The High Weald is less than an hour from London on the train, rising between the North Downs of Kent and the South Downs of Sussex.
The High Weald is full of romantic routeways created by drovers’ pigs since Neolithic times, and is scattered with timber-framed farmsteads.
These full and frank independent High Weald accommodation reviews are from travellers who have booked directly through our-land.co.uk. They are not edited by us or any of the companies we work with. Find the real story, from real travellers below.
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There are few sights more entertaining than a gang of lambs playing ‘King of the Castle’ on a dry spring evening in the High Weald.
As well as being a fantastic place for holidays, the High Weald is also a working landscape. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t look the way it does. Our ‘jigsaw’ pattern of small fields is maintained by grazing sheep and cattle – supervised, of course, by the farmers who own them!
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If there were no animals to graze them, or eat the hay crop cut from them in summer, the fields would soon be covered in scrubby bushes and if nothing was done, trees would start to grow. We would eventually lose the lovely, varied patchwork of fields and woods that is so characteristic of the High Weald.
It’s not just about the appearance of the landscape. Many wildlife species depend upon farmers grazing their animals and making hay in the fields.
This is the busiest time of year for sheep farmers as their lambs are being born. Sheep aren’t stupid – they have their lambs in spring to coincide with the growth of new grass, so there’s plenty of food to go round!
Fancy doing a bit of farming? Many Our Land accommodation providers are also farmers and some actively encourage their guests to lend a hand on the farm, including helping with the animals. Having kept sheep myself, I can honestly say that other people’s sheep are the best sort! The poor farmer may have to stay up all night in the lambing shed – but you can just go back to your cosy holiday cottage!
At Stonegate self catering farmstay, Coopers Farm is run in a very traditional manner and the fields are grazed by Sussex cattle and Southdown sheep. Black Berkshire pigs roam free in the twenty acres of woodland.
Coopers Cottage is a detached, Grade II listed building set in the farmyard. You’re free to wander around the farm, enjoy a picnic by one of the ponds or, if you’re feeling energetic, you can often lend a helping hand with hay making, coppicing or lambing! The bridleway network is also great here and if you would like to bring your horse, you’d be most welcome – please call to discuss.
Price is from £290 – £800 per cottage per week (sleeps 4). From April to October the cottage is available by the week. From November to March the length of your stay and the start /finish days are completely flexible.
In the same beautiful area of the High Weald is Stonegate self catering cottage. Bardown farm is a child friendly and wheelchair friendly traditional working farm that dates back several hundreds of years. The owners met through their sheep as they were both shepherds on neighbouring farms! Many guests have got involved in all sorts of activities from bottle feeding lambs and helping with the pens in lambing, to feeding the pigs and even rounding up cows that have escaped!
Price ranges from £445 – £995 per cottage per week (sleeps 4) – depending on the time of year.
Mayfield self catering barn is set in 30 acres of working farmland and is the perfect location for a relaxing holiday in the country. It provides very flexible accommodation for up to 8 people of all ages and is ideal for wheelchair users.
The owners are passionate about happy animals in natural surroundings, so all the livestock is free range. They have Saddleback pigs which are bred on the farm – the boar lives on the edge of the woods with his many wives. Also sheep, chickens and ducks as well as a horse and a Shetland pony and, of course, a mad sheep dog and two cats! Visitors are welcome to help with activities such as egg collecting, feeding and fruit picking. Those wanting to keep fit can even help with the more physical work such as fencing and bricklaying!
Price ranges from £500 – £800 per cottage per week (sleeps 8). Short breaks (minimum 3 nights) are also available from October to March for £300 – £400 per cottage.
High Weald cottages & tent accommodation is at Beckley, on Swallowtail Hill Farm – a family run farm with 40 acres of wildflower meadow and woodland managed purely for conservation. Guests can choose to stay in one of two bell tents or a quirky ‘cottage on wheels’. Children staying at the farm are welcome to join in with animal feeding twice a day as part of their holiday experience. Other activities are offered, including tractor driving (grown-ups only!).
The price for the tents is £80 – £95 a night, depending on season. The cottages on wheels are from £100 – £110 per night, depending on season. Each accommodation sleeps up to four people.
An Our Land High Weald holiday helps to keep local farmers like these in business which, in turn, will help conserve the patchwork of fields and woods that is so characteristic of the High Weald.
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Our Land Local Expert for the High Weald AONB Janina Holubecki shares her ideas about why spring time is a great time for a break in the High Weald.
With so many bank holidays, now is a great time of year to visit the High Weald for a long weekend or short break with the family!
One date all High Weald farmers have in the diary around May half term is the annual Heathfield Agricultural Show. This year it’s on Saturday 25 May. It’s not just for farmers though – it’s a great day out for everyone! And the backdrop to the showground is the beautiful High Weald countryside.
As an ex-farmer, I love Heathfield because it’s a proper agricultural show and there are lots of animals to admire. I usually make a bee line for the goats and pigs – my favourites! It’s also interesting to see ancient, traditional breeds, such as Sussex Cattle – very well suited to the High Weald – on show next to more recent imports such as the Charolais. And there are lots of shopping opportunities, too!
A family of four can stay for £90 per night at High Weald rural B&B accommodation at Burwash Common. £50 is the midweek rate for a single person, £75 for a couple and £15 per night for additional occupant. The B&B can sleep up to a maximum of 4 on a double bed and bed settee (which sleeps one adult or 2 children).
For a longer stay near the Heathfield showground, there is Rural granary accommodation in Sussex at Punnetts Town. This village, on a high ridge opposite the showground, still has its original windmill complete with sails: a local landmark. Greenwood Granary has wonderful views, whatever the season. There are many walks and cycle rides straight from the door and you can borrow bikes from the owners.
Price is from £425 – £550 per cottage per week (sleeps 2-4). Well behaved dogs may also stay for £25 per dog. Short breaks are available for £300 for up to three nights at certain times of the year.
Or, why not combine a day at the show with another activity at this nearby East Sussex bed and breakfast at Heathfield – where residential activity and crafts courses are provided for small groups. Explore and enjoy the best of Sussex either by foot, cycle or car; or try your hand at pottery, art or willow sculpture. Also on offer are fishing instruction, making preserves, charcuterie – and more!
You’ll be able to choose a variety of activities to suit you and make your stay both memorable and rewarding. Courses are run by the owners and all food is home prepared and cooked. All equipment and food is included in the price.
Price is from £35 – £44 per person per night. Discounts are available out of season and for 3 nights B&B or more. Prices for residential activities are from £70 per night for 4 people (low season).
Here’s another unforgettable Our Land High Weald family weekend idea. Wildwood Bushcraft run Bushcraft courses in Sussex, High Weald at various forest sites – with most being on the edge of the beautiful Ashdown Forest, near Nutley.
The Family Bushcraft weekend course is a very special family weekend in the woods – learning basic bushcraft skills such as firelighting, water collection and purification, campfire cooking, shelter building, plant knowledge and wildlife tracking.
Family Bushcraft Weekend (2 days) costs £130 per adult and £90 per child aged 8+ for 2 days. Also on offer is a Family Bushcraft Day, costing £70 per adult and £40 per child.
Boats, tents and trains!
For a Swallows and Amazons adventure, High Weald style, Bodiam boating and camping stays, High Weald offer 15 pitches, 8 with hook-up, on a level, tree lined field. The owners say they heartily believe in campfires and have firepits and wood for you to use! Price is from £15 – £17.50 per night. This includes pitch, two people and a car. There is an extra charge for dogs and extra people.
Enjoy a ride aboard their ferry, the Dannie Lee, 4.5miles along the River Rother to the National Trust’s Bodiam Castle. Here, you’ll have time to explore the spectacular medieval castle and grounds – a perfect place to picnic. (Take lashings of ginger beer!) Or, amble up the River Rother at your own leisure in one of six rowing boats, complete with life jackets.
If you hold a fishing licence, the owners can provide you with a permit to try your luck in the immediate stretch of river. Or just sit back, relax and watch the Kent and East Sussex Railway steam trains as they chug by, a quarter of a mile away.
An Our Land High Weald holiday helps to keep local farmers and producers in business which, in turn, will help conserve the much loved features of our beautiful countryside.
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Spring has sprung! Those days of leisurely strolls into the lighter evenings and packing away your thermals to feel that first bit of warmth on bare skin are finally here, and it’s a wonderful time to visit the High Weald.
The High Weald of Sussex and Kent is full of things to shout about during Spring time including wonderful woodland walks among freshly-awoken flowers and memories of winter revisited through the wood anemone plant, leaving the woodland grounds looking as if they are sprinkled with snow.
We’ve also been talking about Spring getaways to ‘Kipling Country’ in the Sussex High Weald- a great way to explore the magnificent National Trust houses and gardens.
Fantastic holidays for bird, nature and wildlife lovers
Our Land’s Project Co-ordinator, Sarah Loftus, recommends places to stay near RSPB reserves - all of which are also great advocates for looking after wildlife and ideal for nature lovers or those looking for birdwatching holidays UK.
Spot birds on the South Downs National Park Amberley wetlands at one of Our Land’s pub near RSPB’s Pulborough Brooks reserve in Sussex, go wild camping on a woodland reserve in the High Weald AONB near the RSPB’s Broadwater warren reserve, get a bird’s eye view on a tree climbing tour near the RSPB’s Brading Marshes reserve on the Isle of Wight or stay the week next to nesting kingfishers near Farnham Heath RSPB reserve in the Surrey Hills AONB. Read on for full details of places to stay near RSPB reserves.
Read more about Our Land’s partnership with the RSPB
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Ho ho ho it’s Christmas time on Our Land
Meet a herd of reindeer in the High Weald, go on a brewery tour in the Chilterns, spot ancient trees or deer in the New Forest, visit a Victorian market in the North Wessex Downs, walk over the wintry white cliffs in the Kent Downs, and stay in a treehouse on the Isle of Wight
Our Land’s local experts in the National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty recommend some of their favourite Christmas things to do and places to stay on Our Land - and every recommendation for your Christmas Holidays 2012 will help conserve and enhance the stunning landscapes.
Click here for their: Christmas Holidays 2012 recommendations
The post Christmas Holidays 2012 on Our Land’s UK National Parks and AONBs appeared first on Our Land.
Many National Trust properties are open throughout the year and at Christmas the houses and gardens (as well as tearooms and shops!) host brilliant Christmas events for your High Weald holidays.
Our Land’s Gerry Sherwin from the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty recommends the best Christmas High Weald events in National Trust properties, with a handful of lovely and carefully chosen High Weald B&Bs and self catering cottages.
From santa’s grottos to meeting a herd of reindeer, a Georgian Christmas to Santa steam railway.
The post National Trust Christmas Events for High Weald Holidays appeared first on Our Land.
Wonderful walks through ancient woodland
Walking during your High Weald holidays will transport you back in time as you tread in the footsteps of ancient people, exploring a landscape that has barely changed since medieval times. It is an eclectic mix of sandstone ridges, clay valleys, colourful heaths, small woods and irregular-shaped fields. For the chance to learn more about the rich history of the landscape book yourself onto a guided walk and discover the story behind the ancient woods and river valleys. If you want to explore on your own stay at one of our hand picked High Weald B&Bs where the owners will be more than happy to direct you to their favourite walks.
Challenging cycle routes through natural tree tunnels
Cycling during your High Weald holidays can be a welcome challenge. With its intricate network of narrow lanes and steep hillsides you’ll be sure to experience at exciting journey, making your way through beautiful ‘tree tunnels’ that have been carved out of the landscape from centuries of use by feet, hooves and trotters. As you ride along these ancient paths you will be surrounded on either side by towering banks covered with ferns and wildflowers and topped with hornbeam trees. If you want some information on the landscape and an insight on the best routes to take, you can book onto a guided tour in which a local expert will take you along a disused railway track which offer great viewpoints of the diverse scenery, including ridge-top villages, sheep-grazed fields, colourful heathland and verdant woodland.
Fun activities for all the family
The High Weald offers some great opportunities to try activities and develop new skills. A great option for the whole family is rock climbing, near Tunbridge Wells. Sign up for a taster course of a fun Family Day during your High Weald holidays and learn all about rope work, belay setting and rock ettiquette! Once you feel confident that you have mastered the skills you can use them to explore the area’s unique sandstone outcrops in an unusual way. There are lots more activities to consider during your High Weald holidays listed below.
Inspiring history ingrained on the landscape
The history of the landscape is all around you during your High Weald holidays. Scattered around are ancient mining pits and Roman and Tudor ironworking sites, ancient routeways formed when farmers used to lead their pigs to the woodland to forage for acorns. One of the most interesting areas to visit is Ashdown Forest which towers over the rest of High Weald from a tall sandstone ridge. A.A. Milne took his son, Christopher Robin, walking through the forest and it became the setting for his Winnie – the –Pooh stories. If these are some of your childhood favourites then the landscape may seem familiar, as it was the inspiration for many of the Pooh illustrations. If your surroundings leave you feeling inspired, take a look at this Storytelling course in Forest Row, from £160 there are introductory weekends as well as long more advanced level courses available.
What wildlife can I expect to see?
The High Weald landscape is full of heavy clay soil and steep slopes which have made it difficult for many of the fields to be used for growing crops. This means the area has a number of magnificent ancient meadows and roadside verges that have remained undisturbed. The meadows and verges can support 100 different kinds of grasses and wildflowers which include rare and unusual wildlife species such as Yellow Rattle and Green-winged orchids. On the area’s heathlands you may be lucky to spot Stone-Chats and the Silver-studded Blue Butterfly. The fast-flowing gill streams are home to endangered brown trout and the landscapes many ponds are home to the rare great-creasted newt can be seen. If you want High Weald holidays steeped in wildlife book yourself onto a Wild Camping trip. The campsite is located alongside a farm and you will be living next to cattle, pigs, sheep and deer. You will also have the chance to fly a peregrine falcon and spot badgers roaming through the fields at night.
The post High Weald Holidays – Things to see & do in the High Weald appeared first on Our Land.
Best Breakfast in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty?
An Our Land favourite for breakfast is Broxmead Paddock. This wonderful B&B is home to six chickens who lay the fresh flavourful eggs you will find in your breakfast. The fruit cage in the garden provides all the ingredients for the fruit salad and home-grown vegetables add to your traditional English breakfast. Take your breakfast out into the garden to see the rabbits, squirrels and deer that have made themselves at home. You can also spot plenty of wild birds – mallards and moorhens bob on the pond and woodpeckers and chaffinches nest in the trees.
Scenic Picnic Spots
Packing a picnic is essential when you are exploring the High Weald landscape. There are plenty of local food shops dotted around the towns and villages, where you can pick up home-made chutneys, freshly-baked bread and locally-brewed ales. Here are a few of the best spots to stop off for a picnic:
Fantastic Food Shops
During your holiday you will probably want to stock up on local goodies to prepare a picnic or to cook dinner in your self-catered cottage. Our favourite High Weald food shop is at Biddenden Vineyards. As well as stocking up on delicious wines, ciders and juices made from the grapes and fruit in the vineyard you can take a stroll through the beautiful woodland area with your family, learning about the wine-making produce and tasting some delicious samples.
Traditional Pubs and Restaurants
When you want some traditional British grub and seasonal drinks, stopping off in a High Weald pub or restaurant allows you to recharge your batteries after a day spent exploring the countryside. Our favourite is The Bell in Ticehurst. As well as being treated to the Catch of the Day you can have a delicious freshly-made meal using local home-grown beetroots, carrots and potatoes and organic rabbit, pheasant, lamb or duck. There are plenty of high chairs and a tempting children’s menu to keep your kids happy while you relax and unwind with a seasonal drink.
Among the best of the surviving medieval landscapes in Northern Europe
The High Weald’s key features – its irregular-shaped fields, rolling hills, open heaths and small woodlands – were formed by the end of the 14th century making it one of the few areas in the UK which has survived as a coherent medieval landscape. Early farmers cleared the area’s woodland to make fields for their livestock. These clearances were done in an unplanned manner which is why the fields you will see from the top of the hills are so small and irregular in shape. The area has retained an unusually high number of heaths and wildflower-rich grasslands. These unimproved areas are important habitats for wildlife conservation. On heaths you may spot rare and unusual wildlife species like the Dartford Warbler and Silver-studded Blue butterfly whilst nodding Ox-eye Daisies and purple Knapweed are the more showy species that you may see in a wildflower-rich grassland.
Tree tunnels sculpted by pigs’ hooves
Some of the most interesting and unique things you will notice during your walks on the High Weald landscape are the beautiful ‘tree tunnels’. Since Neolithic times, farmers from the Downs have driven their pigs through the woodland to fatten them on acorns – a practice known as pannage. Over time the ground has became sunken, as centuries of use by trotters, hooves and later cartwheels has worn the soft ground away. These ancient droves are particularly beautiful in spring when the wooded banks are studded with wildflowers such as primroses and bluebells.
Roman occupation, Tudors and Stuarts in the High Weald
The High Weald landscape has held many riches for our ancestors over the years. It was mined for sands and clays, stone and iron ore, woodlands and water. The most significant of these materials was the iron ore, as the High Weald was the main iron-producing region of Britain, both during the Roman occupation and in the Tudor and early Stuart period. The distinctive geology of sands and clay found in the High Weald landscape provided the iron ore, along with stone and brick to build furnaces, and wood to use as fuel. The area’s woodlands are pitted with quarries and ponds: a reminder of the long gone iron industry and the value of the landscape’s natural resources to British people over the centuries.
Rare plant populations not found anywhere else in eastern/ central England & High Weald wildlife
The deeply incised narrow valleys, known as gills, create an important habitat for unusual plant populations which can’t be found anywhere else in eastern or central England. The soft, moisture-absorbing sandrock and sheltered gills provide the perfect breeding ground for mosses, lichens, ferns and liverworts. Wander past these mystical habitats and see if you can spot Ivy-leaved Bellflowers, Hay-scented Buckler-ferns or the tiny and extremely rare Tunbridge Filmy-fern. The crystal clear streams also support a wide range of fauna, including the Bullhead and the endangered Sea Trout.
High Weald woodlands harbour rare species such as the dormouse, the pearl bordered fritillary and the black-headed cardinal beetle. Nightjars breed in the open space created when woodlands are actively worked. The ancient woodland ground flora is species-rich and includes coralroot bittercress, another speciality of the High Weald.
The High Weald is also unique in its distinctive areas of open heath, which are remnants of the area’s medieval forests. These areas are very important for wildlife, Ashdown Forest is the largest area of open land in the South East. The coastline area is made up of shingle ridges, saline lagoons, salt marsh, reedbed, pits and wet grassland with 3,720 different species of plants and animals. It also supports important wintering waterfowl populations, one of the largest breeding populations of lapwings in Sussex, and a nationally important population of reed warblers.
Meet Sarah Loftus, Our Land’s Project Co-ordinator
“A firm believer in tourism being a force for good – as long as we get it right!”
I’m Our Land’s project co-ordinator, working for the nine protected landscapes that make up Our Land. I was previously working for the Kent Downs AONB (and this is where I hale from) but before that spent 20 years in the hotel industry and then business travel sector. Through my work I’ve travelled extensively and seen the detrimental effects tourism can have when we get it totally wrong! What is so great about Our Land is its focus on landscape – putting it right at the heart of the visitor experience – usually the very reason why we are staying in that b&b, hotel or self-catering. The business owners we work with love their place and take great pride in sharing it.
Meet Gerry Sherwin, local expert for the High Weald. Gerry’s areas of expertise include walking, wildlife, visitor attractions, things to do with children.
I was converted to walking as a teenager when I discovered the hills and mountains of the Lakes and Wales; but it was in 1996 as an MSc student in Landscape, Ecology Design and Management that my eyes were opened up to the allure of the South East.
Charged with assessing the potential for a new long distance walking route across the High Weald, I put on my walking boots and stepped out into the countryside on my doorstep; which I had previously only travelled through on my way to the coast.
And it was amazing. Away from the busy roads I discovered hamlets of cottages and modest manor houses, crossed hundreds of trickling streams and odd-shaped fields, spotted sandstone outcrops and explored heaths, grassland and ponds alive with wildlife. All tucked away amongst shady woodland – a welcome relief on a hot day. And after 90 miles of walking – from one end of the AONB to the other – there was still a surprise around every corner.
My passion for the area had been ignited! In 1997 I joined the High Weald Joint Advisory Committee’s (JAC) staff team, in 1999 the walking route was launched as the High Weald Landscape Trail and in 2000 I moved into Mayfield, a village in the heart of the area. As the JAC’s Business Manager I fundraise for and manage projects that help conserve and enhance the High Weald’s landscape and help people understand and explore it. I continue to explore the area but now with a six year old in tow.
Meet Tom Pinches, the assistant warden at RSPB Tudeley Wood and Broadwater Warren.
It’s Tom’s job to make sure the reserves are kept in great shape for the wildlife that depends on them. He manages the interesting habitats that can be found across the two reserves. Tom loves to see the wildlife thrive in the habitats that he manages and he will be writing all about the different sorts of flora and fauna that you can expect to find when you visit.
Read more about Our Land’s partnership with the RSPB.
Travelling to the High Weald AONB by train
One of the best options when travelling to the High Weald AONB is taking the train:
What’s the most appealing fascinating thing about travelling by train to the High Weald? You’ll be sure to see lots of secret corners as you travel through the amazing open countryside.
Travelling into High Weald by coach
See some great views from your seat with your luggage safely stored away on one of the many coaches that arrive into the High Weald.
Leaving the car behind is the perfect opportunity to explore the High Weald on your feet. Book yourself onto a guided walking tour during your High Weald holidays and experience the landscape through a network of ancient footpaths and byways.
Getting around the High Weald- Cycling and public transport
Is it easy to get around the High Weald by public transport? Do you know where I can find information on rail and bus timetables/ routes? Yes – lots of stations give access. Catching the bus is possible to some areas but only with some prior planning.
For lines including Uckfield, East Grinstead and MarshLink visit www.sussexcrp.org
You can travel around the High Weald by cycling, however the country lanes are narrow and there are steep hills, so you will need to be prepared for a few challenging routes. Click here for downloadable cycling routes in the High Weald
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