Exploring the Ashdown Forest

The Vast Woodlands of Ashdown Forest: A Captivating Escape into Nature's Splendour

A wide area of serene woodlands and heathlands, valued for its natural beauty and rich history, is tucked away in the centre of East Sussex. Nearly 7,000 acres of pristine countryside make up Ashdown Forest, which welcomes hikers to discover miles of trails, spot rare animals, and get lost in the same kind of inspiring scenery that inspired beloved novelist A.A. Milne to create the Hundred Acre Wood, where Winnie the Pooh lives. Drawn to its blend of open heathlands, shaded forests, and expansive views, Ashdown Forest has long fascinated creative people and environment enthusiasts, from its beginnings as a mediaeval hunting forest to its current designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A richly diverse habitat can be found beneath the leafy canopy of the forest, where one can see grazing deer, dashing squirrels, and the sound of birdsong. Traversing winding paths with fern-lined ponds, mossy stones, and towering oak trees, takes visitors to a pastoral realm away from the bustle of daily life. Beyond its lush forests, meadows covered in heather, and the familiar locations of Pooh, Ashdown Forest is home to a plethora of lesser-known treasures just waiting to be discovered. The forest's natural treasures are complemented by hidden areas of cultural and historic significance, such as the remains of mediaeval ironworks, charming rural churches, isolated gardens, and a 19th-century country mansion. There are 145 species known to exist, which will excite birdwatchers, among them the elusive Dartford warbler. Cyclists and equestrians can enjoy the vast network of bridleways and trails. Yet the heart of Ashdown Forest undeniably remains its expansive heathland, the largest in South East England, preserved today much as it appeared centuries ago. Breathtaking vistas unfurl over undulating hills decorated with purple heather in summer and late-season golden bracken. One can ramble for hours through these untouched landscapes, as though journeying back through time to a simpler, quieter era.

Ashdown Forest's Storied Past as a Medieval Hunting Ground

Ashdown Forest, which stretches over the boundary between East Sussex and Kent, has a rich and lengthy history that dates back more than 950 years. Although the forest's gorgeous wooded environment draws tourists today, it served as a mediaeval hunting ground for ages, providing game for nobility and royalty. The designation of Ashdown Forest as a royal hunting forest probably originated with the Norman Conquest in 1066, when William the Conqueror annexed large portions of the English countryside for his own personal use as hunting reserves. The establishment of a hunting forest during the period was not significantly influenced by the presence of trees. A wild area designated exclusively for the regal hunt of game, such as deer, boars, or other prey, was referred to as a "forest." Royalty gradually transformed Ashdown Forest for hunting over the ages, creating specialised facilities like lodges and deer parks. Strict regulations limited public access outlawed everything from cutting wood to grazing livestock and carried severe penalties for stealing the king's wildlife.


Life within the forest remained strictly regimented during the Stuart period. Common residents resented the severe limits on resources and land use. But Ashdown Forest’s royal status also fostered local trades supporting the king’s hunts, like leatherwork and clothmaking. James I even established an iron industry in the early 1600s to provide tools for timber plantations. His son Charles I maintained Ashdown as a personal hunting ground. Most of the oak, birch, and pine woodlands visitors enjoy today result from extensive planting during that era. The strict regulations on Ashdown Forest gradually relaxed through the 18th century as royals visited less frequently. Still, the preservation of its diverse wildlife habitats remained important. In 1885 Parliament officially opened the forest for public use and recreation. Today the original hunting lodge near Chuck Hatch is the forest’s oldest surviving structure. Though no kings still hunt here, exploring Ashdown Forest offers visceral glimpses into centuries past when royal pageantry ruled its wooded realm.

Ashdown Forest, East Sussex, England, UK, is the inspiration for the 'Winnie the Pooh' stories by AA Milne and is known as 'The Hundred Acre Wood' in the stories.
August heather on the heath during dawn blue hour on Ashdown Forest High Weald east Sussex south east England

Exploring Ashdown Forest Walks

The Long Walk - This moderately easy 3-mile loop is perfect for a pleasant afternoon stroll. The well-defined trail heads north from the Forest Centre across open heathland, with vistas of rolling hills dotted with gorse and bracken. It then enters shady birch and pine woodlands, passing the lovely Linton's Bridge over a bubbling stream. Look out for woodpeckers and finches among the trees.  


Marden's Hill Trail - For panoramic views, hike 2.5 miles up to the 266-meter summit of Marden's Hill, the second-highest point in Ashdown Forest. Sections of the path are steep and steep. But your climb will be rewarded with a breathtaking vista stretching to the South Downs. On a clear day, you can even see Brighton's seafront. 

Goat Lane and Judge's Walk - Link these ancient roads for a 5-mile loop that covers charming streams, rocky outcrops, and thick forest. Pass through stands of oak, birch, and pine, tracing old parish boundaries. Listen for bird calls and watch for deer along the way.


Ponds and Mines Trail - Discover Ashdown's industrial past on this 4-mile route visiting multiple pond sites that once provided water for 16th-18th century iron ore mining. Interpretive signs explain how they function. Highlights include the Tudor-built Hammer Pond with its striking dam wall.


With mileage ranging from easy 1 milers to hearty 5+ mile treks, Ashdown Forest caters to walkers of every ability. Follow quiet wooded trails, ramble over open meadows, and soak up those rewarding panoramic views from scenic summits.

The Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club

Nestled within the natural splendor of Ashdown Forest lies the Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club, a storied institution boasting two pristine 18-hole courses. Founded in 1888 and granted its royal title by Edward VII in 1910, the club rose to prominence as one of England's finest heathland courses. Its West Course in particular is renowned for its challenging narrow fairways, strategically placed bunkers, and smooth fast greens that have tested the skills of champion golfers for over a century. Sweeping vistas of the surrounding forest and meadows imbue a sense of tranquility, broken only by the call of songbirds. The club takes pride in preserving the landscape's unspoiled beauty, with indigenous gorse, pine, and birch trees lining the holes. The East Course offers a slightly less punishing test of golf. After a round, golfers can retire to the stately clubhouse which still retains its original arts and crafts charm. From weekly competitions to social events, the Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club remains central to the community. For golfers, few settings rival playing beneath the leafy canopy of Ashdown Forest, following in the footsteps of legends who graced these historic fairways.

Major Destinations and Attractions Within the Forest

From elevated treetop walkways to a hands-on discovery centre, Ashdown Forest entices visitors to delve into nature through an array of family-friendly sites and attractions. While meandering the walking trails and soaking up scenic views never disappoints, spending time at the following forest highlights lets you experience these woodlands in new ways:


  • The Forest Centre: Located in the heart of Ashdown Forest, this modern educational hub offers interactive exhibits about the area’s ecology and history. Children can touch taxidermy specimens, dress up as forest animals, and play in an outdoor discovery zone. A garden and cafe provide extra space to relax.
  • Tree Top Walkway: For bird’s-eye views from the forest canopy, head to this elevated walkway near Wych Cross. At 13 meters high, it allows you to stroll above native woodland and observe birds and wildlife at treetop level. Interpretive signs describe the surrounding habitat.
  • Winnie-the-Pooh sites: No Ashdown Forest visit is complete without stopping at sites depicted in A.A. Milne’s beloved Pooh stories. Key spots include the North Pole, Galleon’s Leap, and the Enchanted Place where Poohstick Bridge lies. Information boards share literary details.
  • Chuck Hatch trail/car park: The main car park makes a convenient starting point for walking trails. Follow the Chuck Hatch trail to glimpse ancient trees and remnants of lost villages within Ashdown Forest. 
  • Ashdown Forest Llama Park: For a unique way to tour the forest, book a llama trek at this park near Wych Cross. Friendly llamas will carry you along scenic woodland trails complete with picnic stops.
  • Conservation Centre: To learn about efforts to preserve Ashdown’s habitats and wildlife, visit the headquarters of the Conservators of Ashdown Forest. Exhibits profile local iron mining history and sustainable forest management.  
  • Cycling trails: Miles of dedicated cycling routes like the Cuckoo Trail allow bikes to explore heathlands, woodlands, villages, and more. Rentals and route maps are available in Forest Row.

With children’s play areas, waymarked nature trails perfect for hiking, and landmarks immortalized in literature, Ashdown Forest offers adventure for all ages and interests. Discover its special magic by exploring these top visitor destinations.

Pubbing away: Ashdown Forest Pubs

Quench your thirst at some of Ashdown Forest pubs

  • The Hatch Inn - Dating back to 1430, this historic inn in Colemans Hatch oozes rustic charm with its low wooden beams, log fires and traditional furnishings. Hearty pub classics like steak and ale pie appear alongside freshly caught seafood. Join locals in the lively bar or relax outdoors.
  • The Ship Inn - This friendly freehouse in Crowborough offers cask ales, fine wines and a menu focused on quality local ingredients. Savor their delicious roasts beside an open fireplace in the dining room or bar area. Live music and quiz nights provide entertainment.
  • The Laughing Fish - Enjoy alfresco dining on the patio at this Forest Row pub, looking out over a tranquil mill pond. Locally sourced dishes range from lunchtime ciabattas to evening favorites like lamb shank and smoked haddock.
  • The Parrot Inn - With origins as a grocery store in the late 1800s, this Forest Row pub retains a delightfully cozy atmosphere. Sample their collection of local ciders and watch for live music nights in the beamed bar room.

Ashdown Forest, East Sussex, England, UK, is the inspiration for the 'Winnie the Pooh' stories by AA Milne and is known as 'The Hundred Acre Wood' in the stories.  This is NOT the bridge that Christopher Robin played 'Pooh Sticks' from it is one that is 50 yards from it.

Ashdown forest hotel: an Immersive Forest Retreat

Seeking accommodations that capture Ashdown Forest's rustic, pastoral charm? A variety of lodging options allow you to wake up amidst nature, from quaint B&Bs to family-friendly hotels. Consider these fine establishments for an unforgettable forest retreat:


At the boutique Dorset Arms Hotel in Forest Row village, wake up to a locally-sourced breakfast after a restful night in rooms dotted with antiques. Its exposed brickwork and heavy oak beams recall a history dating back 300 years. Nearby Brambletye Hotel provides 17th century ambience paired with tennis courts and seven acres of gardens.

Fully immerse yourself in the world of Pooh by staying at Pooh Corner cottage, believed to have inspired the tales' Hundred Acre Wood. The interior brims with 1920s character and the location next to Piglet's Field offers serene views. For other self-catering cottages, Chestnut Cottage by Chuck Hatch is ideal for families, with its playground and proximity to birdlife-filled ponds.


Those seeking luxury can indulge at Gravetye Manor, a countryside hotel in a Michelin-starred restaurant and 1,000 acre grounds. Complimentary tours showcase heritage gardens and working farm. Or check into Welcombe Hotel near the Long Walk, which has an indoor pool, spa, and activities like archery.


Campers are spoiled for choice, from the pre-pitched tents at Crowborough Camping to the Mongolian yurts with woodstoves at Younger Camping. Cyclists will love options like Cherry Gardens Farm, with bike storage and repairs, while ANDYCAMP Ashdown Forest offers a secluded natural setting.


Whether you favor the homey appeal of a village B&B, the grandeur of a country manor, or submerging yourself in nature while glamping under canvas, Ashdown Forest promises a getaway steeped in pastoral charm.

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