Shorne Woods Country Park is a SSSI woodland near Gravesend in Kent rich in wildlife habitats and heritage features. After purchasing nearby woodland to extend the park, Kent County Council began to develop a new vision for the site that ranged far beyond its boundaries. Their ambition was for Shorne Woods to become a hub for access to a suite of other nearby sites of equal importance – Cobham Park, Ashenbank Wood, Ranscombe Farm and Jeskyns Wood. These sites were closely linked by their history and landscape.
We worked with officers in the country parks team of Kent County Council (KCC), and other organisations and consultants, to develop this vision. Interpretation was at it’s heart – KCC saw an opportunity to build a new visitor centre at Shorne that would interpret not only the country park but the other linked sites, a gateway for physical and intellectual access to a nationally important landscape.
What we did:
We produced a series of supporting documents as part of a successful £2.1M bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund:
Approaches to Interpretation and Visitor Management
This document made the case for the new visitor centre as well as other improvements to visitor facilities. It also set out proposals for a programme of community engagement.
Conservation Management Plan
A plan with detailed proposals for landscape and habitat restoration, including control of rhododendron in ancient woodland and crassula in the disused clay pits which had become excellent wildlife ponds.
Integrated Operational Plan
A document that pulled together all the elements of the wider project, and the proposals in individual plans that made up the bid, into a single timetabled programme.
The bid was successful and the Heritage Project ran for three years. Outputs of the project include:
- A new £1.6M visitor centre incorporating interpretation space, cafe, visitor facilities and offices. It now functions as the gateway to a whole landscape, as envisaged.
- A community archaeology project focusing on the excavation of Randall Manor in the newly purchased woodland. The Shorne Woods Archaeology Group that came out of this initiative are still active.
- Restoration of large swathes of protected habitat, and the reintroduction of grazing into a valuable wood pasture. The SSSI is now in favourable condition.
- Protection and restoration of a number of heritage features including a bowl barrow and WWII installations.
- Improved access, waymarking and orientation throughout the area, including a new long distance Darnley Trail that links all the sites.