The Sale of Ashdown Forest

... and how it was saved for the nation

Our Spring 2022 Exhibition

Spring Eexhibition Poster

Just over 30 years ago Ashdown Forest came within a whisker of being broken up and sold off piecemeal to private investors, with potentially fateful consequences for the preservation of its cherished landscape and continued public access.

In 1987 the Lord of the Manor, the 10th Earl De La Warr, decided to sell Ashdown Forest. He offered first refusal to East Sussex County Council. But the council was only prepared to offer a fraction of the asking price, triggering a desperate but ultimately successful fund-raising campaign to save the Forest for the nation before the earl's deadline.

It was a high profile campaign that excited national and international media attention. It attracted the support of celebrities like Christopher Robin Milne (of Winnie-the-Pooh fame) and film star and local resident Dirk Bogarde, who are among many profiled in the exhibition.

Donations flooded in from far and wide. We have looked at the book that was kept of the thousands of donors and we have uncovered the stories of some of these donors, who ranged from a four-year old boy to members of the nobility, companies who raised special collections, and venerable institutions.

The exhibition will also reveal two other major threats at that time — oil exploration and the 'Hurricane' — that made the campaign to avert the break-up of Ashdown Forest even more urgent.

If you'd like to see the list of donors to the campaign, please click here. We would love to hear of any personal stories from the donors themselves, or from their families and friends. If you have any information about the fund-raising campaign more generally we would be immensely grateful if you could contact us to add new insights to this wonderful story. Please email us.

The exhibition will open at the Ashdown Forest Centre in Spring 2022