High Weald

aerialview misty landscape

The essential character of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was established by the 14th century and the area is therefore considered to be one of the best surviving, coherent medieval landscapes in Northern Europe.

The five key components of its character are:

Geology, Landform, Water Systems and Climate
A faulted landform of clays and sandstones with outcrops of fissured sandrock and ridges running east-west, deeply incised and intersected with numerous gill streams forming the headwaters of rivers. A high density of extraction pits, quarries and ponds.

A very high density of dispersed historic settlements of farmsteads and hamlets with late medieval villages founded on trade and non-agricultural rural industries. A dominance of traditional timber-framed buildings with steep roofs often hipped or half-hipped and an extraordinarily high survival rate of farm buildings dating from the 17th century or earlier.

Ancient routeways in the form of ridge-top roads and a dense system of radiating droveways, often narrow, deeply sunken and edged with trees, wildflower-rich verges and boundary banks.

A great extent of interconnected ancient woods, steep-sided gill woodlands, wooded heaths and shaws, generally in small holdings with extensive archaeology and evidence of long term management.

Field and Heath
Small, irregularly-shaped and productive fields bounded by hedgerows and small woodlands predominantly of medieval origin and managed historically as a mosaic of small agricultural holdings typically used for livestock grazing. Distinctive zones of heaths and inned river valleys.

These fundamental characteristics of the High Weald AONB are enriched by locally distinctive and nationally important details. These include castles, abbeys, historic parks and gardens, hop gardens and orchards, oast houses and parish churches, veteran trees and local populations of key threatened species.

Watch the High Weald Story and learn more about the five components.