Places to see birds

Blean Woods Complex (Church Woods entrance CT2 9DD)

Blean Woods Complex (Church Woods entrance CT2 9DD)
Richard Hanman

Highlights of the reserve:

Lesser spotted woodpecker - Britain's rarest breeding woodpecker species is easiest to see and hear at Blean Woods in early spring, before the trees have their leaves. Listen for the males' drumming and their high-pitched trilling call from the canopy.

Nightingale - These magnificent songsters breed in the hedgerows and scrub. Listen for their incredibly rich, musical song in late April and May. If you are lucky, you may spot one sitting among the foliage, its body almost shaking with the effort!

Nightjar - Linger until dusk to encounter this amazing bird between May and July. As the light begins to fade, listen for the mechanical 'churring' drifting across the heather. Keep your eyes peeled for nightjars darting around catching moths and for pairs performing their wing-clapping displays.

Timing your visit:

Each season brings a different experience at our nature reserves. In spring, the air is filled with birdsong as they compete to establish territories and attract a mate. In summer, look out for young birds making their first venture into the outside world. Autumn brings large movements of migrating birds - some heading south to a warmer climate, others seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. In winter, look out for large flocks of birds gathering to feed, or flying at dusk to form large roosts to keep warm.


Drumming woodpeckers, singing nightingales, willow warblers, chiffchaffs, garden warblers, blackcaps, treecreepers, nuthatches, blue, great, coal and marsh tits, wrens, robins, song and mistle thrushes, blackbirds, 'roding' woodcocks, 'churring' nightjars. Pink-flowered lousewort along some ride verges, primroses, bluebells and wood anemones occur patchily.


Look out for the rare heath fritillary butterfly along rides and in young coppice areas from mid-June to mid-July. Common spotted orchids present in some glades and ride edges. Dragonflies, damselflies, up to 30 species of butterflies and a wide range of other insects can be found in the more open areas.


A wide range of fungi can be hunted for on the ground, on dead wood, branches and twigs, and even growing out of live trees. Easily the most conspicuous, and abundant in some years, is the fly agaric, with its white stalk and a bright orange cap flecked with white spots.


This is a very quiet time on the reserve, but you may encounter a mixed-species flock of tits, perhaps joined by a treecreeper. Numbers of resident blackbirds and goldcrests may be augmented by wintering birds from Scandinavia.

How to get here:

Map reference: TR126592
Postcode: CT2 9DD

From the A2, Dover direction: take Canterbury turnoff, and after 0.25 mile (0.4 km), turn left, signposted Rough Common and Blean, up steep hill. Drive through Rough Common village, passing the Dog and Bear pub on left. 100 m further on, look out for Brown tourist sign for reserve at the bus stop on the left. Turn left onto access track, which is tarmaced for first 90 m, and then becomes a rough track. Continue for further 180 m to the car park. From A2, Canterbury direction, take Canterbury turnoff, then follow signs for A2 London. On leaving built-up area, and the last of a series of roundabouts, continue following signs for London and A2, then after 0.75 mile (1.2 km), turn right, signposted Rough Common and Blean. Drive up steep hill into Rough Common village, passing Dog and Bear pub on your left. After 90 m, look out for Brown tourist sign for the reserve beside bus stop. Turn left up access track, which is tarmac for first 90 m, then becomes rougher track. Continue for further 180 m to car park. From Canterbury city centre, take A290 Whitstable road, driving uphill for 1.5 miles (2.4 km), then turn left at mini-roundabout, signposted Rough Common. Drive through Rough Common village for 400 m, then, when road curves to the left, turn right at bus stop, where there is a brown tourist sign for reserve. Drive up access track, tarmacked for first 90 m, then rougher surface for the final 180 m to car park