East Blean Woods (National Nature Reserve)
Managed by Kent Wildlife Trust, East Blean Wood NNR covers over 122 hectares of ancient semi-natural woodland situated on a patchwork of differing soils. Carpets of bluebells and patches of heather are found in the acidic areas; while orchids and other species are located in more alkaline areas, altogether providing a vibrant and varied display.
The wood has been heavily managed in the past and after the coppice is cut, much of the ground is colonised by common cow-wheat, which is the food plant of the caterpillar of the nationally rare heath fritillary butterfly. Along with the butterflies the reserve is a haven for dragonflies and nesting birds, including warblers and woodpeckers, nuthatches and tree creepers.
The car park is situated on the north side of Hicks Forstal Road (as shown on our car parks map), which runs from the A291 near Wildwood towards the village of Hoath. The reserve is criss-crossed with some 3 kilometres of paths which are mostly public footpaths, and there are plenty of information boards at the main access points.
West Blean & Thornden Woods (Site Special Scientific Interest)
West Blean & Thornden Woods form a vital link for both flora and fauna and users between East Blean Wood NNR and other important woodland to the west. The reserve itself covers about 490 hectares and is managed by Kent Wildlife Trust.
Due to the careful coppice management the wood now supports a variety of species including the rare heath fritillary and white admiral butterflies, bluebells, wood anemones, long-eared owls, the yellow necked wood mouse and the dormouse.
There are car parks on Thornden Wood Road (see map), and access paths lead from all the car parks, including a 2 mile hard track that runs the length of the reserve from west to east and a circular wheelchair accessible route.
Kent Wildlife Trust’s Wildart Trail is an art and sensory trail in Thornden Wood, suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs. The circular trail is 1.1 miles (1.8 km) in length and winds through different woodland habitats, using natural, local materials to create sustainable, non-invasive artwork which will blend into the surroundings, wooden posts carved with images of wildlife found in the woods, drawn by children from local schools, can be found on the trail and more images have been routed onto coppiced tree stumps.
This 236 hectares of mostly conifer wood is managed by the Forestry Commission, and is full of plenty of good clear paths and routes to explore. Clowes Wood is one of the best places to hear the remarkable song of the nightjar, the best time of year to hear this is on summer evenings in May and June. Later, in July, this is one of the best places in Kent to see glow worms.
The car park is located off the main Canterbury to Whitstable road (see map), and the old Canterbury Whitstable railway line (now the Crab & Winkle Way cycle route) passes through the west of the wood.
This 141 hectare site was purchased by the Woodland Trust in 2004 to be the flagship wood celebrating the bicentennial of the battle of Trafalgar.
The site has seen extensive replanting of the once arable land and the introduction of a considerable nautical theme with a number of interpretative structures (statue of Nelson, Victory Footprint, Chain Link and Trafalgar battle plan in trees) themed around the Battle of Trafalgar but which are linked to the importance of trees/woodlands and how different tree species were traditionally used.
The real highlight of a visit to Victory wood however are the breathtaking views across the Kent coastline and the nearby Blean Woods from the long ridge at the southern end of the site.
The Wood has a good network of permissive paths across it and these can be accessed on foot or form the car park in the North West of the wood (see map).
Blean Woods (NNR)
Blean Woods NNR is owned and managed by a number of partner organisations including the RSPB, and is home to a variety of wildlife. In summer the wide rides and sunny glades are alive with butterflies and other insects, look out for damselflies, dragonflies and butterflies, including the rare heath fritillary butterfly. As dusk falls, you may see nightjars gliding on silent wings, and hear their churring call. Listen also for woodpeckers and some of the 35 pairs of nightingales, and if you are lucky you may catch sight of a Tawny Owl.
This is a wonderful place for quiet walks in beautiful ancient woodland. There are five trails of up to eight miles long that meander through the woods. Some of which are wheelchair and pushchair friendly. The main car park is at Rough common (see map) and beyond the waymarked trails the reserve sports an extensive network of foot paths, wider gravel paths and rides
On a Kent Wildlife Trust Reserve between Harbledown and Chartham Hatch, Bigbury Camp is an important historical site, an Iron Age Hill Fort dating back more than 2000 years, the most likely candidate for Caesar’s first battle in Britain. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, meaning that the site has to be carefully conserved for its archaeological importance as well as its wildlife value.
Kent Wildlife Trust’s Blean project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is working to conserve areas of woodland for wildlife and people to enjoy, encouraging the return of native trees and managing reserves to create habitats for a wide range of species. The aim is to remove most of the tree cover from the monument, reproducing the open heathland habitat that would have been present 2000 years ago, and leaving a few large standard trees, allowing the earthworks to be seen, especially from the North Downs Way which runs through the site.
As part of the management plan for the site, Highland Cattle are grazing and browsing to keep some areas more open and there may be goats introduced in the future.
South Blean Woods
The most south-westerly part of the Blean complex and, although separated by the A2, is an important part of the continuous woodland. This Kent Wildlife Trust reserve covers 320 hectares of undulating (often quite steep!) topography and a variety of soil, which produces a greater variety of habitats than the other woodlands in the Blean. This benefits a variety of plant species such as bluebell, wood anemone, heather, sedges and sphagnum mosses. Bird species such as nightjar, nightingale, lesser-spotted woodpecker and buzzard regularly breed there.
The wood is situated near Chartham Hatch and best accessed by Public Footpath or country lanes , although there is very limited parking at Hunstead Wood on Primrose Hill, Chartham Hatch.
View the Woodlands of The Blean google map which shows approximate ownership boundaries for all the woodlands listed above and more. Click on an area for more information on ownership and conservation designations. To find out more about these designations visit Nature on the Map.