Address: RSPB, Unit 10, Sham Farm Business Units, Eridge Green, Tunbridge Wells, TN3 9JA
Contact: 01892 752430
Broadwater Warren, alongside the Broadwater Forest Lane from the A26 to Groombridge, was bought by the RSPB in 2007 as a new nature reserve, which they will manage in perpetuity.
The site will be familiar to local people as it was here that a landfill site was proposed in the 1990s, which was successfully fought by the community group, Groombridge and Eridge Alternatives to Rubbish (GEAR).
The vision: The RSPB’s plans for Broadwater Warren are to restore it from the conifer plantations that currently dominate the reserve to the habitats that are shown on old maps of the area – a mosaic of heathland and ancient woodland. It’s a big job and a national priority for conservation, which should allow all sorts of rare wildlife to flourish here again.
It is a rare opportunity to restore a large area of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to its former glory, for wildlife and for people.
Key site on the Weald Forest Ridge: Broadwater Warren is the remnant of one of the four medieval forests of the Weald Forest Ridge, the highest ridge of the High Weald. The original forests were a mix of open heathland areas merging into woodlands.
The UK has over a fifth of the entire world area of heahtland, but over 80% of the heathland that existed two hundred years ago has been destroyed. This is a rare opportunity to put a little bit back.
The work is part of the Weald Forest Ridge Landscape Partnership Scheme, and funding has come from a wide range of partners as well as the RSPB including the Heritage Lottery Fund, Grantscape, and GEAR.
Access: The reserve is open all year round and entry is free. The RSPB opened a small woodland car park in 2009 to stop visitors having to park on the verge – it is open usually from about 7am until dusk.
Nature trails: People can pick up a free trail guide and follow marked nature trails through this quiet and peaceful site The RSPB describe it not as a place of big “bird spectacles” but as somewhere to enjoy bird song, rare habitats and being away from it all.
Improvements so far: Already the RSPB has restored the Decoy Pond, whose dam was broken, and have built boardwalks across the wettest sections of path and into the area of wet woodland where Greater Tussock Sedges grow a metre high.
Habitat restoration: The first phase of habitat restoration began in the winter 2009-10, with the clearance of an area of self-sown conifer trees. The RSPB is at pains to prepare people that this kind of restoration looks very raw to start with. It takes a couple of years for the original vegetation, buried as seeds in the soil, to begin to flourish again.
Future plans: As the heathland is restored, it will be divided into several large fenced blocks, where small numbers of livestock will be used to maintain the habitats, as in years gone by. Access will be maintained through these areas.
There will be path improvements, including an all-user section of path to get less-able visitors into the heathland. The RSPB plan to create a heritage trail in the next year to help visitors understand some of the rich history of the site.
Dog walking: The RSPB welcomes responsible dog owners. Dogs should be under close control and on the paths at all times, both to preserve the wildlife which includes several species of rare ground nesting birds, and for the benefit of visitors who may be nervous of dogs. Please clear up after your dog – dog bins are due to be provided at the entrance.
Conditions underfoot: This is the Wealden Forest Ridge – it gets muddy! Most paths are flat or gently sloping, but there are a few fairly steep slopes.
As a charity, the RSPB depends on the goodwill and financial support of people like you. Please visit www.rspb.org.uk/supporting or call 01767 680551 to find out more.
If you have any questions or comments about the reserve, the RSPB welcomes your feedback.