Coastal Vegetated Shingle

Coastal Vegetated Shingle - John Miller - Explore Kent

Current Status

Kent supports more than 40 % of the UK resource of vegetated shingle. 90% of the Kent’s vegetated shingle occurs at Dungeness alone, and this site is unusual in that the shingle extends far inland. As a result this site supports vegetation communities that are not found elsewhere in the UK,including the Holmstone holly wood at Lydd ranges which is a globally unique feature. This extensive shingle expanse supports many species which are rare in Britain, in particular invertebrates. The value of the shingle is increased by its juxtaposition to other habitats such as sand dune, grazing marsh, saltmarsh and saline lagoon. Other reasonably broad stands of shingle occur on Hythe Ranges, whilst there are scattered strips of fringing shingle beach between Kingsdown and the Isle of Grain.


  • Disturbance by trampling and vehicles which erode and degrade the vegetation, damaging the natural shingle ridge patterns.
  • Sea level rise, natural patterns of coastal erosion and deposition, and the interruption of natural sediment supply, resulting in the desire to protect the coast from resulting erosion, damaging valuable drift line communities and the natural patterns of accretion and deposition. Sea defence works can involve beach feeding using shingle dug up from sites such as Dungeness or marine aggregate which may not be of an appropriate particle size.
  • Development of land that is perceived as “waste” land.
  • Abandonment of traditional grazing/hay-crop management on the shingle/grassland interface, and damp peaty/shingle hollows at Dungeness, leading to an increase in rank vegetation and willow carr invasion.
  • Intensive grazing of limited areas of shingle resulting in damage to the vegetation communities.
  • Gravel extraction.
  • Very slow recovery of large areas of shingle from damage over 60 years ago, most serious in areas such as the Holmstone holly wood where the absence of shingle vegetation prevents natural regeneration of young bushes.
  • Changes in the ground water levels at Dungeness.
  • Air pollution resulting in changes to nutrient poor areas of acid grassland.
  • Management of species associated with disturbance, such as the Stinking Hawks-beard and Sussex Emerald – getting the balance right between too much disturbance and too little, and in the right areas.
  • Invasion of non-native plants on shingle communities.

Current Action

  • Prevention of damage to the shingle at Dungeness by more effective wardening, and the provision of better car parking areas/boardwalks to prevent damage to coastal shingle communities.
  • Restoration of appropriate grazing/browsing regimes on parts of the Dungeness shingle beach.
  • Consideration of the changes to shoreline management driven by the habitats Directive at Dungeness.
  • Experimental recovery of areas of damaged ancient shingle beach on Lydd Ranges.


  1. Maintain the extent of all coastal vegetated shingle sites.

  2. Restore 555 ha by 2010 (equivalent to 95% SSSI), 602 ha by 2020 (equivalent to 100% SSSI & 25% SNCI) and 619 ha by 2026 (equivalent to 100% SSSI & 50% SNCI)

Relevant Habitat Action Plans

The relevant UK Habitat Action Plans:

The relevant UK Species Action Plans:

The relevant Kent Habitat Action Plans:

  • Coastal and floodplain grazing marsh
  • Coastal saltmarsh
  • Coastal sand dunes
  • Saline lagoons