Knole Park as an SSSI

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Knole Park’s thousand acres lie within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Natural England designates it as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because it includes areas of acidic grassland, parkland, woodland and several ponds, with rare invertebrates and a rich collection of fungi.

Habitat

Since the 15th century, this habitat has developed into a managed parkland with ancient pollards. The site lies on the Folkestone, Sandgate and Hythe Beds on top of the Lower Greensand escarpment. The soils are generally acidic and well-drained and support woodland stands dominated by sessile oak (Quercus petraea), beech (Fagus sylvatica) and sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa).

Invertebrates

Knole Park supports a range of nationally rare and nationally scarce invertebrate species which depend upon the parkland and woodland habitats, particularly their dead wood. A nationally rare beetle Platypus cylindrus is found in the ancient broad-leaved forest and parkland, boring into thick oak bark.

The nationally scarce Cerylon fagi beetle lives under bark and in dead wood. Bolitochara mulsanti is a small rove beetle found under fungus-infected bark and in decaying fungus. Dienerella elongata is a tiny beetle found in leaf litter, moss and fungi on this site.

The park also supports several nationally scarce and local dung beetles, including Aphodius zenkeri and Aphodius borealis which feed on the dung of the deer.

Fungi

Among the many relatively scarce species are some living under trees, such as an earth star Geastrum fornicatum and a tube-gilled toadstool Boletus pruinatus. Dead wood species include Fomes fomentarius on beech, a polypore bracket fungus rare in the south east. Two gilled bracket fungi, Panellus serotinus grow on standing trees and Schizophyllum commune on recently fallen timber.

The trees, turf and masonry of walls and buildings support a lichen flora of county importance. The first British record for the lichen Parmelia elegantula was made from the sycamore which stands just outside the entrance to what is now Knole's tea-room. This sycamore has over 50 species of lichen living on its bark.

Other flora

The central plateau supports acidic grasslands between the woodland areas. Common bent Agrostis capillaris dominates the turf, with sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina, sweet vernal-grass Anthoxanthum odoratum, heath grass Danthonia decumbens, tormentil Potentilla erecta, sheep’s-sorrel Rumex acetosella and heath bedstraw Galium saxatile.

The sward contains numerous ant hills. More fertile grasslands occur on the golf course and in the valley bottoms. They are dominated by common bent and Yorkshire-fog Holcus lanatus together with crested dog’s-tail Cynosurus cristatus.