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Encyclopedia > North Downs
Geology of the South East, Chalk is light green (6)
A cross-section , showing the Wealden Dome, and relating it to the towns of Kent
A cross-section , showing the Wealden Dome, and relating it to the towns of Kent

The North Downs are a ridge of chalk hills located in south east England that stretch for 120 miles (190 km) from Hampshire through Surrey to Kent. They form the northern part of the Wealden dome, of which the South Downs are their mirror image and often reach in excess of 200 metres (660 ft). The North Downs have been designated as two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANBs) - The Surrey Hills and Kent Downs. The North Downs Way National Trail passes through the North Downs from Farnham to Dover. Image File history File links Size of this preview: 505 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (547 × 649 pixel, file size: 92 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Part of Image:Geological map of Great Britain. ... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 505 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (547 × 649 pixel, file size: 92 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Part of Image:Geological map of Great Britain. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... The Needles,situated on the Isle Of Wight, are part of the extensive Southern England Chalk Formation. ... Motto (French) God and my right Anthem No official anthem - the United Kingdom anthem God Save the Queen is commonly used England() – on the European continent() – in the United Kingdom() Capital (and largest city) London (de facto) Official languages English (de facto)1 Unified  -  by Athelstan 927 AD  Area  -  Total... Hampshire, sometimes historically Southamptonshire or Hamptonshire, (abbr. ... Should not be confused with Surry. ... The Kent coat of arms For other uses, see Kent (disambiguation). ... A weald once meant a dense forest, especially the famous great wood once stretching far beyond the ancient counties of Sussex and Kent, England, where this country of smaller woods is still called the Weald. ... Near Beachy Head The South Downs is one of the two areas of chalk downland in southern England. ... An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is an area of countryside with significant landscape value in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, that has been specially designated by the Countryside Agency on behalf of the United Kingdom government. ... The Surrey Hills is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in Surrey, England. ... Kent Downs is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in Kent, England. ... The North Downs Way is a long-distance path in southern England. ... Castle Street Farnham is a small town in Surrey, England. ... , Arms of Dover Borough Council This article is about the English port/town. ...



The steep scarp slope of the North Downs above Folkestone.
The steep scarp slope of the North Downs above Folkestone.

The North Downs consist of two aspects - the scarp face on its southern side and the dip slope on its northern side. The scarp slope is often steep and cut by coombs whilst the dip slope is gentle with flat plateaus and dry valleys. Where the North Downs meet the sea between Folkestone and Deal they form the famous White cliffs of Dover which reach up to 120 metres high (400 feet). The highest point on the Downs is Botley Hill near Oxted at 267 m in Surrey. The Greensand Ridge runs parallel to the south of the North Downs. Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 800 × 532 pixelsFull resolution (3008 × 2000 pixel, file size: 1. ... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 800 × 532 pixelsFull resolution (3008 × 2000 pixel, file size: 1. ... In geology, an escarpment is a transition zone between different physiogeographic provinces that involves an elevation differential, often involving high cliffs. ... General Definition A dip slope is a geological formation often created by tilted strata. ... The location and extent of the white cliffs of Dover. ... Botley Hill is a hill in Surrey located on the North Downs with a height of 267 metres. ... The Greensand Ridge is the name given to the sandstone ridge running through Hampshire, Surrey and Kent. ...


The North Downs are divided by five principal rivers:

The River Dour flows from Kearsney to the sea at Dover. Another characteristic of the downs are winterbournes such as the Nailbourne. The River Wey in Surrey is one of the Waterways in the United Kingdom and a tributary of the River Thames. ... The River Mole is a river in southern England, which rises in West Sussex near Gatwick Airport and flows north west through Surrey for 80 km (50 miles) to the River Thames at Hampton Court Palace. ... The confluence of the River Darent (left) and the River Cray (right) on Crayford Marshes. ... Rivers in Kent, showing the Medway. ... The River Stour is a river in Kent, England. ... The River Dour is a river in the county of Kent, in England. ... A winterbourne is a stream or river that is dry through the summer months. ... The Nailbourne near Bishopsbourne. ...


The North Downs contain four marilyns (hills that have a prominence of 150 metres): A Marilyn is a hill with a relative height of at least 150 metres, regardless of absolute height or other merit. ...

Leith Hill to the south west of Dorking, Surrey, England, reaches 294 metres (965 feet) above sea level, the highest point on the North Downs, and is either the highest or second highest point in south-east England, depending on whether one counts Walbury Hill near Newbury, Berkshire, which is... Botley Hill is a hill in Surrey located on the North Downs with a height of 267 metres. ... Detling Hill is a hill forming part of the North Downs in Kent, north-east of Maidstone, and is situated in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. ... Cheriton Hill is a hill near Folkestone in the south-east corner of the English county of Kent, overlooking the English Channel. ...


The North Downs are formed by a layer of chalk that rises over the anticline of the Wealden Dome. The chalk consists of three layers: upper, middle and lower. Occurring on the higher slopes of the downs, above the chalk are deposits of clay with flints. At the foot of the scarp slope beneath the chalk is a layer of gault clay. This layer is clearly seen at Folkestone Warren where rotational slipping of the chalk has occurred over the gault clay forming an undercliff. Anticline with syncline visible at far right- USGS In structural geology, an anticline is a Fold (geology) that is convex to the youngest beds—youngest sediments are on back of hand, older under the palm. ... The Gault Clay is a formation of stiff blue clay deposited in a calm, fairly deep water marine environment during the Lower Cretaceous Period (Upper and Middle Albian). ... The slump that destroyed Thistle, Utah, by creating an earthen dam that flooded the area Slump is a form of mass wasting event that occurs when loosely consolidated materials or rock layers move a short distance down a slope. ...

Beneath the surface of the chalk and other mesozoic formations in East Kent are coal measures with a depth of over 800 metres.


Originally the North Downs was covered by deciduous woodland such as oak and ash (the climax community). Deciduous means temporary or tending to fall off (deriving from the Latin word decidere, to fall off) and is typically used in reference to trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally. ... The term climax community, also described as a climatic climax community is a largely obsolete ecological term for a biological community of plants and animals which, through the process of ecological succession - the development of vegetation in an area over time - has reached a steady state. ...

Chalk grassland

One important ecosystem that can be found on the North Downs is chalk grassland which occurs on steep slopes where the soil is poor and woodland has not encroached due to grazing. This results in wild flower rich grassland which also provides a habitat for many animals particuarly insects. Unlike the South Downs the scarp slope of the North Downs faces south into the sun and thus many continental species of plant thrive on the North Downs whereas they are scarce on the South Downs. Calcareous grassland (or alkaline grassland) is an ecosystem associated with thin basic soil, such as that on chalk and limestone downland. ...

During the twentieth century much chalk downland was lost due to changes in farming methods after World War 2 and the increased use of fertilisers on grassland. The myxomatosis outbreak in 1953 that wiped out 95% of the rabbit population in the UK also led to much chalk grassland reverting to scrubland and woodland. In recent years there have been attempts to revert areas of arable farmland back to chalk grassland such as at the Hucking Estate owned by the Woodland Trust. The Countryside Stewardship Scheme has also attempted to re-establish areas of chalk grassland. Today, nearly 90% of the chalk grassland on the North Downs is protected. Myxomatosis (from the Greek μύξα (mucus), and ματώνω (to bleed)) is a disease which infects rabbits. ... The woodland trust logo The Woodland Trust, founded in Devon in 1972, and now based in Grantham, Lincolnshire, is a conservation charity in the United Kingdom concerned with the protection and sympathetic management of native woodland heritage. ...

Agriculture and industry

The landscape of the North Downs has been greatly shaped by man. Deforestation has been an important activity that has taken place on the downs for centuries. Today, the woodland that remains largely exists where deforestation has been inhibited by steep slopes or the layer of clay with flints which is difficult to plough. Due to the many small farms that have survived on the downs, a network of narrow lanes and minor roads has developed. This has resulted in a landscape similar to that found in Normandy known as bocage. The predominant type of farming on the downs is arable farming and this increased greatly during the twentieth century. Pastoral farming also occurs but to a lesser extent. Human settlements within the downs have generally formed in sheltered valleys and at the foot of scarp slope (known as spring line settlements). Bocage is a French word referring to a terrain of mixed woodland and pasture, with tortuous side-roads and lanes bounded on both sides by banks surmounted with high thick hedgerows limiting visibility. ...

There is plenty of evidence of chalk extraction on the North Downs particuarly along the scarp slope. Oil drilling at the foot of the downs occurs in several locations in Surrey. The Kent coalfield was established in the late 19th century after coal was found in 1890. Four collieries produced a successful output and lasted throughout the 20th century - Betteshanger, Snowdown, Tilmanstone and Chislet. The east to west ridge of the downs has provided a natural transport route for centuries. Much of the historic Pilgrims' Way still survives at the foot of the scarp slope and this has been joined much more recently by the M20 motorway. The Kent coalfield was located in the easten part of the English county of Kent. ... Tilmanstone is a small village in Kent, in the South East of England, near to Eastry a much bigger and more developed area. ... Chislet is a sprawling rural parish in the northeast of the English county of Kent between the city of Canterbury and the Isle of Thanet. ... The Pilgrims Way is reputedly the route taken by pilgrims to the shrine of Thomas Becket from Winchester in Hampshire to Canterbury in Kent, England. ... The M20 motorway is a major road in England. ...

There are a number of historic sites within the North Downs. The Medway megaliths are concentrated at the foot of the scarp slope in the Medway valley. The scarp slope has also been used for fortification and many examples of this still exist such as Thurnham Castle and on Castle Hill near Folkestone. The Medway megaliths or Medway tombs are names given to a group of Neolithic chambered long barrows and other megaliths located in the lower valley of the River Medway in the English county of Kent. ... Thurnham Castle or Godards Castle is situated to the north of the village of Thurnham which is 3 miles north-east of Maidstone, Kent (grid reference TQ808582). ... Castle Hill from Round Hill. ...

Places of interest

Many beauty spots on the North Downs are owned by the National Trust such as Box Hill and Langdon Cliffs. Other areas of interest are Newland's Corner, St. Martha's Hill and Wye Downs. Much chalk grassland and ancient woodland on the downs is open access and there are also many historic sites on the downs such as Kit's Coty House near Maidstone and Dover Castle. The standard of the National Trust The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, usually known as The National Trust, is a British preservation organization. ... It has been suggested that this article be split into multiple articles accessible from a disambiguation page. ... The location and extent of the white cliffs of Dover. ... Newlands Corner is an area of natural beauty near Guildford in Surrey, England. ... The hill and church The church floodlit at night during Christmas St Marthas Hill is a landmark of the St Martha Parish in Surrey, England, situated between Guildford and Chilworth, Surrey. ... The North Downs at the Wye Downs National Nature Reserve. ... Kits Coty House or Kits Coty is the name of the remains of a Neolithic chambered long barrow on Blue Bell Hill near Aylesford in the English county of Kent. ... Dover Castle is situated at Dover, Kent and has been described as the Key to England due to its defensive significance throughout history. ...

Photo Gallery

See also

Geological map of Great Britain. ... In this geological map of Great Britain the Chalk is labled 6 The Chalk Formation of Southern England is a system of chalk downland in the south of England. ... Numerous chalk figures have been carved into hillsides in the United Kingdom, including :- Alton Barnes white horse, Wiltshire (1812) Broad Town white horse, Wiltshire (1864) Cerne Abbas giant, Dorset (popularly believed to be ancient, but recently dated to c. ...


  • Brandon, P. (2005). The North Downs. Phillimore & Co. ISBN 1 86077 353 2

External links

  • KentDowns AONB site
  • Surrey Hills AONB site

  Results from FactBites:
North Downs - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (376 words)
The North Downs in England is a ridge of chalk hills that stretches about 100 miles (160 km) from Hampshire through Surrey (where for part of their course they are known as the Hog's Back) and Kent.
Due to the porous nature of the underlying chalk, the North Downs is generally a treeless landscape.
Their constant eating of the grass kept down the scrub; the fact that few sheep now occupy the North Downs, and the myxomatosis outbreak in 1953 which led to fall in the rabbit population, means that there is more scrubland on the Downs than hitherto.
DOWNS - LoveToKnow Article on DOWNS (906 words)
Of these the North Downs are confined chiefly to the counties of Surrey and Kent, and the South to Sussex.
As in the case of the North Downs a succession of rivers breach the hills, and a succession of towns mark the gaps.
Smooth convex curves are characteristic of the Downs; their graceful and sti-iking outline gives them an importance in the landscape in excess of their actual height; their flanks are well wooded, their summits covered with close springy turf.
  More results at FactBites »



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