Covering 222 acres (90 ha), Blean Woods NNR is the largest ancient broadleaved woodland in southern England. Hornbeam, hazel, beech, oak, birch and sweet chestnut dominate on the reserve, while brambles, bracken and bluebells cover the woodland floor. Plants such as common spotted orchid, common centaury, wood anemone and St John’s wort are found in the woodland rides. The Blean is home to many woodland birds such as woodpeckers, tree creepers and nuthatch. Long-eared owl, spotted flycatcher, nightjar, bullfinch and hawfinch are also seen and there is an important population of nightingales. If you are lucky, in summer you might hear the sweet song of the golden oriole, an occasional summer rarity. The woods are one of the few areas in Britain that support the heath fritillary butterfly and white admirals and the scarce seven-spot ladybird are also found here. Rare mammals include the yellow-necked woodmouse and the dormouse.
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About the area
The White Cliffs of Dover are an English icon – the epitome of our island heritage and sense of nationhood. They also mark the point where the Kent Downs AONB, that great arc of chalk downland stretching from the Surrey Hills and sometimes known as ‘the Garden of England’, finally reaches the sea. This is a well-ordered and settled landscape, where chalk and greensand escarpments look down into the wooded Weald to the south.
Many historic parklands, including Knole Park and Sir Winston Churchill’s red-brick former home at Chartwell, are also worth visiting. Attractive settlements such as Charing, site of Archbishop Cranmer’s Tudor palace, and Chilham, with its magnificent half-timbered buildings and 17th-century castle built on a Norman site, can be found on the Pilgrim’s Way, the traditional route for Canterbury-bound pilgrims in the Middle Ages.
In the nature reserves, such as the traditionally coppiced woodlands of Denge Wood and Earley Wood, and the ancient fine chalk woodland of Yockletts Bank high on the North Downs near Ashford, it is still possible to experience the atmosphere of wilderness that must have been felt by the earliest travellers along this ancient ridgeway.
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