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Landscape blossoms as power lines vanish

Power lines have been removed from a nature reserve in Cuxton famed for rare wild flowers.

From Press releases - 25 May 2016 12:00 AM

Before photo 2 - Landscape blossoms as power lines vanish (2).jpg

Power lines have been removed from a nature reserve in Cuxton famed for rare wild flowers.

Over 1.3km of electricity lines have been diverted underground at Ranscombe Farm, a Plantlife Nature Reserve, recognised as an important botanical site for hundreds of years.

UK Power Networks, which owns and runs the local electricity network, invested £162,840 from its special fund to underground power lines in nationally-important landscapes. Kent Downs AONB unit nominated the scheme and the power company carried out the work.

Covering an area of 620 acres on the slopes of the North Downs in Kent, Ranscombe Farm is celebrated for the first UK recordings of two nationally-rare species, in 1699 and 1792 – meadow  clary and rough mallow. Both plants still survive in the same spot and the site has at least nine species of orchid including fly, lady and man orchid.

Shaun Barrell, UK Power Networks’ protected areas project officer, said: “Our power lines ran down the side of a valley and near the North Downs Way trail crossing the site, so the electrical equipment was visible from surrounding footpaths. We were delighted to carry out a project which will enhance one of our nation’s treasured green spaces for future generations.”

The reserve is known to be one of Britain’s best sites for plants on arable land. It has fields of wild flowers which include blue pimpernel, night-flowering catchfly, narrow-fruited cornsalad and dense-flowered fumitory. Removing the poles and power lines has further improved the setting.

Tim Owen, from Kent Downs AONB, said: “The reserve has a network of paths which are popular with walkers looking for peaceful countryside and fascinating flora. These paths used to pass close to the power lines or underneath them so undergrounding this equipment has had an instant impact on the views. We all need electricity, but it is great to continue our valued partnership work with UK Power Networks to remove power lines in special landscapes like this.”

Ben Sweeney, warden at Ranscombe Farm Reserve, said: “The work undertaken by UK Power Networks to underground the power lines at Ranscombe has greatly enhanced the appearance of an already very attractive part of our reserve, and no longer needing to negotiate around them will no doubt make our day-to-day management activities a lot easier.”

UK Power Networks has carried out similar projects at Chartham Downs, Folkestone, Westerham, Saltwood, Lamberhurst, St Margaret’s at Cliffe, Cobham Park, Detling, Ightham Mote, Throwley and Brightling Down. Since 2005 the company has invested £17.3m in the South East and East Anglia to underground 123km power lines, improving the views in AONBs and national parks.

Projects are chosen by a regional steering group of environment experts, including the Kent Downs AONB, and chaired by Natural England. UK Power Networks provides technical support and guidance to the group and carries out the projects.