A private estate with permitted vehicular access, please park considerately. North Foreland is a chalk headland in NE Thanet, overlooking the North Sea. There has been a lighthouse of sorts from pre-history, and Charles I granted Sir John Meldrum licence to continue to maintain them at both the North & South Forelands.

The headland is also the site for “The Thirty-nine Steps”, the title used by John Buchan for his spy novel. He once holidayed in a cliff-top residence and used the steps to visit the beach.

This location is important for naturalists on two main counts.  Firstly, it is a tall headland allowing observation of visible migration both offshore and along the cliff edge. In winter grebes, divers, auks, duck, and geese can be seen moving around our coast. The first fulmars arrive prospecting the cliffs in December. By spring, the return migration is underway, and flocks of geese may be seen heading out over the ocean to the north-east. The first migrant terns occur later. Swallows and martins often follow the cliff, and they may be preceded by an alpine swift. These have occasionally been known to linger to forage over the adjacent golf course and holm oaks. Prior, and after the breeding season Mediterranean gulls may gather offshore. Waders move north and south along the coast, wheatears and other chats, warblers, buntings, and finches, including serins may be found in the bushes. Kent’s first American Cliff Swallow was seen and identified by Thanet RSPB Group members.

The second importance of this site is revealed in summer when a profusion of specialist chalk grassland flora appears, buzzing with insect life.  This is a managed roadside nature reserve, with controlled mowing aimed to improve the abundance of butterflies, bees, and other insects.  Search diligently and you can expect to see pyramidal, man and lizard orchids. Marbled white, common blue, brown argus, and little blue butterflies have occurred. A variety of bumblebees are common, and shrill carder bumblebee has been noted at this site.

In autumn, any migrant species may drop in from the continent, red-backed shrikes, common redstarts, pied flycatchers, yellow-browed warblers, wrynecks, ring ouzels and raptors. Don’t forget to check the longer grass on the cliff edge for newly arrived jack snipe or woodcock in October and November.

Best time to visit:
June is great for the wildflowers and insects.


Postcode: CT10 3QU

Latitude / Longitude: 51.376102492579, 1.4492729614075

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