Skirting the western edge of ancient Rye is the boundary edge of the High Weald which stretches through towns, villages and untouched landscapes through Sussex into Surrey and Kent. But during a stay in Camber Sands you may well wish to explore its parts so we’re bringing you this High Weald need to know.
High Weald AONB
The High Weald is treasured as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty largely because it has managed to retain and conserve many features of its medieval landscape. Its history is fascinating and deducible right under your nose. Historic buildings tell stories across its regions. Wildlife and woodland are one of its most attractive qualities for visitors. And underground, its geology is rich and unique.
History of the High Weald
How long have you got? It has been established thus far that people have resided with the High Weald since the Mesolithic period (8000 BC – 4500 BC). Think hunter-gather populations who would come inland from the coast to find food in a landscape rich with wild game.
Explore the High Weald
In its vastness, there is naturally much to see and do in this High Weald need to know. Here’s a starter for ten:
- Nature reserves
- Cycle routes
- Steam railways
- Castles and stately homes
- Gardens and parks
- Forests and woodland
- Natural rock formations
- Abundant artisans and local products
High Weald wildlife
Inhabiting the ancient woodland that sprawls across a fifth of the High Weald landscape is a collection of rare and protected specific.
Look for the scurry of the dormouse or the twitch of a black-headed cardinal beetle; eyes peeled for breeding nightjars.
In the high-sided streams known as gills, see if you can spot the increasingly rare sea trout in the fast flowing waters. Keen botanists may obsess over plants found nowhere else in the bottom right corner of England.
You can top up your High Weald wildlife need to know at one of the 18 nature reserves dotted across the landscape. These nature reserves include reservoirs at Ardingly and Weir Wood, woodlands such as Ashdown Forest made famous by A.A. Milne, and the harbour in Rye.
High Weald activities
By foot, bike, scooter or horse, with pushchairs or dogs, one our favourite High Weald need to know is its abundance of activity options. There are footpaths and bridleways galore, cycle routes too.
Whether you want to explore at your leisure or follow a nature trail, you’ll be amply catered for. Hikers enjoy wending their way along the High Weald Landscape Trail and the annual High Weald Walking Festival. Make your way to Bewl Water with a picnic and you’ll lose a day gazing at its serenity while walking its entirety.
Cyclists can stick to the two National Cycle Network routes or take their pick of country lanes, cafe and pub stops to refuel. Those on chunkier tyres love the four off-road mountain biking routes in addition to bridleways and 22 km of tracks in Bedgebury Forest.
The rocky crags that dot the landscape are popular climbing spots and rock climbing courses are available too. If you prefer a more hands on activity there are plentiful bushcraft and survival skills courses here too.
Having got the action out of the way, it’s time to put wine on the High Weald need to know. East Sussex vineyards bring a very modern way of working this landscape. Enjoy vineyard tours and wine tastings at Carr Taylor and Sedlescombe.
High Weald attractions
Mixing activity with easy on the eye antics, this collection of High Weald need to know attractions will leave your day trip planning sorted.
When you want to take the weight off your feet, hop aboard a train and see the landscape from another perspective. The Bluebell Steam Railway starts at East Grinstead station and saunters tranquilly for 40 minutes towards Sheffield Park Garden, created by Capability Brown – bring your National Trust cards with you. Alternatively, meander the Kent & East Sussex Railway between Tenterden and Bodiam.
The castles round here come with might tales to tell and they’ve seen their fair share of territorial wranglings. Yet East Sussex is also home to two of the most romantic castles in England, unique in being moated Bodiam and Herstmonceux are well worth a visit.
High Weald produce
Perhaps one of the best things about any holiday is the discovery of things new. And this part of our High Weald need to know highlights some of the area’s best products and producers.
We’ve already touched on wine, so let’s shift to beer – it’s been produced here since the 1500s. Hopped ale as it was also referred to fostered a hearty industry in the High Weald and remnants of its abundance are visible all around. Most notably in this corner of England are the oasthouses where hops were scattered about to dry. These conical roofed buildings are now largely converted into houses, but are instantly recognisable.
You’ll be able to taste today’s local brewery beers in many if not all local pubs, but keep an eye out for names such as Westerham Brewery, Old Forge and Shepherd Neame.
Away from the hard stuff, Oakwood Farm juices are another product of the High Weald from a vast fruit farm in Robertsbridge. The farm converted to organic in the late 1990s leaving them with many more unsaleable apples and in turn added juicing to their roll call.
You may well find yourself shopping at a farmers market or local store using a trug as a basket – perhaps even your welcome hamper is presented in one. These curved base wooden baskets have been made in Sussex since the late 1700s, originally used as a measure for farmers. If you visit Herstmonceux you’ll find that they’re still being made today at The Truggery. A great example of High Weald craftsmanship continuing to thrive.
Your High Weald need to know
We have merely scratched the surface of the High Weald need to know and we’ll be back with more detailed articles to help you plan future trips to the area. For now, we hope to have whetted your appetite for what’s beyond our glorious golden beach here in Camber Sands, perhaps even an excuse to visit at a different time of year or simply to explore further this area of southern England.
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