If you'd come to visit Kent at the time of the Romans, you'd have found a county that was largely covered in woodland and wild meadows.
Nowadays there is precious little left of it, and what there is has been rightfully protected in many cases. Thankfully that means there are still some delightful forests and woodland areas to explore, and some wonderful country parks to relax in and enjoy.
The following pages feature a wide variety of natural areas to explore in Kent, from large to small, each with it's own unique character.
Wherever you go in the county, you’re never far from some area of natural beauty to enjoy.
If you like a walk through the forest, try the National Pinetum at Bedgebury. Its benefitted from a massive investment in recent years, and has seen it used to construct well maintained paths, cycle tracks, activity areas, as well as a visitor centre.
Kent's country parks also offer a great deal of choice, from lakeside walks and historic sites, to reclaimed quarries, and even reclaimed land from the English Channel, under the White Cliffs of Dover! (see Samphire Hoe).
Wherever you choose for your day out, though, remember to follow the Country Code, so that it stay just as nice for your next visit.
Wye National Nature Reserve has a beautiful and varied landscape of chalk downland, woodland and scrub on the steep slope of the North Downs.
The reserve is home to an abundance of wildlife, including moths, insects and orchids that are important for both national and international conservation efforts. There is plenty of opportunity to enjoy a walk around the reserve thanks to the Public Rights of Way passing through it.
Located near to the reserve is the Devil's Kneading Trough - a popular local attraction, and one of a series of narrow dry valleys cut into the North Downs.
The Warren is a predominantly semi-ancient oak woodland. However, it also features areas of acid grassland, glades, neutral grassland, a large pond and sand quarries, which make for a more varied experience.
The site is home to many birds, such as nightingale, kestrel, spotted flycatcher, sparrow-hawk, water rail, cuckoo and tawny owl. Reptiles, such as grass snakes and great crested newts, can also be found at the site.
Parkwood Picnic Site is famous for its magnificent Spring display of bluebells, which carpet the woodland. It's a Site of Nature Conservation Interest, and boasts an amazing diversity of flora and fauna typical of this woodland habitat.
Plants include Wood Rush and St. John's Wort. The woodland also hides a very large, rare, wild service tree. Some areas are actively coppiced, which creates habitats for nesting nightingales, nuthatches, green and great spotted woodpeckers. The site also offers panoramic views over the surrounding countryside.
King's Wood has all the ingredients of a great family day out, with picnic spots and children's play areas. The unusual play structures represent creatures of the forest, and have been specially designed for younger children.
This ancient woodland site is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. To enjoy the best of the forest, take the 'Beech Walk', which leads past the unusual sculptures dotted around the site. The main species of trees found at King's Wood are sweet chestnut, corsican pine, and douglas fir.
Hothfield Common is the last substantial area of heathland and lowland valley bog left in Kent. It supports a range of wildlife specific to this type of habitat. The common is home to heather, sand wasps, sundew, bog asphodel and orchids, as well as many other species. The site also comprises areas of mature beech and oak woodland. It is due to its unique landscape and wildlife that Hothfield Common is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Hamstreet Woods National Nature Reserve was one of the first National Nature Reserves in the country. The spectacular ancient woodland is the perfect place to take relaxing, tranquil woodland walks.
The site makes use of the numerous footpaths, bridleways and long distance trails that run through the reserve, to offer a variety of routes to enjoy. It also has an easy access route for those with mobility problems. The reserve is unusual in that it is still actively managed in a traditional way. Because of this management, it attracts an outstanding collection of birds and moths.
Cuckoo Woods is a patchwork of semi-natural woodland, with a small pond and remnants of arable fields. The woodlands are comprised of mixed broad-leaved species, mainly oak, ash and field maple.
Ashford Green Corridor Nature Reserve is an attractive retreat where visitors can relax and enjoy the local wildlife. The Great Stour floodplain runs through urban Ashford and provides valuable green space and wildlife habitats. Most of this area is designated as a local nature reserve, and supports much wildlife, including voles, kingfishers and bats.
Visitors to the reserve can enjoy a walk or cycle ride along most of the corridor. The site also boasts a children's play area.
Ashford Community Woodland boasts stunning views of Ashford and the distant downs. The site consists of a band of mixed broad-leaved woodland, and large areas of recently planted community woodland and rough grassland. The woodland is home for a number of birds including skylarks and yellowhammers. Many species of butterfly can also be seen here.