The Forest is currently undergoing an exciting period of transition.

A new operating model is being implemented as part of this change and will see the establishment of new roles, responsibilities and job titles.

We will be updating this page over the coming weeks with further details of the new structure.


James Adler

Chief Executive Officer

James joined the Forest in January 2021. James has the overall responsibility for the direction, protection, and conservation of Ashdown Forest. He leads the team who deliver the Forest’s management. He works closely with the Conservators to set the strategic direction for the Forest. James has spent 18 years in nature conservation with The Wildlife Trusts. He continues to work nationally advising Defra on farming, conservation and grant funding.

Kirsty Dirs

Clerk to the Board

Kirsty joined the Forest in July 2015. The Conservators made a change to the role of Clerk, splitting the post into two separate functions; Clerk and Finance Officer. As Clerk Kirsty is responsible for the Board and Committee governance processes, Licences and Bye-law infringements and handles planning applications affecting Ashdown Forest. She also supervises office administration and personnel matters. Aside from the Forest, Kirsty has a keen interest in shark conservation.

Finance Officer


Katherine Meade

Forest Centre Office Manager & Business Development Manager

Katherine joined the Forest in April 2018. She is responsible for meeting documentation, committee meeting minutes, riding permits, the information barn, shop, exhibitions, hiring the education barn, the volunteers, advertising, Forest events, the website, commercial dog walkers, dog training, sale of meat, wood permits, collating management information, Forest rent and rates.

Caroline FitzGerald

Lead Grazing Officer

Caroline joined the team as the Grazing Officer in mid 2010. She was previously Heathland Project Officer for the High Weald AONB Unit at Flimwell. Caroline is currently assisted by a team of voluntary lookerers.

Dan Graeme

Grazing Officer

Dan joined the grazing team in July 2016 after volunteering for them since 2009. He was brought up on a local dairy farm and has always loved working with livestock. In 2007 he made a career change and went from being a chef to working on local farms and shearing sheep. He has two collies to help him and a terrier aptly named Bracken.

Rich Allum

South Chase Ranger

Rich Allum joined the Forest in 2005. He obtained a degree in Ecology & Conservation from the University of Sussex before becoming a Ranger for East Sussex County Council and Bracknell Forest Borough Council. Before joining us, Rich spent five years as Heathland Project Officer in the High Weald AONB.

Michael Payne

West Chase Ranger

Mike Payne studied at Brinsbury College for three years and had qualifications on Countryside Management at both National and 1st Diploma levels. Mike has been on the Forest since 2003 and was promoted to a Ranger position in 2011. Mike is super with a chainsaw and a tractor and has many other skills learned as a Countryside Worker. Mike would like to have a dog as soon as possible.

Chris Sutton

East Chase Ranger

Chris has a National Diploma in Countryside Recreation from Merrist Wood Agricultural College and joined us in 1988.  Besides managing the East Chase he has responsibilities for Health and Safety, Forest Centre maintenance and management. He liaises with East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service for forest fire control and training.  He owns Bobby, a young sprollie who is still learning the ropes of being a Rangers dog.


Ashley Payne

Countryside Worker

Ashley joined the team in early 2014 as a Countryside Worker. Prior to this Ashley completed a foundation degree in Countryside Management at Plumpton College and worked as a volunteer for eight years with a variety of conservation organisations during his spare time.

Duncan Thatcher

Countryside Worker

Duncan Thatcher is passionate about heathland conservation.  He started out as a volunteer at nearby Chailey Common before working for the Wildlife Trusts at Greenham and Crookham Commons in West Berkshire. From there he became a heathland warden for Natural England on the Thames Basin Heaths Project.  Now he brings his knowledge of managing heathland to Ashdown Forest.  "I am really looking forward to connecting with this landscape, its wildlife and the people that live and work here.  It's a very special place."

Glen Poland

Deer Programme Coordinator

Glen joined the Ashdown Forest in September 2016. Glen was brought up from a young age managing wild deer in England, when he left school in 2008, he made the decision to go to Plumpton college to achieving a National Diploma in game and countryside management, specialising in deer management. After leaving college in 2010, Glen continued to manage deer on large estates across the south east of England. Glen is very excited be running the new deer management program here on the forest.

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