Among the many activities of the Southborough Society and the duties that it carries out, possibly the least known and most surprising is that it owns and cares for a sizeable piece of land bordering Southborough Common.
It is located along the western edge of the Common, opposite the slope on which the large beech trees grow, the other side of the stream. Many people probably assume that it is part of the Common but it was in fact sold to the Society in 1980 by Mr and Mrs A. Pollock of Bentham Farm for the princely sum of £1. It appears that the couple wanted to protect the wider area from development and permanently safeguard it as a haven for wildlife. There were strict clauses in the legal document which meant that it could never be used for anything other than a nature reserve or be sold on to anyone other than an organisation with similar aims to the Southborough Society.
So why the name “Doctor’s Meadow”? It is not known who the doctor which gave the site its name was. You could be forgiven for thinking that the term “meadow” was a misnomer given its current state - in many places overgrown and impenetrable. But as with the Common itself, the land was once a lot more open as it was managed with coppicing, pollarding and grazing widely practiced. The last remnant of meadow can be seen at the top of the site where it is still quite open and free from trees and bushes, although covered in bracken.
For nearly two decades the site was left to nature with little intervention but in 2015 the Society’s committee decided to consider better ways of managing it. A survey by Kent Wildlife Trust was commissioned which gave valuable advice on how to proceed with work that would maximise its potential to promote biodiversity. Amongst the report’s many observations, it stated that the area was an ideal habitat for dormice, reptiles, amphibians and bats. Bluebells and brambles were recorded but with sensitive clearance of invasive species such as holly, sycamore, rhododendron and willow, more light would reach the ground and this could encourage much rarer wildflowers to emerge from the seedbank in the soil. The survey’s author stressed that all dead wood and the many fallen trees should be left untouched as they provide an excellent habitat for insects and fungi.
In the winter of 2017/18 in collaboration with Kent High Weald Partnership, conservation work began with parties of volunteers who spent two sessions clearing and burning the undergrowth. In the late summer of 2018, work to eliminate the thick bracken commenced, which will hopefully help to restore the area of mixed grassland and meadow at the top of the site. The Society also intends to build two or three bridges over the stream to make it easier for people to cross over and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of Doctor’s Meadow.
More sessions are planned for the next winter season - look out for information in the Society’s diary of events or check out their website if you’d like to volunteer!
Former Chairman of the Southborough Society