Chailey Common


Works on the bridges across the stream at Romany Ridge are due to start on the week commencing 13th May 2019. For more information, look out for notices on site at the Romany Ridge car park, or contact Lewes District Council on tel. 01273 471600.

Cattle will start grazing on the combined commons (Memorial, Pound and Romany Ridge), starting Friday, 12th April 2019. There is no grazing on Red House or Lane End Commons at present.

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
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 Longhorn 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.

Walking, cycling and access

Chailey Common is open access, although we ask that you keep to existing footpaths to minimise disturbance to wildlife.

Dog walking

Dogs are welcome but dog owners are asked to clean up after their dogs (multi-purpose bins are provided in all of the car parks). Please keep dogs under close control, particularly 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) (there is no height barrier at Red House so horse boxes and larger vehicles can access this car park)
  • 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
  • bylaws
  • public access
  • public safety
  • encroachment
  • litter

The Local Nature Reserve (LNR) is currently being managed under the Higher Level Stewardship funded by Natural England and administered by ESCC.

Contact us

Contact Rights of Way & Countryside Maintenance

You can also contact:

  • Lewes District Council – 01273 471600
  • Chailey Commons Society – 01444 831098

For livestock issues:

Ponies: Sussex Pony Grazing and Conservation Trust 07917 420296

Cattle or sheep: Kevin Uridge 07791 784415