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 106.

    This is part of a wider issue where it has been decided that everything is owned by someone and then they have the right to more or less what ever they want with it.

    The missing information in the article is who are the national trust having to give £1.2m too for land which might not exist in 100 years due to erosion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Let 'em build their houses. Anyone who builds on the edge of those cliffs needs their head testing, and anyone who buys a house there is totally mad - they'll end in the sea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    @98. Rambling is free.

    Is that why Have Your Say is popular?

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    "SSSI Protection"? Don't make me laugh. We have at least one SSSI protected area in Kent, with added RAMSAR and Special Protection Area (GB) status that some environmental vandal wants to build an airport on. Unless the people of this country get fully behind these so called protectons they are not worth the maps they are printed on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Dont let the NT have it, they will only wreck it, fence it in and charge the public for the priviledge of viewing the damage. the NT should stick to restoring old houses, they are good at that. Leave the countryside to the people who know about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    When I read this I thought how lovely, a feelgood story for once, this should make everyone happy, then I read the comments!! What a sad miserable lot we have in this country, no wonder we are going to the dogs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    It's concerning that the NT feels the need to buy this land, will it be turned into another theme park like LandsEnd. I walked this path last Saturday for the first time in 20 years, it used to be free now there is a massive visitor centre, cafe's and you now have to pay £3 for parking, why is everything turned into a business, The White Cliffs is the gateway to rip off Britain, leave it alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Yep, the National Trust will buy them. Erect expensive car parks and then have the cheek to say that the exorbitant car parking charges helps pay for the cliffs conservation. Absolute rot. Say no to the National Trust buying up our coast! Just look at some of the prime beaches in Dorset they now charge £8 a day to walk on. Totally unfair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.


    "NO! They only charge for access to buildings."

    "Is that right, Bungle?

    Never been to the Farne islands, have you?"

    It'd be impossible for NT to charge walkers because that'd mean chaining off public rights of way (the Saxon Shore public footpath). They currently only charge to enter the S. Foreland Lighthouse and for parking on the other site. Rambling is free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    I'm surprised that the Olympics committee haven't got in the first and emblazoned the cliffs with 'Welcome to the 2012 Olympics'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Cant beleive this has got a HYS debate.
    Now if they had put one on Charitys to study sex in prison , now that would have been worth seeing (if you pardon the pun) Bet most of the comments would have not got through the edits anyway!!! and who thinks up the headlines ha ha
    By the way I thought we all owned the White cliffs of Dover lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    The Government should just had over the White Cliffs to help conservation of such beautiful peice of English land, surely conservation is a Conservative way of thinking?

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Scotland has "right to roam" laws: basically you can walk or cycle anywhere in the countryside (except across growing crops and golf courses), as long as you act responsibly. This means everyone can enjoy Scotland's beautiful landscape, and grouchy landowners can't prevent it. When will England catch up? (Lawyer-in-training from Kent, now living in Edinburgh.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    @84. I'd much rather it was English Heritage buying it. NT will build an enormous tea room on it, with horrible food and find a way of turning the visitor experience into a class system.

    Agreed but at least there is coastal erosion.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    I can't think of a better organisation to take care of the cliffs than the NT.

    but surely the private sector...... ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha silly me sorry we want it looked after and kept safe, not sold off to pay fat bonuses to corpulent buffoons called directors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    What a complete waste of money £'s....Who are the current owners? If many offer them £1 each....Or does the church or crown own the land?

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    A nice Luxurious 150 roomed hotel facing the sea. any takers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    A fair point well made!

    Sorry, I suppose I was thinking that maybe the populace would be able to prevent this sort of privateering... a little naive, come to think of it...

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    The National Trust and English Heritage need to be investigated to ensure they are giving good value for money and who exactly gets given money.

    I dont trust either one nor the powers given to them by the Government.

    Just another mouth peice of the government like the BBC making sure the Elite get their way and the poor stay poor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    @28 There'll be Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover.

    Not if the Malaysians buy them first.

    The song would be reworded "there'll be Red Dragons over the White Cliffs of Dover". Go ask Cardiff!

    Mind you at least dragons are part of UK mythology.


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