Ranscombe Farm Reserve
Location: Cuxton, Medway, Kent.
Grid Reference: TQ 718 675 (car park) TQ 705 680 (middle of reserve)
Ranscombe Farm is Plantlife's largest nature reserve in England, occupying a total area of 560 acres on the slopes of the North Downs in Kent. Recently declared as a country park, the reserve provides opportunities for quiet walks amongst attractive countryside with a fascinating flora.
The Ranscombe Farm landscape includes arable habitats, extensive ancient woodland and fragments of chalk grassland. A large part of the site is within the Cobham Woods Site of Special Scientific Interest, and the whole farm is within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Ranscombe Farm has been an important botanic site for hundreds of years. The first UK records of two Nationally Rare species, meadow clary and rough mallow, were both from Ranscombe Farm, dating from 1699 and 1792 respectively. Both species still survive in the same spot. At least six species of orchid have also been recorded including fly, lady ('Fair Maidens of Kent') and man orchid.
Ranscombe Farm is managed in partnership with Medway Council as a nature reserve, working farm and country park. You are welcome to visit at any time, but please keep to the marked footpaths.
Wild flowers at the reserve
The reserve boasts an impressive repertoire of arable flowers, and two of the fields on the far western side are believed to be one of the best sites for annual plants on arable land in Britain.
The wildflowers in these fields include blue pimpernel, night-flowering catchfly, narrow-fruited cornsalad and dense-flowered fumitory.
The woodlands are at their best in spring when a colourful display of early-purple orchids and bluebells can be seen.
Although limited in extent, the chalk grassland habitats host a rich suite of plants including wild liquorice and horseshoe vetch. Other rarities include ground pine and broad-leaved cudweed.
The nearest rail stations are at Cuxton, Strood and Rochester (visit National Rail for more information). There are also several local bus services, details of which can be found at Kent public transport or by calling Traveline on 0870 608 2608. If you are travelling by car, the main entrance and car park are accessible directly from the A228 shortly before the roundabout (when approaching the M2 from Cuxton).