High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a nationally important landscape. It was designated by Government in 1983 to conserve and enhance its historic character of rolling hills draped with small irregular fields, abundant woods and hedges, scattered farmsteads and sunken lanes.

The High Weald’s distinctive countryside arises from a long history of human interaction with the natural environment. Its main features were established by the 14th century – and have survived major historical events and social and technological changes. What you are looking at is, essentially, a medieval landscape. The future conservation and evolution of this landscape is dependent upon safeguarding the traditional interactions between people and nature.

There are 50 AONBs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – the largest being the Cotswolds and the smallest the Isles of Scilly. AONBs are part of a worldwide family of protected landscapes that are valued for their cultural richness, aesthetic quality and wildlife. In Britain, these landscapes are designated as AONB, National Park or Heritage Coast – all of equal landscape importance.

What does Weald mean?

The word ‘Weald’ comes from the German ‘Wald’ meaning an uncultivated wilderness.

How high is the High Weald?

The highest ridge of the High Weald AONB rises to 223m (732ft) above sea level on Ashdown Forest. As a comparison, Firle Beacon on the South Downs directly opposite this point is only 217m (712ft) above sea level.

How big is the High Weald?

The High Weald covers parts of four counties: East Sussex, West Sussex, Kent and Surrey. With an area of 570 square miles (1,457 sq km) it is the 4th largest AONB – and 7th largest protected landscape – in the UK.

What is the difference between the High and Low Weald?

Unlike the surrounding Low Weald, the High Weald has high, sandstone ridges.