Tourist information, pictures and things to do, White Cliffs of Dover, England
The White Cliffs of Dover and the surrounding area can offer a fun day out combined with hill walks and magnificent views over the English Channel. The cliffs offer views of Continental Europe across the narrowest part of English Channel and have symbolic value to the history of Britain. The area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The white cliffs are also referred to as the first and last sight of England for travellers travelling by sea before air travel was invented.
‘The White Cliffs of Dover are a symbol of a collective story. A place of both joy and sorrow, familiar faces and new adventures, of coming and going, the first and last sight’
Over thousands of years, millions of people have travelled through this gateway connecting Great Britain with Europe.
The lost history of the White Cliffs 1884-1988
Many people visit the white cliffs for many different reasons today, some are drawn by the breath taking views, the beautiful landscape or maybe the cliffs mark the end or a beginning of a long journey. However, in 1884, some men came here under very different circumstances when there was a convict prison, also used for detaining soldiers in the same building. The building had already been demolished by the time the property came in to care of the National Trust in 1988 with its stories lost forever.
A natural icon
The cliffs are sprinkled with flowers that thrive despite the harsh conditions of the cliff top climate. Larger plants find it harder to establish themselves due to low nutrients, shallow soils and exposed location, however, this means a large variety of smaller, rare plants flourish.
Today, National Trust manage and look after this distinct location by following traditional grazing practices that was behind the creation of the grassland environment over hundreds of years. On a normal day’s walk, you may come across herd of Exmoor ponies browsing the cliff-top. They love eating the tougher grass which also helps maintain the diversity of wildflowers.
A Home for Nature
The ancient chalk grassland is one of Europe’s richest habitats for fauna and flora and is very important geologically. A well-managed chalk grassland can accommodate 30-40 different species of plant in a single square metre. The cliffs also contain a wide variety of insects such as Adonis Blue, one of the 32 species of butterfly found here.
It is understood that chalk grassland can be very specialised and fragile ecosystem. National Trust has done a brilliant job in maintaining the conditions for these special species to thrive by using grazing animals to keep down fast-growing grasses and scrub. A group of dedicated volunteer rangers help care for the landscape, maintaining the grasslands and helping wildlife to flourish.
A Changing Coastline
The White Cliffs of Dover as can be seen today formed during the cretaceous period (65 – 140 million years ago) from the remains of marine plants and animals. Interestingly, the cliffs erode at an average of 10cm a year and occasionally larger sections of cliff ‘breakdown’ depositing thousands of tonnes of chalk in to the English Channel.
The ‘white’ or ‘bare’ face of the cliffs are maintained due to the above mentioned forces of nature and erosion from the sea which would otherwise quickly become colonised by plants.
Visitor information centre
A National Trust visitor centre was built in the area in 1999. The sustainable Gateway building was designed by van Heyningen and Haward Architects housing an information centre on the work of the National Trust, local archaeology, history and landscape and a restaurant.
A few safety notice for when you visit the site
Please refrain from feeding any animals you come across in the area. You are allowed to take your dogs but it is advised to keep them under close control.
Directions to the Car Park for visiting White Cliffs of Dover
You can use the address for National Trust visitor centre to arrive at one of the convenient parking spaces - Langdon Cliffs, Upper Road, Dover, Kent CT16 1HJ
Postcode for White Cliffs of Dover to use on GPS/SatNav - CT16 1HJ