High Weald National Landscape Team
The High Weald National Landscape team is a small, passionate team with specialist knowledge of the High Weald landscape. Together, we have been advising for over 30 years in the landscape, ecology, communications, education, farming and land management sectors.
Since our establishment in 1992 we have worked collaboratively to:
- Highlight the value of the area
- Guide decisions on the management of the area’s special landscape features
- Help individuals, communities and organisations connect to the landscape and to each other
- Provide practical support to farmers and land managers with landscape management and restoration
- Produce a 20-year vision and strategy for the area (reviewed every 5 years)
- Develop an evidence base for AONB policy
- Raise funds to improve the High Weald landscape and engage people with it
- Develop and deliver large, multi-year partnership projects.
Meet the team! Click each picture to read more…
Sally has been Co-Director of the High Weald AONB Partnership for over 20 years and leads on the AONB Management Plan and strategic vision. She has a degree in Environmental Biology from Liverpool University, an MSc in Landscape Ecology from London University and studied for a post graduate diploma in Landscape Architecture. Her wide ranging policy and research experience includes integrated rural policy, sustainable communities and low carbon buildings, landscape characterisation and ancient woodlands. Sally’s background includes restoration ecology and urban ecology having previously worked for Operation Groundwork in the North West, London Ecology Unit and rural conservation charities. She lives in the High Weald and away from work can be found canoeing or walking locally.
Jason Lavender grew up at Blackboys on the edge of the High Weald. Jason’s work in the rural and environmental sectors had spanned both southern Africa and the UK before he joined the High Weald AONB Partnership in 2005 where, as Director (job share), he leads on national and regional partnerships and regenerative agriculture. Aside from his work for the High Weald Partnership and for more than 20 years, he has been a trustee for a private Trust that owns and manages 1,300 acres in Sussex and Kent. This includes an organic farm that Jason manages in collaboration with beef farmer Sam Newington and together they have moved from a conventional set stocking system to a regenerative holistic planned grazing system.
Gerry is the High Weald National Landscape Partnership’s Business Manager and focuses on fundraising for, as well as managing multi-disciplinary projects that engage with, communities across the area. Gerry is an Environmental Science graduate from the University of East Anglia and holds a Masters in Landscape Ecology, Design and Management from the University of London. She has 15 years’ experience working as a Landscape Specialist for organisations that include the National Trust. This has given Gerry a wide range of skills in managing countryside sites and developing heritage interpretation strategies and projects.
Gerry has walked from East to West across the High Weald in creating the High Weald Landscape Trail, and from North to South in undertaking river corridor surveys.
Sam joined the High Weald National Landscape team in 2007 as Team Support Officer. Specialising in event management as well as community project support, Samantha enjoys working directly with the public and has recently taken on the role of Dark Skies coordinator. This involves supporting local communities and Parishes to reduce light pollution and raise awareness of the issue through Dark Skies Festivals and design guidance.
She is motivated by projects that successfully integrate societies with their landscape and work towards changing public perceptions of their environment.
Sam is also a Lamberhurst Parish Councillor, working closely with residents to improve the Parish commonland habitat, and is Secretary for – and performs in – Lamberhurst Pantomime Society’s productions.
Emma has worked in PR and Marketing for 13 years and has extensive experience in media relations, copywriting, event management and social media. Previous roles include the Corporate Communications team at national tourist board VisitEngland during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Emma worked on a range of projects including the first ever English Tourism Week and the launch of the country’s biggest ever domestic tourism marketing campaign ‘Holidays at Home are GREAT’. Emma now works with stakeholders across the High Weald to promote both the area itself and the inspiring projects that enhance and raise awareness of our nationally-important landscape. She is also the main contact for the High Weald Walking Festival.
In her spare time, she enjoys walking through the Kent and Sussex countryside and exploring other spectacular landscapes around the world (Yosemite is a favourite).
Rachel has years of experience in educating children about the countryside they live in, whether this is in her work taking school groups around the Ashdown Forest or on her own company with projects that engage the whole community. With an MA in Drama Therapy which included looking at nature as a therapeutic space, Rachel is also a Forest School Practitioner and is excited about working with schools to tie the High Weald countryside into the curriculum and create a relationship between the children and their surroundings. Away from work Rachel can be found climbing and cycling throughout the High Weald countryside.
Christine combines farming, science, business and woodland management experience to provide practical and focused advice that helps land managers to look after their land in ways that are sustainable ecologically, financially and socially.
She is a life-long resident of the Weald and Downs landscape, which forms the background to her interest in the cultural history of the High Weald and provides the outlet for her keen interest in walking.
Tobias joined the High Weald National Landscape team from his last role working with Kent Wildlife Trust, advising landowners on the Romney Marsh about ways to restore and improve ditches, ponds and other aquatic habitats which were key features of the local landscape. Prior to that he was working with Catchment Sensitive Farming in the Cuckmere and Wallers Haven catchments so he already has useful experience in the High Weald.
His background is in forestry and tropical ecology – having worked in both Cambodia and Myanmar for ten years with international development agencies on community forestry and land rights. Tobias has a passion for trying to reverse the decline in biodiversity across our landscapes where the common is now becoming rare through adapting land management practices. When he is not working he is a very keen on hiking in wild mountains and walked the 800km length of the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. He is also a keen organic gardener with two allotments.
Dean grew up in North Devon and has spent his entire career in nature conservation and sustainability. As a teenager he volunteered on a woodland nature reserve in Exmoor, and this inspired him to study Ecological Science at the University of Edinburgh.
He came to Sussex in 1988 to manage the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, which is how he came to develop a love for the High Weald landscape. He’s worked for several environmental organisations such as the Environment Agency, Kent Wildlife Trust, the RHS and the South East Rivers Trust, as well as for local authorities in sustainable development.
His special interest is in Natural Flood Management. After running a successful pilot in the Medway catchment, he is now bringing this approach to the Cuckmere and Combe Haven catchments. He hopes that a Natural Flood Management approach will not only help reduce the risk of people’s homes being flooded, but can also bring benefits for wildlife, farm businesses and the landscape.
Outside work he’s a keen guitarist and gardener.
Sarah grew up in Forest Row close to the iconic Ashdown Forest, and although she no longer lives within the High Weald, this distinct landscape will always be ‘home’. After spending several years travelling and working in New Zealand, Sarah came back to the UK and returned to education as a mature student, accomplishing a FdSc in Countryside Management and BSc in Ecology at University of Brighton. She then went on to complete a PhD researching the effects of extreme climate events on the survival and growth of wet grassland plant species. This research has led to a passion for wetland ecosystems.
Sarah has had various roles within ecology, including lecturing, where she loved getting her students out of the classroom and teaching plant identification, consultancy work and more recently post-doctoral research at University of Sussex on inland wetlands and sustainable offtake.
Outside of work Sarah can be found working with her town’s EcoAction Network, helping to deliver a carbon neutral town by 2030.
Sandy has worked in the conservation and land management sector for over 30 years, much of her time spent in the High Weald. Previous roles include being Estate and Deer Manager for a private estate, managing sites for the Woodland Trust in East and West Sussex and working for East Sussex County Council’s Rights of Way and Countryside Management team.
Sandy is passionate about deer and the High Weald, so working for the National Landscape team is a dream job. She is looking forward to championing the importance of having and managing deer and the benefits that management can bring to the environment, people and the welfare of the deer. In her spare time Sandy enjoys walking her dogs, watching wildlife and helping manage deer on local farmland which she turns into delicious venison products in her home butchery!
Steph grew up on her family’s dairy farm in Dorset. She has worked in the countryside management and related sectors for a number of years. Previous roles include working as a ranger for East Sussex County Council and for Oxfordshire County Council. After this she worked for the Earth Trust as an engagement tutor and more recently she has led the Forest School provision for Ardingly College.
In her spare time Steph enjoys walking her dogs and cycling with her young daughter.
Simon started his career working as a Volunteer Ranger for the National Trust in Essex and as a Countryside Warden for Basildon District Council.
He then joined East Sussex County Council – first in the Rights of Way and Countryside team as a Countryside Officer, covering the Rye Bay area and Eastern High Weald AONB. Following this he became the Team Manager for the Rights of Way and Countryside Maintenance Team, leading a team of Rangers to maintain and enhance countryside sites and Public Rights of Way across East Sussex.
After 12 years with East Sussex County Council, he joined the RSPCA as the Centre Manager for Mallydams Wood, a wildlife rehabilitation and education centre near Hastings which provides care for sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife. He also oversaw an environmental education programme for young people in the Hastings area.
In his spare time Simon enjoys playing cricket for his local village team and exploring the High Weald with his family and dog. He also enjoys gardening and trying to improve his garden for wildlife.
Janet has re-joined the High Weald National Landscape team after more than a decade working with Natural England as a land management adviser in Kent and Sussex. More recently she worked with Natural England’s Field Unit, working England-wide conducting site visits, providing management advice and delivering in-house training. In previous roles, she has delivered landscape-scale partnership projects within the South Downs and High Weald. Prior to this she worked for Action in Rural Sussex offering practical support to rural communities.
Janet is enthusiastic about maintaining, restoring and re-connecting the High Weald’s diverse wildflower and fungi rich grasslands that are integral to its medieval landscape. Outside of work, Janet is a volunteer wildlife recorder and enjoys botanising, wildlife watching and rock pooling.
Diane has over 20 years’ experience working in planning departments in local authorities within the High Weald. With a background in architecture, urban design and building conservation, she is focussed on creating and preserving beautiful and successful places, and has a strong track record in providing advice to influence design decisions and achieve high quality, landscape-led schemes imbued with a true and distinctive sense-of-place.
As the High Weald AONB team’s Planning and Design Advisor, Diane provides advice to Local Planning Authorities and other partners, including Neighbourhood Plan Groups, on how planning policies and development proposals would affect the natural beauty of the High Weald AONB.
She also delivers training and capacity building within Local Planning Authorities to help with their planning policy formulation and development management responsibilities in the AONB, and was heavily involved in preparing the High Weald Housing Design Guide.
Having studied History of Art at Manchester and having worked in a variety of Finance and Administration roles, Daniel joined the High Weald National Landscape team in order to put his interest in conservation, and abiding enjoyment of the High Weald and surrounding countryside to professional use.
Outside work Daniel is a walker, amateur artist, keen cook and mixologist.