Kearsney Parks – Kearsney Abbey, Russell Gardens and Bushy Ruff – lie in the Alkham Valley on the outskirts of Dover, part of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
The parks' water courses provide a perfect habitat for a wide range of waterfowl and bird life including mallard, coot, moorhen, grey wagtails and kingfishers as well as a resident population of mute swans nesting on the islands on the ornamental lakes. With an abundance of trees and proximity to water, Kearsney parks are also an ideal environment for bats, including the common pipistrelle and noctule, which can be seen feeding over the lakes at dusk.
Kearsney Abbey is laid out in an informal style. Its 10 acres of open parkland and lakes are popular with families. Although never a monastic estate, the history of Kearsney Abbey can be traced back to the Norman Conquest. The park as it exists today can be attributed to John Minet Fector, a local banker and merchant, who built a grand mansion on the site between 1820-1822.
There is a fine collection of specimen and designed tree planting, including beech, lime and yew. An avenue of lime trees forms a natural amphitheatre leading to the open-air theatre opened in Kearsney Abbey in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain. Kearsney Abbey also contains some heritage trees, including a Cedar of Lebanon which is believed to be one of the oldest specimens in the country, and a rare, semi-evergreen, Lucombe Oak.
Russell Gardens is Grade II Listed in the English Heritage Register of Parks & Gardens of Special Historic Interest. It covers 10 hectares and is laid out in a formal style, with modern facilities and natural play area. It was Edward Barlow who commissioned Thomas H Mawson (1861-1933), the renowned Edwardian landscape architect and exponent of the Arts and Crafts Movement, to design the gardens. On Barlow's death in 1912, the property passed to Mr Johnstone, a London newspaper man, and was later used as a nursing home and as a military hospital during World War II. After the war, 10 hectares of the estate were acquired by Dover Rural Council and it was opened as a public park in 1951. It was named Russell Gardens after Alderman Hilton Russell. The building of Kearsney Court is still privately owned.
Bushy Ruff, at the western end of Russell Gardens, is set around a picturesque lake with footpaths running alongside. This is a popular open space for dog walkers or for those who simply want to enjoy a pleasant walk in natural surroundings. The large lake was created in the late 18th century when the river was dammed to power first one then two paper mills.
Kearsney Parks are open every day of the year, so whether you're looking for a tranquil spot for a summer picnic, or a stroll through the changing colours of autumn, there's always something different to see and do.
The recently renovated café off the old billiards room is open all year round, serving hot and cold drinks, freshly baked sweet treats and a choice of breakfasts and lunches, including daily specials.