A SHARE of a £1.1m lottery windfall for London nature reserves has been allocated to Saltbox Hill, the Bromley site of special scientific interest.

The 17-acre chalk downlands will be given the yet undecided sum to ensure free public access and the upkeep of the reserve, which lies north of Biggin Hill.

Rare plants such as pyramidal orchids, wild basil and quaking grass have been found on the grasslands, which are also home to more than 20 species of butterfly including the scarce Chalkhill Blue and Grizzled Skipper.

The Heritage Lottery windfall has prompted council members and some wildlife organisations to commit to a community partnerships in order to maintain the nature reserve in the future.

Bromley Council leaders councillors John Holbrook and Chris Maines declared their delight at the extra funding.

They said: “The council's countryside management service is eager to help develop the community partnership which conserves Saltbox Hill and Biggin Hill, which is the capital's number one site for the diversity of wildflowers.”

The beauty of Saltbox Hill is reputed to have inspired Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory. He lived a mile away at Down House, and had picnics in the rural valley.

The London Wildlife Trust reinforced the importance of the funding with spokesman Emma Robertshaw saying: “Every Londoner stands to gain from this award. A recent study made the link between accessible open space and quality of life.

“As part of the deal, we will be promoting volunteer and community involvement in all 60 London reserves.”

A recent survey by London green campaigners, the Fawcett Group, highlighted the importance of nature reserves and parklands.

Spokesman Ali Edney said: “One of the things all Londoners value is their public space. We have to make sure these green areas, like Saltbox Hill, stay open and are managed properly. The lottery money will help to do this.”