The White Cliffs of Dover could be bought by private developers if the UK’s National Trust doesn’t raise £1 million (1.29 million USD) by the end of September.

White Cliffs Dover.

Image credits Willi Heidelbach.

It’s one of Britain’s most iconic sights — the white chalk cliffs of Dover. Standing proud above the English Channel’s waters, the coastline is often the last sight for people leaving the UK and the first for visitors from Europe. And it could become a construction yard by the end of the month, warns the country’s National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty.

So they’re calling for public donations to help secure 700,000 sq meters (7,534,740 sq feet) of this unique, iconic habitat from private developers, and ensure that the cliffs will last for wildlife and future generations to enjoy.

The White Cliffs of Dover

During the height of World War Two, as Britain remained the last European bastion against encroaching fascist rule, the “Force’s Sweetheart” Dame Vera Lynn rallied weary soldiers with her song, The White Cliffs of Dover. Her voice helped cement the cliffs’ role as vanguards of the Isles, and an iconic sight for every British national. Now, she’s joining her voice to the effort of protecting this unique stretch of land for posterity.

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“It’s vital that we do all [that] we can to preserve this important historical site for posterity, so the memory of the past is never forgotten by future generations,” she explains, adding that it was the “first sight of home for our brave boys as they returned from war and they continue to represent important British ideals such as hope and resilience even in the most difficult time”.

The five-mile stretch of cliff between the port of Dover and the South Foreland light tower is currently being managed by the National Trust. The organization bought the land back in 2012, but the owner of the neighboring area is planning to put the land up for sale — prompting fear that the cliffs will be irrevocably damaged by developers and public access to the area will be restricted.

Known as the Wanstone Battery, it holds Dover’s largest WW2 coastal artillery batteries. It’s also a unique habitat, home for over 40 species of grasses and flowers including the Early Spider Orchid and Viper’s Bugloss, butterflies such as the Adonis Blue and Marbled White, and birds including the peregrine falcon and the skylark. Its characteristic landscape of short downland turf was created by generations of people taking their animals here to graze.

So the National Trust plans to buy it themselves and ensure the site’s conservation. If their bid is successful, they plan to restore the chalk grasslands, make the military structures watertight, and create new access routes for visitors. But they need to raise a lot of money very fast, and that’s where we come in.

The Trust is dumping all of its Neptune (the Trust’s coastal area conservation project) funds to cover part of the £2.5 million total cost of the land and is calling for public donations to cover the rest of the required sum.

“The land is vital to the future of this great British icon and we must protect it. Each square metre will cost just £5 to secure and care for,” their website reads.

“We hope to raise £1 million by 22 September.”

Donations received after this date (or after the mark is reached) will go towards replenishing the Neptune fund and covering the cost of conservation projects here and in other areas managed by the Trust.

“As a charity, we rely on the generosity of supporters to look after the outdoor spaces in our care. Not only do our supporters help to conserve beautiful landscapes and protect precious plants and wildlife. But they also ensure that future generations have places they can find freedom from everyday life, reconnect with the natural world and make memories to treasure. With your support, we can continue to protect the irreplaceable,” the appeal concludes.

“For ever, for everyone.”

Donate to save the White Cliffs of Dover.