Monkton Nature Reserve, managed by the Thanet Countryside Trust, is situated in an 16 acre abandoned chalk quarry on the Isle of Thanet in East Kent. There are over 350 species of flowering plant, including 8 species of orchid, and 25 species of butterfly have been recorded, along with innumerable other species of insect, mammal and bird-life. The reserve is also home to the first artificial bat cave to be constructed in the UK.
There are two ponds inside the reserve, one of which is on the quarry floor and is a water-table pond with a fluctuating water level, while the other is a butyl-lined pond in a secluded location overlooked by a small bird hide. Both ponds are visited by grass snakes on hunting expeditions. Great Crested Newts make appearances in both our ponds. The water-table pond is used by a small number of the rare water vole.
There is a small young woodland in land above the quarry, and this is becoming well used by the bird population. We have a breeding pair of Turtle Doves in the woodland. A replica Bronze Age Barrow has been constructed in the woodland. This is a long term experimental project to obtain data for the Thanet Archaeological Unit.
Monkton Nature Reserve was the first place in Kent to receive RIGS status (Regionally Important Geological/ geo-morphological Site). As an abandoned chalk quarry, the exposed cliffs provide an important insight in to local geology and a source of some good fossils. Collecting can only be carried out with supervision. The quarry cliffs are of Late Cretaceous age (Santonian). The cliffs act as home to a number of bird species including Jackdaw, a pair of Little Owls, and Kestrels.
On-site is a well-resourced Field Study Centre, which contains a number of different exhibitions, including a large geological collection. Fossils, rocks and minerals from the Mesozoic, Cainozoic, and Pleistocene are on display.
We have a good reference library for those visitors who wish to delve that little bit further including a well stocked natural history reference library. The very popular low priced second hand bookshop is open all year round. Donations of books are always welcome. The picnic site is close to the Field Study Centre, with other seating at strategic intervals around the reserve.
The Thanet Observatories are situated in the centre of the nature reserve. Regular events are held by the Monkton Stargazers group.
Thanet Countryside Trust is particularly anxious to keep 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.
The Trust’s aims have been revised to a clearer focus on conservation and education for the community. This is being achieved by enabling and encouraging local people to make use of the reserve and to support the Trust in its conservation work through the development of their rural skills and knowledge. We are working hard to develop ourselves as an educational resource for a much wider range of local community groups, schools, colleges and University.