Uncovering Coombe Down- Chalk Grassland Appeal
Uncovering Coombe Down- Thank you
Thanks to your incredible support of our appeal, a late surge of donations saw us fly past the £69,800 target. Thanks to you we can now put our plans into action and start to restore this high value piece of chalk grassland this year.
Coombe down will further add to recent chalk grassland acquisitions in the area and will provide further crucial habitat for the species that thrive in this threatened and rare habitat
Restoring chalk grassland is crucial in our vision to create a wilder Kent. Chalk grassland is Europe’s version of the rainforest; up to 40 species of flowering plants can be found in just one square metre of this rich habitat. Incredibly 2.5% of the UK’s chalk grassland is found around Dover, so it is crucial that we protect our existing reserves, and bring back other chalk grassland sites that have been neglected.
Since 2014 we have successfully purchased and restored both Old Park Hill and Nemo Down, and a new extension at Lydden Temple Ewell. Now, with your support, we can look to bring back another beautiful chalk grassland site. Click on the mapto the left to see our work in the wider Dover area.
Species you can bring back to Coombe Down
Coombe Down has a rich past, and with your help, we can uncover the scrub, bringing back chalk grassland habitat.
This will create conditions that could see the return of species long lost to the downs.
Find out more below:
The iconic Chough has been used on Canterbury’s coat of arms since 1380, having been taken from Thomas Becket’s coat of arms. Sadly it has long been extinct in Kent after destruction of it's habitat, and persecution.
As the only crow with a red bill and red legs, the all-black chough is easy to identify, but it's harder to spot.
The chough lives on short, grazed grassland and coastal heathland where it probes the ground with its long, red bill for insects, such as leatherjackets and beetle larvae. Acrobatic in flight, it has a 'chee-ow' call which is similar to, but louder than, the Jackdaw's. The female lays three to five eggs and both parents help to raise the chicks.
The chough is about 38-40 cm long, with a wingspan of 82cms and weighs 310 grams.
Choughs build nests in small colonies in crevices and fissures, on rock ledges and cliff faces, and even in abandoned buildings. The Chough is on the Red List for Birds and is a protected species. There are only small coastal populations in Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man and Cornwall, but we hope to bring them back to Dover.
Wart Biter Cricket
The Wart-biter bush-cricket gets its unusual name from the Swedish practice of the 1700’s of allowing the cricket to bite warts from the skin. They are able to do this with their strong mouthparts.
Although this treatment is no longer in vogue, the name has stuck. The Wart-biter is actually omnivorous, feeding on a range of herbs and insects, including other grasshoppers.
Even though they have wings, Wart-biter’s normally move about by walking. They rarely fly as they are too heavy and their wings are not large enough; this makes them particularly vulnerable to predators.
Historically the Wart-biter used to be widespread in southern England, but now it is considered one of Britain’s most endangered insects. It can only be found at five sites in the UK, one of which is our nearby Lydden Temple Ewell nature reserve. If we can restore Coombe Down, we aim to create a new population of wart-biters at Coombe Down
The Frog Orchid is a short orchid, between 4-20 cm tall. Because it is a relatively small orchid, it can be easily shaded out by larger vegetation, so it is crucial that the surrounding grassland is well grazed.
Conversion of land to arable and general decline of well grazed chalk grassland saw a rapid decrease in frog orchid numbers in the South of England. Coombe Down is the last place in Kent that it was recorded, and we hope to bring it back to the slopes.
Work will need to be done, as it was at Nemo Down and Old Park Hill, to begin conservation grazing, starting with fencing and access. Our grazing herds keep the scrub back, and allow the rich chalk grassland habitat to return, and then stay. This is how the land would have been managed in the past, and by allowing natural processes to take control, we can see great wildlife abundance at Coombe Down again
We have been monitoring our Nemo Down and Old Park Hill nature reserves since we restored them.
Maps like this help to show the distribution of key indicator species, which are evidence of rich chalk grassland. Restoration has seen the level of scrub across Nemo Down reduce from 90% to under 25% in just a few years. We can do the same at Coombe Down.