We are a small, passionate team with specialist knowledge of the High Weald landscape and a strong belief in joint working at a national and local level to meet the needs of protected landscapes and their communities.
Since our establishment in 1992 we have worked collaboratively to produce the High Weald AONB Management Plan, develop an evidence base for AONB policy, guide decisions on the management of the area's special features, raise the area's profile and develop and deliver large-scale multi-disciplinary projects, such as the £3.3million Weald Forest Ridge Landscape Partnership Scheme.
The team offers expertise in:
- Multidisciplinary protected area planning and management
- Historic landscape research
- Research syntheses
- Landscape characterisation
- Landscape planning advice
- Landscape management advice
- Business strategy and project plan production
- Partnership development and management
- Grant-aid applications
- Recreation and tourism projects
- Land management projects
- Multimedia heritage interpretation and
- Website creation and maintenance.
Sally Marsh MSc
Co-Director (Job Share)
Sally has been Co-Director of the High Weald AONB Partnership for over 20 years and leads on the AONB Management Plan and strategic vision. She has a degree in Environmental Biology from Liverpool University, an MSc in Landscape Ecology from London University and a post graduate diploma in Landscape Architecture. Her wide ranging policy and research experience includes integrated rural policy, sustainable communities and low carbon buildings, landscape characterisation and ancient woodlands. Sally's background includes restoration ecology and urban ecology having previously worked for Operation Groundwork in the North West, London Ecology Unit and rural conservation charities. She lives in the High Weald and away from work can be found canoeing or walking locally.
Claire Tester grew up in the central Sussex area and has worked in local government planning at district and county level in Hampshire and Sussex since 1990, including as the Head of Planning at Mid Sussex District Council from 2008-2016. She has an MSc in Town Planning and is a Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute. She is also qualified and has practised as a Parish Clerk, gaining a valuable insight to working at the grassroots of community planning.
Since the birth of neighbourhood planning in 2011, Claire has been a strong advocate of these plans as a means for communities to shape their own places. In the context of the High Weald she believes that neighbourhood plans provide an opportunity for communities to learn more about and connect with their places; appreciating how they have evolved over time and how they can grow in a sustainable way that conserves and enhances the character of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
In her spare time Claire runs her own business supporting neighbourhood planning and can be found walking the footpaths and bridleways of Sussex with her family.
Jason Lavender MSc
Co-Director (Job Share)
Jason's work in the environmental sector has spanned both Africa and the UK. Jason did his degree in Environmental Archaeology and then specialised in European Environmental Policy and Regulation for his masters. As Co-Director Jason leads on national and regional liaison and partnership programmes. Before joining the High Weald AONB Partnership a decade ago, Jason worked for the Environment Agency. Aside from his work for the High Weald Partnership, he plays an active part in many local, national and international organisations; Jason is a trustee of the Bellhurst Nature Conservation Trust, a member of the Sussex Cattle Society, the Centre for Alternative Technology and Survival International.
Gerry Sherwin MSc
AONB Business Manager
Gerry is the High Weald AONB Partnership's Business Manager and focuses on fundraising for, as well as managing multi-disciplinary projects that engage with communities across the area. Gerry is an Environmental Science graduate from the University of East Anglia and holds a Masters in Landscape Ecology, Design and Management from the University of London. She has 15 years' experience working as a Landscape Specialist for organisations that include the National Trust. This has given Gerry a wide range of skills in managing countryside sites and developing heritage interpretation strategies and projects. Gerry has walked from East to West across the High Weald in creating the High Weald Landscape Trail, and from North to South in undertaking river corridor surveys.
Samantha Nicholas BA
Team Support Officer
After completing a Business Studies degree, Samantha spent 15 years working with Ford Motor Company. She then joined the High Weald AONB Partnership almost a decade ago as Team Support Officer. Specialising in event management as well as community project support Samantha enjoys working directly with the public. She is motivated by projects that successfully integrate societies with their landscape and work towards changing public perceptions of their environment. Samantha has been involved in the community her whole life and as well as enjoying dancing and gardening in her spare time, is an active member of Lamberhurst Pantomime Society.
Matt Pitts BSc
Woodland Officer for the High Weald AONB Partnership, Matt Pitts specialises in local landscape history and land management. Following his degree at Winchester Matt worked in a range of countryside management roles for different organisations including Kent County Council, before joining the High Weald Partnership in 2009. Matt's expertise includes GIS, websites and multimedia production. He enjoys working with different people in all aspects of the countryside. His role builds on an already personal relationship with the area having grown up in the farming community. Outside of work Matt enjoys photography, as well as mountain biking throughout the High Weald countryside.
Tamara Taylor BSc
Land Management Adviser
Tamara joined the team in 2015 as a Land Management Project Officer providing advice to land owners across the High Weald and implementing landscape-scale conservation projects. Tamara has worked in the agricultural sector since graduating from the University of Nottingham with a degree in Animal Science. Since 2005 she has specialised in agri-environment, working for Natural England as a land management adviser on Higher Level Stewardship. On leaving Natural England in 2011, Tamara worked as an independent adviser assisting landowners ranging from small holders through to the National Trust with Environmental Stewardship applications. In her spare time, Tamara enjoys all things equine, particularly getting out and about in the High Weald countryside on her horse.
Rachel Bennington MSc
Education Officer for High Weald Heroes
Rachel has recently joined the High Weald AONB Partnership as Education Officer. She brings with her years of experience in educating children about the countryside they live in, whether this is in her work taking school groups around the Ashdown Forest or on her own company with projects that engage the whole community. With an MA in Drama Therapy which included looking at nature as a therapeutic space, Rachel is also a Forest School Practitioner and is excited about working with schools to tie the High Weald countryside into the curriculum and create a relationship between the children and their surroundings. Away from work Rachel can be found climbing and cycling throughout the High Weald countryside.
Charles Winchester MA (Oxon) MSc
AONB Landscape Advisor
Charles joined the High Weald AONB Partnership in 2012 as Research and Evidence Officer. A graduate from the University of Oxford, Charles continued there for his Masters in Conservation and Environmental Management before spending a year in the University of Georgia Geography Department. Whilst in the US he focused on urban farming. As well as providing wide-ranging landscape advice, Charles undertakes and supervises research projects designed to help improve understanding of the landscape and inform decision-making. Charles is particularly passionate about the High Weald's Dark Skies initiative, as well as being motivated in his wide-ranging work for the High Weald Partnership by his interest in the area's history and farming traditions, having grown up in the community. In his own time Charles enjoys helping on his family farm and playing cricket, golf and tennis.