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Clifftops

Discover the flora and fauna of our fabulous clifftops, home to some amazing wildlife, along with some rare geological features. 

The geological exposures found in our cliffs represent one of the most significant sites in Britain for the study of Eocene estuarine sediments. The exposed sandstones are about 45 million years old and were formed in an ancient river estuary. 

Flora 

Our cliffs support over 300 plant species, making them one of the richer botanical sites in the country. There are rare species, some with unusual names such as mossy stonecrop, suffocated clover and hairy bird’s-foot-trefoil, which thrive on the dry, sandy soils. 

Invertebrates 

Butterflies are a feature and include Essex skipper and clouded yellow. Several more unusual insects occur such as the bee wolf (a bee-hunting wasp), grey bush-cricket, long-winged conehead. There’s also the extremely rare fly Cephalops Chlorinae, that has been recorded from only one other site in Britain. 

Birds 

The rarest sight here is the Dartford warbler. The cliffs are also home to many other birds such as stonechats and kestrels. Sand martins nest in burrows that they excavate in the sandy cliffs. 

If you look out to sea in summer, there’s a chance of seeing Sandwich terns plunge and dive for sand eels close to the shore. Cormorants can be seen perched on the red groyne markers and, further out to sea, there are often gannets.  

Reptiles 

The cliffs are particularly important for the nationally rare sand lizard, but there are also common lizards and, in certain areas wall lizards and green lizards can be seen. Wall and green lizards are not native species and were probably deliberately introduced. 

Clifftop management 

Large areas of the cliffs have become dominated by invasive, non-native vegetation, such as the Hottentot fig, garden privet and holm oak. 

There’s a clifftop management plan in place which aims to restore as much as possible of the natural habitats. This includes the use of goats to graze the unwanted scrub at Honeycomb Chine. 

Our goats are shy and a little nervous, so if you’re lucky enough to spot one, why not Tweet us a picture using #goats