How a Sussex forest was saved from being sold off

An exhibition running until the end of June explores how Ashdown Forest was saved for the nation after being under threat of being sold.

In 1987 this historic landscape in East Sussex came within a whisker of being sold off to multiple private investors.

That would have led to great challenges for the preservation of its cherished landscape, rare species and ability to support visitors.

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How it was kept as one area is the subject of the public exhibition - open to all - at the Ashdown Forest centre.

Ashdown Forest exhibition SUS-220614-142455001

Ashdown Forest CEO James Adler said: “We are proud to look after such an attractive, unique and treasured landscape. Yet many people will be unaware that it was at real risk of being sold off privately back in the 1980s.

“The exhibition helps show how much local people care about Ashdown Forest.”

In 1987 the Lord of the Manor and Forest owner the 10th Earl De La Warr decided to put the forest up for sale and offered first refusal to East Sussex County Council.

The council was able to pay for much of the purchase price but asked for public help to make up the difference and this triggered a major fundraising campaign, led by the Friends of Ashdown Forest.

Donations flooded in from far and wide, including film legend Dirk Bogarde and Christopher Milne, the son of A.A. Milne. They amounted to more than £200,000.

James said: “The Ashdown Forest Research Group has worked through the appeal book that lists the names of almost 2,000 people and organisations that contributed. The exhibition tells some of their stories and the support they gave.”

The exhibition covers two other major challenges the forest faced in the 1980s - the Great Storm and the risk of oil exploration.

It also describes the history of the forest going back to ancient times, the events that led to the establishment of the Board of Conservators, and the challenges the forest still faces today.

The exhibition is open 11am until 4pm weekdays and 11am until 5pm weekends.

Go to Ashdown Forest Research Group Spring Exhibition | The Conservators of Ashdown Forest