Things to spot
The High Weald was settled by individual farmers - leading to a pattern of scattered, remote farmsteads. Today, these holdings still contain a rich heritage of distinctive farm buildings: structures that add a human dimension to the landscape - and provide clues about farming traditions long passed - oast houses, for example, reflect an activity confined to a limited area: the hop-growing lands of the Eastern Weald.
The area's traditional farm buildings are typically simple, straightforward buildings constructed by local workmen. They were built to be functional - designed above all to shelter and protect - though often with great inventiveness and attention to detail. They were not built to be charming or characterful: these are attributes that we have attached to them in modern times.
Traditional farm buildings are locally distinctive. They reflect the building materials available nearby - in the case of the High Weald, wood, brick and sandstone - and they allow us a glimpse of past local farming practices.
In the South East, due to the variety of the underlying geology (and, therefore, soils) some areas practising very different forms of agriculture lie right next to each other. This is apparent in the form of the farm buildings. For example, on the Downs, large barns stored arable crops and sheds sheltered animals producing manure for the fields - while in the adjoining Weald, large numbers of cattle houses and yards reflected the importance of cattle breeding and fattening.
Today, many farm buildings are no longer used for their original purpose. However, it is not always easy to convert them to homes or work places whilst at the same time retaining those features which give the buildings their distinctive agricultural identity. It is hoped that a knowledge of how the farm buildings were originally used and how farm building form relates to function - combined with a greater understanding of the distinctiveness of local farmstead layout - will lead to more sensitive development in future.