In an upcoming episode of Radio 4's Ramblings, Clare Balding embarks on a captivating journey through Ashdown Forest alongside a group of individuals who view this ten-square-mile open access land as a cherished national treasure. Located just thirty miles south of London, this unassuming gem has managed to endure, captivating even estate agents who have likened it to ‘Scotland in Sussex’.
Among Balding's companions is Eka Morgan, a dedicated local resident and podcaster, passionate about reconnecting visitors from far and wide with the wonders of Ashdown Forest. Surprisingly, many of the 1.5 million annual visitors are unaware that Ashdown Forest is a rare and precious heathland, an even scarcer habitat than tropical rainforests. Eka employs the power of audio to tell engaging stories about the Forest, enveloping listeners in a sonic landscape that transports them to this unique realm.
Joining Eka is Tom Forward, a knowledgeable wildlife guide and skilled bird mimic. Tom’s ability to imitate avian calls adds depth to the exploration, enabling the group to better understand and appreciate the diverse wildlife thriving within this precious ecosystem.
James Adler, from the Conservators of Ashdown Forest, brings his expertise and passion to the walk. Growing up on a heathland nature reserve, James is deeply connected to the area and actively involved in developing the centenary celebrations of Winnie-the-Pooh, a beloved character whose stories were inspired by the Forest. This literary connection adds a touch of whimsy and nostalgia to their journey, reminding us of the profound influence nature has on our imagination and storytelling.
Completing the group is Kari Dunbar, whose current role focuses on raising awareness among dog owners about the impact of dogs on wildlife habitats. As a dog owner herself, Kari emphasises the importance of responsible behavior in these shared spaces. Her presence underscores the need for a harmonious balance between humans, their four-legged companions, and the delicate ecosystems of our forests.
Collectively, this group of individuals joins Clare Balding in shedding light on the hidden wonders of Ashdown Forest. They aim to raise awareness about its status as a national treasure, encouraging visitors and listeners to appreciate its unique qualities and fragile existence. Through their diverse perspectives and expertise, they aspire to inspire a reconnection between humanity and the natural world, fostering deep respect for the rare heathland habitat that Ashdown Forest proudly represents.
As the Ramblings episode unfolds, listeners will be enchanted by the engaging stories and soundscape crafted by Eka, guided by Tom’s wildlife knowledge, accompanied by James’ connection to the forest’s legacy, and enlightened by Kari’s emphasis on responsible stewardship. Together, they strive to unveil the beauty, significance, and urgent need for conservation in Ashdown Forest—a remarkable landscape that holds the power to captivate and transform all who venture within its bounds.
Listen to this episode of Ramblings on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 25 May, 3pm