£1m Appeal For Dover Cliffs

An appeal to raise £1.2 million to buy part of the White Cliffs of Dover has hit its target, two months earlier than expected.

More than 1,600 people and organisations donated to the fund which was set up by the National Trust and saw an average donation of £40.21 including Gift Aid, from members of the public.

The money means it can now purchase the 0.8 miles of land and fill in the missing link in a stretch of coastline almost five miles long owned by the trust on behalf of the nation, from its visitor centre above Dover port to South Foreland lighthouse.

Fiona Reynolds, who is in her final week as director-general at the National Trust, said: "Thanks to the generosity and support of thousands of people, we've reached our target nearly two months early.

"The trust will now look to enhance the quality of access to this new land and build on some of the fantastic nature conservation work that has been carried out by the team on the ground.''

The chalk cliffs stretching east from Dover are home to a rich array of wildlife such as the Adonis blue butterfly and peregrine falcons, Kent's only kittiwake, and plants including oxtongue broomrape and sea carrots.

They have stood over dramatic moments in English history, including the first arrival of the Romans and the return of British forces rescued from Dunkirk in the Second World War.

And they have featured in songs and poetry, most famously the wartime classic (There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover, sung by Dame Vera Lynn.

The trust manages the cliffs as chalk grassland, parts of which are grazed by Exmoor ponies to preserve the natural flora and support wildlife such as butterflies.

Access is maintained for the public, who visit in their hundreds of thousands each year. Although people are already able to walk the cliffs from the visitor centre to the lighthouse, part of the stretch is privately owned and in places arable fields come to the edge of cliffs, leaving just a sliver of land for the coastal path.

By buying the 0.8 mile piece of the coastal jigsaw, the trust will be able to restore the natural habitat, providing more space for species to retreat as the cliffs naturally erode, and connect the trust's existing areas of land.