I work at the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in a Unit set up to help conserve a very special landscape. Long before I started working there or even before I had heard of the High Weald or AONBs, the Wealden part of Sussex was a special place to me.
My grandparents lived in Punnetts Town and my childhood was punctuated with holidays there, exploring the woods, gills, fields and footpaths around the area between there and Dallington. I always felt a strong affinity with the landscape and have always felt drawn there as if I was at home despite living some 10 miles away.
It was not until 2004 when I embarked upon my family history that I realised why, for 500 years and more my family have lived in that part of Sussex. Burwash, Dallington, Warbleton, Wadhurst, Heathfield are all names embedded in my family tree and now I know why I feel so at home.
So what has this got to do with working at the High Weald AONB, well this is a special landscape, and as quoted on the homepage of the website ‘A medieval landscape of wooded, rolling hills studded with sandstone outcrops; small, irregular-shaped fields; scattered farmsteads; and ancient routeways.’ I feel an immense pride in the fact that this landscape was shaped by my ancestors along with many other local families who helped to farm the medieval landscape, fell the woods and create the sunken routeways. I have been carrying on that tradition for 15 years by ‘doing my bit’ at the Unit.
The Weald is not a wild place like the Lake District or the Peaks, its beauty to me at least, is in the fact it has been managed over centuries by people making a living for themselves in a number of landscape based industries such as farming and the Iron industry, which was so prevalent in the Weald during the Tudor times.
Through this blog I will tell the human stories of some of those who lived and worked in this landscape and why this landscape is so important and why we should care today.