Page 12 - Forest Row Local November Edition
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12 November 2021 • Forest Row Local
 The Vision for Ashdown Forest: An Introduction
We now all know that we are facing pressing biodiversity loss and climate change emergencies which are already altering our world and Ashdown Forest. We all have a role to play in navigating these issues and Ashdown Forest itself has a critical role in responding to these challenges. We need to understand the Forest as part of the solution. As such we have created a vision for the Forest for the next ten years. We all have a vital role to increase and protect rare habitats on the Forest for the species that depend on them now and those that will arrive as the climate changes. We must enhance our wetland areas to sequester more carbon to mitigate the climatic changes. We must be able to quantify this contribution too. Alongside all of this we have a vital role in improving the mental and physical wellbeing of our visitors. This became abundantly clear during the pandemic.
It is a cliché, but Ashdown Forest is a living time capsule of the culture and history of Sussex and the nation. The internationally important heathland that we care for, alongside our woodlands,
represent generations of human activity from all sections of society. The Forest played host to and supported Kings and Commoners, Lords and land workers alike. At the heart of the heathland ecosystem that the Forest is best known for is grazing by wild and domestic animals that, alongside woodland clearance, created the original Forest landscape. This process intensified in the medieval era with the Forest’s enclosure as a royal hunting park behind a 23 mile long pale or fence. Large areas of the Forest were enclosed in the eighteenth century, with the remainder retaining its rights of common. Records show the battles waged to keep these rights. These fights, and the creation of the Conservators in 1885, allow us all to enjoy open access to the beautiful landscape of Ashdown Forest today.
Yet it is this public access that can lead to disturbance or damage of
the Forest’s natural landscape. As the custodians of Ashdown Forest,
we must solve a complex puzzle. We are responsible for protecting
the wildlife communities and spectacular landscape, especially the internationally designated heathland and valley mire areas, whilst also facilitating public access. We believe the solution lies in dialogue, careful management and appropriate funding. This is against the backdrop of significant reductions in our income from public sources. It is well known that East Sussex County Council are not able to continue supporting
the Forest with the large financial contributions that they made in the past. Our budget is constrained exactly at a time when understanding of the importance of the Forest is growing and our responsibilities
are increasing. We will need to make bold and sometimes difficult decisions over the next ten years to ensure we meet our responsibilities. Rather than be deterred, we will develop innovative, alongside proven, approaches to funding, community engagement and access whilst protecting the Forest.
But how do we help the casual visitor to the Forest understand, appreciate and want to engage with these deep challenges of
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