About us


Monkton Nature Reserve is situated in a 16-acre abandoned chalk quarry on the Isle of Thanet in East Kent. There are over 350 species of flowering plant, including 10 species of orchid, and 25 species of butterfly have been recorded, along with innumerable other species of insect, mammal, and birdlife.  It was the first place in Kent to receive RIGS (Regionally Important Geological Site) status because of the ease of studying its geology and the large number of interesting features it has. The reserve is home to the first artificial bat cave constructed in the UK.


Monkton Nature Reserve is managed by the Thanet Countryside Trust. The Trust’s aims are conservation and education for the community and is working hard to develop as an educational resource for a much wider range of local community groups, schools, colleges and universities. Thanet Countryside Trust is particularly anxious to retain one of the last natural assets on Thanet. Apart from the coastal cliffs and seashore, there are very few areas of natural habitat left on the ‘island’.

Monkton Nature Reserve is an important mix of habitats, and the preservation and enhancement of their diversity is the main purpose of the management planning and work carried out on the site, with special conservation measures for threatened species. 

The key part of our conservation work is the identification, referencing and cataloguing of the varied species of flora and fauna on the Reserve. We survey the Reserve and catalogue everything found to monitor its ‘assets’ and to identify the changes that occur over the years. Management of the Reserve is concentrated on British species typically found in chalk grassland and chalk woodland. To ensure that all relevant factors are considered in the running of the Reserve we have compiled a comprehensive Management Plan that provides us with step-by-step, habitat-by-habitat guidance on what is required for each species, to ensure the diversification of the site.

The history of the quarry pit at Monkton dates back more than 200 years, with the first recorded excavation of chalk from this site being made in 1799.


Lime kiln works in 1799, material was used to provide infill for the Military Road which was then being built at Ramsgate Harbour to prepare the port for the Napoleonic War naval and transport shipping.

19th Century

The quarrying of chalk continued into the 19th century, operated by the Willett family


In 1942, during the early part of the war, Manston Aerodrome had a grass runway. Later a concrete runway was built in order for it to be used for the Hawker Typhoon and the Meteor Jet. The area was levelled with chalk from Monkton chalk pit, forming a runway 9,000 feet long.


In 1953, chalk was once again needed, this time to repair the railway line between Minnis Bay and Reculver following the great storm and floods which carried away the seawall, and the railway line.


Excavating chalk for Richborough Power Station In 1958, chalk was used to build the car parks and working areas at the newly constructed Richborough Power Station. In the process, the pit, which was to become Dragonfly Pond, was created.


Quarrying activities at the site ceased c.1958


In 1968, the Margate Corporation issued a compulsory purchase order to enable them to use the site for land-filling activities.


In 1974, the property passed into the ownership of Kent County Council as the waste regulation authority.


In 1977, the then Thanet Conservation Group gained planning permission to convert the quarry into a nature reserve, including the erection of the Field Study Centre. In the following year, this Group purchased the land for £12,500.


In 1982, the Thanet Conservation Group became the Thanet Countryside Trust and achieved charitable status.


In 1985, the building known as the Field Study Centre was erected. It now comprises exhibition areas and a museum, an extensive second-hand bookshop, toilet facilities and a small shop.


In 1986, the UK’s first artificial bat cave (or hibernaculum) was built by the London British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV).


In 1994, the Dinosaur and Fossil Collection was formally opened.


In 2000, the Thanet Observatory was completed.


In 2015, the BBC used the Reserve when filming for episode 2 of their TV series Colour: The Spectrum of Science.


In 2018, The Cabin Café and function room was added to the side of the Field Study Centre.


For a large part of 2020 and early 2021 the entire site was closed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.


In 2020, the Nature Shed Project was established adjacent to the Field Study Centre.


Car park extension and resurfacing. ‘Go Eco’ educational outreach project for schools and community groups completed.


Refurbishment of Damselfly Pond and work on the main entrance. Picnic and play area completed. Wishing well built. Fairy Trail upgraded. Polytunnel established. New hedging planted. New containers sited. Gazebo erected in the Education Garden and native plants, planted.

Help us grow

Thanet Countryside Trust