Polhill: the next chapter
This year you have the opportunity to help us restore 40 acres of land at Polhill Bank - protecting it for rare species such as the Yellowhammer and Kentish Milkwort.
Your donations will also help us create a new circular walk and install new interpretation boards, enhancing your visit to this wonderful site in the Darent Valley.
Polhill bank is a beautiful piece of chalk grassland with stunning views of the Sevenoaks area. It is a wonderful place to explore and a haven for a range of wildlife. Kent Wildlife Trust has managed the site at its own cost in recent years to keep it in the condition you now find it in, but this fragile arrangement has given the site no long-term security.
Every £100 donated will help us restore 250 metres of precious chalk grassland for the future
We have been blown away by your support of our Polhill appeal and we have nearly raised the £64,100 target. As so many of you are still generously donating to this appeal, we want your contributions to continue to make a difference to Polhill. Therefore we have added an additional stretch target of £13,700, which will cover another year's management costs at Polhill.
The ten-acre nature reserve has become available to purchase, along with a huge extension which will protect 40 acres overall, for wildlife, for the future. This exciting opportunity, if successful, will bring:
- Secure the Current Reserve (10 acres) and convert 8 acres of arable farmland back to chalk grassland.
- Restore land between the M25 and national rail line- creating a continuous nature corridor.
- Create new interpretation boards and a circular route around the site.
- Protect and extend the space available for iconic species such as the adder and grass snake, the red-listed yellowhammer, and the rare Kentish Milkwort
- Create new access points making management easier, and allowing grazing animals to move across the entire reserve
Learn more about the reserve
Nature at Polhill
Many chalk grassland species can be found at Polhill, such as man, bee and pyramidal orchid as well as the less obvious common dodder, a parasitic plant found growing here on rock rose.
The steep south-east facing slopes of the original reserve lie on thin soils over chalk and have developed a distinctive array of plants and animals which are adapted to warm relatively dry conditions. This along with centuries of grazing pressure from both wild animals and farm livestock has given rise to a unique habitat with as many as forty species of plant per square yard.
The grassland and scrub provide habitats for a wide variety of butterfly including chalkhill blue, brown argus and the spectacular dark green fritillary. Some of the less easy to see insects found here such as Pempelia obductella, a species of micromoth which is almost confined to Kent and only found on the North Downs. It feeds on marjoram.
Birds such as chiffchaff, whitethroat, blackcap and yellowhammer are frequently seen in summer using the patches of scrub as song posts and nesting habitat.
Arable reversion to chalk grassland
We will be buying just over 11 acres of currently arable land which is mostly on very thin chalk soils. If we can fence and graze the land with livestock, it will begin to revert quite quickly to chalk grassland. This will provide a wildlife corridor between the existing grassland areas and the Eco-bridge to our grassland over the railway.
As an example of how this land will develop over the years, we can look at the land just below the original Polhill Bank reserve. This land was arable only 15 years ago and now supports a wide variety of chalk grassland species including marjoram, bird-foot trefoil, crossword and pyramidal orchid.
The brick bridge over the railway was probably built when the railway was first established during the 1800’s to provide access for farming operations on land cut off by the railway cutting.
It has since fallen into disuse and has vegetated over to provide an effective ‘Eco-bridge’ between the arable land we will be reverting to grassland and a small area of grassland on the opposite side.
A variety of shrubs have already colonised the bridge, dog rose, ash, and maple as well as flowers like black knapweed and marjoram providing nectar sources for butterflies flying between grasslands.
We hope to manage the vegetation on the bridge to help maintain it as a route which wildlife will be able to use to bridge the gap between the reserve areas. We also hope to be able to allow our grazing livestock to use this bridge to walk between the two areas of grassland without the need for road transport!
The old orchard
This area is a remnant of a relatively modern orchard with only very few dwarf rootstock trees remaining. The habitat today, however, is quite rich with a mosaic of shrubs, trees, grassland and bramble.
Plants like marjoram, crosswort and field rose provide plenty of nectar for butterflies and other insects. Yellowhammers can be seen and heard regularly on the many small shrubs and trees.
The Polhill Bank reserve was established in 1992 after it was recognised as an important site for its chalk grassland plants and insects. Kent Wildlife Trust has been managing it informally at its own cost, making the plans to secure and restore it so important.
The south-east facing slopes provide great views over the Darent Valley and to our Fackenden Down Nature reserve on the opposite side of the valley.
Currently, Kent Wildlife Trust volunteers spend a significant amount of time cutting scrub (particularly dogwood) back to prevent further encroachment of scrub into areas of grassland. We hope that future improvements to fencing and the addition of surrounding areas of land will enable us to control scrub regrowth using grazing animals such as sheep and cattle.
The site as a whole has a rich history, dating back from the Roman era, and more recently, as a subject of much of the artist Samuel Palmers work- such as this painting of Sepham Farm.
Help give Polhill a future
Thanks to the incredible generosity of a donor, we have the funds to purchase the site, however, we still need your help to restore and expand this threatened site, and help give it a future.
Over the coming months, you can learn more about this wonderful site, and how you can get involved in writing the next chapter for Polhill. Please check back at here to keep in touch with our plans.