Our 2023 Highlights

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18th December 2023

As we look forward to 2024, we wanted to share some of our highlights from 2023 with you. This year we are proud to have:

1. Launched the North Downs Way Art Trail, creating a free, outdoor art exhibition with nine new sculptures to explore along the trail. The works of art include domes with 360-degree views and sculptural seats that reflect the shapes of the surrounding hills and valleys.

2. Resurfaced 4km of pathways in the Downs for accessibility, including sections of the North Downs Way National Trail, the Darent Valley Path by Lullingstone Country Park, and the White Cliffs of Dover. The path improvements aim to remove some of the physical barriers preventing people with additional needs from accessing our landscape.

3. Successfully trialled our first virtual reality experience following the River Darent from source to sea, enabling people who are unable to access the countryside to experience a feeling of being outdoors in our landscape. So far the film has been show at numerous events in the Darent Valley this year and we’re planning to tour around care homes and libraries in the future.

4. Welcomed over 150 Muslim Hikers to the Kent Downs for their first ever coastal walk. Tickets for the walk sold out in under three hours.  This event supported us winning the international Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) award at the 2023 Travel Marketing Awards for promoting inclusivity in the great outdoors.

5. Completed our Interreg EXPERIENCE sustainable tourism project, reaching over 20 million consumers and over 500,000 businesses, and funding over £500,000 of tourist infrastructure (walking/cycling/accessibility etc.) improvements. The legacy of the project will continue to promote sustainable and off-season tourism in the Downs.

6. Planted 2.5km of hedgerows as just a tiny part of Farming in Protected Landscapes activities. Farming in Protected Landscapes is a DEFRA programme supporting farmers and land managers in National Parks and National Landscapes to carry out projects to support nature recovery and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

7. Created 17 new, self-guided Rail Trails in the Darent Valley promoting exploration via sustainable travel. The guides are available for free on the Darent Valley Trails app and can be downloaded and used in the countryside without the need for mobile signal or data. The walks all start and end at a mainline train station and are themed around the unique nature, heritage, and culture of the Darent Valley landscape and its towns and villages.

8. Undertook archaeological fieldwork at three sites in the Darent Valley, including a very successful community archaeology dig, in partnership with the National Trust, at St John’s Jerusalem in North Kent. Having never been excavated before, the site had outstanding potential for archaeological remains, and finds included broken fragments of ceramics from Victorian rubbish dumping, medieval decorated floor tiles, and a quarter-cut 13th century penny.

9. Launched our GeoDiversity project to help more people discover their local incredible geodiversity and explore personal stories and connections with the landscape. We’ll be hosting a series of events to give people the chance to understand how our landscape was formed by geological processes millions of years ago, plus identifying “Geosites”: sites of geological interest across the Downs, where people can visit and interact with our geological heritage.

10. Became a National Landscape alongside all AONBs in England and Wales to highlight our equal place in the country’s aims around health, wellbeing, sustainable public access, climate change and nature recovery. We’ve got a new look and a new logo, but our mission remains the same; to protect and restore our designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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