Walkers find plan to fence Pooh's patch hard to bear: Oliver Gillie reports on a row over moves to enclose part of Ashdown Forest for grazing

ASHDOWN FOREST, where Winnie the Pooh once roamed at will, is to be fenced for the first time, if eleventh-hour appeals are unsuccessful. Since time immemorial the forest was open for all to enter freely and A A Milne's characters - Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore - made it their home.

A new management plan will reintroduce cows and sheep and requires a large area to be fenced. Similar plans have led, or soon will, to the fencing of more than a dozen commons all over England.

In recent years commoners who have ancient rights to keep stock in Ashdown Forest have not done so because too many animals have been killed in road traffic accidents. In addition, many with rights commute to London and are not interested in keeping a few sheep, cows or a mill horse, nor do they want to collect estovers - firewood and animal bedding. So the forest is reverting to its wild state.

Mike Constantine, forest superintendent, said: 'Birch scrub is growing up in many places changing the character of the forest, and it is impossible to control this growth without introducing grazing animals. . . the birch scrub has grown to 15ft high and has obscured a lot of the sight lines, particularly in the Misbourne valley.'

Altogether 1,352 acres of forest will be fenced, leaving some 5,000 acres with free access from outside the forest. The enclosed part will be accessible by 45 gates and 10 cattle grids. But Pooh's old territory of Galleon's Leap, properly called Gill's Lap, will remain outside the fenced area. Mr Constantine said: 'The feeling is still of open space. Our aim is only to restore the common to the state it was in 1985 when grazing stopped. Grazing created this type of lowland heath and if want to have the heath we must find a way to continue grazing.'

The forest is owned by East Sussex County Council but two- thirds of the expense of the fencing, about pounds 29,000, will come from the Countryside Commission. The plan has been approved by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, English Nature and the Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Nevertheless, walkers and horse riders are convinced that a fence is unnecessary and that it will destroy the feeling of freedom they have when entering the forest from any point and when moving from the fenced to the unfenced parts. They argue that speed limits and traffic-calming measures could reduce the danger to grazing animals.

The Open Spaces Society, which campaigns for rights of way and for preserving commons for public use, is concerned that the same arguments are leading to the fencing of ancient commons all over the country. Kate Ashbrook, its director, said: 'Traffic-calming measures are a better long-term solution but the Department of Transport is not flexible enough in allowing these measures. Fencing of commons is going ahead because funds are available for doing it from the Countryside Commission while funds are not available for traffic- calming measures.'

The society is presently objecting to a plan by the National Trust to fence a common in the Quantocks, Somerset, and to plans by the trust to fence three other commons: Dumpdon Hill, near Honiton, Devon; Danbury Common, Essex; and Hindhead Common, Surrey. It is also objecting to a plan by Gloucestershire County Council to fence a common at Cold Slad Hill, near Crockley Hill, and to a plan to fence Blawith Common at the south end of Coniston water in the Lake District.

Plans to fence Black Down Common, Dartmoor; Silchester Common, Hampshire; Hollesley Common, Suffolk; and Farthing Down, Surrey, have already been agreed. (Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste