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Giving nature a home at Broadwater Warren

Last modified: 04 September 2013

Woodlark perched on stump

Image: Chris Gomersall

This summer has seen another successful year for wildlife and visitors at the RSPB's Broadwater Warren nature reserve, just outside Tunbridge Wells.

'Rare and threatened birds such as woodlarks and tree pipits had their best year here for over a decade, and turtle doves, which are Britain's most threatened bird, have been heard calling here all summer,' said reserve warden Tom Pinches.

Tom continued: 'Nightjar numbers are increasing, as are bees and butterflies; a kingfisher and even a grass snake were seen using the Decoy Pond over the summer.'

Since purchasing the site in 2008, the conservation charity has embarked on a major restoration project to return the area to its former mix of open heath and rich native woodland. This has involved the removal of 50 hectares of a pine plantation, which was planted in the 1950s, and there is another third to go, with the final felling taking place in 2015. These final stages of the felling will open up views from Broadwater Forest Lane.

Heather has already started to grow in the newly-cleared areas, encouraging butterflies, bees, reptiles and many different birds to make themselves at home on the reserve.

While it's still a work in progress, in time the reserve will comprise half native woodland and half open heath and bushes, with views of the landscape beyond.

'We're making more improvements this winter for visitors and for next year's wildlife'

With the increasing array of wildlife to be found there, the nature reserve has also seen an increase in the variety of people visiting, with a notable rise in the numbers of families and wildlife lovers using the site. As well as informal visitors there has been an increase in visits from organised groups such as local scout groups and children embarking on the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

Tom added: 'Visitor feedback has been hugely positive this year, and we're going to be making more improvements this winter for visitors and for next year's wildlife.

'This coming winter, 500 native trees will be planted on the site, including oak, hazel, hornbeam and rowan, with four new ponds also being created. We are in the process of installing new benches and asking our visitors where they would like them, so as to best enjoy the reserve.'

New signage and information boards will be installed to help guide visitors around the reserve and a new footbridge is being built over the end of the Decoy Pond.

The RSPB has received generous contributions towards this work from the SITA Trust, Biffa Award, the Ibstock Cory Environmental Trust through the Landfill Communities Fund, and the Heritage Lottery Fund through the Weald Forest Ridge Landscape Partnership Scheme.

Tom concluded: 'It is ironic that a site once earmarked as a potential landfill site is now being turned into something so special, with help from these landfill companies. It's turning into a wonderful home for nature and a great place for visitors.'

RSPB Broadwater Warren is open to visit all year-round. There are over 5 miles of paths, plus visitors can pick up a leaflet from the information board in the car park and follow the self-guided nature trail. The car park is accessed via Broadwater Forest Lane, just off the A26. 

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