There is pedestrian access for Kings Hill residents to extensive areas of public open space, known as Warren Woods Nature Park, from Amber Lane and also from the bridleway that encircles the residential area as well as vehicle access from Beacon Avenue, which leads to the adjacent Kings Hill Sports Park.
This area of ancient woodland, regenerating former orchards and open grassland glades and a network of tracks is open to all for low key recreational use, including dog walking and nature walks. It is also used by the Kings Hill school children and local groups, for informal educational purposes and it has an important dual role as an important wildlife refuge and green lung for Kings Hill.
The nature park, which includes areas of dense woodland, is home to a wide range of wildlife including badgers, foxes, bats and the shy and nocturnal dormouse, as well as many woodland birds, reptiles and insects, including an array of butterflies and bees.
In order to encourage the inhabiting population of dormice to move freely around the park, a bespoke dormouse bridge has been created over the main entrance to the park from Beacon Avenue, other specific measures to encourage uncommon and declining wildlife in the park include the creation of extensive reptile hibernaculum features, as well as the installation of bird boxes and insect ‘hotels’.
These are footpath routes that the landowner is happy for people to walk but does not intend them to become public rights of way.
Until now Liberty had allowed access to the area of land known as Area 5.4 at the end of Amber Lane. The area is private land and has been signposted as such. Signage has always stated that access to the area may be withdrawn and, following increased use, it has been decided to fence the land. The site is not designated open space in any of the Kings Hill planning consents and there are around 100 acres of land in Kings Hill dedicated to providing access to green open spaces for the community to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits. Walkers will find Public Right of Way MR114 is clearly signposted and the fencing will guide people onto the correct route, which is outside the private land. Feedback from the Kings Hill community is welcome – https://www.kings-hill.com/contact/
Two small areas of designated Local Wildlife Site are found either side of Bancroft Lane, adjacent to Oslin Walk. These areas of land are defined within the Kings Hill Estate as Nature Conservation Areas (NCAs) which are specifically managed to perpetuate and increase their value to wildlife.
They include a mosaic of different habitat types including unusual heathy grassland, which supports plant communities characteristic of both acid and alkaline conditions. The management regime prevents degradation of the habitat through scrub encroachment and human disturbance and encourages proliferation of acid loving heathers and species that prefer alkaline conditions including orchids and marjoram and use of the site by UK protected species of reptiles (viviparous lizard, slow worm, grass snake and adder), breeding and feeding birds (including skylark, green woodpecker, linnet), invertebrates etc.
In order to encourage use by hedgehogs, which are in decline nationally small hedgehog shaped gaps in the enclosing fencing have been provided, to allow hedgehogs and other small mammals including yellow necked mice, to move freely between the habitats and nearby woodland and gardens. One of these areas also includes a WW2 Pill Box, which was part of the defences located on the perimeter track for the airfield.
This small building is now used by insects including cave spiders and it has been adapted to encourage use by hibernating bats during the colder weather. Information boards have been added to these areas to increase the understanding of why the areas have been retained and their ecological value.
Whilst these areas are not open to residents on a day to day basis, in order to ensure that their value as undisturbed refuge areas is respected, we organise specific excursions into the NCAs with parties of school children and other groups, in order to explore the Pill Box and to learn about the types of habitats and wildlife using these valuable refuge areas and to be actively involved in their conservation. For example, we have involved schools in creating ‘creature features’ specifically designed to encourage use by hibernating lizards and hidden brash heaps, which hedgehogs love to bury themselves in during the winter months.
Footpaths don’t just criss-cross the countryside around Kings Hill, they traverse the village too. They enable residents to reach schools, sports facilities and Liberty Square avoiding the need to set foot on a road.
These miles of ‘greenways’ have been designed as combined pedestrian and cycle routes. With paved surfaces and clever landscaping, they give the sense of a stroll in the countryside.