Broadwater Warren sits in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), close to the village of Groombridge, and for many years has been the site of a large conifer plantation with only a few pockets of the natural heathland remaining.
In the 1990s it was proposed that a substantial landfill site should be built at Broadwater Warren but, thanks to the tireless efforts of the community group Groombridge and Eridge Alternatives to Rubbish (GEAR), this was rebuffed and the site remained a place for both wildlife and walkers.
In 2007 the RSPB acquired the site with the aim, over a 10 year period, of ‘restor[ing] the area to its original habitat of a wildlife-rich mosaic of heathland and native woodland species with some clumps of pines, a wet woodland, a rare woodland mire and forest ponds.’
To get an idea of what the Warren may look like in years to come and what wildlife and wild plants one might hope to find, we can compare it to the Ashdown Forest, set further south and in the heart of the High Weald AONB, the two main ecological habitats of which are heathland and woodland. It is home to a variety of birds, mammals, insects, plants, and more and I, for one, am greatly looking forward to seeing Broadwater Warren grow into something similar.
The work to restore a such habitats to Broadwater Warren has begun in earnest and much of the site looks drastically different today to a year or so ago; vast swathes of conifers have been removed to give the heathland and other woodland species the conditions necessary to take hold. This does mean that in the short term much of the Warren looks akin to no-man’s-land but this is a temporary state and it will not take long for the scene to change.
Should anyone question what the RSPB are doing it is best to imagine what the site would have been like if the landfill bid had been successful. Thankfully we can look forward to a restored heathland, a cornucopia of wildlife and wild plants, and the comfort of knowing that this land has been saved in perpetuity.