A richly detailed history of Ashdown Forest – home of Winnie-the-Pooh.
The seeming tranquillity of many rural landscapes can hide a combative history. This biography of one such landscape, Ashdown Forest in the Weald of Sussex, exemplifies the evolving conflicts that have taken place over many centuries. Wealth and poverty, power and exclusion, have all characterised this landscape through the ages. When a thirteenth-century boundary was erected to form a hunting park it was imposed upon a landscape which for centuries had provided sustenance for peasant families, for swine herds, for itinerant groups, all of whom had developed grazing and collecting rights and customary ties with the area. Conflict between manorial lords and commoners, "turbulent foresters", was born, and the evolution of this conflict over succeeding centuries is the recurring motif of this book. We move through the exploitation of iron ore and timber during the Tudor period, learn of the real threats of enclosure, of military occupation, to be followed by a landscape aesthetic bringing wealthy incomers, attracted by scenery easily reachable from London by train. All sides felt that the Forest was theirs by right. Victorian law-suits, twentieth-century protective legislation and a growing environmental consciousness have all left their mark. And the struggle for Ashdown continues amid ongoing development pressures. This book demonstrates that multi-layered conflict has been a characteristic feature of what still miraculously remains the largest area of internationally recognised heath in the South-East of England.
List of illustrations
List of abbreviations
1. Introduction: a forest landscape
2. The Natural Capital of Ashdown
3. Ashdown before the Forest
4. Ashdown emerges and the Landscape fills up, 1086-1485
5. Society and Community on Ashdown Forest, 1500-1800
6. Ashdown's forest economy
7. Threats to Ashdown Forest
8. Victorian Ashdown: a changing setting for an escalating conflict
9. The Ashdown Forest Dispute
10. The early years of formal conservation, 1885-1914
11. Ashdown in War and Peace, 1914-1945
12. Ashdown's historic present from 1945
13. Forest conflicts: a conclusion
Ashdown Forest: select Bibliography
Brian Short is an emeritus professor of Historical Geography at the University of Sussex. He has a longstanding interest in the rural landscape history and society of South-East England.