The Ashdown Forest is situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest as well as being a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation.
Ashdown Forest is only half an hour’s drive from Royal Tunbridge Wells but looks very different from its immediate surroundings.
‘Scotland in Sussex’
Ashdown Forest is a high sandy ridge overlooking the High Weald of Kent. The land was originally managed for the hunting of deer and is now common land.
Curiously, it is not a forest! The name ‘forest’ is a Norman word meaning land governed by ‘forest law’ which assigns harsh penalties of transgression. It meant the King could hunt no matter who owned the land and the prey’s cover was thus also protected!
It has both heathland and woodland habitats which are home to a wide variety of wildlife. There are masses of broom and gorse; some areas look quite sparse, an intriguing sight in this region of rolling meadows and woodland.
Things to do in Ashdown Forest
The Forest contains the Old Lodge Nature Reserve where one might chance upon a stonechat or a nightjar! Dogs are welcome if kept under control and cleaned up after. The views of the heath, sandstone and scrub from here are expansive.
You can take a walk around the Weir Wood Reservoir and its waving grasslands. You might be lucky enough to see a kingfisher! Day fishing is allowed at the eastern side of the lake, the western area is a nature reserve. There are toilets, parking and a café at the Fishery.
Other wildlife highlights of the Forest include: fallow and roe deer as well as some muntjac and possibly a few sika; small mammals like voles, butterflies, moths and a multitude of dragonfly species.
Bird species consist of curlew, hen harrier, ring ousel, osprey, treecreeper, sparrowhawk, skylark, meadow pipit, dartford warbler, willow tit, woodcock, water rail and marsh tit.
AA Milne’s Special Spots
However, many visitors come to the Forest in search of a very famous bear and his friends – Winnie the Pooh!
Explore the 100-Aker Wood and have a game on Poohsticks Bridge. Pooh Corner is a delightful stop on the way back, in the village of Hartfield. Select souvenirs and gifts then sit down and have a cup of tea in this cute country cottage.
There are many outdoor pursuits to do in the area aside from walking – horse riding, llama walks, learning bush skills and fishing as mentioned above. See the Ashdown Forest website for plenty more details, especially parking in the right spot to optimise your enjoyment of this unusual wilderness.