Sandwich Bay IPA

Location: Kent coast between Ramsgate and Deal, at the River Stour estuary, east of the town of Sandwich.

Grid Reference: TR 353 588

Sandwich Bay IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.

The key features of this IPA are:

  • The species richness of vascular plants on Coastal dune and sand habitat and Coastal Shingle Habitat
  • One of the best UK examples of threatened habitats of:
    Dunes with creeping willow;
    Very young mobile dunes;
    Fixed dunes;
    Shifting dunes along the shoreline
  • This site contains the most important sand dune system and sandy coastal grassland in south east England, together with a wide range of other habitats such as mudflats, saltmarsh, chalk cliffs and freshwater grazing marsh.

    The seaward edge at the north displays a good sequence of shifting dune communities and there are clear zones within the dune habitat, with strandline species on the seaward edge and sand-binding grasses inland.

    Sandwich Bay is largely an inactive dune system with a particularly extensive representation of fixed dunes with herbaceous vegetation (`grey dunes`) together with shifting dunes along the shoreline with marram grass (`white dunes`). The shifting dune vegetation also contains a range of characteristic foredune species including sea bindweed, sea spurge and sea-holly.

    The vegetation is extremely species-rich and includes several rare and scarce species, such as fragrant evening-primrose, bedstraw, broomrape and sand catchfly, as well as the UK’s largest population of lizard orchid. The small area of dunes with Salix repens ssp. argentea found at Sandwich Bay is of interest as it is the only example found in the dry south-east of England and is representative of this habitat type in a near-continental climate.

    The saltmarsh comprises a diversity of characteristic plants dominated by saltmarsh grasses and common cord-grass. Other abundant species include sea purslane, sea aster, sea lavender and the nationally scarce golden samphire. South of the River Stour saltmarsh grades into the sand dune system; this is the only Kent site for the long-bracted sedge, and also provides suitable conditions for a dense growth of the nationally scarce sharp rush.