A Landscape History
Little has been written specifically about St Leonard’s Forest. I came to discover this when I began to research my landscape history thesis on this Forest. It became increasingly clear that the boundaries of the Forest were lost in time. Control over the Forest was complex and changing, and recorded information, that I could view, was limited.
However, six years later with a lot of perseverance and encouragement, my thesis was done and I was awarded my doctorate at the University of Sussex. The thesis is on academic open access and has been downloaded a rewarding number of times, but I wanted the information to be more readily available to all, particularly to residents of Horsham. So, I have distilled the research into this book which I am now delighted to launch into the world. To be honest, I also wanted to show off my painting and poetry skills so I have included them in the book as well.
As this book is a landscape history it starts with the geology of the Forest and its position on the High Weald. Although the main focus of the book is the 18th and 19th century, I do consider the early landscape of the Forest in order to give context to the later developments. I look at its shape, early control, the Forest resources, and of course all the myth and legends. You can’t write about St Leonard’s Forest without mentioning the dragon. In fact, often that’s all that is mentioned! I follow with themes of Industry and Agriculture, then Routeways and Trade, before looking at the main Forest estates and how their owners’ ideas and interests in horticulture impacted on the parks and gardens in their part of the forest landscape.
I finish by taking up the theme of Society and Community within the Forest. I look at the two villages of Colgate and Lower Beeding, the churches and its people according to the local 19th century census, which will interest family historians. In the Final Word I offer the hope that others might take up the challenge to research and write about the Forest. There is lots more that could be explored, like the natural history and biodiversity, or perhaps historical comparisons with other Wealden Ridge forests.
I do hope you will buy my book, enjoy reading it, and find out some things you may not have known, and of course be inspired to walk the footpaths.
The book will be available soon. If you would like to be notified of its release, please use the contact form.