In the west of the county, Chailey Common is one of the largest commons in the south of England and was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 1966. The common is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its heathland plants, and diverse insect and bird communities.
Chailey Common stretches over 180 hectares (450 acres) and includes Red House Common, Memorial Common, Romany Ridge Common, Pound Common and Lane End.
Marsh gentian flower at Chailey Common
What will you find?
Chailey Common is dominated by heathers. These include Bell and Cross-Leaved Heather but mostly Ling Heather. There are small colonies of blue flowering Marsh Gentian, Bog Asphodel and Sundew as well as beautiful summer displays of Heath-Spotted Orchid.
The heather and gorse provide a habitat for many birds including the Stonechat, Yellowhammer and Linnet. The Nightjar and Hobby are also regular summer visitors. The commons are also home to several of our native reptiles, such as adders and common lizards with many small ponds providing homes for a variety of amphibians.
The site is grazed in rotation by Hebridean sheep, Exmoor ponies and native cattle. They help keep the birch saplings, brambles and rank grasses at bay. There is always at least one of the commons without any grazing animals. Large areas of the common are regularly mown or rolled to manage the bracken. Scrub is also managed using mechanical methods.
Download the Chailey Common Local Nature Reserve leaflet.
Walking, cycling and access
Chailey Common is open access, although we ask that you keep to existing footpaths to minimise disturbance to wildlife.
Dogs are welcome but dog owners are asked to clean up after their dogs (bins are provided in most of the car parks). Please keep them under close control around livestock and during the bird nesting and breeding season (April to September).
Horse riding is permitted on the commons. Please respect other users by not riding at speed, particularly in wet weather. Please also keep away from grazing animals.
Cycling is not permitted on the commons.
How to get there
The commons are situated where the A275 meets the A272.
For bus information, see bus timetables and maps.
The nearest railway stations are Haywards Heath and Cooksbridge.
Car parking (with a height restriction of 2m) is available at the following locations:
- Lane End Common on Fletching Common Road (reference: TQ403222)
- Red House Common on Warrs Hill Lane (reference: TQ392219)
- Memorial Common layby on the A272 (reference: TQ389205)
- Pound Common on North Common Road (reference: TQ377206)
- Romany Ridge Common on North Common Road (reference: TQ378208)
Management and history
Chailey Common was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. It was used by local peasants for cutting wood and bracken for fuel, and grazing livestock. This made the already poor soil worse and led to the unique heathland habitat that we see today. Since World War Two the decline of communal use has threatened the heathland by allowing bracken, birch and gorse to smother the heather and grass.
Chailey Common is managed by Lewes District Council and they are responsible for:
- car parks
- public access
- public safety
The Local Nature Reserve (LNR) is looked after by the Chailey Common LNR Management Committee. The committee's role is to advise on issues relating to wildlife and scientific research.
The LNR is currently being managed under the Higher Level Stewardship funded by Natural England and administered by ESCC.
The current grazing plan is available but is subject to change please contact the team for up-to-date information. Draft Chailey Commons Grazing Plan (Adobe PDF)
Contact Rights of Way & Countryside Maintenance
You can also contact:
- Lewes District Council – 01273 471600
- Chailey Commons Society – 01444 831098