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Pine Grove, TN6 1DH
Crowborough,
East Sussex,
info@crowboroughtowncouncil.gov.uk 01892 652907
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Nature Reserves

Pocket Park Nature Reserve location map

The Crowborough Pocket Park Nature Reserve has been created to form an ecologically rich area which will protect and encourage native wildlife and allow access to nature to the local community.

The reserve covers an area of approximately 4 acres (about 1.6ha) near the centre of Crowborough.   It is owned by East Sussex County Council (ESCC) but is managed by Crowborough Town Council (CTC) under an agreement with ESCC to conserve and enhance the biodiversity of the area, create new habitats that will increase the site’s value to wildlife and turn the area into an accessible community asset for residents, school children and visitors.

The site is surrounded by the playing fields and buildings of Beacon Academy to the south and residential houses and gardens to the north.

The main part of the Pocket Park Nature Reserve is a fenced area, formerly used as school tennis courts but subsequently abandoned and left to re-vegetate naturally. There are three other parcels of land that are also part of the Pocket Park: a copse to the south, a bank and ditch to the north and a narrow strip of hedgerow/ditch alongside a footpath to the west.

An additional strip of land between the Pocket Park reserve and the Beacon Academy sports pitches is also included. This narrow strip of grassland and a narrow, wooded shaw is outside the Pocket Park boundary, but will be managed on behalf of the school by CTC to benefit wildlife and act as a buffer to the Pocket Park.

Ecological surveys have been carried out and an immense amount of work has been carried out by CTC with help from the Crowborough Conservation volunteers.  Clearance, fencing and the addition of a natural pond with dipping platform has been installed.  Work is ongoing but the Pocket Park Nature Reserve opened to the public in May 2023.

Pocket Park Entrance Pocket Park Footpath

 

The Bluebell Wood is approximately two acres of mature woodland located in the centre of Crowborough.

Visitors will see a spectacle of native bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta if they visit the site during their flowering season in April/May but there is plenty to see all year ’round.

The site is flat and makes a pleasant short walk having a 1km circular path running around the site. Much of the woodland canopy is composed of mature oak and there is a variety of others smaller trees, shrubs and flora.

The Site’s History

The site is owned by Wealden District Council’s Housing assets department but is currently managed by Crowborough Town Council with the help of volunteers from Crowborough Conservation.

Work began in 2009 with management of trees and invasive species and control of bramble/path clearance. A number of benches were installed in 2010 for use by the many people who escape to the site from neighbouring flats or for peace and quiet during their lunch breaks.

The 2006 ecological survey highlighted the features of most ecological value as:

  • Mature trees, especially those with ivy-clad trunks, dead branches, crevices and flaps of loose bark, which can provide roost sites for bats
  • Fallen and standing deadwood, which is valuable for a range of wildlife
  • Typical woodland wildflowers such as bluebell, pignut and wild daffodil
  • Potentially good bird-nesting habitat in trees and shrubs
  • A range of plant species rich in nectar and pollen that can provide food for invertebrates (such as butterflies and bees) and small mammals
Bluebell Woods Bluebell Wood with bench photo of footpath in the Crowborough Country Park on frosty day photo of snowy bench in Bluebell Wood

Crowborough Country Park is a sixteen acre nature reserve . It is the perfect place for a peaceful walk or a family picnic. An undulating circular stone track meanders through the site amongst tall trees, ponds and a picnic area. The deep rocky gorge is a main feature of the site.

A diverse mosaic of habitats are present in the park including dry and wet woodland, remnant ancient coppice, wet marshy areas, streams, grassy and heathy glades, ponds, rock outcrops & slippages. The main stream on site runs through a steep rocky gorge before flowing through areas of ancient hazel and ash coppice and there is also a carpet of bluebells in the spring. These habitats form homes for a wide variety of flora and fauna including the nationally rare moss Discelium nudum.

Discover a mosaic of wonderful habitats

Wet woodland, streams, fens, dry heathy glades and many more can all be found at the Country Park.  As already mentioned, the Country Park is designated a Site of Nature Conservation Interest.

Look out for green-eyed dragons!

Find out about the Golden-ringed Dragonfly which is scarce in Sussex but likes our Country Park due to its fast-flowing silty watercourses.

Become a beady-eyed bird spotter

Due to the diversity of the habitats, many different species of birds can be found at Country Park.  See how many you can spot.

The history of the park

The park started life as a clay quarry serving the Crowborough Brickworks that closed in 1980. Evidence of its industrial past can still be seen by the interesting topography on the site. The site of the brickworks was developed into Farningham Road industrial estate and housing in the area of Osborne Road.

For nearly 30 years the quarry was left to natural regeneration and local people used it for informal play, with stories of swimming in the ponds and losing Wellington boots in the wet areas of the site. In 2008 Crowborough Town Council acquired the site with the intention of developing it for use by the Public for informal recreation and also to enhance the site’s biodiversity.

An ecological survey was commissioned in order to produce a Site Management Plan for use by the then newly appointed Ranger whose role was initially to manage the site for conservation and public amenity, raise funds to support the project and involve local people, thereby ensuring their ownership of the site.

In 2008 work began in the Country Park with a stone track and bridges installed. The site was declared a Local Nature Reserve in 2009 ensuring the future management of the site for the benefit of the wildlife and for people to enjoy quiet recreation.

During 2009 £40,000 was raised through grants from The Forestry Commission’s English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS) and SITA to support the development of the park which resulted in new benches, interpretation boards, a circular way-marked trail, a new leaflet, creation of a new pond and a pond-dipping platform.

Many volunteers from The Friends of Crowborough Country Park gave their time on conservation projects, including a two week project in collaboration with The Prince’s Trust and Beacon College where 16 – 25 year olds were taught how to fell trees with bow saws. Numerous guided walks, children’s events, PowerPoint presentations and cultural events were also held. The main development of the site was completed in 2010.

Click here to read the Country Park Byelaws.

Map and description of Crowborough Country Park

Follow the Circular Trail

This is a sign-posted one kilometre trail around the park that you can follow.  En route you will pass through a multitude of different habitats, which is why the Country Park has been designated a Site of Nature Conservation Interest.

Photo of frozen pond at the Country Park Photo of Glade in the Country Park with frosty sun Photo of Country Park Footpath with January Sun

 

The Ghyll is a 42 acre Nature Reserve set on the eastern fringe of Crowborough.

Visitors can enjoy a walk around the site using public footpaths and other well-walked routes but be aware, the terrain underfoot can be muddy, uneven and steep in places.

A stream is one of the main features in the Ghyll.  It is a tributary of the Medway which snakes its way along the valley bottom actively eroding the clay and sandstone rocks on its way. Follow the stream northwards and look out for ferns and bryophytes (mosses and lichens) on your way through the ancient, semi-natural woodlands.

On the far east of the site, the woodland opens into tussocky grassland before becoming heathy scrub reminiscent of parts of the nearby Ashdown Forest. On the higher ground there are impressive views looking west towards Crowborough.

Habitats

The site is primarily a wooded stream valley (a ghyll or gill), parts of which support ancient, semi-natural woodland. There are also other habitats of biodiversity importance present on the site including secondary woodland, scrub, tussocky grassland, dense bracken and unimproved, species-rich grassland.

What is a Ghyll?

Ghylls are steep-sided, wooded valleys created by streams cutting gullies into existing slopes. Ghyll formation began in the High Weald in the Pleistocene period (pre 10,000BC) by erosion of the sandstone and clays that compose the “Hastings Beds”. Ghylls often contain outcrops of erosion resistant sandstone known as sandrock.

Ghylls create a microclimate similar to the “Atlantic” climate common to the west of England but in the High Weald there is a different geology. The humidity and low incidence of frost creates a microclimate that is home to a variety of rare flora and fauna including the Tunbridge filmy fern Hymenophyllum tunbridgense.

The steep and rugged nature of Ghylls has provided protection from development and cultivation meaning that the woodland can be described as ancient woodland. Evidence of this can be seen from the array of ancient woodland indicator species found, including the small-leaved lime Tilia cordata.

Broadleaved woodland is a priority habitat for conservation in Sussex and contains a higher number of UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species than any other habitat. These species include the Hazel Dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius which has been found on this site.

The habitats are home to the site’s wildlife assemblage which is of county-level importance; reflected in the site’s designation as a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI). These habitats are being enhanced and managed to promote biodiversity.

Waterfall at the Ghyll Haircap Moss growing at the Ghyll