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Ranscombe Farm Reserve
Ranscombe Farm Reserve occupies an area of 229
hectares immediately west of Strood and north of Cuxton village.
With more than six miles (10km) of public footpaths, it
offers excellent opportunities to enjoy tranquil walks in an
attractive rural landscape that is part of the Kent Downs Area of
Outstanding Natural Beauty. The reserve was established thanks to
generous financial support from the Department of Communities and
Local Government, Medway Council, The The
Tubney Charitable Trust and Plantlife: The Wild Plant
Conservation Charity. The whole area is now managed in
partnership with Plantlife with the aim of improving opportunities
for public access and conserving biodiversity, while maintaining
the working farm landscape and its historic pattern of woods and
How to get there
The reserve is accessible on footpaths from Cobham, Cuxton and
Strood. By car, the main entrance and car park, grid reference
TQ718675, are accessible directly from the A228 shortly before the
roundabout when approaching the M2 from Cuxton. The nearest rail
station is at Cuxton.
Ranscombe Farm is one of British botany’s classic sites. It is
home to an exceptional diversity of plant species, a number of
which are very rare elsewhere in the country. These include Ground
Pine, which looks and smells like a miniature pine tree, and Meadow
Clary, which has elegant spikes of deep blue flowers in summer. The
latter was found at Ranscombe in 1699, the first time it had ever
been seen in Britain. It has survived in the same spot
for more than 300 years and can still be seen there
The flora of the arable farmland is another of Ranscombe’s
highlights. An area known as Kitchen Field, on the western side of
the reserve, is believed to hold one of the most important
assemblages of cornfield flowers in Britain. These include species
that are now largely absent from the general countryside such as
Venus’s Looking-glass, Narrow-fruited Cornsalad and Broad-leaved
Cudweed. At least seven species of orchid have been found on the
reserve including Lady, Fly and Man Orchid, and the woodland areas
have fine displays of bluebells in spring.
The reserve is also important for dormouse, a species that has
become extinct in several English counties, but is widespread
within the woodlands at Ranscombe.
The landscape of Ranscombe Farm is very similar today to
what it was 200 years ago in terms of its pattern of woodland,
hedgerows and fields. However, the woodlands in particular have
been significantly influenced by the need for Sweet Chestnut wood
for the hop-growing trade.
Hops have been an important part of agriculture in Kent for
centuries and, until the development of modern techniques, required
large amounts of poles to support the growing plants.
Sweet Chestnut was much valued for this purpose because it grows
straight and quickly and is strong and relatively resistant to rot.
This may have been the impetus behind the conversion of much of the
woodland at Ranscombe from ancient mixed woodlands to Sweet
Chestnut plantations, probably around 200 years ago.
It is certainly known that hops were grown at Ranscombe from at
least 1790 up until 1958, the pattern of clearings and small
woodlands (shaws) providing ideal sheltered ground for this
Valley of Visions
Valley of Visions is working on a variety of projects with
communities, landowners and local groups to conserve the landscape,
wildlife and rich heritage of the area. Valley of Visions are also
working with Ranscombe Farm Reserve, the details of the events
can be found in the new Valley of
Visions event booklet 2011/12 (pdf 697KB). To use this and
other pdf files on this page, you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader.
If you do not have this on your computer, please use our advice
What's on outdoors
Visit Medway to find out
about outdoor activities in Medway, including
guided walks and volunteer opportunities.