Hello, and welcome to our project blog!

This is where we will keep you up to date about what’s going on across Blean Woods and Seasalter levels. Over the next year (and beyond) we will posting about our events, our practical project work and all the ways you can get involved. We’ll share photos and stories, challenges and successes, plus anything else we think you might like.

But what is this project, you ask?

The official title is ‘Climate Change resilience for Blean woods and Seasalter Levels’ but you may also hear it called ‘Re-wetting the Blean’.

When it comes to Climate Change in the UK, Kent is on the front line. Changing rainfall patterns and rising temperatures mean that many habitats are at risk, including the wildlife that lives there.

Together with Kent Wildlife Trust and Canterbury City Council, the RSPB is embarking on an ambitious landscape-scale project to restore habitats and boost biodiversity in the local landscape.

Located between Canterbury and the North Kent coast, Blean Woods stands as one of England’s largest and most ecologically important woodland complexes, while Seasalter Levels provides a significant area of freshwater grazing marsh.

Through a programme of restoration and practical conservation measures, that will involve the surrounding communities, the project will build climate change resilience into these sites, creating sustainable habitats for a range of wildlife and beautiful places for people to visit. 

Blean Woods

 Blean Woods is one of the most extensive and ecologically important woodland landscapes in England. It is a stronghold for specialist woodland birds that are under threat and holds the largest population of one of the UK’s rarest butterflies, the heath fritillary.

In Southern England we are already experiencing increasingly dry and warmer summers and, as a result of climate change these conditions are expected to increase. Ove time the installation of drainage ditches and channels in the Blean for commercial forestry has further contributed to the drying out of the woodland floor. The reduction of these wet micro-habitats leads to a reduction in insects, an issue that is undoubtedly contributing to the significant declines in woodland bird species seen in recent years.

The Blean Woods re-wetting project will deliver hydrological infrastructure, seeking to reduce the loss of water and create better, wetter habitats for woodland specialist breeding birds and invertebrates. The project will also include community volunteering to increase local engagement with the development of the site, a bog restoration project and the introduction of grazing as a management tool. By actively adjusting forest management now, restoring wet features and introducing grazing to create open glades, we will create habitats that are resilient to climate change and that will support and nurture woodland bird populations.

Seasalter Levels

 For decades, large areas of the Seasalter Levels have been derelict, or suffered from a lack of appropriate land management, which has led to increasingly drier soils, particularly in the spring and summer – the key time of year when flightless chicks needs pools to forage for invertebrates. The situation is dire with no recorded breeding pairs of waders across the levels in 2020. The site has great potential for waders and wildfowl however, providing over 200 hectares of coastal grassland habitat.

The Climate Change resilience project aims to restore a large area of the Seasalter Levels to boost populations of breeding waders and wintering wildfowl. We will improve the habitat by constructing a series of bunds, rills and scrapes to trap and hold water at crucial times of year. Areas of the site will also be fenced in order to allow limited grazing, which will keep grasses at heights suitable for breeding birds.

The overall aim is to convert the Seasalter Levels back into functioning wetland habitat which is full of life.

Wraik Hill

 Wraik Hill Local Nature Reserve, managed by Canterbury City Council in partnership with Kent Wildlife Trust, is a valuable green corridor and wildlife site providing a direct link between Seasalter and the Blean.

Over the past 30 years the individual landholdings have been acquired by Canterbury City Council to create a reserve comprised of scrub, ponds and species-rich grassland, a rare habitat combination in Kent. It already holds significant interest with species such as nightingale and green-winged orchids found there.

The site benefits from a Kent Wildlife Trust Canterbury Area Warden and, during the project, the reserve will be enhanced by new fencing, pond clearance, accessibility improvements, scrub removal and new interpretation, all of which will see the reserve reach its full potential.

 

Although this blog kicks off in June, the project has been up and running since April. In that time we've had several fantastic events, including a night of Music with Nightingales with Mercury-award nominated musician Sam Lee and a Beginner's Guide to Birdsong. We look forward to many more events over the summer and an action-packed volunteering programme starting in September. 

So please stay tuned as we bring you fresh updates about this project and opportunities for you to get involved. 

Any questions about the project, events, volunteering or just a general enquiry - let me know at milo.sumner@rspb.org.uk

Photos from top: RSPB Project Manager Ruby leads a group of visitors on a Dawn Chorus walk, A view across Seasalter Levels, A green-winged orchid at Wraik Hill.

This project is funded by the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The fund is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.

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