Walk in memory of Sussex forest chief who died aged just 42

A GROUP of walkers have set off from Climping Beach in West Sussex this morning (Thursday) on a four-day 111km trek in memory of the former chief executive of Ashdown Forest.

James died suddenly in May 2023 at the age of 42. In the relatively short time that he was in the role, James was instrumental in developing the vision for Ashdown Forest’s future, focusing on the protection and enhancement of its unique landscape.

The Sussex forest is famous for its connection to Winnie-the-Pooh and was the inspiration for The Hundred Acre Wood.

The walk in memory of James was organised by family and friends. It ends on Sunday at 2pm with a celebration of James' life at Ashdown Forest.

Mark Pearson, who is the new CEO, and a former friend and colleague of James, said it is a fitting tribute. He said: "James was an amazing man who was so passionate about the Forest. He had been working on a strategy to safeguard Ashdown Forest and its biodiversity for future generations.

"He was also deeply involved in establishing and growing the Weald to Waves project, a nature recovery corridor across Sussex that is vital to forging connections for our fragmented wildlife and boosting biodiversity alongside food production and thriving communities.

"His death came as a shock to so many and we all miss him terribly. This four-day walk is our way of thanking James for everything he did."

The walk will raise funds for The Ashdown Forest Foundation (registered charity no. 1183829) to support projects on the Forest that were particularly close to James' heart.

Donations can be made at The Ashdown Forest Foundation is fundraising for The Ashdown Forest Foundation (justgiving.com)

All who wish to remember and celebrate James’ life are warmly invited to join the gathering at Friends clump on Ashdown Forest at 2pm on Sunday 28th April.

Those wishing to walk the last 2km with the walkers can join them at Millbrook East car park on the A22, ready to set off promptly at 1pm. This is just north of Nutley, TN22 3HW.

James loved wearing his blue and yellow woollen bobble hat when out walking, so the walkers will all be wearing bobble hats too. Walkers are invited to wear a bobble hat too, if they would like.