Posted: Tuesday 14th February 2017 by GHitchcock
Our Thames Gateway Officer Greg Hitchcock shares a gallery of narrated photos to show the beauty of the Lodge Hill site that is currently at risk from Medway Housing Plans.
One of the frustrations we have faced over the past several years’ of campaigning to #SaveLodgeHill is communicating what the site is like. No amount of quoting the findings of survey reports can replace actually visiting the site. The scale and complexity of it are hard to conceive without being able to wander around it for a day or so, despite the availability of aerial photographs. Unfortunately, the site is not open to the public, and only parts of it are visible from public rights-of-way. Media coverage of the site has by default shown these areas – images of derelict buildings, chain-link fencing and ‘Keep Out’ signs.
There is much more to the site than this, however, and most of it is a rich mosaic of grasslands, scrub and woodland. Even those parts that remain from the use of the area for military training are being taken over by nature – the disused and derelict buildings support bat roosts, and rubble piles are home to reptiles.
In November 2016, with the permission of the site’s owners, the RSPB and Kent Wildlife Trust visited Lodge Hill. Photos from that trip are below. More photos can be seen on the RSPB’s blog.
Hopefully, these photos will give you a better idea of what we’re trying to save. What you can do to help can be found HERE.
Much of Lodge Hill is located in a shallow valley between two ridgelines (Chattenden Ridge and Deangate Ridge, on the Hoo Peninsula in Medway, Kent). This is a view from half way up the northern side, looking approximately south-east. (The area of closely mown grass top left is a golf course located the other side of Lodge Hill’s southern boundary.)
Another view from the same location, this time looking in a more southerly direction. (Again, the closely mown golf course the other side of the southern boundary can be seen in the distance).
The view south down into the valley shows a variety of tree species and habitat structures.
Scattered along the base of the valley are buildings and infrastructure left over from the use of the site for military training. Many of these structures provide roosts for bats.
Lodge Hill is a rich mosaic of habitat types, from early successional habitats that have developed on the ‘brownfield’ areas, to ancient woodland.
Much of the site is dominated by dense scrub patches, and it is this habitat that provides breeding sites for the largest nightingale population in the Country.
By the time of this November visit, the nightingales were long gone, having left to spend the winter in Africa, but it was certainly a good time for autumn colour.
A disused track, being overtaken by nature, leads us back down to the bottom of the valley.
Patches of silver birch provide the brightest splashes of autumn colour amongst the scrub, woodland and grasslands.
There are significant areas of grassland at Lodge Hill as well, both along the bottom of the valley, as here, and on the slopes.
Much of the site is impenetrable, the tracks remaining from its historical military training past providing useful avenues for navigation.
An access road along the centre of the valley is now only used for security patrols (and by visiting ecologists). Slowly being taken over by nature, the area provides good habitat for reptiles.
The beauty of the site is enhanced in autumn, with grasslands, birches, blackthorn and oaks providing a variety of colour.
This is a view from the bottom of the valley, looking eastwards. The chimney you can see in the distance is that of Kingsnorth Power Station.
Tucked away near the centre of the site is a ‘mock village’ with half a dozen fake terrace houses that were used for training purposes. While not suitable for human habitation, a number of them provide homes for bats!
There are countless mature trees on the site, from scattered individuals, to small copses such as this one, to standards within the ancient woodlands. While the ancient woodlands within and adjacent to Lodge Hill will not be developed, the predicted population that would live in the new town (approximately 11,640) is likely to cause a significant impact.
As dusk fell on our visit the autumn colours were enhanced. While we were there for several hours, we only managed to cover a relatively small part of Lodge Hill.
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