High Weald AONB

Leonardslee Gardens, Handcross, West Sussex, High Weald AONB
High Weald AONB © http://www.highweald.org

High Weald – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is located in the counties of Kent, Surrey, East and West Sussex in the south east of England . The area was first designated a AONB back in 1983, the area covers 1,604 square kilometres making it one of the largest AONBs in the UK. The area is well known for its rolling hills, woodland, parks and small towns providing a varied landscape and rich wildlife habitats.

The local population of approx 125,000 live primarily in historic small villages located across the countryside. The AONB covers a relatively large area covering four counties from close to Tonbridge in the north to Horsham in the west to Hastings in the south to Rye in the east. The area is of national importance for nature conservation and includes of Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI), Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI) and Scheduled Ancient Monuments. 'Weald' means forest or wilderness and the High Weald was historically a wooded area with heathland and wild grassland. Currently the area includes the highest proportion of ancient woodland in England.

The area includes a number of special qualities including being considered one of the finest remaining medieval landscapes in Northern Europe. The area includes ancient routeways, gills and shaws, ancient woods, the character of the area was established by the 14th century and has remained this way since through events over time and technological and social changes The landscape offers some inspiring panoramic views showcasing the finest in the English countryside.

The main industries in the AONB include farming, agriculture and tourism, there are a number of scenic villages and small towns located in the AONB including Battle, Hurst Green, Balcombe and Heathfield.

The area is popular for rock climbing, boating, wildlife watching, day trippers and walkers and cyclists with a range of routes to explore. Visitors can enjoy scenic landscapes in the heart of southern England, enjoying the great outdoors and benefit from the peace and tranquillity the area is famous for.

Quick Facts

High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty:

Year of Designation: 1983

Population: 125,000 (approx)

Size in square kilometres: 1,640

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs): 50
Scheduled Ancient Monuments: 111
Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI): 202
Highest Point: Crowborough Beacon at 738 feet (225 metres)
Main Settlements close by: Tunbridge Wells, Crowborough, Hastings, Haywards Heath.
Located in: Kent, Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex.


High Weald AONB is located across the southern English counties of Kent, Surrey and East and West Sussex. Covering a large area the AONB provides a great place for visitors looking for a scenic retreat in the countryside away from the noise and traffic from the towns and cities. The AONB area itself is sparsely populated offering something of an oasis in the otherwise built up south east of England, there are a number of traditional small villages and hamlets showcasing the rich history and cultural heritage of the local area.

High Weald has a rich history and is of national importance for, ecology, geology and wildlife. Within the actual AONB area there are no large cities or towns the largest settlement is the town of Battle, there are a number of smaller villages and hamlets with the larger towns of Tunbridge Wells and Crowborough located in the AONB area but excluded from it. Both Tunbridge Wells and Crowborough provide popular and convenient places from which visitors can tour the AONB. Other larger settlements include Haywards Heath, Tonbridge, Uckfield and Hastings on the south coast all of which are located in the area. The commercial development in the area has been limited providing a place for visitors to see mainly unspoilt and mainly rural making the area ideal for a countryside getaway.

The location in the south east of England means the AONB is assessable from across southern England including the south east and south west of England, the Midlands and southern Wales. From London the area is one hour by car, from Cardiff it is 3 hours to 3 hours 30 minutes, from Birmingham it is approx 3 hours away. From these regions the AONB is assessable as a day trip, short break or longer break destination. From Liverpool, Manchester and much of northern England the area is 5 hours to 6 hours 30 minutes by car.

Tourist Information Centres are located at various locations close by to the High Weald. The TICs are based in Tenterden, Tunbridge Wells, Rye, Hastings and Horsham located close by to the High Weald. The visitor centres provides visitors with information, help, advice and tips on the AONB area and the surrounding areas. Each of the centres has knowledgeable staff that can provide useful local knowledge on local attractions, places of interest, things to see and do, along with local advice and tips. A visit to the tourist information centres makes for a good first port of call for visitors helping to better plan and organise trips in and around the local area.

Local Accommodation includes a choice of both historic and contemporary hotels, B & B’s, Guest Houses, Self Catering houses, camping facilities and cottages. Local accommodation is available in Forest Row, Buxted, Southborough and Cranbrook. There is accommodation available in the nearby towns of Tunbridge Wells, Crowborough, Haywards Heath and Hastings all of which are located conveniently close by to the AONB, providing local facilities and accommodation 0from which to explore the AONB and the local areas.

Within the High Weald AONB visitors can explore a number of charming, small villages and hamlets steeped in history with their own charm and character. History and tradition have been well preserved in many of the villages and hamlets offering visitors an insight in to local culture. The small towns and villages in the area include a number of local attractions and places of interest for visitors to discover.

Local Towns & Villages include Battle, a small town located just over 20 miles south of Tunbridge Wells, a few miles from Hastings. Historically famous for being the site for the Battle of Hastings back in 1066, local attractions include Battle Abbey, built on the scene of the Battle of Hastings. Battle Abbey is a Grade I listed site, currently there is the Abbey buildings and ruins together with a visitor centre that includes cafe, adventure playground, audio tours of the battle site and film and exhibition about the famous battle.

The town itself includes a number of Georgian buildings with a number of historic houses and cottages located close to the abbey dating back to the 1700s. Other attractions include the Parish Church of St Mary dating back to the 12th century, inside there are wall paintings dating back to the 14th century. On the High Street is the Almonry dating back to 1090 and is currently the home for both the Battle Museum of Local History and the Town Council.

Balcombeis a village located 22 miles west of Tunbridge Wells in West Sussex. The scenic village is located amongst beautiful English countryside, Balcombe hosts a village market where visitors can find a range of local produce, crafts, gifts and more. Local attractions include Ouse alley Viaduct built back in 1841; it is 1,475 feet in length and 96 feet in height supported by 37 semi circular arches with pierced piers. It is still used currently with over 100 trains using it daily. St Mary's Church is known for its historic architecture dating back to the 19th century and is a Grade I listed building. Victory Hall includes a number of murals charting a number of wartime experiences.

Royal Tunbridge Wells is a spa town ideally located for exploring the High Weald, the choice of accommodation, facilities and local amenities makes it a popular choice for visitors to base themselves from. Founded in 1606, the discovery of the Chalybeate Springs ensured the town became a popular resort for the well off during the 18th and 19th centuries. There are a number of independent shops, boutiques, antique shops along with a choice of interesting cafes and restaurants.

The Pantiles is a colonnaded walk that includes a number of shops and cafes, it hosts a number of festivals each year. Tunbridge Wells includes a full calendar of events each year including productions of the Pantiles Players Theatre and the Pantiles Open Air Art Exhibition. Other local attractions include the Assembly Hall Theatre hosting live music, comedy, dance, drama, pantomime and more. The Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery showcases the history of the town with a number of exhibitions, displays and artefacts.

The Seven Wonders of the Weald offer visitors a number of attractions located in the High Weald AONB. The attractions are all located a short car drive from one another meaning visitors have the opportunity to see several attractions when visiting and touring the area. The attractions include historic castles and gardens, vineyard, and heritage railway offering a choice of interesting days out.

The Seven Wonders of the Weald include Biddenden Vineyard, Chiddingstone Castle, Groombridge Place, Marle Place Gardens and Gallery, Scotney Castle, The Kent & East Sussex Railway and Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Kent & East Sussex Railway is a rural light railway, the line runs from Tenterden through the scenic countryside in the Rother Valley for over 10 miles to close to the National Trust castle at Bodiam. The line uses historic locomotives and carriages, recreating the golden ages of rail travel. Visitors can enjoy a relaxing journey through splendid natural scenery and surroundings for a fun filed heritage day out. At Tenterden station there is a book and gift shop selling souvenirs, gifts and mementos. There is a restaurant serving a range of snacks, drinks and meals.

Groombridge Place & Enchanted Forest are located a few miles west of Tunbridge Wells in Kent. There are a choice of attractions at the site including formal gardens established back in 1674, the gardens include White Rose Garden with over 20 varieties of white roses and herbaceous borders, visitors can look out for the Secret Garden located in a small hidden corner. Other gardens to see include the Knot Garden and the Oriental garden that boasts a range of exotic plants and flowers exhibiting vivid colours from the east. The Herbaceous Border has been described as a particular highlight of any visit here; centrally located there are primulas and tulips in spring and visitors can look out for peacocks roaming in the gardens adding some spectacular colour.

The Enchanted Forest offers adventure and action; it is home of the Birds of Prey Sanctuary; visitors an see Hawk Walk shows with flying displays. The Serpent's Liar is a fantasy garden taking its inspiration from the myth of serpent's. The Dark Walk offers an adventure walk through the woodland with a number of challenges including hanging tyres, rope swings and balancing rail. For something more serene, visitors can take a cruise and enjoy wonderful views of the valley whilst learning more about local history and culture.

Chiddingstone Castle is located close to Edenbridge, 10 miles north west of Tunbridge Wells in the upper valley of the River Medway in Kent. The castle dates back to the early 16th century; visitors can view exhibition on the interesting history of the castle including life at the castle and the architectural changes the castle has undergone through the years. The historic house includes a number of notable collections, including the notable Japanese, Egyptian, Buddhist and Royal Stuart and Jacobite collections. The collections include a number of exhibitions, displays, artefacts making it fascinating for visitors.

Chiddingstone Castle includes noted gardens and grounds, visitors can stroll in the many acres of grounds set in a scenic setting. There are formal gardens and open lawns providing a great place to enjoy a picnic. The castle plays host to a umber of special events including fairs, lunches, open days, tours and much more.

Bewl Water is located 10 miles from Tunbridge Wells in the valley of the River Bewl. One of five reservoirs located within the AONB, it was completed back in 1975, Bewl Water is the body of inland water in south east England. Over the years the reservoir has become a popular attraction with a number of recreation activities taking place along with hosting a wide range of wildlife. Activities include adventure playground, hydroballing and fishing for children, other activities include walking, riding, cycling, water sports including sailing, canoeing and rowing. Cruises of the reservoir are available along with cruise hire for special occasions.

The Waterside Bar & Restaurant serves breakfast, main meals and meals for children offering a choice of hot and cold foods with a choice of meat, fish and vegetable dishes available. Bewl Water hosts a number of attractions and special events with something for a range of tastes and ages. With a choice of attractions, events and activities a trip offers a fun filled day out for the whole family.

The area is rich in wildlife and includes a number of Nature Reserves, for visitors they are free to visit and offer a great insight in to the famous wildlife in the AONB. Sheffield Forest is located 20 miles south west from Tunbridge Wells, covering over 118 hectares of woodland located between Crowborough and Uckfield. Set in scenic surroundings, the forest includes a wide range of fauna and flora along with a number of birds both native and visiting including crossbills, nightjars, hobbies and buzzards among others.

Sheffield Forest is not only a haven for wildlife, it includes archaeological finds dating back centuries including evidence of timer production and iron smelting. Visitors can see sunken routeways, sawpits and charcoal hearths reflecting the industrial history of the area in addition to exploring the wooded and heathland tracks.

Walking is a popular activity in the AONB and surrounding areas, there are a number of popular walks in the area for visitors to try. The High Weald offers walkers a choice landscapes and terrain, with footpaths, bridleways and byways. Walks include Self Guided Circular Walks ranging from 0 to 3 miles to 9 miles and over. The High Weald Landscape Trail is a 90 mile walk going from east to west in the AONB taking in historic gardens and ridge top villages. The 1066 Walk is a 31 miles walk starting from Rye and ending at Pevensey Castle. Walking in the area provides a cost effective, environmentally friendly, fun way to get off the beaten track and discover the best in the local countryside and see the wildlife up close.

Cycling provides a cost effective and fun way to explore the High Weald AONB and the surrounding areas in an environmentally friendly way whilst getting fit and seeing a number of local attractions and places of interest up close. The area has plenty to offer cyclists of all abilities, with miles of small country lanes, off road locations for mountain bikers. Two National Cycle Network (NCN) routes go through the area, Route 18 from Canterbury to Tunbridge Wells takes in some of the finest scenery in Kent and the High Weald. Route 21 London to Eastbourne via East Grinstead and Heathfield takes in some of the best scenery in the AONB.

Visitors to the High Weald AONB in the south east of England will find a quiet scenic haven with plenty of open spaces and countryside. There is a varied landscape in the AONB including a number of historic small local towns, villages and hamlets. The area is known for its rural character and natural beauty making it ideal for visitors after a tranquil and scenic getaway.

How to Get There

High Weald AONB is accessible by both car and public transport.

By Car:

The town of Royal Tunbridge Wells is located in the AONB area but is excluded from it. Tunbridge Wells provides a convenient located from which to explore the area with a choice of accommodation and local amenities. Located approx 45 from central London. From London, take the A302, then the A201, then the A2. Continue on the A2 until the turning for New Cross Road and turn in to New Cross Road, then turn on to Amersham Road and then the A20. Continue on the A20 until the junction with the M25 and take the M25(S) exit towards Gatwick Airport. From the M25 take the A21 towards Sevenoaks/Hastings. From the A21 take the exit for the A26 towards Tunbridge Wells, then take the A264 that goes to Tunbridge Wells. The approx journey time is 1 hours 20 minutes to 2 hours depending on traffic and time of day.

By Train:

The train station at Tunbridge Wells has regular services from London Charing Cross and London Cannon Street stations. The approx journey time 55 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes hours depending on time of day and connections.

By Bus/Coach:

There are regular buses available from London Victoria Coach station to Tunbridge Wells. The approx journey time is approx 1 hours 40 minutes to 2 hours depending on time of day, connections and traffic. Coach services to Tunbridge Wells are provided by services are provided by National Express.

Contact Details

High Weald AONB
Woodland Enterprise Centre
Hastings Road
East Sussex

Telephone: +44 (0)1580 879500

Website: High Weald AONB


For Local Search and Directions see: High Weald (AONB) Map

Tips & Other Considerations

The weather and climate can be unpredictable, there can be elements of all four seasons in one day. Ensure you check the weather forecast before you travel and have the correct clothing and footwear including comfortable walking shoes, fleece, raincoat and umbrella.

Follow travel advice and remain alert, vigilant and aware of your belongings at all times especially your wallet/purse and valuables and ensure they are hidden away from public view. If you have a bag try to use a shoulder bag with a good quality, strong strap, that is put across your shoulder not on your shoulder making it more difficult for anyone to take your bag.

If you are travelling by car to the High Weald AONB ensure you are well prepared with maps and Sat Nav to aid your journey, particularly if you are not familiar with the local area and roads. Use the journey planner for door to door directions. Check traffic updates before you travel.

If you are looking for car parking in and around the AONB, ensure you fully understand the rules, regulations & charges for car parks and street parking. The rules & regulations can be complex & confusing if you are unclear, it is wise not to park there.

If you are travelling by public transport, check for service updates prior to beginning your journey for any delays, disruption or cancellations to services that may impact on your journey. Ensure you have the service timetables for the trains, trams, buses and coaches. Remember when the last services are and ensure you make it to the train/bus/coach stops well in time to avoid missing the service.

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