Posted 16 May 2014 by Andrew Gardner
Two years ago last month I was walking in the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex as fire crews fought to put out blazes that were springing up all over the dry heathland. Ardingly Reservoir was shockingly low and the landscape, despite the best efforts of spring to break through, was quite barren for the time of year.
How lovely to return to the same spot this April and see so much more greenery. The reservoir was fabulously full - all that winter rain had some good effect, then - and there was not a wisp of smoke in sight. A beautiful spring day, warm and sunny with the occasional light shower and not the unseasonably hot weather of two years ago. An hour's circular stroll from Hindleap Warren was just enough to get our lazy legs from winter into gear and feel we deserved the flask of tea.
Whichever parking spot you choose it's possible to do a decent stroll without worrying about maps, though for those who want to trek further an Ordnance Survey map or one of the route leaflets available from the visitor centre at Wych Cross is recommended. Incidentally, the centre also runs some great little courses for all ages, which you might like to check out if you're bringing the family to one of our delightful holiday cottages on the Ashdown Forest, click here to view cottages in the area.
While most of the forest is accessible, by law 100 acres can be enclosed at any one time and electric fences are being used to contain grazing sheep, cattle and ponies as part of the land management system. The ponies, in particular, are being fenced off to stop them getting access to titbits, which can cause all sorts of problems. Did you know, by the way, that cattle, sheep and ponies all graze in a different way? Cattle can break up some of the really tough swards, sheep eat everything right to the ground and ponies are more picky - at least, I think that's right; do correct me if not.