Kearsney Abbey and Russell Gardens are the most popular, historic parks in Dover. They are located 2.5 miles north west of Dover town centre in the Alkham Valley, part of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Alkham Valley Road separates Kearsney Abbey (in the Parish of River) and Russell Gardens which is in Temple Ewell.
Both parks are carefully designed landscapes. Thousands of tonnes of earth were moved and trees planted to create the slopes, woods, water courses and lake. The River Dour, a spring-fed chalk stream, flows through the parks. Combined with ornamental lakes, this gives the parks a picturesque landscape style.
The origins of both parks can be traced back to grand country houses and estates built for prominent local industrialists in the early 19th and 20th centuries.
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.
Two adjoining ornamental lakes on the course of the River Dour provide a haven for water fowl. Kearsney Abbey also has a fine collection of specimen trees, including Beech, Lime and Yew. A prominent feature is a Cedar of Lebanon which is believed to be one of the oldest specimens in the country.
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.
Originally known as Kearsney Court Park & Gardens, they were designed by the renowned Edwardian landscape architect, Thomas H. Mawson (1861-1933). Kearsney Court is believed to be one of the first independent commissions by Mawson, and is a very rare example of his work in the south east. Several set piece photographs of Kearsney Court were included in Mawson's book, The Art & Craft of Garden Making, which became a standard reference in its day.
The challenging steep terrain of the Alkham Valley provided Mawson with the ideal opportunity to create his signature design features - great terraces, pergolas and architectural features in a garden context. The magnificent 170m long canal pond, and Palladian-style pergola bridges and boathouse pavilion form the central architectural features of the park.
The parks continue to be popular with both locals and visitors through the autumn/winter months. The newly planted areas in Russell Gardens are establishing well and there is still a lot of colour in the parks with the trees, shrubs, and herbaceous planting.
There have been some recent changes to the car parks. In the car park next to the café there is allocated parking for blue badge holders only. There has also been a height restriction put on the main car park, maximum height is 2.1 metres.
The café is open for both take away and eat in. However, please note the café will be closed over the Christmas period from lunch time Christmas Eve until 4 January.
Kearsney Abbey & Russell Gardens
Kearsney Abbey and Russell Gardens have been awarded The Green Flag Award®, the first parks owned and managed by Dover District Council to receive the prestigious recognition.
The Green Flag Award® scheme recognises and rewards well managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of recreational outdoor spaces across the United Kingdom and around the world.
Achieving The Green Flag Award® was one of the aims of the ‘Parks for People’ project with the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund. For details, please see our Press Release.
Kearsney Parks 2022 Calendar
The Kearsney Parks 2022 Calendar is now available to buy online. It features 12 beautiful pictures taken in Kearsney Abbey and Russell Gardens throughout the different seasons. At £5.69 (including postage) it’s the perfect stocking filler. You can buy the calendar online at www.kearsneyparks.co.uk/order-calendar. Copies are also on sale in the café in Kearsney Abbey for £5 each.
The local kingfishers, which have not been seen much over the summer months, have now returned and can be seen if you are lucky. Also, look out for the egret, heron, grey wagtail and cormorant.
This year's cygnets continue to do well, and it is hoped they will be ringed over the coming weeks. This has been happening over several years and it means records are being kept of all the birds’ whereabouts and condition.
Between November and April, the trout spawn in the river. Please keep out of the river during this period so that the trout can be as successful as possible. Trout and trout eggs are very sensitive to disturbances at this time of year so please observe the river from the banks.
Please continue to be aware of the wildlife when you visit and ensure dogs are on a lead in the designated areas.
Volunteering at Kearsney Parks
Volunteering tasks continue to be carried out in the parks. In recent weeks, the Long Border has had its winter tidy up.
Tasks will continue after Christmas, where we will be continuing with general maintenance within the parks and on Coxhill Mount. If you are interested in volunteering, and would like to be put on our database, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are always great opportunities for taking photos in the park, be it with a camera or on your phone.
We are always happy to receive photos taken in the park, so please feel free to send any photos in and we will try and use them not only in our publications, but also in the Kearsney Parks Calendar. Please send them to email@example.com
The snowy landscape we've included at the top of this update was taken by Lesley Buttifint.
Keep in touch
If you have any comments or questions, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Twitter @Kearsneyparks