Dame Vera Lynn praised the generosity of the British public after £1 Million was raised in just three weeks to help protect the future of the White Cliffs of Dover.

Over 17,500 people made donations to the appeal. This helped the National Trust secure 700,000 square metres of land immediately behind the clifftop between the South Foreland Lighthouse and Langdon Cliffs, which the conservation charity acquired in 2012.

The Trust said it would work to restore internationally important habitats such as chalk grassland. It will also preserve existing historical features and maintain access routes for visitors.

Dame Vera, whose 1942 song about the cliffs helped forge her reputation as The Forces' Sweetheart, said she was delighted with the public reaction to the appeal.

In a letter to the charity, she said, "My thanks to everyone who embraced the campaign to protect this national icon. The White Cliffs of Dover are a significant landmark and it is so encouraging to know that they will now be protected for future generations.

"Over many years, I have been a supporter of the National Trust and the vital work that they do in preserving our heritage and landscapes – long may this continue."

The stretch of land is crucial for 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 such as the peregrine falcon and skylark.

In addition, the site has a number of World War Two features, including several buildings and two large gun emplacements. The Trust hopes to start work soon to make the structures water tight and accessible for visitors.

The Wanstone gun battery was the largest ever built in the British Empire. In the Second World War, it deterred invasion, supported D-Day, and closed the channel to enemy shipping. The site also includes the D2 heavy anti-aircraft battery which played an important role in the Battle of Britain, and protected the early radar towers at nearby Swingate.

The public appeal included a significant contribution from players of People's Postcode Lottery. The Trust was also able to use legacy donations from its Neptune Fund to help fund the purchase.

General Manager of the White Cliffs of Dover Virginia Portman said, "We have been absolutely blown away by the public's response to our appeal. Over 17,500 people have made donations in the last few weeks and, thanks to their generosity, this wonderful landscape now belongs to the nation forever.

"It underlines once again how the White Cliffs has a special role in the nation's heart – and is part of our heritage and identity.

"We now look forward to starting work on the project that will restore habitat and land conditions for wildlife, and provide better access for the public. The area also has fascinating war-time stories that we look forward to telling over the coming years."

Head of Charities at People's Postcode Lottery Clara Govier said, "I am delighted that players of People's Postcode Lottery are able to help secure the future of the White Cliffs of Dover. It is so important that we protect sites like this for future generations to enjoy, and I applaud the National Trust for all that they do."

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Thanks to player support, the National Trust will be able to preserve land around the White Cliffs of Dover