Natural History of Romney Marsh

Romney Marsh, including Dungeness, is one of the most important Natural History areas in the world - protected at global, European and UK levels. The Marsh embraces vast shingle beaches and flat marshland. This strange and sometimes forbidding area has a character all of its own and contains an astonishing wealth of wildlife and landscape features. The area is home to species found hardly anywhere else in the UK and is also a crossroads for migrating birds stopping off on their epic global journeys.


Mute Swan on the Royal Military Canal
Mute Swan on the Royal Military Canal

Sites of Special Scientific Interest 

A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is a conservation designation denoting a protected area in the United Kingdom. SSSIs are the basic building block of site-based nature conservation legislation and most other legal nature/geological conservation designations in Great Britain are based upon them, including national nature reserves, Ramsar sites, Special Protection Areas, and Special Areas of Conservation.  An SSSI may be made on any area of land which is considered to be of special interest by virtue of its fauna, flora, and geological or physiographical/geomorphological features. 

Romney Marsh, especially Dungeness, is a nationally important site because of a diverse range of biological and geological features, specifically the coastal geomorphology of Dungeness and the following nationally important habitats: saltmarsh, sand dunes, vegetated shingle, saline lagoons, standing waters, lowland ditch systems, and basin fens. These habitats and others within the site support the following nationally important species interests:  

  • populations of four vascular plant species listed in Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended):
  • an assemblage of Schedule 8, nationally rare and nationally scarce vascular plants; 
  • populations of the vulnerable Warne’s thread-moss Bryum warneum; 
  • populations of water voles Arvicola terrestris; 
  • an assemblage of breeding birds associated with shingle beaches and saltmarsh, lowland damp grasslands, lowland open waters and their margins, and scrub; 
  • breeding numbers of 16 species of bird;
  • assemblage of over 20,000 waterfowl in the non-breeding season; 
  • wintering numbers of 17 species of bird and three species during passage periods; 
  • metapopulations of great crested newts Triturus cristatus; 
  • endemic species and subspecies of invertebrates; 
  • populations of two invertebrate species listed in Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended); 
  • populations of ten endangered, vulnerable and rare invertebrate species; 
  • assemblages of invertebrates occurring on ‘dry’ coastal habitats, and
  • assemblages of wetland invertebrates 

SSSI sites on Romney Marsh 

right icon Dungeness Nature Reserve    
right icon Greatstone Sand Dunes    
right icon RSPB Reserve 
right icon Watercourses for information on Sewers, Dykes and Ditches  

Website Icon More information 

Blue LIne

Special Protection Area

Areas of Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay are designated a Special Protection Area and Ramsar site (see map) because their important for supporting:

breeding and wintering waterbirds
birds of prey
passage warblers
breeding seabirds

It’s also selected for the site’s complex network of wetland types and habitats that support rich and diverse groups of:

bryophytes eg mosses, liverworts, and hornworts
vascular plants eg water conducting plants
vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered wetland species

In October 2016 Natural England proposed extensions to the boundary of the existing Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay SPA. These include

Romney Sands – an alongshore extension of the northernmost existing site boundary to include the stretch of coastline past St. Mary’s Bay and Dymchurch up to West Hythe. The landward boundary of the extension follows the mean high water (MHW) mark which includes intertidal habitats as well as subtidal habitats out to the seaward limit. The seaward limit of the boundary moves further offshore (heading south-west) merging into the furthest seaward boundary.

Dungeness Point to Galloways lookout – an alongshore extension to encompass the stretchof foreshore around Dungeness Point to join-up the two existing coastal SPA sections (Littlestone-on-Sea to Dungeness Point and Camber Sands to Broomhill Sands i.e. Galloways Lookout). The landward boundary of the extension follows MHW including intertidal habitats as well as subtidal habitats out to the seaward limit.

See map

 More information


Greatstone Sand Dunes
Greatstone Sand Dunes

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