The Fifth Continent

PUBLISHED: 16:08 17 May 2015 | UPDATED: 16:08 17 May 2015

Dungeness

Dungeness

Jim Higham

Romney Marsh is a flagship area for the Kent Wildlife Trust Living Landscapes Project to regenerate this vast, wildlife-rich habitat

‘The world, according to the best geographers, is divided into Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Romney Marsh…’ - The Ingoldsby Legends (1837).

When the former curate of Snargate and resident of Warehorne, Reverend Richard Barham, writing under his pen name of Thomas Ingoldsby, wrote the above famous quote in his book The Leech of Folkestone: Mrs Botherby’s Story, he knew very well the Marsh he was describing.

He captured the mystery, bleakness and isolation of Romney Marsh in a few lines, as the story continues: “In this, and fifth, quarter of the globe, a witch may still be occasionally discovered in favourable, ie stormy, seasons, weathering Dungeness Point in an eggshell, or careering on her broomstick over Dymchurch wall.

“A cow may yet be sometimes seen galloping like mad, with tail erect, and an old pair of breeches on her horns, an unerring guide to the door of the crone whose magic arts have drained her udder. I do not, however, remember to have heard that any Conjurer has of late been detected in the district.”

Reclaimed from the sea, drained, shaped and managed by man over many centuries, Romney Marsh and the Dungeness peninsula provide a home for some of 
the south-east’s richest habitat and most wonderful wildlife, as well as an internationally famous breed of sheep.

But over recent decades this landscape has fragmented and degraded with the loss of some of the most important habitats on the Marsh. In an attempt to reverse this decline, Romney Marsh has become one of the flagship areas for the Kent Wildlife Trust Living Landscapes Project.

Supported by partners, including Shepway District Council, Natural England, the Environment Agency, RSPB, The Marsh Academy and Romney Resource Centre, the Trust has attracted funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund Landscape Partnership Scheme to realise a vision of a living landscape for the Marsh.

This will deliver major benefits to wildlife, inspire interest in local history, enhance sustainable tourism, support farmers and landowners, involve local communities and create opportunities for training and employment.

The Trust has won an earmarked grant of £1.9m by HLF towards a five-year project worth £2.6m. Work has begun with the development stage of the scheme, during which the planning, feasibility and scope of the projects that will deliver the aims of the scheme will be undertaken ready to unlock the remaining grant. The Trust’s visitor centre at Romney Warren will be the focal point for much of the project’s activities.

Chief executive, John Bennett, said: “The Fifth Continent Landscape Partnership Scheme will work with the people of Romney Marsh to reconnect them to their environment, restore wildlife, protect the heritage and promote the enjoyment and understanding of this evocative landscape - from the unique vegetated shingle of Dungeness to the wildlife haven that is the Royal Military Canal - for many years to come.

“Together, we can deliver conservation on a truly landscape scale and put the ‘Fifth Continent’ firmly on the map.”

Find out more

Ewa Prokopas has joined the Trust to coordinate the Partnership’s full submission to the HLF, due in October 2016. To find out more about the Scheme, why not check out the Living Landscapes webpages at www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk?

There is also a link to a Survey Monkey questionnaire, through which we would welcome your ideas, aspirations and comments on the Scheme, as well as details of our ‘Fifth Continent Drop-in Sessions’ where you can chat to Ewa personally.

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