SSSIs are the country's very best wildlife and geological sites. They include some of our most spectacular and beautiful habitats - large wetlands teeming with waders and waterfowl, winding chalk rivers, gorse and heather-clad heathlands, flower-rich meadows, windswept shingle beaches and remote uplands moorland and peat bog.

It is essential to preserve our remaining natural heritage for future generations. Wildlife and geological features are under pressure from development, pollution, climate change and unsustainable land management. SSSIs are important as they support plants and animals that find it more difficult to survive in the wider countryside. Protecting and managing SSSIs is a shared responsibility, and an investment for the benefit of future generations.

The first SSSIs were identified under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 when the then Nature Conservancy notified local authorities of SSSIs. This was so their conservation interest could be taken into account during the planning process. Natural England now has responsibility for identifying and protecting the SSSIs in England under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and more recently The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

Ashdown Forest was notified of its original SSSI status in 1953 and again in 1986 under the 1981 act. It was given this status because it supports several uncommon plants, a rich invertebrate fauna, and important populations of heath and woodland birds.

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