High Weald

Vision for Field and Heath
A landscape in which the distinctive and historic pattern of fields is managed to maximise its full landscape, historic and wildlife value, and in which the special qualities of grassland and heathland habitats are enhanced and maintained by skilled land managers. Agricultural land is productive, whilst also contributing to sustainable land management and providing responsible access and enjoyment by the public.
This vision can be realised through new initiatives and policies that seek to maintain and expand traditional land-management skills, stimulate markets for local products, support a local infrastructure for productive farming, and provide expert advice to land managers.

Top 5 issues for field and heath

  • Declining extent of agriculture – land falling out of productive use into amenity and residential use, with consequent suburbanisation and neglect changes in farming payment schemes
  • Collapse of profitability of farming due to fall in farm gate prices (driven by the global market) and uncompetitive nature of High Weald agriculture (small holdings with poor soils) – resulting in lack of straightforward farm businesses, exits from agriculture, lack of successors to existing farms, increased reliance on non-land based diversification and incomes
  • Lack of infrastructure supporting agriculture and land management – e.g. absence of abattoirs supporting a predominantly grazed landscape
  • Declining skills – an ageing and shrinking workforce with the traditional skills necessary to maintain the features of the open land of the AONB
  • Environmental degradation – neglected fields and heaths scrubbing up, increasing run-off and agrochemical inputs, loss of key habitats (e.g. meadows and heaths), and damage to historic features (e.g. field boundaries and field pattern, and archaeological sites and monuments