Channel spoil heap transformed into grassland

October 27, 1994

Ecologists have turned a four-million-tonne pile of spoil from the Channel Tunnel into a grassland which they hope will become an important conservation area.

The idea, to build a big platform at the bottom of Shakespeare cliff in Dover, protected by a sea wall, was chosen from 70 suggestions about what could be done with the diggings from the tunnel. Ecologists are trying to mimic vanishing chalk grassland such as that found on the North and South Downs.

Jonathan Mitchley, lecturer in ecology at Wye College, said that scientists are nurturing the grassland over several years, as a compromise between leaving the spoil to natural processes and responding to planners' desires for an immediately beautiful landscape.

"A chalk grassland is very species rich," he said. "It is an ancient vegetation which is maintained by grazing. It has declined because sheep have been moved onto improved land and also because of development."

The platform, named Samphire Ho, has been landscaped into hills, valleys and wetlands and sown with a mixture of wild flowers. Butterflies and beetles have already started to move in, says Dr Mitchley.

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