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Surveys of visitor behaviour on Ashdown Forest

Client: Mid Sussex District Council and Wealden District Council

This study was carried out in order to inform assessment of local development documents under the Habitats Regulations and provide data to inform planning for recreation in Mid Sussex and Wealden districts.  Field surveys were undertaken in late summer 2008, involving interviews and completion of a questionnaire by visitors to the Forest, spanning 20 access points onto the site.  Patterns of activity were analysed in relation to reason and frequency of visit, mode of transport, activities and routes taken while onsite, and availability of alternative sites.

Data collected during the study has since been further analysed by Natural England to examine whether current visiting patterns have a role in the low density of Dartford warbler, nightjar and woodlark given the available habitat.

Two important outcomes of the study were an estimate of Ashdown Forest’s visitor patronage (c.1.3million in 2008) and conclusions on the site’s catchment area.