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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 fields.

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.

Wildlife

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 today.

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.

History

Photo of Ranscombe Blue FlowerThe 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 purpose.

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 page.

What's on outdoors

Visit Medway to find out about  outdoor activities in Medway, including guided walks and volunteer opportunities.

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For more information contact us by telephone: 01634 306000 or by email: enquiries@plantlife.org.uk

Write to: Plantlife, Shorne Wood Country Park, Brewers Road, Shorne, Kent DA12 3HX