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 126.

    @120 A colleague's son was recently arrested for taking photos on a railway station, now apparently outlawed, even though it was a school project.

    Photography on railway stations has always been restricted although the railways generally didn't restrict it.

    Recently concessions were agreed so photographers could take pictures. However, it is still best to seek permission from staff first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    burn it down, it looks ugly and out of place like the stonehenge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    The public RoW is already protected under the CROW act. The cliffs are eroding so no developer in their right mind would risk building there. No need for this at all. If there are any concerns it would only take an act from parliament to bestow legal protected staus and any potential issues are dealt with.
    The NT should concentrate on what they are good at. Preserving buildings.

  • 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 122.

    118.nitroxy - or some rich git buying it and putting a 'PRIVATE' sign up

    That happened to Ardingly reservoir when SE Water bought it on privatisation. They put a spiked 7ft fence around the entire place. Before, the public could picnic or just relax watching boats or whatever else. No longer - and of course us water rate payers had to foot the bill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Since the NT took over the White Cliffs not a single pair of penguins have nested there. This is a disgrace and shows they cannot be trusted to conserve such a precious, national icon. They sell nice jams though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    110.Tinsboy -Being a member I have great faith in the National Trust. But will they restrict the public from photographing the cliffs?

    It's a great shame that amateur photography is slowly becoming a criminal offence. A colleague's son was recently arrested for taking photos on a railway station, now apparently outlawed, even though it was a school project.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    I am happy to support the NT with this. They often act in the best interests of all of us when we cannot rely on elected institutions to do it.

  • 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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Being a member I have great faith in the National Trust. But will they restrict the public from photographing the cliffs?

    Why should they restrict photography? The NT just want to ensure a public right of way and conserve the cliffs for future generations. I can't understand how anyone would want to build on the cliffs, but in this day and age you can never be sure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Vera Lynn is British not American, it matters not that one of the songwriters was American. The songs were not stupid they gave many of the fighting men and women something to dream of about home and life...

    And just because your own father couldn't stand her has no bearing on the reality of what she represented.

    Yes the cliff have been there 100s of years, that is the point...

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    #113 stevio - Best start planning the wind farm now;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    I long ago ceased to support the (English/Welsh) National Trust.They have strayed too far into money making opportunities under the disguise of preservation.Sites such as Ribchester were hived off to be run in other ways.Who would build on these cliffs when erosion would continually threaten loss and who would allow it?Nonsense tothink they are the only people fit to farm this land after centuries

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Could be worse, Donald Trump could buy it and turn it into a golf course.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    "Trust bids to secure white cliffs"

    It'll take an awful lot of duct/duck tape to do that.

  • Comment number 111.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Being a member I have great faith in the National Trust. But will they restrict the public from photographing the cliffs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    The fact that building on the white cliffs has even been considered is surely a sign that blighty is full up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Who would build on the edge of an eroding cliff??

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    I'm sure there are more areas of outstanding beauty which could be purchased and protected instead. Buying land which is only eroding into the sea seems a waste to me. Nobody in their right mind would wish to build on it, and I'm sure they wouldn't be given permission to anyway.


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