Monkton Nature Reserve’s ambitious project receives £30k funding boost

The Thanet Observatory at Monkton Nature Reserve will become an education centre

By James Bonthron

The Thanet Countryside Trust has received news of a key grant award from a landfill fund to ‘recycle’ its disused Thanet Observatory building into an education facility at Monkton Nature Reserve.

As a former landfill site itself, the funds are going to an apt cause.

The reserve has now received the last piece of funding needed for it to establish an exciting educational resource, with £30,730 being awarded towards the ambitious project.

The Environmental Education Centre is poised to be one-of-a-kind in Thanet, offering school and community groups the chance to learn about the environment at the reserve.

The Trust has previously received funds from a variety of sources for the project, with the latest and final piece of funding coming from the Landfill Communities Fund, via the Veolia Environmental Trust.

Monkton Nature Reserve

Overall, the reserve has raised £125,000 from various sources including the ASDA Foundation, Postcode Society Trust, GlobalGiving in partnership with Cummins Power, the Tory Family Foundation and the Charles Burnett III Memorial Fund via the Kent Community Foundation.

It is hoped work on repurposing the building will begin before the end of November, with a projected completion date of 30th April 2024. Where possible, the work will involve local contractors.

The Environmental Education Centre will provide a dedicated space for school and group visits. The facility will include an LCD screen for visual displays and will make positive use of the old observatory structure which has fallen into disrepair. Visitors will be able to learn about key issues, such as renewable energy, sustainability and environmental resilience.

All school levels will be offered programmes and the funding will allow for educational resources to be purchased for use at the centre.

The project will include employing a full-time Education Officer, which will be filled by the current part-time Education Officer Anna Nicholls. The new role will include attracting visits from secondary schools and promoting the facility to local education users and other organisations.

Dr Clive Nuttman

Dr Clive Nuttman, adviser to the Trustees at Monkton Nature Reserve, said: “This funding will go towards renovating and repurposing the dilapidated Thanet Observatory to provide indoor space for our educational work and use by community groups.

“The Trust has reached a pivotal period in its recent history. Following a strong volunteer-led recovery from the pandemic lockdowns, renovating the observatory is our most ambitious project to date.

“We are grateful to all our funders and supporters for making this vision a reality; none of this would have been possible without the superb efforts of our team of over 50 volunteers who collectively contribute over 1,000 hours of their time every month at the reserve.

How it will look

“We cater for groups across the generations and there will be opportunities for everyone; recently, we hosted the University of the Third Age and a local Rainbows group on the same day – from five to 91 years! Our site at Monkton is so much more than just a nature reserve.”

Dr Nuttman said that with the Natural History GCSE expected to launch nationally in 2025, it is hoped the repurposed Environment Education Centre will be “the perfect venue for study in an inspiring location” and will “cement the reserve as the ‘go to’ place for environmental education in East Kent.”