Introduction: This is a developing RSPB nature reserve, close to Tunbridge Wells. Since 2007 the RSPB has reverted 100ha of conifer plantation back to lowland heathland. The majority of the large scale work has now been completed and heather is now well established across many of the heathland areas. As the heathland vegetation has returned the wildlife has returned too. The reserve is now home to a range of rare heathland specialist wildlife.
Location: 3m south-west of Tunbridge Wells, accessed from Broadwater Forest Lane, off the A26.
What can I do? Explore the reserve on the extensive network of paths, as well as boardwalks through the wet woodland. You can see a variety of birds, butterflies, reptiles and rare plants on a visit. Enjoy a guided walk or other activity from the site's events programme.
What can I see? A mosaic of open heathland and ancient woodland with rare woodland mires and forest ponds. You could see rare birds such lesser-spotted woodpecker, dragonflies performing their aerial displays over the ponds, or reptiles such as adder basking in the sun.
What can I hear? Rare birds such as nightjars churring in the late summer evening sky and the beautiful songs of woodlark and tree pipit in spring.
Grid reference: TQ554372(OS Map)
OS Map: 135 (Explorer, 1:25,000)
Car park opening times: open 9am (10am on Tuesdays) - 7pm (or dusk if earlier).
Dogs allowed: Yes but must be kept on a lead and owners are asked to use the bins provided to dispose of mess.
Terrain: There are some steep sections on the nature trail and in winter it can get muddy in places. The first 200 metres has a hard surface suitable for wheelchairs and buggies. The next 500 metres are flat, which leads to a slope overlooking the pond.
Nearest train station: Eridge, (mainline) 2.4 miles. High Rocks Halt (Spa Valley Steam Railway) 0.7 mile. Visit Spa Valley Railway for Tunbridge Wells to High Rocks Halt timetable and connections to mainline at Eridge.
Nearest NCN route: Route 21 is 1.9 miles
Where can I park? A car park, with brown tourist signage, on north boundary of reserve on Broadwater Forest Lane.
Where can I get further information? RSPB website
Broadwater Warren was a site of open, partially wooded heath for many hundreds of years, and was formerly one of the four great medieval hunting forests of the High Weald. It is only after the First World War that the site was extensively planted with conifers for timber. The RSPB purchased the reserve in 2007 and is restoring the site to a mix of heathland and ancient woodland.
Site enhancements 2009 - 2017
In the autumn of 2009, the first of a series of major conifer clearances was undertaken at Broadwater Warren, to start the recreation of heathland from the gloomy, unmanaged conifer plantations. Once cleared, each area has been allowed to naturally regenerate from the heather seedbank in the soil. In the late summer the Heathland now blooms with beautiful purple heather flowers, and the air is filled with the buzzing of the insects that pollinate them.
Historically, heathlands would have been grazed by the commoners that worked the land. To recreate the mosaic habitat that grazing animals provide, fencing has been installed around the regenerating heaths, and the site is now grazed by a herd of Exmoor ponies from May through to September.
In the retained woodland areas we have begun reverting the conifer plantations to native broadleaf woodland. The conifers have been thinned to allow native trees such as oak and birch to regenerate to maximise the potential biodiversity of the woodland.
Access has been enhanced through the creation of a surfaced all-ability trail from the car park; the installation of boardwalks to allow access through the stunning valley mire area; and the creation of a waymarked nature trails around the site.
A broad range of Interpretation was also carried out to enable the increasing visitor numbers to find out more about the site, its wildlife and history. Additionally, numerous site interpretation boards have been installed and impart key information about the site and enhance the visitor experience.
The 2009 - 2012 site enhancements were funded by the Weald Forest Ridge Landscape Partnership Scheme, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Image credits: Alan Loweth, Matt Twydell.