High Weald

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.

Please note that most of us work part time and therefore we are a team of 6 full time equivalents.

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  • regional map
  • Outstanding because?

    Find out what makes the High Weald so special.......

    Read more...
  • Protected landscapes

    cover 33.4% of South East England

    Bigger map...

The High Weald was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1983. It is one of 46 AONBs within Britain.

AONBs are part of a family of protected landscapes that includes National Parks and Heritage Coasts.

AONBs are designated by Government to ensure that the conservation and enhancement of the landscape is given high priority.

  • view landscape dudwell valley
  • map estate historic
  • training landowners grassland
  • pruning traditional orchard
  • The AONB Management Plan

    guides everything that we do

    Read more...
  • Our research programme

    provides evidence for policies that affect the area

    Read more...
  • We provide advice

    to landowners on their landscape heritage

    Read more...
  • We grant-aid projects

    to further conservation and enjoyment of the area

    Read more...

We are a strategic, specialist team that

  • furthers understanding of the High Weald
  • advises on its management and
  • enables action to conserve it.

We work on behalf of the High Weald Joint Advisory Committee. Other partners include the Heritage Lottery Fund, Forestry Commission, Woodland Trust, RSPB and Environment Agency.

  • Dudwell valley
  • The Management Plan

    sets out policy for conserving and enhancing the AONBRead more...

What Is the High Weald AONB Unit’s Role in Planning?

The High Weald AONB Unit is funded by Defra and a partnership of the 15 local authorities covered by the High Weald to provide advice on how to conserve and enhance the AONB. The advice provided by the AONB Unit assists public bodies and statutory undertakers to meet their duty as set out in Section 85 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to have regard to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of AONBs in making decisions that affect it.

Unlike National Park authorities, the High Weald AONB Unit is not a statutory body but an advisory one. It is not a local planning authority and the responsibility for determining planning applications remains with the 15 local authorities. The AONB Unit is not a statutory consultee on planning matters and it remains each local planning authority’s decision whether or not they seek its advice on a particular planning application.

We provide advice on how a development proposal affects the 'natural beauty' of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The High Weald AONB Management Plan defines what we mean by natural beauty in the High Weald and sets out objectives for the management of the AONB. The Plan has been endorsed by all 15 Councils with land in the High Weald and is a 'material consideration' in planning applications.

High Weald AONB Management Plan
AONB boundary map 

We are a small team and advice on development proposals is one of our many functions. We will therefore generally only comment on planning applications which would have a significant effect on the AONB, and normally only if that advice is requested by the Council that will determine the planning application. We have a general planning protocol with the local authorities which says how we will comment on planning applications they are deciding, and arrangements for commenting on planning policy.

We have produced an Advice Note which aims to assist all those involved in development proposals, including developers and their agents as well as members of the public, consider the impact of the proposed changes on the AONB.

pdf Legislation & Planning Advice Note February 2019 (4.52 MB) pdf
(2.86 MB)

It should be noted that the High Weald AONB Unit will not become involved in local campaigns against proposed developments. Its role in the planning process is simply to provide advice to the decision-maker and others involved in development proposals on how that proposal is likely to affect the 'natural beauty' of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This enables the decision-maker to have regard to that advice in making their decision.

Responsibility for Local Plans and Planning Applications

Your local District or Borough Council is responsible for preparing a Local Plan for your area and for taking decisions about most planning applications. Minerals and Waste Local Plans are prepared by the County Councils and they will also determine any planning applications for this type of development. Your Town or Parish Council may also be preparing a Neighbourhood Plan for your area.

The policies in Local and Neighbourhood Plans, together with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG), will be used to inform planning decisions. Further information about the Planning System can be accessed via the UK Government's Online Planning Portal

Contact your local District or Borough Council about making or commenting on a planning application within the AONB boundary or development which may affect the setting of the AONB.

If you are interested in what Local or Neighbourhood Plans are in place or being prepared in your area this information will be available on the website of your local District or Borough Council (search under Planning Policy).

For further information please contact:
Claire Tester MRTPI
Planning Advisor
High Weald AONB Unit
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
01424 723018

  • view landscape aerial mist
  • track ancient sunken bluebells
  • gill stream rocks moss
  • aerialview
  • Abundant woodland

  • Historic routeways

  • Gill streams

  • Small, irregular-shaped fields

  • It is one of the best surviving medieval landscapes in Northern Europe
  • It is criss-crossed by sunken droveways 
  • It was the country's main iron-producing region during the Roman and Tudor periods
  • It harbours gills (small, steep-sided streams) with rare plant populations not found anywhere else in eastern/central England

Knowing more about the food and drink we buy - the people who produce it and the approach they take - can enrich our experience of purchasing and using local products. We hope our 'producer stories' provide an insight into what it takes to be a local producer in the High Weald AONB.

  • grassland unimproved enhanced
  • What crop is in the field?

    View our guide to crops to identify a wildflower meadowRead more...

  • How did oast houses work?

    View our guide to farm buildings to find out how hops were driedRead more...

A closer look at the High Weald landscape reveals a myriad of interesting features, some of which are unique to the area. If you have ever wondered about lumps and bumps in woodlands and strange concrete blocks on roadsides then this is the section for you!

Happy landscape detecting.

Agriculture is the main High Weald land use, covering 65% of the area in 2007. About 60% of the farmed land is grassland and 20% is arable. Our 'Crops' on line spotters guide will help you work out how today's farmers are ensuring that the High Weald remains a productive landscape.

Below are some of the rarer and more interesting plant, insect and bird species that you may see if you are out and about in the area's fields, woodlands and heathlands this month.

Approximately 120,000 people live within the 99 parishes covered by the High Weald AONB designation. We have details here of those 99 parishes and to find out more about community life within the High Weald please select the parish of interest to access relevant local websites.

Do you ever wonder how charcoal is made? or how hops are grown processed and used in flavouring in beer? This section provides the story behind the product, explaining how a raw material from the High Weald countryside is turned into a useful product.

The High Weald Wilderness or forest is largely a wooded, pastoral landscape with some fruit and hop growing at its eastern end. Its main products are fruit and drink such as juice, wine and beer; coppiced timber for fencing, logs and charcoal; meat, largely beef and lamb; and dairy items.

The parish of Frant lies in the North of the High Weald AONB. its landscape is typical of the High Weald.   Characterised by rolling hills, scattered farmsteads, small woodlands, irregular-shaped fields, open heaths and ancient routeways.

The maps below show these five special features in the parish of Frant.

Luckily for the High Weald there are schools all across the area that have pledged to be High Weald Hero schools and undertake 5 actions to demonstrate their commitment to their local landscape. Click on the logos below to access education materials that are specific to High Weald Hero schools such as historic map sets and Welly Walk leaflets.

Disclaimer: Please note the map sets are low resolution A4 copies of the A3 maps printed out and originally given to High Weald Hero schools. If you lose your maps and would like a printed copy please contact us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

dens_childrenA High Weald Hero After School Club plan is now available for primary schools.

Ten themed sessions have been created to cover a term of after school programme, with indoor and outdoor activities that will help children to find out more about the High Weald and its many special features. The pack includes ideas for exploring habitats, archaeology, special guests, art work and much more. Download the plan and supporting resources below and have fun!

pdf High Weald Hero after school club plan (354.5 kB) (323 KB)

hwh_nutley_ww_ls_smallHigh Weald Hero schools have contributed to the creation of 52 Welly Walks. These landscape walks, starting and ending at the school gate, provide opportunities for children to learn more about their unique local landscape.  The schools continue to use their walks as part of their ongoing participation in the High Weald Hero scheme; actively sharing them across the school and with their local community.

Is there a Welly Walk near you?
See below for more details of each Welly Walk and to download a leaflet with further details. For other places to walk in the High Weald visit our walking section or nature reserves.

Click on the categories to hide or show them on the map below.

  • Accommodation
  • Activities
  • Attractions
  • Cycle routes
  • Farmers market
  • Nature reserves
  • Producers
  • School educational centres
  • School welly walks
  • Walks
  • Winter Highlights

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hwh_education_resourcesHistorical character videos, activity cards for use as part of outdoor learning, map sets and classroom activity sheets are just some of the resources we have created to help schools use their local countryside in national curriculum work.

The resources listed on this page are available to all schools within and around the High Weald. If you have joined the High Weald Hero Partnership as a High Weald Hero School we will have supplied school-specific map sets and may also have worked with you to produce other school-specific educational material e.g. Welly walks You will find these resources on your school's page on this site.

A pdf High Weald Hero Topic Web (240 KB)  is also available for further ideas on linking your lessons to the High Weald.

 

Join the High Weald Heroes!

Do your pupils know how amazing their local area is? This ancient landscape is steeped in tradition, full of historical buildings, fascinating wildlife and special features and is outstandingly beautiful.

Our High Weald Hero education programme uses the rich landscape heritage of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to help KS1 and 2 children develop a life-long connection with the natural world around them.

Built around five key High Weald Hero ‘Actions’, the programme encourages schools to Find Out About; Explore; Take Care of; Be Proud of and Enjoy their local area.

As a High Weald Hero school, you will receive a tailored ‘pick and mix’ programme of curriculum-linked activities and resources – all designed and led by our Education Officer, Rachel, to suit your pupils’ needs and your timetable:

  • Outdoor learning including assistance with developing your school’s very own Welly Walk – a circular walk starting and ending at the school gate, designed to help children learn more about their unique local landscape. Your Welly Walk can be used for individual classes and as a whole-school activity; many schools even share their walks with the wider community.
  • Assemblies and staff training plus an attractive wooden plaque commemorating your membership of the scheme
  • Educational materials including map sets of the local area and wider High Weald landscape, dvds and activity sheets
  • Themed assemblies and interactive plays covering topics such as endangered High Weald habitats and local history
  • Classroom-based workshops such as Stone Age handling boxes, art projects and dissecting owl pellets to learn about food chains
  • Regular updates of new workshops and resources, plus access to details of organisations who can support your school in developing projects to deliver the High Weald Hero Actions

Maps intro goes here


We all have an important part to play in caring for the High Weald's special landscape.  Here are some of the things you can do to help: 

  • Take pride in the High Weald. Promote its special features and places
  • Minimise environmental impact in your home and garden
  • Support local conservation organisations
  • Help monitor threatened wildlife
  • Prevent the spread of invasive and harmful plant and animal species
  • Manage your land to benefit the environment
  • Care for your local wildlife
  • Use less water
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle - dispose of all litter responsibly
  • Respect other users - follow the Countryside Code
  • Keep your dogs under control
  • Slow down for people, horses and wildlife
  • Avoid using your car where possible
  • Find ways of using renewable energy in your home
  • Buy local produce
  • Take an interest and have your say.

 

The High Weald Management plan articulates a concise, internally consistent, and well-reasoned series of management objectives based on the components of character. These reflect and meet the need for a focused, positive, and comparatively simple objective-led approach both within the AONB partnership and amongst other stakeholders. This approach allows the management plan to be used by all stakeholders as an objective and non-political tool for assessing the AONB perspective on wider matters, such as large-scale development, and for major policy changes. Moreover, it allows partners and the wider community to generate original ideas and approaches in the knowledge that they are meeting the objectives of the AONB. The methods by which objectives can be met are provided by indicators of success and their related measurable targets.

The approach of the Plan is underpinned by an understanding of the history of the landscape and forces that have shaped it. ‘The Making of the High Weald’ and other studies in support of this management plan have provided time-depth and objective analysis so that the management aims and priorities for the AONB are firmly based on an understanding of the fundamental and defining character of the whole area – that is, those components of natural beauty that have made the High Weald a recognizably distinct and homogenous area for at least the last 700 years and that will continue to define it in the future.

Care of the High Weald's special landscape lies with all of us and the High Weald Charter is a guide to some the actions that can be taken to care for the area.

There are 12 actions and we hope our videos and 'Green Champion' case studies inspire you!

  • Purchase local products
  • Manage your land to benefit the landscape
  • Prevent invasive species
  • Respect other users - follow the countryside code
  • Slow down for people, horses and wildlife
  • Have a say
  • Support local conservation organisations
  • Take pride in the High Weald
  • Live sustainably: use less water; reduce, reuse, recycle; avoid using the car.

  • Traditional management

    such as hedgelaying can continue with volunteer helpRead more...

  • Wildlife thrives in new ponds

    created by volunteers 'puddling' (stamping down) clay with their feetRead more...

  • Removing invasive plants

    is one of the most rewarding volunteer tasksRead more...

  • Improving signage

    making it easier for people to explore the areaRead more...

The High Weald may look natural but the area has been shaped by man over hundreds of years - and needs continued management to maintain its best features. Volunteers able to lend a helping hand with wildlife and archaeology surveys, practical management tasks and path maintenance are highly valued and the following organisations provide rewarding volunteer opportunities across the High Weald AONB.

Gatwick Greenspace Partnership
What: A range of practical conservation tasks are underataken including coppicing, hedge planting and green woodworking at various sites. There is a general volunteering programme as well as a Wildlife Rangers group for 12-16 year olds and Youth Rangers for 16-25 year olds. 
When: Weekly volunteer tasks, meeting on site at 9:45am, starting at 10am and normally ending at 3pm, though some volunteers stay longer. Also able to develop bespoke events for corporate and community groups.
Where: Various locations around Crawley and Horsham
More info: www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/gatwick_greenspace/index.htm 
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Horsted Keynes Hackers
What: Volunteers use hand tools or strimmers to manage vegetation on rights of way. There are also opportunities to replace fingerposts, stiles and gates.
When: Every second Monday and second-to-last Friday of the month
Where: Sites are all in Horsted Keynes and include rights of way and public spaces
More info: Lynne Mulcare E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Jon Martin E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kent High Weald Partnership
What: There are practical conservation projects which range from coppicing, hedgelaying, tree planting and woodland management in the winter, to survey work, meadow management, fencing, step and boardwalk construction in the summer.
When: Wednesday and Thursdays (10am to 3pm) with a mid-morning tea break and lunch at 1pm. There are usually projects one Saturday a month (10:30 – 1:30). Anyone is welcome to join in on the Wednesday and Thursday tasks. We ask that groups of 8 or more contact us beforehand as we might need to add more tools or another member of staff.
Where: 4 key sites as well as other local green spaces. These are in the Tunbridge Wells, Goudhurst and Cranbrook areas of Kent. Please visit the events calendar www.khwp.org.uk/home/events for more information on the locations and directions to site.
More info: Online volunteering pack: www.khwp.org.uk/97-volunteering T: 01580 212972  E:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Kent Wildlife Trust
What: Volunteers work with Weald Warden, Matt Hayes to help with the conservation management of a number of nature reserves in the Weald area. The tasks run between different reserves, carrying out a wide range of practical conservation tasks ranging from coppicing to meadow management.
When: Every Monday. Volunteering places cannot be guaranteed so please contact for more information.
Where: It rotates between different reserves throughout the High Weald that stretch between Paddock Wood, Tenderden, Hawhurst and Goudhurst.
More info: www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk T: Matt Hayes, 07747 474364 E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)
What: During the autumn and winter months (mid-September to mid-March) volunteers are mainly engaged in clearing scrub and small trees and coppicing. For the rest of the year (i.e. the nesting season) the work parties take on odd jobs such as pulling bracken, clearing old fencing, clearing and burning already cut rhododendron, etc. Occasionally volunteers help with public events and visitor surveys. Conservation work could lead to other volunteer opportunities, such as in species monitoring.
When: Fortnightly (weekday) or monthly (weekend) conservation work parties between the reserves, falling on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Contact for details.
Where: Broadwater Warren and Tudeley Woods
More info: www.rspb.org.uk E: Alan Loweth, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sussex Wildlife Trust
What: Opportunities to take part in a variety of practical conservation projects across east and West Sussex.
When: Projects run at different dates, times and locations. Please visit the tasks calendar on the website: http://www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/uploads/oct_%20dec2014_task_calendar.pdf
Where: Varied locations across East and West Sussex, see task calendar.
More info: sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Conservation Volunteers
What: Practical volunteering opportunities to reclaim our green spaces. There are numerous local, one-day projects with no ongoing commitment needed. Can take unaccompanied 16 and 17 year olds with prior, informed consent from a parent or guardian. Those under 16 need to be accompanied by a responsible adult.
When: Days vary depending on where you are, and projects will generally last all day. Projects from the Hastings office run on most Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays.
Where: Projects are scattered throughout Kent and Sussex
More info: www.tcv.org.uk/southeast T: 01424 444675/ 07740899692 E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

East Sussex County Council
What: East Sussex County Council leads a variety of volunteer groups including for Elm protection, Seven Sisters Visitor Centre and Rights of Way groups across the county.
When: Depending on what you can commit to there are opportunities for the odd afternoon, or for training over a whole year.
Where: At various locations across East Sussex.
More info: www.eastsussex.gov.uk/environment/conservation/volunteering/default.htm 

The Powdermill Trust
What: A conservation charity managing two reserves in the High Weald. Volunteers would carry out practical conservation tasks.
When: Volunteer groups meet to maintain the Rotherfield reserve on the first Wednesday and third Sunday of the month and activities at Powdermill Wood are organised on an ad hoc basis.
Where: The Powdermill Trust manages two nature reserves within the High Weald AONB, one at Rotherfield and one within Powdermill Wood which is south of Battle
More info:  www.powdermilltrust.co.uk

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve (part of Sussex Wildlife Trust)
What, When, Where: Lots of different volunteer roles are available:
1. Information Centre volunteers - mornings or afternoons, Monday to Sunday. Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
2. Workparty volunteers - summer months only. First and third Tuesdays, 10am - 3pm. Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
3. Friends' Events volunteers - specific dates throughout the year, usually Saturday afternoons. Winchelsea Beach Community Hall.
4. Guide in a Hide volunteers - days and times to suit, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
5. Education volunteers - specific days and times, could be at Rye Harbour, Pett Level and/or Beckley.
More info: T:Lucy Bowyer, People and Wildlife Officer 01797 227784 E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit/ write to: Sussex Wildlife Trust, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, Lime Kiln Cottage, Harbour Road, Rye, TN31 7TU

Horsham District Council
What: A variation of practical volunteering activities to suit most ages and activity levels
When: Ongoing and variable
Where: In and around Horsham
More info: www.horsham.gov.uk/parksandcountryside/parks-and-countryside/get-involved T:Parks and Countryside 01403 215256 E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Ashplats Conservation Group
What: A practical conservation project started by local residents. It aims to conserve and enhance the woodland for wildlife to thrive in and people to enjoy. Volunteering opportunities are open to all.
When: The group meets on the 2nd Sunday of each month (except August when it doesn't meet, and November when it is the first Sunday). Work is done from 9.45 until 3, but volunteers are welcome to leave earlier.
Where: The 28 ha wood is part of the East Court Estate in East Grinstead.
Who: If you would like to volunteer contact Tanya on 01342 824431 or email Chris This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Butterfly Conservation - Sussex
What: Most volunteer work consists of clearing scrub and opening up land to make suitable habitat for butterflies. Volunteers cut and clear shrubs and make bonfires. They may work with hand tools – bow saws and loppers – but not power tools. They need to be reasonably fit as the work is physical, and some of it takes place on steep sites on the Downs. Children must be accompanied by a responsible adult.
When and Where: Rowland Wood, South of Uckfield, on the second Sunday of each month in winter. The session runs from 8.30 am till around lunchtime, though people are welcome to come along for as much or as little of this time as suits them.  The Murray Downland Trust on their site in Heyshott, in West Sussex, on Wednesday mornings through the winter. This is a steep Downland site.  There are other ad hoc meetings which are arranged as need dictates: these are published on our web site, on the events page.
Who: Visit www. Sussex-butterflies.org.uk, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Habitats that need your help:

Why meadows need you
Why ponds need you
Why heathlands need you
Why woodlands need you
Improving accessibility

 

  • coppice young wood anemone sissinghurst
  • coniferclearance
  • award children High Weald Heroes Beckley
  • celebrating weald forest ridge ashfest
  • Our ancient woodland inventory

    is used by planners to protect ancient woodland

    View inventory...
  • Woodland restoration advice

    enables the removal of conifers from ancient woodland

    Read more...
  • High Weald Heroes

    helps schools explore the landscape as part of the curriculum

    Read more...
  • The Weald Forest Ridge Scheme

    focused on the heritage of the area's highest ridge

    Read more...

We run a number of projects that help people: learn about the area; explore it; or take action to care of it. All the projects help achieve the objectives of the High Weald AONB Management Plan.

Funding comes from a range of sources: including the Heritage Lottery Fund, Natural England, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission and Woodland Trust as well as local authorities.

  • Conserving habitats

    through support for traditional land management by volunteers

  • Reducing carbon emissions

    through support for school energy projects

  • Grant-aiding building projects

    that use local materials such as coppiced timber

There are a few grant schemes that can help fund projects that either conserve and enhance the High Weald landscape or enable people's understanding and enjoyment of it. Some of the key schemes are listed below but there are others. If you have a project idea we are happy to provide advice on how to get your idea off the ground and may be able to provide practical support and assistance with grant-aid applications. For an informal discussion contact Gerry Sherwin

  • surveying community lidar map
  • smoker wood local timber
  • filming video accommodation
  • Archaeology Projects

    - scrutinising LiDAR maps to find woodland features to survey

  • Making use of local timber

    - a wood smoker made from low grade pine

  • Video production training

    - to help accommodation providers promote their landscape setting

These pages detail just some of the projects that you can get involved in. At the moment we are working with:

  • local artists to promote art that is inspired by the High Weald landscape;
  • accommodation providers across the area who are keen to champion what is special about the High Weald landscape to their visitors; 
  • landowners to highlight and seek solution to the challenges of the working the area's farmland;
  • community groups to undertake archaeology surveys that further  our understanding of ancient woodlands and routeways;
  • the timber industry to raise awaress amongst the public of the qualities, sources and use of local timber.

If you would like to be involved with any of our Projects, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

wwk_smokerWeald Woodkits is an experimental project providing support for local designers and wood using businesses to explore the potential for using underutilised local timber in everyday items offering a viable and affordable alternative to imported wood products. It aims to harness design creativity and innovation to make the most of the qualities of different local timbers.

Find out more about the project: 

pdf Weald Woodkits leaflet (693 KB)

Find out more about woodlands in the Weald and how to manage them

ashburnham_paintingThe High Weald has been the inspiration for several artists, each drawing on different facets of the area. Between 1810 and 1818 Joseph Mallord William Turner captured the soft folds of the High Weald landscape around Jack Fuller’s Rosehill estate, near Dallington. In the 1850s the painter F.D.Hardy ‘discovered’ Cranbrook and for a few years a small group of artists - the ‘Cranbrook’ Colony’ - used the town as the setting for meticulously studied paintings. At the same time William Holman Hunt, one of the leading Pre-Raphelite painters, worked occasionally at Winchelsea and Fairlight, capturing the colours of the coast.

Our artist interviews provide an insight into how the landscape inspires them and the techniques that they use to capture its special qualities

Find out how you can produce a 2 minute YouTube video using the landscape of the High Weald to promote your tourism business.

These pages contain all the resources you will need to produce a promotional video.  The information here is based on using the Flip Video Camera, a very cheap and simple video camera that anybody can use.

This video was filmed and editied entirely by Jane from Coopers Farm using a Flip Video Camera.

meg_lucas_sheep_413pxAs we say farewell to the first decade of a new millennium, what does the future hold for the High Weald?

The character of the landscape is essentially the same as it was 600 years ago; it is considered to be one of the best preserved medieval landscapes in Northern Europe. But will its special character be evident 600 years from now? Or will the pressures of a growing and globalised society prove too much?

As in the past, the people who live and work in the High Weald today are as much a part of its character as the landscape itself. Some of them have worked the land for decades, others are newcomers, the Anvil meets some of them to discover what, if anything, has changed during their tenure and what they think the future may hold.

meg lucas sheep 413pxThe Restocking the Weald project enables the establishment of viable new livestock enterprises on under-utilised pasture across multiple land holdings.  Ultimately it aims to improve the productivity and management of the High Weald, a nationally important landscape.

The project:
• assists new farm entrants/livestock enterprises find pasture
• encourages non-farming landowners to become more proactive in managing their land and
• provides practical support with aggregating land, improving infrastructure, tenure arrangements and skills mentoring and training.

If you are a landowner with under-utilised pasture in the High Weald AONB, or are a grazier looking for additional land, please contact us on 01424 723011 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ifyou are a policy or decision maker and would like to know more about the need for the project and its evidence base please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 01424 723008

Click on the categories to hide or show them on the map below.

  • Accommodation
  • Activities
  • Attractions
  • Cycle routes
  • Farmers market
  • Nature reserves
  • Producers
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  • School welly walks
  • Walks
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  • Stay in a converted oast house

    a legacy of the area's widespread hop industry

  • Sandstone mansions

    have been converted to luxurious hotels

There are lots of places to stay in the High Weald. Self-catering cottages and B&Bs are often located in converted farmstead buildings, such as oasthouses. Small campsites are dotted across the area and many also offer yurts, tipis, shepherd huts and treehouses as a glamping experience.

We provide introductory information on this site to help you plan your trip; you will need to visit the businesses' websites for detailed information.

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  • Accommodation
  • Activities
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  • training willow crafts group
  • climbing sandstone outcrop harrisons
  • picking grapes red vineyard
  • training butchery group
  • Try your hand

    at traditional crafts in an ancient woodland setting ....

  • Learn to climb

    on the area's unique sandrock crags

  • Take a vineyard tour

    and taste some English wine

  • Learn to butcher meat

    and make sausages from local pork and beef

There are many other activities you can do beyond walking and riding and visiting attractions.

You can take a boat trip from Newenden to Bodiam Castle along the River Rother; tour a vineyard; develop woodcraft and bushcraft skills; learn to bake bread; forage for mushrooms; or, for the more adventurous climb on the area's sandstone outcrops.

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  • Accommodation
  • Activities
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  • Walks
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  • bluebells coppice
  • climbing tree boy views
  • heath glade brede high wood
  • playing stump girl broadwater warren
  • Wildlife-rich ancient woodland

    is a key feature of many of the area's nature reserves

  • Visit Ashdown Forest

    and explore the largest area of open heath in South East England

    Read more...
  • Heathy glades

    are a feature of the Woodland Trust's Brede High woodsRead more...

  • Countryside sites

    are natural playgrounds

The High Weald has numerous nature reserves owned by organisations such as the National Trust, RSPB, Woodland Trust and Forestry Commission.

The sites are free to visit and welcome the public. They have a good path network and places to stop and watch wildlife. Beyond a car park facilities tend to be limited. There is often an information board: site leaflets are best downloaded before a visit.

 

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  • Accommodation
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  • School educational centres
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  • Walks
  • Winter Highlights

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  • walking family pooh bridge
  • walking dog buggy woodland
  • Themed walks

    are a great way to see the best of Ashdown ForestRead more...

  • Surfaced paths

    can be found at Country Parks and some nature reservesRead more...

The High Weald in Kent and Sussex has an amazing network of footpaths, bridleways and byways (2,395km!). There are lots of nature reserves too, managed by bodies like the National Trust, RSPB, Woodland Trust and Forestry Commission. There's something for everyone – from nature lovers and families with young children, to avid ramblers! Explore the High Weald's unique landscape on self-guided walks, nature trails, or on long-distance routes like the High Weald Landscape Trail. In September, join our High Weald Walking Festival when knowledgeable guides lead themed walks.

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  • Accommodation
  • Activities
  • Attractions
  • Cycle routes
  • Farmers market
  • Nature reserves
  • Producers
  • School educational centres
  • School welly walks
  • Walks
  • Winter Highlights

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To view more High Weald videos visit the video library.

If you own or manage buildings and land in the Kent, Sussex or Surrey High Weald your decisions are likely to have an impact on the area's special features.

Our High Weald Story videos provide a good introduction to the features, whilst this section aims to help you:

Wildflower grasslands are one of the rarest and most threatened habitats in the High Weald.

Drawing on the experiences of the Weald Meadows Initiative, a project which has been operating in the area for 15 years, this section offers lots of advice on how to protect, enhance and create wildflower grasslands.

Before undertaking any work it is important to get an understanding of your site: the existing grassland type; plant species; soil pH; and past management - this knowledge is invaluable when making management decisions.

There are many different grassland types, depending on the local geology, soil and what the land has been used for in the past. However most fall into 1 of 3 key types; unimproved; semi-improved and improved. Spring and early summer are the best time to survey your grassland - plants are in flower and identification is much easier! Our video highlights some plants to look out for. If you would help identifying your grassland please contact us.

Old maps are a great way to get starting researching more about the history of your property.  The following pages give an overview of the different types of maps available. Most of these maps are available through your local records centre.  If you live in Kent some historic maps can be viewed on the Exploring Kent's Past website.

 

  • bank wood historic
  • pits mine st leonards forest
  • track ancient sunken bluebells
  • Wood banks

    Find out what makes the High Weald so special.......Read more...

  • Look out for quarries

    Large and small.Read more...

  • Look out for sunken routeways

    they are hundreds of years oldRead more...

The archaeology of the Kent, Sussex and Surrey High Weald tells us a lot about past use of the landscape. However there are still questions to be answered about the human use of the High Weald - though many relics have been found - many more, protected by the area's extensive and relatively undisturbed woodland, are undiscovered and are not easy to spot.

This section has been designed to help anyone interested in the area's past get involved with finding out more about is hidden archaeology. In particular it provides access to the LiDAR images for the Weald Forest Ridge area of the High Weald. These images show up shapes in the ground; pales and warrens, furnaces and hammer ponds and charcoal hearths and they provide a great starting point for anyone interested in undertaking an archaeological survey.

If you are having trouble viewing these videos please visit our youtube channel

broadwater lidar1 copyLiDAR (light detection and ranging) is a survey technique which transmits laser pulses from a plane to the ground. The survey generates information that can produce digital models of the surface - showing up earthworks such as hollows, mounds and lines of banks and often revealing archaeological features previously unseen. LiDAR is therefore particularly useful in heavily wooded areas. Within the High Weald AONB, LiDAR has been flown for the Weald Forest Ridge and can be viewed on pages below.. 

The woodlands of Kent, Sussex and Surrey in the High Weald hold many secrets to the history of past activities. Archaeological evidence is often well preserved in ancient woodlands which have generally seen less change than agricultural land.

Woodland archaeology can be divided into two broad categories; evidence from past woodland management and evidence from other activities that happened, often before an area became wooded. This latter is very wide and includes the remains of industrial activity, boundaries and settlement sites.

The High Weald of Kent, Sussex and Surrey is the most wooded part of England with almost 25% woodland cover, totalling 35,000 hectares.

Ancient woodland is especially important as it is land that has been continuously wooded for many centuries. Ancient semi-natural woodland (ASNW) comprising native tree species is the most ecologically diverse and rich habitat type in the UK.

Much of the ancient woodland in Kent, Sussex and Surrey has been historically managed as coppice, a traditional form of management that is important for wildlife, and this continues to this day on a much reduced scale.

 

woodland_pondThe Kent, Sussex and Surrey High Weald has one of the highest concentrations of ponds in the South East of England. Pond numbers were at their peak in 1840 when most of the human activity that led to their creation began to decline. There are 13,408 mapped ponds in the area, largely associated with the Wadhurst Clay, approximately 9 per kilometre square. Across Britain, around 75% have been lost in the last 100 years.

Downloads
pdf High Weald Land Managers Pack - Pond Management
(1.91 MB)
pdf Ponds in the Weald Habitat Leaflet (1.91 MB)

More
Why ponds need you.

 

Hedges are an important part of the Kent, Sussex and Surrey. Imagine the Weald without hedges! They are an integral part of its landscape, are often historic, and together with field margins provide an important wildlife habitat.

volunteers hedgelaying

  • Hedges represent decisions made by our ancestors over hundreds of years.

  • In the High Weald many hedges are remnants of the ancient woodland that once covered much of the area.

  • They are very different to the straight hedges, seen across much of England, which were planted during the 'enclosures' of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Their purpose

All hedges, whether unplanted or planted, serve a function. They indicate land ownership, assist with livestock management, provide shelter for farm animals and crops, help conserve soil and water, and would once have been a source of timber and fuel. They also provide homes, food and shelter for insects, birds and mammals, particularly when combined with a rough grass margin.

Guidance

The following publications provide futher information and guidance on what makes Weald hedges special and how to create, manage and restore them. 

pdf High Weald Land Management Pack - Hedgerows section (1.48 MB)
pdf Hedges in the Weald habitat leaflet  (630 KB)  - please contact us if you would like a hard copy of this leaflet.

We also have a website page on Hedgerow plants suitable for the High Weald.  

Hedgelink is a national website that provides good generic information on hedges as well as information on UK hedgerow legislationn

You will find information about our sustainable development grant and other grant schemes in this section.

There are lots of places where you can get an idea of the type of project that could be funded by the Community Landscape Fund. We suggest that you browse:

The buildings of the Kent and Sussex High Weald are characterised by:

This section provides further information on the area's settlement history, character and sustainable development with a particular focus on the area's historic farmsteads.

Settlement is a key component of the High Weald's natural beauty. Policy objectives for settlement are set out in the High Weald AONB Management Plan.

Policy and guidance has been informed by joint research between English Heritage and the High Weald AONB Unit. 

Download

pdf Settlement: Summary of historic settlement development in the High Weald (676 KB)

pdf Historic Farmsteads & Landscape Character in the High Weald AONB (10.57 MB)

pdf Historic Farmsteads: A Manual for Mapping (6.74 MB)

pdf Socio economic characteristics of farms (5.57 MB)

pdf The Sustainable Development of Dispersed Settlement in the High Weald AONB (240 KB)

pdf Commons, Greens and Settlement in the High Weald AONB: Scoping Assessment from Kent and Sussex Historic Landscape Characterisations (14.63 MB)

pdf Single Storey, Twentieth Century Dwellings in the High Weald: A preliminary investigation based on the eastern High Weald (3.23 MB)

pdf Sustainable settlements in the High Weald (7.46 MB)

The following document provides a summary of settlement history in the High Weald explaining why the late development of Wealden towns and villages defies standard typologies and highlighting the importance of understanding individual settlements in planning new development.

Download

pdf Settlement: Summary of historic settlement development in the High Weald (676 KB)

The High Weald has one of the highest concentrations of surviving early farmsteads buildings anywhere in Europe. These date mostly from the 18th century or earlier and display a rich variety of patterns and forms, with a strong tradition of building in timber frame. 

The video (below) of the launch of the Kent Farmsteads Guidance provides more information on the unique character of the area's farmsteads. Click on the playlist (topleft) for information on the speakers and topics covered or Watch the Kent farmstead launch presentations on our YouTube Channel.

The Kent Farmsteads Guidance has been published by Kent County Council, in partnership with  English Heritage and the High Weald and Kent Downs AONB Partnerships. Although focused on Kent the guidance is relevant to farmsteads across the rest of the High Weald and has been informed by research in the area.   

Download the Kent Farmstead Guidance 

pdf Summary Kent Farmsteads Guidance 2014 (1.11 MB)

pdf Part 1 Kent Farmsteads Guidance 2014 (3.30 MB)

pdf Part 2 Kent Farmstead Guidance Planning Context 2014 (2.75 MB)

pdf Part 3 Kent Farmstead Guidance Character Statements (8.81 MB)

pdf Part 4 Character Area Statements 2014 (4.44 MB)

pdf Part 5 Kent Farmstead Guidance Design Guidance 2014 (2.21 MB)

pdf Part 6 Kent Farmstead Guidance  Recording 2014 (548 KB)

pdf Part 7 Glossary Kent Farmstead Guidance 2014 (277 KB)

See also 

High Weald Farmstead Research Reports 

The High Weald was settled by individual farmers - leading to a pattern of scattered, remote farmsteads. Today, these holdings still contain a rich heritage of distinctive farm buildings: structures that add a human dimension to the landscape - and provide clues about farming traditions long passed - oast houses, for example, reflect an activity confined to a limited area: the hop-growing lands of the Eastern Weald.

The area's traditional farm buildings are typically simple, straightforward buildings constructed by local workmen. They were built to be functional - designed above all to shelter and protect - though often with great inventiveness and attention to detail. They were not built to be charming or characterful: these are attributes that we have attached to them in modern times.

Traditional farm buildings are locally distinctive. They reflect the building materials available nearby - in the case of the High Weald, wood, brick and sandstone - and they allow us a glimpse of past local farming practices.

In the South East, due to the variety of the underlying geology (and, therefore, soils) some areas practising very different forms of agriculture lie right next to each other. This is apparent in the form of the farm buildings. For example, on the Downs, large barns stored arable crops and sheds sheltered animals producing manure for the fields - while in the adjoining Weald, large numbers of cattle houses and yards reflected the importance of cattle breeding and fattening.

Today, many farm buildings are no longer used for their original purpose. However, it is not always easy to convert them to homes or work places whilst at the same time retaining those features which give the buildings their distinctive agricultural identity. It is hoped that a knowledge of how the farm buildings were originally used and how farm building form relates to function - combined with a greater understanding of the distinctiveness of local farmstead layout - will lead to more sensitive development in future.

The plan form of the farmstead -  the way the buildings are arranged and associated with the farmhouse, tracks and yards is the principle attribute which describes the overall character of the farmstead.

Thereare 5 types of plan form in the High and Low Weald.

 

A joint research project by the High Weald AONB Unit and English Heritage suggests that adaptation and reuse of some historic farmsteads can be achieved without damaging their special qualities or the contribution they make to the character of the High Weald, one of England's finest landscapes.

Future change is possible but solutions will need to recognise and grow out of the inherited patterns of this remarkable landscape.

Preparing a masterplan for change: Good Practice Guide sets out how, through access to information on farmstead character and history, a site assessment and masterplan can be produced demonstrating an understanding of the farmstead site in its landscape context. This provides a template for future change, identifying constraints and opportunities including the need for more detailed recording and evaluation.

  • view landscape aerial mist
  • celebrating weald forest ridge bluebells
  • droving routeway pigs
  • farmstead oasts weatherboard
  • Watch the High Weald Story

    to find out why the area's landscape is so special ...

    Read more...
  • Browse our Events Calendar

    to find walks, arts and craft activities and living history events...

    Read more...
  • Step along a sunken lane

    and follow in the footsteps of Saxon drovers

    Find a walk...
  • Intriging places to stay

    Oast houses, shepherd's huts and tree houses

    Read more...

Thirty miles south of London you can explore the High Weald - one of the best surviving medieval landscapes in Northern Europe. Whenever you come, and whatever you do, you will encounter:

There are lots of ways to explore the area. For a free day out consider a walk or cycle ride or visiting one of our many nature reserves. Other attractions include medieval castles, beautiful historic houses and gardens, well-preserved steam railways and scenic reservoirs. If you can stay a while you will find intriguing places to stay and we recommend seeking out local products for a memento of your visit ... 

Involving people with the unique heritage in one of England's Finest Landscapes

weald forest ridge map webarticleedit

Under the Heritage Lottery Fund's Landscape Partnership Scheme programme, the £2.7million Weald Forest Ridge Landscape Partnership Scheme (WFR LPS) was delivered between 2009 and 2012.

The Scheme aimed to enable its audiences to reconnect with their local landscape; more easily access and enjoy the Ridge; understand its unique natural, cultural and built heritage; take part in caring for it; and leave a legacy for future generations.

There were a huge range of diverse outputs, across a very broad spectrum of activities. Long term benefits were embedded in the Scheme's implementation, and an evaluation carried out of the Scheme's delivery.

legacy leaflet coverAn area leaflet "Enjoy and Explore the Weald Forest Ridge" has been produced to celebrate the end of the Scheme. It communicates core messages about the area's heritage through the promotion of key sites to visit. It has been made widely publicly available through visitor centres, visitor attractions, libraries, etc, and also to local people through doorstep distribution in spring 2013.  pdf Download the leaflet here (4.09 MB)

WFR-logoHLFlandscapelogo

The Delivery Partners ranged from environmental charities, through public bodies and local authorities, to community organisations. They were: BTCV, Conservators of Ashdown Forest, ESAMP (East Sussex Archaeology and Museums Partnership), East Sussex County Council, ESUS Forestry - Training, Forestry Commission, Gatwick Greenspace Partnership, High Weald AONB Unit, Highbrook Village Hall Management Committee, Horsham District Council, Kent High Weald Partnership, Plumpton College, Root and Branch Theatre Company, RSPB, Sussex Police, Sussex Wildlife Trust, The Company, Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery, Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, and The Woodland Trust.

Using the Heritage Lottery Fund's core values of conservation, participation and learning, the delivery covered 39 areas of work spread across five themes:
enhancing publicly accessible sites
understanding and conserving the historic environment
public celebration and learning
learning in schools, and
training and skills.

A scheme monitoring report has been produced, detailing this work delivery in full.

MaidensbwThe Weald Forest Ridge's landscape heritage has close associations with ancient medieval hunting forests. The importance of these forests was recognised in the "Polyolbion" - an epic topographical poem of the English counties written by Michael Drayton in 1611.

The Polyolbion likened four medieval forests in the Weald Forest Ridge to wood nymphs, or maidens. The Forests referred to are clearly identifiable nowadays as Broadwater (Water-downe), Ashdown (Ash-downe), St Leonard's (Saint Leonards) and Worth (Whord). The Weald Forest Ridge Landscape Partnership used Drayton's Polyolbion as the inspiration for conserving the Weald Forest Ridge's heritage.

Project work, including heritage interpretation, was carried out at all of the four Forests.

Additionally, the Scheme was launched with the "Maidens of the Weald" project.  Same Sky - the community arts organisation from Brighton - worked with schools and community groups across the Weald Forest Ridge in 2009 to create four Giant Maidens. Each Maiden was designed to reflect the unique character of her particular Forest.


MP2019 2024frontconver4The High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a special place. One of the best surviving medieval landscapes in northern Europe: home to amazing ancient woodland full of undiscovered archaeology; wonderful wildlife and welcoming villages; sweeping views and a myriad of interconnecting paths and tracks where you can walk in the footsteps of Anglo-Saxons, get close to nature and enjoy peace and tranquillity at the heart of the busy South East.

The High Weald AONB Management Plan is the single most important document for the AONB. It sets out long term objectives for conserving this nationally important landscape and the local authorities' ambitions for how the High Weald will be looked after for the next 5 years.

Local authorities with land in an AONB are legally obliged under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to produce an AONB Management Plan, and the Plan is formally adopted by the relevant local authorities as their policy for the management of the AONB and how they carry out their functions in relation to it.

The Management Plan also has a wider role. It provides a means by which all public bodies can judge, and be judged, on their duty to have regard to conservation of the AONB, and it provides a guide for residents, businesses and visitors on the actions they can take to help safeguard this special area.

Download   pdf High Weald Managment Plan 4th edition 2019-2024 (14.01 MB)

The Management Plan has been prepared by the High Weald Joint Advisory Committee which includes representatives of all 15 local authorities with land in the AONB and Government bodies responsible for protected landscapes in England. The Plan is reviewed every 5 years and each review of the Plan is accompanied by a formal public consultation process. During the review period evidence is collected to inform the review and a range of supporting documents, including the legally required Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment, produced. The AONB Management Plan 2019- 2024 is supported by the following documents:

 Downloads 

 

Our evidence base provides the best available information to support Management Plan policies. It includes scientific and social research; analysis of historical information and geospatial data; lessons learned from pilot projects and work on the ground.

The AONB Unit carries out research itself and in partnership with other bodies, and it commissions work from others. Using our time depth approach, we are studying each aspect of the landscape to map it, understand it, and ask questions about it.

Visit the Publications library to view and download High Weald research reports

Read about the latest research: