What you need to know about Wilder Blean and West Blean Woods

Wilder Blean and West Blean Woods: Here's what you need to know

This ancient woodland will soon be home to bison and other grazing animals as part of the Wilder Blean project, a ground-breaking initiative that will return an abundance of wildlife for everyone to enjoy. Bison do an excellent job in boosting biodiversity through their natural behaviours and are our very own ecosystem engineers.  

In preparation for the bison and other animals arriving, there are changes being made to the site that include construction. These changes will affect the main area of the woodland as shown on the map, and it is important that you are aware of the changes of access for pedestrians, dog walkers, cyclists and horse riders.  

Nature-based solutions such as this wilding initiative are critical in addressing the climate and nature crisis and you can help too by adhering to our guidance.  

Map of West Blean woods showing site user information

Walking 

The main public rights of way marked yellow on the map will remain accessible. Some of the informal paths will no longer be accessible due to the new fencing around the bison enclosures. There will be new kissing gates installed at all the entrance points shown on the map.  

Some of the permissive or informal paths will no longer be accessible due to the new fencing around the bison enclosures.   

Soon we hope to create a loop path that will allow you to walk around the perimeter of the reserve. The existing colour-coded walking routes will be updated and expanded upon, with new signage and we will be asking that people stick to waymarked routes. Sticking to waymarked routes will limit disturbance to wildlife and our grazing livestock. 

Cycling 

Cycling through the reserve will be permitted on specific routes as marked on the map along the New Road and Braggs lane. However, cycling/mountain biking in the woodland off these main tracks will not be permitted for the safety of the cyclists and the free-roaming animals. When cycling, please be courteous and ride at a sensible speed, as there could be livestock and other users on the same tracks at any time.  

Dog walking 

Owners and their dogs are very welcome to enjoy the site, however, dogs must be always kept on a lead. 

Horse riding  

Due to safety reasons, horse riding will no longer be allowed on site after October 31st, 2021. We have spoken with all local riders that we know of and there are alternative areas to ride in nearby such as Clowes Wood.  

We have been in talks with the Director of Equestrian Safety at the British Horse Society (BHS) and our project partners, Wildwood to discuss the potential for safe horse riding alongside the Wilder Blean project plans being implemented.  After several discussions between the Director of Safety and colleagues at BHS we concluded that continued horse riding through this area would pose an unacceptable safety risk.   

Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to stop horse riding on-site after 31 October 2021. While there are no official bridleways across West Blean and Thornden Woods, having hosted horse riders informally up until now we know that this will be a significant change and disappointing news, but it is a decision based on safety for all site users including wildlife. 

There are other sites very nearby such as Clowes Wood, owned and managed by Forest England, that can be accessed for horse riding with a permit purchased through the Toll Rides Off-Road Trust (TROT). Details are available through the TROT website.

Work will begin shortly, and we ask that for your own safety and the safety of others that you obey all signage on-site, always keep away from machinery and work areas, and follow any instructions from staff or contractors whilst visiting the reserve. 

Thank you for your understanding and for helping us create a Wilder Kent.