In addition to the thriving wildlife, the blean woods are home to a unique type of woodland – ancient woodland. Richard I gave the Church Wood to the Cathedral Priory in 1189 as repayment for a crusade debt.
After that, the woods fell into religious hands until the mid-20th century. The woodlands are almost entirely classified as ancient woodland. In fact, more than half of the area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and around a third is a Special Area of Conservation.
The Blean woodlands’ team has been working hard to prepare the woodlands for the introduction of bison in spring 2022. As part of the Wilder Blean project, the RSPB and Rewetting the Woods teams have been busy making dams for bison in the area using our wood products and accessories. In the coming years, the bison will join the existing herd of four bison and the bison – the first ever in the United Kingdom – and will roam the woods in a free-range area.
The Blean Wildlife Fete will take place on Saturday 9th October. It will feature stalls from wildlife organisations, children’s activities, and a mini tour of the new infrastructure. To get involved in the event, simply visit the Wilder Blean website. You can also donate to help save animals. The RSPCA is another great place to donate. There are also many events and activities for the whole family to enjoy.
The Blean wildlife is diverse. A variety of species live in the area, including the endangered heath fritillary butterfly. This species requires sunlit vegetation and wide rides for proper breeding. Other fritillary species have also been recorded in the Blean. Ancient woodlands also support a diversity of birdlife. The Golden oriole and hawfinch are both known to breed in The Blean. There are many walking trails to explore and photograph.
Wilder Blean aims to reestablish keystone species, such as the bison. The Trust has trained its staff to be prepared for animal escapes and have a wealth of experience in managing bison in different settings. A robust system ensures the safety of the animals and the environment. A risk assessment for the site was undertaken, and the appropriate procedures were put in place in case of an animal escape. The project is expected to take place in 2020 and last until 2023.
The Wilder Blean landscape project aims to link core woodland reserves within the Blean complex. It will consist of 1550 hectares of poor and moderate land. It will also support the vision of the Kent Wildlife Trust to make the Blean one of the largest and oldest ancient woodlands in the UK. While the project is unlikely to result in the release of a bison, it will be a good place to begin a wildlife conservation project.