SITE DISCRIPTION - The pilot area within the SCAPE project is only a smaller area (Darent Valley) within the vaste area of the Kent Downs at the outskirts of London. The Darent Valley is a landscape of surprising beauty, rich in diverse habitats and with an impressive cultural heritage. But this is a landscape on the edge. London has expanded to the brink of the valley, bringing multiple and dramatically increasing pressures that are dissolving its natural character. Sustainable conservation of its natural and cultural heritage together with the communities is at the inner core of the project. Furthermore, the project will focus on the lower catchment of the River Darent and deliver landscape-led enhancements that will support the reduction of the impact of drought on low flows in the river as well as flooding between Otford and the Thames.
- Flora recovery - The project will deliver a species recovery project involving Kentish milkwort (Polygala amarella), a small, short-lived perennial with a very disjunct distribution, and classified as Nationally Rare. It is found only on the North Downs in Kent, the Craven district in Yorkshire, Orton in Cumbria, and Upper Teesdale with the Kent populations now believed to be a distinct subspecies. Its status is classed as Vulnerable, meaning there is a high risk that this species may go extinct in the wild with declines of greater than 50% detected since 1930. For this recovery project a cooperation is set up together with Kew Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place, Plantlife and the Species Recovery Trust on specific species work with an emphasis on the re-introduction of Kentish Milkwort.
- Restoration of chalk downland - More than 1.5ha of invasive scrub will be removed accross 3 different sites. In this way the historical landscape character will be restored. The march of scrub and secondary woodland encroachment is significant when examining the images from 1949, and illustrate how much chalk grassland has been lost in the last 70 years. At the same time traditional grazing management will be re-introduced, this to manage the chalk grassland and improve biodiversity.
- Improve species and habitat diversity - Bankside trees such as willow and alder have started to dominate many of the banks of the lakes, shading out the marginal vegetation which provides rich and varied habitat for riparian species of birds and insects. A coppicing programme will be carried out around the reserve which will provide re-invigorated habitats and open up lost vistas across the reserve.
- Improved access & education - At some sites, improved access infrastructure and provision will enable opportunities for more regular guided walks for local people and other longer distance visitors to be provided. They will be able to learn more about the wildlife of the sites and their biodiversity and their importance in maintaining the character of the landscape of the Darent Valley. Panels located at specific and carefully chosen locations. These will provide visitors with information and links to further information on cultural, historic and geographical aspects of the area as well as wildlife highlights?.
- Cultural heritage - Restoration of the military hertitage site near Preston Hill (rifle range). The rifle range appear to be largely in good condition. However, they have not been professionally assessed and there are signs that there may be structural issues with some. Use of data from the LiDAR survey will also provide an insight to the locations and condition of the longer distance firing positions, and whether any access or restoration works are required.