Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership

Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership

Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership


  Key to codes

19. Hothfield Common Local Nature Reserve
Kent Wildlife Trust, Ashford Borough Council

B - 523, 10

Valley bog habitat, Hothfield Common

  Parking and main access on Cade Road, Hothfield. From Ashford, take the A20 towards Maidstone. Turn left onto Station Road, signposted Hothfield, then turn right into Cade Road. GR 973458.

Encompassing Kent's last surviving valley bog and one of its few remaining heathlands, Hothfield Common is a very special nature reserve. Agricultural modernisation and other factors have led to losses of these habitats, and left the common as an oasis for rare and specialised wildlife, such as the sundew. Like the Venus fly-trap, this tiny plant is carnivorous, enticing insects with sweet dew-like liquid on its leaves, which then envelop its victim. Other bog dwelling plants include bog asphodel and the sphagnum mosses which, when they die, form the layers of peat in the mire. The bog is a sensitive habitat that must not be walked on - please keep to the boardwalks on site. The reserve is carefully managed, by grazing and other means, to conserve its plants, insects (including many dragonflies, which can be seen in summer) and other wildlife. 

For site leaflets, guided walk details, educational material and other information: Kent Wildlife Trust 01622 662012


  20. Larkey Valley Wood Local Nature Reserve
Canterbury City Council
B - 450, 652
- Chartham (1.75 miles), Canterbury East (2.5 miles)

Root plate of tree blown down in Great Storm
Root plate of tree blown down in Great Storm


Parking and main access entrance on Cockering Road: take the A28 out of Canterbury, through Wincheap. After the A2 underpass, take the next left, St. Nicholas Road. GR 124557.

The great storm that hit the south of England in October 1987 did widespread damage to woodlands across Kent. Larkey Valley Wood suffered more than most but, in common with other sites, has recovered well, demonstrating how powerful nature's processes of regeneration can be. This ancient woodland's wildlife is as rich as ever, including badgers, dormice, hawfinches, nightingales and wild flowers such as wood anemone and violets. Where beech woodland was lost in the storm, a natural mix of woodland is now regenerating, while other areas are managed by coppicing.

More information: Canterbury City Council 01227 862000


  21. No Man's Orchard
Owned by Chartham and Harbledown Parish Councils

B - 667
R - Chartham (1.5 miles)

Apple Day Celebrations, No Man's Orchard
Apple Day celebrations, No Man's Orchard

  Access: in Chartham Hatch village, turn down Bigbury Road, then follow the sign for the North Downs Way through the playing field, through the woods and into the orchard. GR 108573.

There are now far fewer orchards in Kent than there used to be, when the county really was 'the garden of England'. What is more, the orchards remaining have changed a great deal, the large, old trees being replaced with modern dwarf varieties that make harvesting easier. No Man's is one of only a handful of traditional orchards remaining in the Stour Valley. It retains the large trees so valuable to birds, insects and lichen. 

Blossom, windfall fruit and wild flowers among the grassland also attract wildlife, which visitors can look out for from the comfort of the sculptural seating. With their traditional fruit tree varieties and special place in local culture and landscapes, old orchards like this should be conserved as living examples of farming history, but are often difficult to protect. Fortunately, this orchard has been purchased by two parish councils and is being carefully managed as a place for the community to enjoy.

For volunteering and other information: contact KSCP


  22. Blean Woods National Nature Reserve
RSPB, English Nature, Woodland Trust

B - 24 
R - Canterbury W. (2 miles)

  Parking and access: from Canterbury take the A290, Whitstable Road. After 1.5 miles, turn left, signposted Rough Common, then follow the signpost for the reserve on your right. GR 122595.

This ancient woodland is one of the most extensive in southern England, forming part of the Blean - a belt of several large woodlands to the north and west of Canterbury of tremendous conservation value.

Parts of this particular woodland are privately owned, with restricted access, but most of it is an RSPB nature reserve, incorporating areas owned by English Nature and the Woodland Trust. The site is perhaps most notable for its colonies of the exceptionally rare heath fritillary butterfly, and internationally important areas of oak-hornbeam woodland. Blean Woods is also an excellent reserve for birds including nightingales, nightjars, nuthatches and tree creepers.

Historically, the Blean was managed by coppicing which has been re-established through much of the wood. Some of the sweet chestnut coppice is being converted to mixed coppice and high forest - habitats that support more wildlife. It may surprise you to know that open areas with few or no trees are of great value within the woodland as a whole, and are being deliberately created. Here heather grows on the acidic soils, and these mini-heathlands, characteristic of the Blean, are perfect habitat for nightjars and other important species.

With traditional management, past and present, so much in evidence, and such large areas of ancient woodland remaining, the Blean as a whole cannot be underestimated in its significance. It is, in its own way, as valuable as other more widely known wooded areas, such as the New Forest and the Forest of Dean.

For site leaflets, guided walk details and other information: RSPB 01227 462491


Wood ant nest, Blean Woods
Wood ant nest, Blean Woods

  23. Stray Lees
Privately owned

B - 4, 5, 100, 101 
R - Canterbury West (2 miles)
Access: take the A290 into Blean village. Access is via a public footpath just south of the Hare and Hounds pub. GR126603.

Swathe of Lady's Smock, Stray Lees


The pasture here is one of the Stour Valley’s few remaining grasslands on neutral soils that has not been agriculturally improved. Stray Lees is semi-improved, retaining some plants characteristic of neutral grassland, including grass vetchling. It is also quite wet, due to the presence of the Sarre Penn stream, and contains damp loving wild flowers such as water mint, fleabane and lady’s smock, and many sedges and rushes. The site is also good for birds and common butterflies. Scrub has invaded about half the site since regular grazing stopped. Future management will involve clearance of some of this scrub and grazing of the pasture.

More information: contact KSCP


  24. The Great River Stour at Fordwich, and Westbere Marshes

B - 4, 5, 8, 29, X81 
R - Sturry (0.25 miles)

Park in Sturry or Fordwich. Access: follow public footpath from bridge over the river in Fordwich.

Volunteer reed cutting, Westbere
Volunteer reed cutting, Westbere


The section of the Great Stour east of Fordwich is particularly good for exploring the river and nearby wetlands. There is access via a circular walk which takes you right alongside the Stour, past lakes and reedbeds, returning through Westbere. The area is most notable for its birdlife - great crested grebe and pochard appear on the lakes in winter, swans and herons can be seen in the wet meadows, and the rare bearded tit lives in the large reedbeds.

More information: contact KSCP


  25. Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve
English Nature

B - PO8 (Stodmarsh end) 8, 29, X81 (Grove Ferry end)
C - 1

Wetland habitats, Stodmarsh
Wetland habitats, Stodmarsh

  Parking and access: Stodmarsh end: from Canterbury take the A257 towards Sandwich. Pass Canterbury Golf Club and turn left onto Stodmarsh Road. In Stodmarsh village, turn left after the Red Lion pub and follow the sign to the reserve. GR 221609. Grove Ferry end: take the A28 from Canterbury towards Margate. After Upstreet village, turn right, signposted Grove Ferry. Cross the railway and turn left after the Grove Ferry Inn - the reserve car park is to the left. GR 236631.

This internationally important wetland, with its lakes, reedbeds and grazing marshes, seems like a very wild, natural place. However, human industrial activity has played a part in its creation. Although the land here would always have been a natural wetland, flooded regularly by the Stour, from the 18th century, work was carried out to control flooding and drain the land. In the 20th century, many wetlands were lost as drainage became more and more efficient, but the fate of Stodmarsh took a different turn due to the opening of the Chislet colliery. The land began to subside above the mines under Stodmarsh as early as the 1930s, and by the time the mine closed in 1968, this had led to large-scale flooding, and the creation of the lakes and reedbeds that make Stodmarsh so valuable for wetland wildlife today.

The reserve is perhaps most noted for its birds. Winter visitors include ducks - shoveler, teal, widgeon - and waders - redshank, snipe, and the rare and secretive bittern. In spring and summer, migrants include reed and sedge warblers, and one of the reserve's resident rarities - the bearded tit - is active. The site is also a stronghold for the water vole, which sadly is in serious decline, due in part to the widespread drainage of wetlands.

For leaflets, guided walk details and other information: English Nature 01233 812525.


Reed warbler
Reed warbler

  26. Preston Court Farm
Privately owned

B - K10, 622

Preston Court Farm
Preston Court Farm

  Parking and access: park in Preston village next to the church at the end of Court Lane, and follow waymarked paths. GR 238608.

Before the modernisation of agriculture, which led to the drainage of many wetlands, much farmland alongside the River Great Stour would have contained valuable wildlife habitats. Damp pastures, ponds, wet woodlands and seasonally flooded meadows would have been home to wetland birds, aquatic plants and amphibians. River wildlife such as otters would also have benefited from these nearby habitats. At Preston Court Farm, a scheme called Countryside Stewardship has been used to put back some of these features along a particularly picturesque section of the Stour. Trees have been planted and intensively farmed arable land returned to pasture. Wetland birds are already enjoying these new habitats and plants like marsh marigold are making a comeback.

Note: Current open access agreement ends 30/9/2002.

Educational and other information: contact KSCP


  27. Grove Ferry Picnic Site
Kent County Council

B - 8, 29, X81

River trips at Grove Ferry
River trips at Grove Ferry

  Parking and access: take the A28 from Canterbury towards Margate. After Upstreet village, turn right, signposted Grove Ferry. Cross the railway and turn left after the pub - the picnic area car park is to the right. GR 236631.

This attractive site alongside the River Great Stour offers visitors a lot more than just a picnic area. It's an ideal place to take a riverside stroll, play games or go fishing. Boat trips along the river depart from the nearby Grove Ferry Inn (contact the pub for details). Three recreational trails - the Stour Valley Walk, the Saxon Shore Way and the Wantsum Walks all pass through the site, making this an ideal starting point for exploring the surrounding countryside. The flat terrain also makes this an ideal area for cycling. Just across the road is Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve - an internationally important wetland. Grove Ferry also has some value for wildlife - its meadows are managed to encourage wild flowers and insects.

For more information: Kent County Council 01622 221767


  28. Clowes Wood
Forestry Commission

B - 25 
C - 1
Parking and access: from Tyler Hill village, follow Hackington Road towards Chestfield and Whitstable. The car park is on the left at Gypsy Corner. GR 136629.

Small-leaved lime, Clowes Wood
Small-leaved lime, Clowes Wood


The trees that grow in Clowes Wood in a sense tell the story of woodlands in Britain. The small-leaved lime is a very uncommon tree in Kent, and here grows only as a few very old coppice stools and new saplings. However, this tree was once one of the commonest in southern Britain. Before large scale clearances by Neolithic people, most of Britain was shrouded in a primeval forest which we now call the 'wildwood'. Analysis of fossilised pollen grains has shown that the small-leaved lime was one of a few dominant trees in the wildwood of southern England.

The coppice woodland here represents a much later chapter - that of traditional woodland management that reached its peak in the Middle Ages. The final episode - modern commercial forestry - now dominates the wood in the form of plantations of fast-growing, non-native conifers. Despite this there is still room for a lot of wildlife here, including a wide variety of birds and woodland plants.

More information: Forest Enterprise 01580 211044 or contact KSCP


  29. East Blean Wood National Nature Reserve
Kent Wildlife Trust

B - 26
Parking and access: from Sturry village, take the A291 towards Herne Bay. Turn right 2 miles after the level crossing, into Hicks Forstal Road. The car park is 1 mile further on. GR 193643.

Heath fritillary, East Blean Wood
Heath fritillary, East Blean Wood


This nature reserve forms part of the Blean, one of England's largest and most important areas of ancient woodland. Many parts of the wood are managed specifically to increase numbers of the rare heath fritillary butterfly, by opening up glades and rides (wide tracks) and encouraging heathy vegetation. Much of the site is managed by coppicing, while in other areas, planted non-native conifers have been removed and regeneration of natural woodland encouraged. In spring, bluebells and wood anemone carpet the ground. Other wild flowers here include sanicle, common spotted orchid, lesser periwinkle and yellow archangel, while the key food plant for the heath fritillary is common cow wheat. The reserve also has a varied bird population and is a good place to see fungi in autumn.

For site leaflets, guided walk details and other information: Kent Wildlife Trust 01622 662012.


  30. Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve & Country Park
Kent County Council, Kent Wildlife Trust
B - 94, 100, 101 (Country Pk & northern section)
R - Minster (2.5 miles - Country Park and northern section) or Sandwich (2 miles - southern section)

Saltmarsh habitat, Pegwell Bay
Saltmarsh habitat, Pegwell Bay

  Parking and main access: Country Park and northern section - the Country Park is signposted from the A256 north of Sandwich (GR 343634). Southern section - from Sandwich town centre, take Sandown Road and Guilford Road to the Sandwich Bay Estate (a toll is payable) then follow Princes Drive north to the car park (GR 357591).

This large, internationally important nature reserve encompasses a combination of habitats unique in south-east England. The mudflats attract many migratory birds in winter, including shelduck, redshank and curlew. On the saltmarsh grow specialised plants such as sea lavender and a number of rare grasses. Natural deposition of sand and shingle has resulted in a superb ‘system’ of dunes and dune pastures (grazed in winter) with many scarce, characteristic plants such as southern marsh orchid and sea holly. The rocky shore and sea cliffs are home to rare seaweeds and internationally important numbers of turnstones. 

The Country Park is a good point from which to explore the northern section of the reserve. The Country Park itself was once a landfill site, which was covered in topsoil and planted with trees and is now a wildlife haven in its own right. There is a waymarked trail around the site and a hide ideally placed for observing the birdlife of the mudflats and estuary. The dune systems are to be found in the southern and central sections.

For guided walk details, leaflets and other information: Kent Wildlife Trust 01622 622012.


  31. Reculver Country Park
Canterbury City Council, Kent Wildlife Trust

B - 26, 655
Visitor centre

Reculver towers and sea defences
Reculver towers and sea defences


Parking and main access: the country park is signposted from the A299 Thanet Way - follow signs to the main car park. GR 226694.

The unmistakable Reculver towers (owned and managed by English Heritage) mark a place important for its history, archaeology, geology and wildlife. The geology of the sandstone cliffs is fascinating, and visitors can see how erosion and coastal protection has shaped this landscape. It was the threat of cliff erosion that persuaded local people to demolish their parish church in the 19th century, leaving only the towers, as a guide to ships. Further back in time, Reculver had been an important settlement, first established as a Roman fort, then the site of an Anglo-Saxon monastery, and later a thriving mediaeval village. Visitors can enjoy cliff top walks or look for the wildlife inhabiting the cliffs and beach. This is a good site to see coastal birdlife and seashore plants and invertebrates. In the visitor centre are displays, leaflets and other information about all aspects of the site.

Visitor centre opening times. October to March: Sundays only, 11 am - 3 pm. April to August: Tuesday to Sunday and bank holidays 11 am to 5 pm. September: Wednesday to Sunday 11 am to 5 pm. 

For more information: Visitor Centre 01227 740676 or Kent Wildlife Trust 01622 662012.


  Sites in the Kent Downs AONB  
  Sites in and Around Towns  

Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership
4, Javelin Way, Henwood, Ashford, Kent TN24 8DH
0300 333 6490

Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership
4, Javelin Way, Henwood, Ashford, Kent TN24 8DH
0300 333 6490