A number of nature trail paths have been laid out around the reserve.
The Woodland Trail: This walk goes around the top section of the reserve into the woodland, and has many good panoramic views. Children must be supervised by an adult.
Things to look out for on this trail:
- Lizards on the logs that line the path; it is a common basking spot
- Up against the cliff to the right of the steps reeds can be seen. These were introduced when the management of the farmland on the marshes to the south changed from pastoral to arable, meaning that the marshes were drained and dredged, with the spoil dumped in the abandoned quarry before it was purchased by Thanet Countryside Trust. These reeds have provided a habitat for the protected harvest mouse (Micromys minutus). The harvest mice colony expanded in the reserve after the establishment of a hedgerow around the reserve, essential for the movement of animals such as mice from place to place via these ‘habitat corridors’.
- Many other animals here are dependent on hedgerows for dispersal, some inhabiting the hedgerows for their whole lives. The hedgerows were planted with the maximum diversity of native hedgerow species in a variety of thicknesses to ensure maximum habitat diversity leading to high species diversity. For instance, the Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) requires a thicker hedgerow, and these are becoming increasingly rare elsewhere owing to changing farming practices.
- Marbled White butterflies (Melanargia galathea, pictured) may be seen at the top of the steps.
- Follow the path along the top of the cliff, and take a minute to look out across the reserve for birds flying overhead, such as Kestrels.
- Along the path you will enter a small area of coniferous woodland. Although many of these species are not native to Britain, these trees provide a habitat for many insects and specialist fungi that could otherwise not occur at this site. Whilst you are here look out for the Speckled Wood butterfly (Parage aegeria).
- Piles of logs and branches can be seen. This is intentional, and provides another habitat for small animals and fungi, which in turn provide food for other larger organisms. The larger and older the woodpile, the higher the diversity of species one can expect to find there, as with hedgerows. Look out for insects on the logs and evidence of predators (droppings), but please do not turn the logs as this will disturb the inhabitants!
The Quarry Trail: This walk goes around the chalk grassland areas of the reserve and past the pond, on the bottom level of the reserve. Children must be supervised, particularly around the pond.
Things to look out for on this trail:
- Turning left out of the Field Studies Centre, follow the signs for the Quarry trail ; this will bring you to an area where many butterflies and moths can be seen flying around along with many species of flowering plants, including Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis).
- Be sure to look out for Common Lizards (Lacerta vivipara) basking on the logs that mark out the paths.
- On your way around the reserve, watch out for Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) and, if you’re very lucky, Buzzards (Buteo buteo) overhead, gliding around looking for prey.
- Continue on the path past an area of short grassland beneath the cliff. There are many trees to the left by the path here; look out for caterpillars, such as the impressive Puss Moth larvae (Cerura vinula, pictured) found on Privet (Ligustrum vulgare).
- The pond, dug in the mid eighties, is a very important habitat in the reserve as it accommodates many of our important species including Grass Snakes (Natrix natrix) and many species of invertebrates which require an aquatic phase during their development such as dragonflies (Order Odonata). Many dragonflies of different species can be seen flying around the pond at this time of year, such as the Broad-bodied Chaser (Libella depressa, pictured)
- The pond depth ranges from 0 metres in the hotter, drier months to more than 5 metres in rainy months with sometimes occasional flooding. Many insects can be seen if you remain still and quiet; you may even be very lucky and see a basking grass snake. The pond also contains Great Crested Newts (Triturus cristatus).
- By the bench, to the left, is the entrance to the bat cave, the country’s first artificial bat hibernaculum. The cave was built in 1986 to provide a safe place for brown Long-eared Bats (Plecotus auritus) to overwinter. Bats are protected by law, and for this reason the bat cave cannot be entered.
- Behind the bat cave scree slopes can be seen, made up of loose rocks from cliff fall. These are used for hibernation by the great crested newts and many other small animals. Vegetation has colonised these scree slopes in the last 10 years, owing to warmer temperatures reducing cliff erosion and halting cliff fall; a clear demonstration of the effects of climate warming in the area.
- Take a minute to look up at the cliff face, where many burrows can be seen, particularly near the top edge. These are made by Jackdaws (Corvus monedula), you may be lucky and see them flying overhead or using their burrows.
- There is much evidence of Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) activity, as seen by rabbit droppings clustered in piles. This is typical rabbit behaviour (one rabbit making each pile) and serves to prevent the grazing area becoming contaminated with the droppings. With the amount of rabbits in the area, many orchids have been protected with grazing guards to ensure that the orchids establish, and you may see the seed heads of this springs flowers.
- Look out for the locally rare Turtle Doves (Streptopelia turtur, pictured), known to be present in this area.