By James Bonthron
Extensive renewal projects are being carried out in one of Thanet’s last natural spaces.
Monkton Nature Reserve is a 16-acre former abandoned quarry on the outskirts of Ramsgate and boasts over 350 species of flowering plant, including the nationally scarce Man Orchid. Last year, the reserve received two legacies: that of June Edwards and Joan Frenken. Together with funding awarded from competitive grants, the money is to be used for education and conservation, which are two charitable objectives of the reserve.
In the last six months work has been undertaken on the site with plans for more.
Last November, the car park at the top of the reserve was resurfaced and extended. The car park can now fit up to 40 vehicles including coaches. This is vital because in the first full year of visitation post-COVID-19 lockdowns, the reserve welcomed over 8000 visitors including some 1400 children from 19 local schools.
Damselfly Pond (pictured above), a dipping pond used in Monkton’s outdoor learning programmes for school children, is being completely restored this month. The renovations will be timely- readying the pond for its usual abundance of returning groggy Great-crested newts after their winter hibernation. This vital work will be carried out by Reflections by Water. Funding for the rejuvenation of the pond was gained from the Martello Fund, via the Kent Community Foundation and Barratt Homes.
Work will also be carried out on the Sensory Garden via research into installation of a polytunnel for native plants. Improvements to the Sensory Garden, which was originally funded by the Willett Foundation, will help the reserve to be accessible to all visitors as well as benefiting a range of pollinating insects. The work is made possible by a grant received from the Whitehead Monckton Charitable Foundation as well as supplementary funding from the Thanet Countryside Trust.
Dr Clive Nuttman (pictured above) is the advisor to the nature reserve trustees and is a champion of the new changes.
He said: “We have a superb team of volunteers that give their time for tasks.”
“We are developing key relationships with several Special Educational Needs schools and improvements in the sensory garden will especially benefit these users in a safe and peaceful setting. These [renovation] projects will underpin the future success of the reserve as a visitor and educational attraction.”
Ramsgate local Paddy Clarke, 18, is just one of many enthusiastic volunteers at the reserve. A carpentry student, he has been volunteering at the reserve for a year now.
“I needed to get out and do something with my time. It was either here or MacDonald’s”, he joked.
He added: “The people I’ve met have been brilliant and they have mentored me in some respects. I’ve personally gained quite a lot from working here. For example, surveying species at Monkton has taught me to keep a closer eye out for things.”
He also thinks that further improvements could be made to the reserve.
He said: “I would love more research to be carried out on what we have at the reserve. Research is important because it allows people to see what we have and hopefully will get wider attention to the reserve.”
Paddy is looking forward to volunteering for the foreseeable future.
He said: “There’s a lot to look forward to in the coming year. Monkton Nature Reserve’s getting bigger, more people are starting to know about it and more funding is coming in, so we’ll be able to do more than ever before!”
Housebuilder Barratt Homes, of the Spitfire Green development in Ramsgate, has extended its ongoing partnership with Thanet Countryside Trust with a £1,500 donation to Monkton Nature Reserve.
Barratt Kent’s donation will be used to cover the costs of maintaining the reserve, and will help with the expenses of providing educational visits for local residents and school children, including bird treat making classes, fossil collection activities, pond dipping exercises and nature trail walks. The donation forms a part of a longstanding partnership between Barratt Kent and the reserve, which previously saw the housebuilder sponsor new pond dipping equipment in July 2022.
Dr Clive Nuttman said: “We are a non-profit organisation, so every pound that we receive goes straight into the reserve. Thanks to local businesses like Barratt Kent, we are able to continue our conservation work by identifying, referencing and cataloguing the various species at the reserve, whilst also educating the younger generation on the impact we have on nature and what we can do to protect our surroundings.”
The donation was made as part of The Barratt Foundation’s Community Fund initiative, which sees the housebuilder to donate £1,500 each month to a local charity to improve the quality of life for those living in the local area.
Monkton Nature Reserve is offering free entry for families affected by strikes on Thursday , March 2nd and 16th, There is also a ‘Family Fiver’ deal – £5 entrance fee for every family on the last Sunday of the month. ‘Family Fiver’ begins on Sunday 26th February and will run until the start of the summer holidays.
The money saving initiative embraces the reserve’s aims of promoting conservation and education to the community.
There is an abundance of opportunities to learn about the environment at the reserve, one of which is its newest activity trail Walk, Watch, Listen and Learn. This activity trail is for primary aged children, 8 years and above. Nine large interpretation boards and ten small information panels can be found throughout the reserve; each contains information about the landscape and/or various species of plant and animal found at Monkton Nature Reserve. Children can choose some, or all, of the twelve educational activity leaflets, each covering a different topic. Answers are to be found within the leaflets and on the boards.
Anna Nicholls, Education and Community Outreach, said: “We hope these offers give the community time out to relax and enjoy spring at the reserve with its delightful snowdrops, daffodils, and early blossoms. The fascinating museum and fun trails are perfect ways to engage children in discovering more about nature, and everyone enjoys time spent in the café, gift, and book shop.’
For more information visit: www.monkton-reserve.org or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
James Bonthron lives in Ramsgate. The 22-year-old is in his final year of Wildlife Conservation with a year in journalism degree at the University of Kent. During his time at university, he has been spreading the word about environmental issues and trying to inform people about what’s going on locally.
A very good enterprise. Way to go. That young fellow has his head screwed on right, in choosing the reserve over McD.