Living in the Forest

Ashdown Forest is not only a sanctuary for rare and exciting wildlife, it is also a home and work place for hundreds of people.


There are more than 700 ‘commoners’ – people who have ancient rights, such as grazing animals or wood cutting, attached to their land or property.


In addition, there are many more residents with access tracks that cross the Forest to reach their homes, and lots of small businesses.


There are a number of specific regulations for people who live or work in the Forest, relating to access or building work for example. You can find out more below.


 The Ashdown Forest Centre staff can help with queries.  Local people are at the heart of our Forest community and we want to encourage a strong and enduring relationship for the future.

Ashdown Forest Commoners

A Commoner is a person who enjoys a specific Right of Common over Ashdown Forest.  There are about 730 properties in and around the Forest that retain these rights.

Anyone buying a house or land in the vicinity of the Forest may find themselves to be Commoners. Apart from some of the pastoral rights (grazing animals and wood-cutting), Commoners are entitled to vote for representatives on the Board of Conservators, and are obliged to pay a Forest Rate, which goes towards the expense of managing the Forest.

In March, the commoners hold an annual meeting, where the commoner conservators are elected.  Information about the commoners meeting is published from the end of January.


Result of the Commoner’s Election 2024


Commoner Rights

Every Commoner has some rights to a varying degree depending on the size of the landholding.

Right to vote – All commoners have a right to vote for the commoner conservators, but they must register with the Clerk first.  Only one person in the household can vote and must complete the Commoners Voting Form.


Estovers is the right to cut wood.  This is done over the winter months and is managed by the Ranger team in line with the woodland management plan.  Application forms for estovers will be available in the autumn.

Download the 2023-24 Wood Permit Application Form here.

Grazing – commoners wishing to graze animals on the Forest should contact us at [email protected]

Ashdown Forest Residents

There are many more non-commoner residents than Commoners living on Ashdown Forest.  A Forest resident is anyone who cross the Forest to access their property or who share boundaries with the Forest.  Some Commoners are also residents.

Anyone with an access track to their property will have a licence to allow access at all times and enable tracks to be maintained. For properties that have changed hands since 2001, this is a perpetual licence whereas older licences are known as trackway or waterpipe licences.  Residents are required to pay an annual acknowledgement rent for their licence. 

Link to Perpetual Licences – Explanation

Regulations for Residents

Deposit licences are for materials or skips on the Forest during building work. As some properties have very small gardens, the Board has arranged a system that allows residents to keep materials on the Forest for up to three months if storage is not possible on the property. A deposit will be taken and returned once the work is completed and checked by a Ranger.

Application for a deposit licence.

Estate Agents/builders/advertising boards

Permission must be sought for any advertising boards, including Estate Agents and builders’ boards, to be placed on the Forest verges or access tracks.  Unlicenced boards will be removed.

Application for an advertising board