People of all ages have been able to explore a nature reserve for the first time thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
A four-year project costing £550,900 has transformed the 620 acres at Ranscombe Farm Reserve in Cuxton, both for the public and for wildlife.
Over the past two years, 1,300 children have visited Ranscombe and learnt about the importance of wild plants.
Guided walks, open days, arts activities, training courses and craft events have also seen more than 1,000 people visit the reserve, with another 1,000 from 25 community groups attending talks.
The project has also signed up 78 volunteers to help manage the park, and trained 130 people in wild plant identification, heritage crafts and other skills.
Ranscombe Farm is the biggest nature reserve run by the organisation Plantlife, which works in partnership with Medway Council.
Plantlife project manager Richard Moyse said: “HLF funding didn’t just secure the future of one of the UK’s most important wildlife sites – it also opened Ranscombe Farm Reserve up for a whole new audience to come and enjoy.
“We can now bring more people than ever face to face with some of our rarest and most beautiful wild flowers, so we’d like to say a big thank-you to the Heritage Lottery Fund and to all National Lottery players.”
The team worked with Medway Youth Service and Sure Start to encourage young people and families to enjoy the reserve.
The reserve includes arable farmland, ancient woodland and chalk grassland, with views across the surrounding countryside.
It has been an important site for rare wild flowers, including one of Britain’s rarest, meadow clary, which was found at Ranscombe in 1699 and still survives in the same spot. Restoration of 60 acres of wild flower grassland has seen flowers like eyebright and pyramidal orchid flourish, and provided a home for skylarks and rare
More than one mile of new tracks have been created to help with the long-term management of 200 acres of protected ancient woodland.
Ancient chalk grasslands have been extended by clearing scrub and as a result man orchids have spread, hairy mallow populations are booming, and grizzled skipper butterflies, are now in the area.