SPA description
(information as published 2001)

Ashdown Forest

image: SPA location map 


Ashdown Forest is located in the High Weald of East Sussex in south-east England, where valley mires, heath and damp woodland have developed on soils derived from Hastings Sands (Lower Cretaceous). Once a royal hunting forest, reduced grazing has resulted in the accelerated development of woodland and encroachment of bracken over former heath. Nevertheless, some fine examples of heathland habitats remain, with humid or wet heath predominating, dominated by Heather Calluna vulgaris, Bell Heather Erica cinerea and Cross-leaved Heath E. tetralix in the dampest conditions. Where drier heaths occur they are dominated by heather in association with Gorse Ulex europaeus and Dwarf Gorse U. minor. Streamsides and mires add further variety, with Sphagnum mosses, Cottongrass Eriophorum sp., Bog Asphodel Narthecium ossifragum and Round-leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia all characteristic plants. The woodlands are also varied, with Birch Betula sp. typically establishing first over heath, followed by Oak Quercus robur, Willow Salix sp. and Pine Pinus sp. in places, eventually forming dense and shaded areas with sparse ground flora. Breeding birds of heath, scrub and woodland are associated with the varied mosaic of their respective habitats, distributed over the higher slopes and valleys of the High Weald.


Together with the nearby Wealden Heaths SPA and Thames Basin Heath SPA, Ashdown Forest forms part of a complex of heathlands in southern England that support breeding bird populations of European importance. 

Qualifying species

For individual species accounts visit the Species Accounts section

This site qualifies under Article 4.1 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by supporting populations of European importance of the following species listed on Annex I of the Directive:
During the breeding season;
Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata, 29 pairs representing at least 1.8% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Count as at 1994)
Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus, 35 pairs representing at least 1.0% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Two year mean, 1991 & 1992) 



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