Trust bids to secure white cliffs of Dover

The white cliffs The white cliffs became a nationally known landmark during World War II

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The National Trust is launching a £1.2m appeal to purchase and safeguard part of the white cliffs of Dover.

The trust says purchasing the mile-long stretch to the east of Dover will allow it to prevent building, ensure a public right of way and conserve nature.

The cliffs mark the UK's closest point to France; troops defended here against the Romans' arrival, and many Dunkirk evacuees landed on the local beaches.

The chalkland supports wildlife including insects, birds and plants.

The Adonis blue butterfly has a particular liking for chalk.

"Immortalised in song and literature, the white cliffs of Dover have become one of the great symbols of our nation," said Fiona Reynolds, the trust's director-general.

"We now have a once in a lifetime opportunity to secure their future for everyone to enjoy."

The surface of the cliffs, which can be seen from France on a clear day, is kept white by constant erosion.

They were voted the UK's third best "natural wonder" in a 2005 Radio Times poll, behind the Dan yr Ogof caves and Cheddar Gorge, but ahead of such landmarks as the Giant's Causeway and Loch Lomond.

Dover cliffs newsgraphic

Purchasing this stretch of coast would fill in the gap between two segments already owned by the National Trust, creating a five-mile (8km) contiguous reserve with guaranteed rambling rights and nature protection.

Birds such as kittiwakes and fulmars nest on the cliff face, while peregrine falcons wheel above.

Matthew Arnold: 'Dover Beach'

"Listen! you hear the grating roar

Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,

At their return, up the high strand,

Begin, and cease, and then again begin,

With tremulous cadence slow, and bring

The eternal note of sadness in."

Extract, 1867

The trust uses Exmoor ponies to graze the chalky topside, enabling plants such as oxtongue broomrape to thrive.

Managers are keen to extend these measures to the new stretch, which currently belongs to a local landowner.

"We own pockets of land either side; but it's a gap in the middle, and from a wildlife point of view you have a gap where you go into farmland and there's not much we can do for wildlife or for people," said Brian Whittaker, acting property manager for the white cliffs.

"The ponies are the best lawnmowers you can get - it's a natural way to look after the grassland, and creates a great deal of attraction for visitors," he told BBC News.

The cliffs are receding at an average rate of 1cm (0.4in) per year, but occasionally large chunks crash into the sea.

The white cliffs of Dover gained nationwide fame through Dame Vera Lynn's eponymous wartime ballad, while Matthew Arnold's 1867 poem Dover Beach focussed on the pounding of the seas rather than the impacts of war.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Interesting choices for the NT. The cliffs are only white because they are constantly eroding, they can preserve them upon which they will stop being white, or else let them erode and remain white. For this very reason alone no one is going to build on, beneath or even vaguely close to the edge of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Having been born & raised in Dover, I have to ask, from whom does the NT have to buy the White Cliffs, and why ?

    Apart from restrictions imposed by the NT themselves (and the military in time of war), they have always been open to the public so far as I know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    What is wrong with the NT wanting to preserve an area of outstanding natural beauty? They already do so to large areas of the coast line without charging a penny
    NT you do a fantastic job! protecting many very special and historical buildings that would otherwise turn to rubble. We love supporting you by being members (whole year for same price as 1 day at Paultons Park - bargain! kids agree!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    I've been walking these paths since 1950 and have never been aware of access problems, maintenance issues or anything other than that it's a great free area open to all. I doubt it needs 'protection' except from institutions, like the NT, which want to 'improve' it, shove up signs, destroy the old rutted paths and generally get unnecessarily in the way of walkers, dreamers and common-sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    I understand a lot of people are opposed to maybe having to pay a few pounds to visit a NT site/walk. However, if that prevents a theme park/golf course to be built on it or some rich git buying it and putting a 'PRIVATE' sign up, then I feel it's a small price to pay. It shouldn't be possible that Nature beauty spots, like riversides, beaches etc. , can be privately owned and shut to the public.


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