One of the county’s most popular visitor attractions will close its gates next month.
Joanna Yarrow and her partner Jonathan announce they are moving on from Wilderness Wood near Hadlow Down and handing the management of the 62 acre woodland back to their parents, Anne and Chris.
Joanna said: “My parents will run the wood on a much more low-key basis offering wood products, children’s birthday parties and occasional courses and events as well as continued walking access for villagers in Hadlow Down. There will also be the opportunity to buy Christmas trees. The wood will be put on the market in due course.”
This is a radical change of direction for a tract of woodland that has become a ‘must visit’ destination for thousands of families across Sussex.
The 2,000 year old wood was first bought by Chris and Anne in 1979. The couple built their own house and a timber-frame barn that they turned into a successful visitor centre. The couple retired three years ago and handed management of the woodland over to Joanna and Jonathan who began a series of well-attended candlelight suppers focused on sustainability and hosted by writers and broadcasters.
There was also an extensive programme of events for families and children. These included a ‘forest school,’ camp building, baking, woodland games and opportunities for youngsters to learn the basics of survival in the wild.
Chris and Anne also began improving the woodland through coppicing and introduced continuous cover forestry. Every spring they invited heavy horses from the Working Horse Trust at Eridge down to demonstrate how hoofpower could operate a successful woodland clearance scheme without damaging the ecology of the land.
Joanna went on: “After three and a half years of living at the wood and running it part-time alongside our other businesses, we are, quite simply, exhausted.
“It’s the kind of place that needs and deserves the full attention of the people running it and with our other commitments we were unable to provide this. With the imminent arrival of a new baby (no - the bump’s not just cake from the Barn) and despite the sadness of moving on from our much-loved family home we’re looking forward to a new chapter of life that will undoubtedly be equally busy in new ways.
“We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time here and have encountered many lovely and inspiring people.” Before it closes, children can enjoy dozens of late summer holiday and weeknd activities - visit: www.wildernesswood.co.uk