THE ASHDOWN FOREST

View of the Ashdown Forest
Gorse on the Ashdown Forest

An ancient area of open heathland, the Ashdown Forest has long been a favourite spot for kings and queens, writers and artists alike. With evidence of human activity dating back to 50,000 years ago, this area has been of cultural and industrial importance to local people. During the Roman occupation of Britain and the Tudor period, the Ashdown Forest was the national centre of iron industry. England’s first blast furnace was even built here in 1496. 

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There is a strong royal connection with the forest as it was a favoured hunting ground for deer. King’s Standing, a well known spot on the forest, is named after the wooden structure (a ‘standing’) which was used as platform from which to hunt. Henry VIII famously hunted here, and he stayed at the nearby Bolebroke Castle while he courted Anne Boleyn at Hever Castle.

Designated as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, the Ashdown Forest is home to many endangered species here in the UK. This includes two rare bird species, the Dartford warbler and European nightjar. Grazing animals such as cattle, sheep and ponies can also be found on the forest continuing the rich history of farming in the area.

Today the Ashdown Forest is a charitable organisation run by the Board of Conservators of the Ashdown Forest. There are sixteen members on the Board with representatives from East Sussex County Council, Wealden District Council and local Commoners who live on and around the Forest. By paying for parking at one of the car parks or donating to the forest directly, you are helping to ensure the survival of this beautiful landscape. This allows for the maintenance of the heathland and wooded area and funds forest rangers who ensure it is a safe and protected space. Find out more on the Ashdown Forest Conservators website…

Ashdown Forest

GENERAL ADVICE

  • Please be respectful of the wildlife, there are many species of flora and fauna, that call the forest their home.
  • Stick to the footpaths. Do not go walking off away from the paths as it is very easy to get lost.
  • Wear sensible shoes and clothes went out and about. The weather on the forest can change very quickly so depending on the season, be prepared to bring a raincoat or a hat and suncream etc. The terrain of the forest is undulating and it can also be very muddy so please wear walking boots, wellies or other appropriate footwear.
  • Please be aware there are no toilet facilities on the forest, except for the toilets at the Ashdown Forest Centre near Wych Cross. These are only open when the Forest Centre is open.  
  • PARKING – It is paid parking at almost all locations on the forest. The money is used to support the maintenance of the forest, car parks and ensure that it is a safe and enjoyable place for visitors. To find out more about car parking or to purchase a yearly parking pass please visit https://ashdownforest.org/parking/ 
  • DOGS – The forest is a popular location for walking dogs. Please keep your dog under control at all times. This is particularly important if you are around the grazing animals which live on the forest (cattle, sheep, Exmoor ponies). In these situations, please keep your dog on a lead, for the safety of your dog and the grazing animals. Please pick up your dog’s waste.
  • NOT ALLOWED – Cycling, drones, BBQs/campfires or camping are not permitted on the forest

FAMOUS CONNECTIONS

Of course, the Ashdown Forest is ‘Pooh Country’ and inextricably linked with A.A. Milne and Winnie-the-Pooh, but it has several other famous literary and scientific connections…

Charles Darwin

The pioneering naturalist stayed in the village of Hartfield and utilised the Ashdown Forest for his research on carnivorous plants. He was particularly fascinated with the round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) found on the Forest and this eventually lead to him publishing his book ‘Insectivorous Plants’ in 1875.

Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle

Conan-Doyle, author of the famous Sherlock Holmes books, lived in Crowborough, on the edge of the Ashdown Forest, from 1907 until his death in 1930. Locations such as Forest Row feature in his stories,

Ezra Pound & W.B. Yeats 

The two poets rented a cottage together for three winters/springs between 1913-1916 in Coleman’s Hatch on the edge of the forest.

The Ashdown Forest is a charitable organisation,
if you are able to please consider donating to the Ashdown Forest to ensure it is protected for posterity. The area is designated by the UK government as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Protection Area (SPA), a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Nature Conservation Review site, but it still needs your help & generosity to survive as a beautiful and unique landscape.