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West Kent Golf Course

In the rough grass, where errant golf balls look like puffball mushrooms, a natural habitat boasts beautiful butterflies and awesome orchids

Some golf courses can be surprisingly good for wildlife, and West Kent Golf Course is a fine example. It is within a short walk of Down House, the home where Charles Darwin wrote his seminal work On the Origin of Species, and it is suitably fitting that this is one of the Trust’s most valuable reserves.

The site sits in a superb area of chalk grassland, scrub and woodland where more than 28 species of butterfly have been recorded, benefiting from the unusual range of wildflower species which Darwin studied and wrote about. Darwin’s writings suggest that the reserve helped inspire his theory of evolution by natural selection and it is a key part of a proposed World Heritage Site: Darwin’s Landscape Laboratory.


Species you can see at West Kent Golf Course

Invertebrates: Small blue, skipper, yellow meadow-ant, solitary bees

Plants: Wild thyme, greater yellow-rattle, bee orchid, kidney vetch, field scabious, autumn gentian, sainfoin

Reptiles: Slow-worm, common lizard


History of West Kent Golf Course

The golf course opened in 1926 and occupies former farmland that was used for grazing sheep and cattle. In 1987 the golf club agreed to let the Trust manage the eastern bank to enhance its value to wildlife.


Management of West Kent Golf Course

The agreement with the golf club allows the Trust to conserve and enhance the rare chalk grassland habitat which is important for so many species. Rotational meadow cuts, combined with some selective burning, helps control invasive grasses and sustain high species diversity.


Facilities at West Kent Golf Course

There are no public facilities in the reserve. However, Down House, with a café and toilets, is a five-minute walk away, and there are two pubs in Downe village, about a 10-minute walk away.


How to get to West Kent Golf Course

You can enter via the public footpath, where it cuts across the Green Hill/West Hill road. If you are walking, the footpath begins 350m along from where West Hill meets Luxted Road. The R8 bus (Orpington to Biggin Hill) stops in Luxted Road, Downe. The nearest railway station is Orpington, six kilometres away.


West Kent Golf Course


Opening times for West Kent Golf Course

The reserve can be enjoyed via the public footpath that runs through it. Open at all times.


Accessibility at West Kent Golf Course

The footpaths through the reserve are unmade and on slopes. There are no benches. Car parking is best available in the nearby village of Downe, where the lanes are narrow. The reserve is a fifteen-minute walk from Darwin’s home, Down House, now owned by English Heritage and open to the public.


Status of West Kent Golf Course

Part of a Site of Metropolitan Importance, Metropolitan Green Belt


Get involved at West Kent Golf Course 


Nearby nature reserves

Downe Bank
1 miles - Kent Wildlife Trust
Saltbox Hill SSSI
1 miles - London Wildlife Trust
Hutchinson's Bank, Chapel Bank & Threecorner Grove
3 miles - London Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Milking Lane
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Great for...
Best time to visit
Apr - Jul
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Opening Times
Access at all times via the public right of way
6.30 hectares
Parking available in Downe Village, ten minutes' walk to reach site.
Dogs must be on lead
Reserve manager
Shaun Marriott
Tel: 07710 194 268


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