Lower down the slope on the chalk soils the wood is more varied. Beech is often the commonest tree with hazel coppice beneath, but ash and field maple are also present. The ground flora is also more varied. Dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis is the most abundant plant but there are also violets Viola species, primrose Primula vulgaris and wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides. Uncommon plants such as spurge-laurel Daphne laureola and butcher’s broom Ruscus aculeatus can also be found. Lady orchid, fly orchid Ophrys insectifera, man orchid Aceras anthropophorum and common twayblade Listera ovata are some of the many orchid species found in the wood. Areas of scrub and open grassland are maintained to provide a variety of habitats. The scrub consists of a mixture of shrubs common on chalk soils such as dogwood and wayfaring-tree. The grassland is dominated by false brome Brachypodium sylvaticum. Other common chalk plants include common rock-rose Helianthemum nummularium and cowslip Primula veris. Orchids are also present including greater butterfly orchid Platanthera chlorantha. Many typical woodland birds breed including great-spotted woodpecker, tawny owl, nuthatch and nightingale. There is also a large badger population.
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in Kent, England. In England the body responsible for designating SSSIs is Natural England, which chooses a site because of its fauna, flora, geological or physiographical features. As of 2008, there are 98 sites designated in this Area of Search, of which 67 have been designated due to their biological interest, 21 due to their geological interest and 10 for both.
The links to maps for some of the Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Kent are below.
Below are links to map pages of each area of Special Scientific interest in Kent. Here you will be able to view various maps of each location including Aerial, Satellite, Dual View and even old Ordnance Survey maps with a modern day Google map overlay, Cycle routes and much more.
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