The parish of Hartfield is situated in the Weald of Sussex and has been designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty. The Parish extends deep into and up onto the Ashdown Forest and contains all the Enchanted Places. Long before A.A.Milne moved to Sussex the little village of Hartfield had quietly survived centuries of life. Earliest know activities started with hunting and the heavily wooded area was full of wild animals. It is strange to think that it would have been common place for you to hear and possibly see beasts like wolf and boar. The Romans, Saxons and Normans from mainland Europe visited, stayed and left their mark.
Until the late industrial revolution in the 19th century, Hartfield would have been a typical rural collection of hamlets dependant upon farming. But although this has been true, including during much of the 20th century, Hartfield has played a surprisingly industrial role in the past. The Romans were the first to mine iron ore in the area. Then, in the 13th century, the Sheriff of Sussex called upon the County's Ironmasters to provide King Henry III with 30,000 horse-shoes and 60,000 nails. Towards the end of the 15th century an iron founder of Hartfield, Peter Robert, secured a lease to take as much wood as necessary from the Forest in exchange for an annual rent of £20, or 6 tons of iron.
A William Camden visited the Weald towards the end of the 16th century. He found it, "full of iron mines in sundry places", with "furnaces on every side . . to which purpose diverse brookes an many places are brought to runne in one chanell, and sundry meadowes turned into pooles and waters, that they might bee of power sufficient to drive hammer milles". He was shocked at the way "a huge deale of wood is yearly spent". Yet what startled Camden almost as much was the noise. The hammers, "beating upon the iron, resound all over the places adjoining".
During the later part of the 20th century the slow increase in car ownership has seen the latest transformation of the rural community. First of all, as farming has declined, many of the 2,000 or so residents commuted out of the village to the urban town and city centres between London to the north and in neighbouring Kent and West Sussex. Then, as the realisation that Hartfield is the centre of Pooh Country, hundreds of thousands of people visit the village in their search for the "Enchanted Places".
Tourism is regarded as one of England's major industries. Within about a half hours drive from Hartfield there are over 70 visitor attractions. The boost to local economies has kept some of these small commuting communities alive by helping to support their village stores and schools. Sadly, many Post Offices and village schools have been lost, railways have closed and bus services have declined.
Hartfield is surviving. Farm buildings are being converted in to offices and business units. Sunday bus services have recently been reintroduced and although the branch lines seem closed forever, the Railway Stations at Tunbridge Wells and East Grinstead are making efforts, together with the bus companies, to ferry visitors, without cars, to Hartfield. As we move into the 21st century Hartfield remains - at the heart of Pooh Country.
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