A £1.2 million appeal launched by the National Trust in the summer to raise funds to acquire the iconic stretch of the White Cliffs of Dover coastline has reached its target in just 133 days, raising an average of £9,000 per day.
The Trust needed the money to buy a 0.8 mile stretch of this world-famous and much-loved piece of the Kent coastline overlooking the port.
It completes the missing link of coastline under National Trust care, uniting a stretch of more than 7km (nearly 5 miles) between the Trust’s visitor centre and South Foreland Lighthouse.
More than 16,000 people and organisations  have supported the appeal which was launched in June 2012 with an average donation of £40.21 (including Gift Aid) from members of the public.
Hundreds of messages of support were posted on a virtual White Cliffs of Dover on the charity’s website .
Donations included a significant contribution from the Dover Harbour Board, which helped the Trust to reach its target earlier than had been anticipated, and support from the Regatta Foundation, Royal Oak Foundation and 16 National Trust supporter groups.
The fundraising drive was given a boost in July when a number of household names including Dame Vera Lynn, Dame Judi Dench and the soul singing sensation and Dover-born Joss Stone gave their support.
Writer and philosopher Julian Baggini spent a week in August at the White Cliffs in Dover looking into how they have come to symbolise what they mean for our national identity .
Fiona Reynolds, who is in her final week as Director-General at the National Trust, said: “Thanks to the generosity and support of thousands of people we’ve reached our target nearly two months early.
“This appeal has tapped into something unique – the emotional connection that people have with special places such as the White Cliffs of Dover.
“The Trust will now look to enhance the quality of access to this new land and build on some of the fantastic nature conservation work that has been carried out by the team on the ground.”
Standing proud at over 110 metres (taller than Big Ben or the same height as twenty-five London buses stacked on top of each other), the White Cliffs of Dover have witnessed many dramatic moments in England’s history.
These include the arrival of the Romans and the welcome return of British armed forces after the evacuation of Dunkirk during the Second World War.
The cliffs are also home to a rich array of wildlife including the Adonis blue butterfly, rare coastal plants such as oxtongue broomrape and sea carrot, and birds including skylark, the only pair of breeding ravens in Kent and peregrine falcons.
Alison Burnett, a volunteer on the White Cliffs of Dover team, added: “There has been a real buzz around the appeal with this once in a lifetime opportunity to add the missing piece of the White Cliffs so that they are in the care of the National Trust.
“This chalky stretch of coastline symbolises so much for so many people and it’s wonderful to think that we’ve managed to raise the money so that future generations can enjoy all that this unique place has to offer.”
Across England, Wales and Northern Ireland the National Trust looks after more than 720 miles of coastline. The Trust acquired its first stretch of the White Cliffs of Dover in 1968.
Hundreds of thousands of people come to visit the dramatic chalk cliffs every year with their wonderful views across the English Channel.