Things to do


Frenken Room Museum

The rocks, minerals and fossils on display are from the Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras, and Pleistocene Epoch.

Fossils include ancient sea life and petrified wood. The archaeological exhibits include some bone implementsStone Age flint tools and some Roman artefacts – many found locally. There is an extensive collection of animal skulls and bones, along with a real dinosaur bone, mammoth tusks and teeth, and sawfish rostra. Some of the exhibits are available to touch.

Natural History

There is a separate natural history section in the Centre, where you will find, among other things, displays of butterflies, moths, spiders and various exotic insects. There is also a skin from a juvenile Indian or Burmese python which is about 2.5m in length. In the bird viewing area, you can sit behind the tinted glass of the windows and enjoy watching a variety of birds as they visit the feeders situated in the secluded area behind the Field Study Centre.


There is a very popular low-priced, second hand bookshop onsite. Donations of books are always welcome. We have almost 8,000 second-hand books for sale, both fiction and non-fiction. For book lovers there is a great variety of vintage and unusual titles available at low prices.

Outdoors on the reserve

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. Things to look out for are species of flowering plants, including Eyebright, Common Lizards basking on the logs that mark out the paths, Kestrels and Buzzards overhead, gliding around looking for prey and caterpillars, such as the impressive Puss Moth larvae found on Privet. The pond, dug in the mid-eighties, is home to Grass Snakes, Great-crested Newts and dragonflies such as the Broad-bodied Chaser.

Behind the bat cave there are scree slopes 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. 

The burrows on the cliff face are made by Jackdaws. There is evidence of Rabbit activity, as seen by rabbit droppings clustered in piles. Orchids have been protected from the rabbits with grazing guards to ensure that they establish in the spring. The locally rare Turtle Doves are also present in this area.

Nature Trails

There are two primary trails: the Quarry Trail, which takes in most of the lower part of the former quarry pit, now reclaimed by nature as chalk grassland; and, the Woodland Trail, which leads up to and around the relatively young Sparrowhawk Woods which overlooks the quarry area.

The Woodland Trail

This walk goes around the top section of the reserve into the woodland and has many good panoramic views. 

Look out for lizards on the logs that line the path; reeds up against the cliff to the right of the steps that provide a habitat for the protected harvest mouse, Marbled White butterflies, and Kestrels. Along the path you will enter a small area of coniferous woodland that provides a habitat for insects and specialist fungi. Look out for the Speckled Wood butterfly. Piles of logs and branches provide habitats for small animals and fungi.

Sculpture Hunt

Hidden around the trials of the quarry pit are 9 sculptures – all are animals or plants that are found in Monkton Nature Reserve. A map obtained from Reception will help you find the sculptures.

Bat Cave

The Reserve built the UK’s first artificial bat cave in 1986. It is located close to Dragonfly Pond, at the base of the chalk cliff. Its purpose was to help prevent the decline in Britain’s bat species, particularly the brown long-eared bat, by creating a suitable roosting and hibernation site.  Due to flooding bats are unlikely to be present here now however great crested newts and smooth newts inhabit the structure.

Chalk Cliffs

As an abandoned chalk quarry, the exposed cliffs provide an important insight into local geology and a source of some good fossils. Collecting can only be carried out with supervision. The cliffs are of Late Cretaceous age and were formed at the bottom of an ancient ocean 80 million years and now act as home toseveral bird speciesand tobats. At the base of the cliffs are scree slopes, made up of loose rocks from cliff fall. These are used for hibernation by the Great-crested Newtsand many other small animals. During the Ice Age, a river ran across this area towards Monkton. The dry riverbed can now be seen in cross-section as a noticeable brown discolouration at the top of the cliff edge on the eastern side of the quarry.

The Hideaway Hunt

The Hideaway Hunt is a search for 8 sculptures of Faerie Homes around the reserve. Match the image on a sticker to add to your trail leaflet. All sculptures represent natural items that the faeries have used to create safe havens; if you look carefully, you will be able to see where they have made entrances to their secret places. The Hideaway Hunt was created in memory of Cecelia Sutton by her daughter Annie Begley. She was an avid lover of the natural world, as well as having a curiosity of the life and habits of faeries!

Monkton Meander A to Z

An alphabetical challenge to find, see, hear, feel, or smell things beginning with letters of the alphabet.

Walk, Watch,

Listen and Learn 

(Sponsored by Cummins Power Generation (UK), Ramsgate)

Using a trail map with any of the 12 activity leaflets to find your way around the reserve, seek out the boards and signs and answer the questions. Each of the leaflets gives information about some of the features of habitats, plants and animals found on the reserve and their importance in the environment. Designed predominantly for primary school groups but families and visitors might find them fun too.


There are two ponds inside the Reserve. Dragonfly Pond is on the quarry floor and is fed by groundwater, so has a fluctuating water level depending on the season. During the winter, the level can rise to as much as 5m in depth and flood the surrounding area of the quarry. 

The smaller Damselfly Pond is a butyl-lined pond higher up in the Reserve, in a secluded location overlooked by a small bird hide. Both ponds are visited by Grass Snakes on hunting expeditions, and both have healthy populations of the protected Great-crested Newt.

Nature Bingo

See how many things you can find on your visit and tick them off as you go around. What will you find – a spider, a robin, a dragonfly?

Brass Rubbing Activity Trail

Can you find and complete all 9 brass rubbings with your brass rubbing kit? Complete them, return the kit to Reception and you will receive a certificate.

Dinosaurs and Fossils – Lester’s Trail

Our dinosaur and fossil trail is dedicated to Lester Hovenden, a much-loved volunteer who worked in the museum at Monkton Nature Reserve for many years, Lester had a great passion for, and knowledge of animals, past and present and chose 6 of his favourite creatures that can find around the lower level of the reserve. Each sculpture a question for you to answer.

Woodland areas

There is a small, young woodland in land above the quarry. Named Sparrowhawk Woods, this woodland was first planted in the 1970s and is now well used by the bird population including Turtle Doves. A circular woodland walk allows visitors to view a diverse variety of plants, including orchids, snowdrops, snowflakes, bluebells, primroses, violets and many more. Piles of logs and branches around the woodland provide habitats for small animals and fungi, which in turn provide food for other larger organisms. A bird hide on the southern edge of the woodland overlooks the reserve, from where you might catch sight of kestrels, buzzards and, of course, sparrowhawks.

A full-size replica Bronze Age Barrow was built in the woodland in 1992. This is a long-term experimental project to obtain data for the Thanet Archaeological Unit. A model of the barrow can be seen in the Frenken Room of the Field Study Centre. Close to the top of the steps which connects the quarry area to the upper part of the reserve, a pit has been excavated rarely seen in England. The ‘Loess Pit’ reveals Ice Age silt deposited by glacial action. Marbled white butterflies are common along this stretch of grassland, so we refer to this area as Marbled White Meadow.

The Willett Educational Garden

The Willett Educational Garden is named in honour of Allan Willett, Former Lord Lieutenant of Kent and one of Monkton Nature Reserve’s major benefactors. The Willett family’s involvement with the original quarry site dates back to the 19th century. The garden has a small horticultural area. “Minibeast City” has been sited within the Willett Sensory Garden for exploring wildlife and an education shelter that allows for study in inclement weather. The garden is also the smaller, more secluded of our main picnic areas.

Help us grow

Thanet Countryside Trust