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Wartime Forces’ Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn backs White Cliffs preservation appeal

The conservation charity’s £1 million campaign is to buy 700,000 square metres of land immediately behind the clifftop.

Dame Vera Lynn has pledged her support to a fundraising appeal for the White Cliffs of Dover – the striking landmark of which she once sang.

The Forces’ Sweetheart, so christened after her performances of the 1942 classic helped lift the spirits of British servicemen, said it was “vital” to preserve the cliffs, which are the subject of a protection campaign by the National Trust.

The conservation charity’s £1 million campaign is to buy 700,000 square metres of land immediately behind the clifftop which it secured in 2012.

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The White Cliffs of Dover are the subject of a protection campaign by the National Trust (PA Archive)

This will enable the restoration of habitat and land conditions, improve public access, and inspire future generations to connect with the heritage and history of the area, the charity said.

Dame Vera said: “Those iconic white cliffs mean a great deal to so many people.

“They were often 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 of times.

“It is vital that we do all that we can to preserve this important historical site – as well as the Cross Channel battery – for posterity, so that the memory of the past is never forgotten by future generations.”

The stretch of land is crucial for future nature and wildlife, with over 40 species of flowers and grasses per square metre. It also provides the perfect habitat for butterflies like the Adonis Blue and Marbled White, and birds including the peregrine falcon and skylark.

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Dame Vera Lynn was known as the Forces Sweetheart because her singing lifted the spirits of British servicemen (Lewis Whyld/PA)

In addition, the site has a number of Second World War features, including two large gun emplacements, which represent a unique part of British history.

The Trust was made aware of the land’s availability after the vendor recognised the value of it supporting existing conservation work on the White Cliffs.

The land, next to Wanstone farm buildings, known historically as Wanstone Battery, will enable the Trust to begin reverting and restoring the land to chalk grasslands, making the military structures watertight, and creating new access routes for visitors.

Virginia Portman, White Cliffs of Dover general manager, said: “The site should be open for the whole nation to enjoy. It would be devastating if we lost the opportunity to protect it forever.

“A successful appeal will not only allow us to secure the land but also educate and inspire future generations.”

To donate, visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/appeal/urgent-white-cliffs-appeal.

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