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White Cliffs Of Dover: National Trust Launch Appeal To Safeguard Landmark (PICTURES)

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A £1.2 million appeal to safeguard one of England's most famous natural landmarks, the White Cliffs of Dover, has been launched by the National Trust.

The Trust is embarking on its largest ever coastal fundraiser to buy a stretch of the chalk cliffs just less than a mile long, so it can be managed to improve public access and boost the habitat for wildlife.

The purchase would fill in the missing link in a stretch of coast almost five miles long owned by the National Trust on behalf of the nation, from its visitor centre above Dover port to South Foreland lighthouse.

white cliffs of dover

Fiona Reynolds, director general of the National Trust, said: "Immortalised in song and literature, the White Cliffs of Dover have become one of the great symbols of our nation.

"We now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure their future for everyone to enjoy.

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"If we don't raise the money then the future of the White Cliffs is uncertain and this stretch of coastline might one day be disrupted by inappropriate management or development."

The chalk cliffs stretching east from Dover are home to a rich array of wildlife such as the Adonis blue butterfly and peregrine falcons, Kent's only kittiwake, and plants including oxtongue broomrape and sea carrots.

They have stood over dramatic moments in English history, including the first arrival of the Romans and the return of British forces rescued from Dunkirk in the Second World War.

And they have featured in songs and poetry, most famously the wartime classic (There'll be bluebirds over) the White Cliffs of Dover, sung by Dame Vera Lynn, and Matthew Arnold's poem Dover Beach.

Historian and TV presenter Dan Snow is backing the move by the Trust to buy the stretch of land, describing the White Cliffs as "one of the country's greatest and most iconic landmarks".

"It's brilliant that they have a chance to secure this important section of the cliffs, forever, for everyone," he said.

The Trust manages the cliffs as chalk grassland, parts of which are grazed by Exmoor ponies to preserve the natural flora and support wildlife such as butterflies.

Access is maintained for the public, who visit in their hundreds of thousands each year.

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Although people are already able walk the cliffs from the visitor centre to the lighthouse, part of the stretch is privately owned and in places arable fields come to the edge of cliffs, leaving just a slither of land for the coastal path.

By buying the 1.35km (0.8 mile) piece of the coastal jigsaw, the National Trust would be able to restore the natural habitat, providing more space for species to retreat as the cliffs naturally erode, and connect the Trust's existing areas of land.

Robert Sonnen, National Trust countryside ranger, said: "It's about linking up the fragmented habitats, allowing us to manage them in a more landscape scale, sustainable way."

:: People who want to contribute to the appeal can do so by visiting www.nationaltrust.org.uk/whitecliffsappeal, by texting the code DOVR02 and the amount they wish to donate (eg DOVR02 £5) to 70070 or by calling 0844 800 1895.