A country forest view in Tunbridge Wells region

A country forest view in Tunbridge Wells region

by Mike Bartlett

Ashdown Forest

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 with its enchanting woodland offering scenic and relaxing walks with your family.

‘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 fertile region of rolling meadows and woodland, also known as the Garden of England.

Things to do in Ashdown Forest

The Ashdown Forest plays host to a wide variety of activities and events including opportunities to view both historical and art exhibitions alongside guided walks and fun days for all the family. For further information about upcoming events at the Ashdown Forest please visit their Facebook page.

There are many outdoor pursuits to undertake in the area aside from walking – horse riding, llama walks, learning bush skills and fishing as mentioned above. 

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.

See the Ashdown Forest website for plenty more details, especially parking in the right spot to optimise your enjoyment of this unusual wilderness.

AA Milne’s Special Spots

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 shop stop on the way back to Tunbridge Wells, in the village of Hartfield.  Select souvenirs and gifts then sit down and have a cup of tea in this cute country cottage.

How to get to the Ashdown Forest

Follow the A264 west out of the town, then take the B2110 past Groombridge Place and the Enchanted Forest carrying on through Hartfield to the Forest Centre. This is a good place to start as it has all the information you would need to find out the best place to park and see your favourites.

Parking in the Ashdown Forest

Coach parking is available at Broadstone Car Park – RH18 5JP – only.  Minibuses can park at the Forest Centre.  There are over 40 car parks across the Forest! Check below for details from the Ashdown Forest website.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1XHo1571-0WgNsEqwtTd3SsUYUbU&hl=en&ll=51.05547726835799%2C0.07046349999995982&z=13

Nearest Accommodation to Ashdown Forest in the Tunbridge Wells Region

St Ives Campsite

Burrswood Guest Rooms

Manor Court Farm B&B and camping

Flying Horse Cottage self-catering


External links:

Ashdown Forest

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