Wilderness Wood, Hadlow Down
Wilderness Wood has been one of our favourite family go to places for nearly 10 years now. Over that time we’ve seen a lot of changes. The woodland is currently owned by the Morrish Family who aim to create a space where adults and children can learn together. In the last 2 years since the Morrish family bought the woods we’ve noticed positive changes including play equipment integrated into the forest and popular workshops bringing a new vibrancy to the setting as a whole.
There are several enterprises now based at Wilderness Wood including Lucy’s Little Forest School, Andy Coates’ woodland products and Rachel’s Wilderness Cafe. In this post I will mention features of Rachel’s Wildreness Cafe but I will predominantly write from the point of view of a family visiting Wilderness Woods for a play, explore and picnic.
Wilderness Wood lies of the A272 in the village of Hadlow Down, near Buxted and Uckfield. There is ample on site parking although during busy periods finding a space may require a couple of circuits of the parking area. I would always recommend taking wellies and warm clothing, the trails and play areas are often very muddy especially through Winter and Spring. You may want a change of clothes for little ones, especially if they may be tempted to get really stuck into the Mud Kitchen!
Wilderness Wood is open to the public Wednesday – Sunday 9am-5pm. There is not an entry fee as such, but rather a request that you pay as you feel for each visit. I urge you to keep in mind that these donations contribute significantly to the costs of keeping the woods open to the public. Visitor donations are spent on path maintenance, fencing and play equipment. We always try to buy hot drinks and snacks from the cafe and donate our change and an additional note as our entry fee. Camping, BBQ pitches, workshops and forest school classes are all charged at their own rates.
Arriving at the woods always feels magical and exciting. The cafe greets you setting the scene as a fairytale wonderland. Set in an old barn and decorated with fairylights the cafe has a Hansel and Gretal feel about it and always looks cosy and inviting.
The children usually run down the hill straight to the area where play equipment has been blended into the woodland environment. The favourite is the giant swing. Our children can easily spend half an hour on this alone…and it’s big enough for the grown ups to join in too! The perfect opportunity to remind the kids that Mum and Dad are always young at heart!
Next to the giant swing is a traditional metal slide embedded into the hillside where those too young to manage the giant swing can have their own fun whilst spectating. Up the hill slightly is a zip wire…another family favourite.
Once we’ve exhausted the play area we set off for a walk along the trails. At the foot of the play area is the Christmas Tree paddock. You can choose your Christmas tree here before taking it home for the festive season. In the weeks leading up the Christmas the trees are decorated and the paddock becomes a quite spectacular sight.
We always do a loop to the bottom of the woodland and back up to the cafe on our walks. The walk takes about 40 minutes depending on whether our youngest is walking of riding in a rucksack. The walk encounters breathtaking views of the Sussex countryside, deep dark forests, little wooden bridges, cleared tented camp areas and winding footpaths. I’ve tried these trails using a pushchair once and once only! If you’re visiting with infants I would definitely advise bringing a baby carrier.
At some point on our walk we usually enjoy a small picnic, we use the incentive of a cake from the cafe to motivate the troops when energy levels are flagging towards the end of the hike. This always works because the cakes in Rachel’s cafe are not only delicious but also huge! Indeed by the time we reach the cafe we feel everyone has well and truly earned a reward.
We always sit outside where the children can continue to play on the see-saw, tyre swing and tree look outs. Best of all is the mud kitchen! Logan loves mixing concoctions using the pans and baking trays whilst his siblings play elsewhere. All the stress of having children waiting for food is removed as there’s so much to do for all ages.
We are yet to enjoy a full meal at Rachel’s cafe but the menu looks tempting..and if the cakes are anything to go by the food will be delicious. At busy times the queue in the cafe can become significant but there is a friendly, laid back vibe in the cafe. The staff are always honest and open about a potential wait and as I’ve already said there is so much for the children to do that any delays in service are never really recognised by preoccupied children. That being said, more often than not we are served promptly by friendly and welcoming staff.
If you live in Sussex or are visiting the area I can’t recommend a visit to Wilderness Wood enough. Please take a look at their up coming events here, Christmas is a particularly special time to visit. Please let me know in the comments below your thoughts on the place, especially if we’ve inspired you to visit! Maybe we’ll even see you there..