Set in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Beauty near to Tunbridge Wells, Broadwater Warren was taken over by the RSPB in 2007, when it was a large conifer plantation with just a few remnants of heathland surviving. Much of the restoration work has already taken place, restoring the open landscape of the Weald. The RSPB has recreated 65 hectares of open heathland by removing the conifer plantations and thinning out some of the conifers to allow native trees to flourish. Lowland heath is now a rarer habitat than rain forest after almost 80% of UK’s heathland has disappeared since the 1800s. Threatened bird species like woodlark and nightjar have returned to the site, along with adders, bumble-bees and butterflies. The woodlands are managed for vulnerable species like marsh tit and dormouse.
This was a new venue for the Gravesend group and 19 keen members turned out to explore the site. We were greeted by blackcap and song thrush singing to us in the car park but what we really wanted to see and hear were those birds and other flora and fauna that are only to be found in this type of habitat. We followed the nature trail clearly marked and soon heard the “whit” or “huitt“ call of a chiffchaff or willow warbler. As we proceeded round we heard clearly both birds singing, so at least we did not have to worry about that dilemma. As the path opened onto heathland we observed the Exmoor ponies that are doing their bit in keeping down the scrub and some of us had our first and only distant view of a yellowhammer. Others had views of stonechat and even a parachuting tree pipit. Halfway round we came upon the Decoy Pond, where we had terrific views of beautiful demoiselles, emperor dragonfly, broad bodied chaser and large red damselflies among others. After lunch, we tried out the woodland and heathland trail. There was a lovely damp woodland boardwalk area where we had hopes of spotted flycatcher and lesser spotted woodpecker but alas…. Some woodland birds like blackbird, robin, coal tit and chaffinch were serenading us and treecreeper and goldcrest were trying to allude us but were seen by most. We returned via the pond and as we approached the open heathland again, Malcolm was demanding to know where the woodlark and yellowhammers were. Right on cue two woodlark were spotted on the ground. We had saved the best for last.
Thanks to all who came and I think I can speak for all of us when I say Broadwater Warren is worth a visit.
Thanks to Irene and Terry for leading the walk and the report and photographs. Thanks also to Chris and Sally for additional photographs.