Worksheet EN1: Character and vitality of the town
Sub-Section 1: Description of the environmental features of the area Edit
Q1 Where is the town situated within the local landscape?
West Malling is a Kent market town on the north dip slope of the Greensand Ridge, a geographical feature stretching across South East England. The town is approximately 4km south of the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty SCA just west of the 'Medway Gap', where the River Medway carves a valley through the North Downs to flow northward to the Thames Estuary at Rochester.
Q2 What are the distinctive features that define the limits of the town?
The town stands on a hill between two stream valleys. The hill rises southwards from the west-east running valley of the Lillieburn stream, which the A20 now follows. At the foot of St Leonard's Tower, St Leonard's Street, another stream rises and flows northward through Manor Park, the Ewell Monastery, the Abbey ,where it forms a cascade, then by the side of Frog Lane and via small lake , into the Lilliburn near Pump Close Leybourne. To the east and south east of the town a narrow strip of green wedge countryside separates West Malling from the villages of East Malling and Leybourne, and is dissected by West Malling bypass. For the most part, the western extent of houses in West Malling is defined by the eastern edge of the Metropolitan Green Belt.
Where are the town’s natural environmental landmarks (for example, groups of trees, parkland, and nature areas)?
West Malling is surrounded by countryside, which in many cases is very close to the Town Centre. To the north lies Banky Meadows, an area of open countryside sloping steeply to the valley of the Lillieburn Stream and Leybourne Woods. The southern edge of the parish is formed by the higher ground beyond which Kings Hill and Blaise Farm Quarry stand. To the east the green wedge of countryside separating East and West Malling includes the parkland of the Hermitage,( the residence of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kent)Lucks Hill, and Douces Manor, part of which is now the public Manor Park. In the west the open countryside rises gently to the hill on which the village of Offham stands, flanked by Stubbersdown Wood
Are they protected or well maintained?
All these natural landmarks are protected by one or more Planning designation in the Tonbridge and Malling Local Plan. Leybourne Woods and Woods Meadow to the north of the Lillieburn valley are protected ancient woodland and Public Open Space respectively. The Hermitage, and Douces Manor and Park are Areas of Local Landscape Importance. The land separating West Malling from Leybourne, Larkfield and East Malling is designated as a protected green wedge. The hamlets of St Leonards and New Barns have their own Conservation Areas, and land to the west of the town is protected by the MGB designation.
What areas are important for local biodiversity?
Banky Meadows is believed to have been an area used for burials during the Great Plague. It has lain undisturbed for many centuries and therefore has a large number of species characterising meadow pasture. On the west side of the town five pieces of land in public ownership form a wedge of green land stretching from the centre of the town to the edge. They are the grounds of West Malling Church of England Primary School, the allotments, the Cricket Meadow, Macey’s Meadow and the Playing Fields which surround the Village Hall. Macey’s Meadow is a 20 acre community project involving a 20 acre former derelict orchard. The management plan is for the laying out of areas of traditional Kentish cherry and apple orchard, native woodland areas, and spring and summer wildflower meadows.
What measures are in place to protect or enhance them?
Since all these plots are in public ownership, development is less likely. The Parish Council has specifically purchased the Cricket Meadow, Macey’s Meadow and the Playing Fields in order that they remain open to public access. The allotments are statutory allotments and development is therefore extremely unlikely. Macey’s Meadow is in the seventh year of a ten year contract under the Countryside Stewardship scheme to establish the land uses described above. There is the potential to manage the entire corridor of five land parcels for biodiversity SCA.