Our work at the Partnership takes us all over the Stour Valley, and over the years we have worked on a considerable list of sites. This portfolio lists some examples of our work.
Barn Owls were once common, but their numbers have crashed over the last two centuries due to loss of hunting grounds and traditional nesting sites, such as old farm buildings and hollow trees. Nest boxes like the ones we put up have helped to reverse this decline, with numbers starting to recover since the 1990s.
Westgate Parks are four distinctly different landscape character areas. Together they form a delightful stretch of recreational land which follows the Great Stour river from the heart of Canterbury’s busy city centre into the countryside.
The Whitreeble Project was an attempt by a few local people to get a street tree planting scheme off the ground in Whitstable. Due to Kent County Council no longer having the funds to plant street trees none are now being planted in Kent unless through a development, in conservation areas or through community initiatives.
A pool and weir fish pass was created that runs through woodland beside Buxford Meadow. A footbridge was built and path work done as part of the project – to provide safe access.
The aim was to restore this stretch of river by changing the profile of the river bed and banks. Using a mechanical excavator we dug a series of pools into the river bed and placed the gravel which was removed onto the edges of the river. This created a narrower, deeper, winding channel during summer when the water level is low. We also fenced the river banks to prevent cattle grazing and made repairs to a flood defence bund.
The aim was to improve the visual amenity of this stretch of river bank where vegetation was being eroded by trampling. We started by thinning trees, especially sycamore to allow more light to reach the river bank and river and encourage river and bankside plant establishment.
The Great Stour Way is a surfaced multi-user path – for use by walkers, cyclists and wheelchair users – alongside the Great Stour between Canterbury and Godmersham. KSCP worked for many years to bring about this important sustainable transport link. Establishing the first phase of the path, from Canterbury to Chartham, was an aim written into our very first business plan when KSCP was set up, in 1993. In 2011 this stretch was finally surfaced along its entire length and launched as the Great Stour Way. Since then a second phase, between Chartham and Godmersham, has been opened.
At Long Rock we created two scrapes (shallow wet areas) for birds, of 0.2 and 0.3 hectares in size. We used excavators to dig the scrapes, piling the spoil around them to form protective bunds. Public use of the site has been disturbing ground nesting and over-wintering birds, and water vole, so we installed information panels to make people aware of how valuable Long Rock is and how they can help. In future we hope to realign footpaths to reduce disturbance further.
A physic garden is a natural pharmacy – a garden full of medicinal herbs to cure a range of illnesses and complaints. We worked with pupils from Simon Langton Girls School, who were involved in all stages of the project, from initial ideas and designs through to planting and opening to the public. Raised beds were constructed, each representing a different part of the body, featuring plants used for treating them. The design also featured a lavender maze. Mosaics with designs representing body parts were installed to identify the different beds.
The aim was to improve this children’s play area, which was overgrown, vandalised and surrounded by off-putting high fences. We started by doing some consultation with children from Godinton Primary School and local residents. It was clear there was a need for a rejuvenated play area. Ideas from the consultation were taken forward in designs for a new woodland play area that would be sympathetic to and feel part of the woodland.
This project was a long-term, major programme of biodiversity enhancements to these four large woodlands, creating and improving habitats for a variety of wildlife. We also did a lot of community engagement and access work to enhance visitor usage. Forestry work was largely carried out by contractors.
The village pond in the lovely downland village of Hastingleigh needed some TLC. After consultation with the Parish Council it was decided to make improvements to the pond and the area around it to create a pleasant green space and focal point for the village. We desilted the pond and cut back some nearby trees to reduce shading and leaf fall – this would also stimulate plant growth in the pond.
This project created a new 2.5 ha woodland, specifically aimed at creating habitat for hazel dormice. The new woodland replaced scrub removed for works in the M20 corridor. We planted 5500 trees, and erected deer fencing to prevent the new trees being browsed. Species planted included hazel, guelder rose, wayfaring tree, spindle, willow and wild cherry in the understorey, with oak standards and hornbeam along the boundary, as is traditional.
The Willesborough Dykes Greenway path (WDGP) is a new, multi-user green transport route, linking the suburb of Park Farm with Ashford town centre, which opened in 2014. In the process of creating the new route, about a quarter of the scrub growing in this area had to be removed. Surveys had shown that scrub in this area was being used by hazel dormice. We planted a new area of dormouse habitat to replace what had been lost. Volunteers from KSCP and TCV Kent planted some 3900 trees, all native species, creating a new woodland.
A new sculpture was commissioned for the Tannery Field site. This landmark piece, by artist Steve Portchmouth is a life-size bull made of steel rails. The field where it stands was once part of St Mildred’s Tannery, where cattle hides were made into leather.
One of the key areas visitors told us needed improving was the Rheims Way underpass linking Westgate Gardens to Toddler’s Cove. We developed a community art project, working towards a new meadow and river themed mural that was painted on the concrete stanchions of the underpass.
No Man’s Orchard, so-called because it straddles the boundary between two parishes, is a lovely old orchard on the North Downs Way. In 1996 when the landowner decided to sell the land our goal was to save the orchard and manage it to conserve its traditional landscape and wildlife value. We were already involved with the site, helping the owner with management. In 1996, we helped the parish councils raise funds to purchase the orchard. To oversee management, a committee was formed, with four members of each Parish Council and KSCP acting as an advisor, helping the committee with ideas, fundraising and management.
In 2004 we created two new wildlife ponds in King’s Wood, a large Forestry Commission woodland at Challock near Ashford, using ‘puddled’ clay, which is a traditional liner for ponds. In 2009 we created a third pond, this time using a man-made liner, as there had been problems with the first two ponds holding water (puddled clay isn’t best suited to some sites). In 2015 we re-lined the first two ponds with a man-made liner. Due to issues with dogs going into ponds and damaging liners we fenced off the ponds. We worked in partnership with the Friends of King’s Wood, who now monitor these and three other local ponds for amphibians.
In the shadow of the large Givaudan fragrance factory on Kennington Road, Ashford, was 5 acre (2 hectare) field alongside the River Great Stour. It belonged to Givaudan (the company was called Quest at the time) and they had leased it out to a farmer who used it for arable crops. Its wildlife value was virtually nil. In 2002, we worked with Quest to sow the field as a wild flower meadow. Plant species included ox-eye daisy, black knapweed and field scabious, although grasses dominate as in all meadows.
Many parts of the River Stour have been made less natural by human activity over the decades. Many sections have been straightened, the natural meanders removed; others have been widened or deepened, with natural features dredged out. This was generally done in an effort to prevent flooding, but in many cases it can lead to silt building up in the long term or cause flood risk issues downstream. It also leaves the river a much less diverse habitat. We undertook works to put back some of this diversity at two major sections of the Stour between Ashford and Canterbury.
As Ashford expands, so increases the potential impact of urban development on existing villages close to the town. To reduce the negative effects of urban growth on Kingsnorth, a ‘buffer zone’ of undeveloped land has been left between the village and the new urban developments of Park Farm. This has created opportunities for habitat creation. We created six ponds and three scrapes (shallow wet areas). The work was carried out by contractors. These new wetland features and the fields around them are grazed by a tenant farmer.
In common with many other parts of the River Stour, the section between Westgate Gardens and the A2 fly-over has lost many of its natural features – meanders straightened, natural banks replaced with hard surfaces and floodplains drained. We undertook various works to restore some of these features. In 2009-10 we restored a long section of bank to a more natural profile in Westgate Gardens. In 2012 to add diversity to the river bed, we used a contractor to create ‘low-flow channels’ with a large digger, one location being close to Westgate Towers.