Wealden is the largest district in East Sussex covering 323 sq. miles. It is home to over 158,900 residents and 8,600 businesses and is just thirty miles south of London.
Half the population live in the five market towns of Crowborough, Hailsham, Heathfield, Polegate and Uckfield. The remainder live within the villages and hamlets amongst some of the most attractive countryside in the South East of England. Wealden has a vibrant mix of urban and rural locations and shares its boundaries with six neighbouring local authorities stretching from just south of Tunbridge Wells (Kent) in the north to the boundary with Eastbourne in the south - a distance of some 30 miles.
Wealden District is the second most important contributor to the East Sussex visitor economy, in terms of total business turnover and the number of jobs it supports.
The core appeal is the incredible lifestyle and work/life balance it offers and the beautiful, varied and natural landscapes from coastal cliffs, beaches and countryside to ancient woodland, forests and heathland.
Communities across Wealden contain many innovative companies, home-based rural businesses and exciting enterprises. These come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from self-employed dog groomers through to companies manufacturing precision parts.
A profusion of local craftsmen, artists and writers have found inspiration in Wealden - AA Milne, dramatist, novelist, journalist and children’s writer, who made Ashdown Forest famous as the place where the Winnie the Pooh stories were written; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, novelist and writer of detective fiction and science fiction, is world famous for the Sherlock Holmes stories, and Lee Miller, the American fashion model, portraitist, surrealist and WWII war correspondent who lived with Roland Penrose, the artist at Farley Farm, where Picasso stayed.
Wealden is classified as one of the most rural districts in England. Small and micro businesses form a fundamental part of the Wealden economy with 91% of businesses in Wealden employing less than 9 people (2015).
Many small businesses are run by those who are self-employed or who work from home, ranging from a window-cleaner or plumber or in small premises or retail outlets through to high-tech manufacturing firms. The main industries are food & drink, construction, creative and digital, engineering & manufacturing, and leisure and tourism.
Entrepreneurs looking for an alternative to urban living are attracted to Wealden because of the beautiful countryside and change of lifestyle.
There are many positive aspects to starting a rural business including the quality of life and high staff loyalty.
Visitors to Wealden are now spending over £300 million a year making the most of the beautiful, varied and unspoilt landscapes. Wine tourism is a growing market and is becoming ever more important, with Wealden emerging as a key area for viticulture due to its favourable climate, geography and soil.
There are around 18 vineyards covering a total area of approximately 365 acres in Wealden and given the environmental and landscape sensitivities, the district's emphasis is on developing a responsible tourism product with sustainability playing a key role.
Many award-winning producers are based in Wealden including Fox & Fox, Bluebell, Davenport, Rathfinny, Henners, Blackboys and Off the Line.
The research, analysis and assessment suggests that wine-related tourism is an emerging product that has the potential to contribute to strengthening the region as a tourism destination which appeals to a variety of market segments.
The 2017 Economic Impact for Wealden Tourism produced the following key results
Wealden is an emerging viticultural area due to favourable climate, geography and soils.
Polegate is a town (8 km) north of the seaside resort of Eastbourne. Its Chaucer Industrial Business Park Estate is located on Dittons Road where the major part of Polegate's industrial businesses is located.
Crowborough is the highest inland town in East Sussex, set within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and bordering the Ashdown Forest. Crowborough is a bustling place, with excellent supermarkets and numerous small, independent retailers, restaurants and cafes.
Heathfield is in the heart of East Sussex almost equidistant from Tunbridge Wells and Eastbourne: approximately 16 miles (26 km). Historically, Heathfield lay on an ancient trackway (The Ridgeway), connecting the South Downs with the Weald. The annual Heathfield Agricultural Show takes place every May.
The largest market town in Wealden. The livestock market, together with the monthly Farmers Market and Friday Stall Markets, continue to serve the town and the wider rural economy. Swallow Business Park is located approximately 1.5 miles west of Hailsham with direct access to the A22.
Uckfield is a growing town, located between East Sussex’s coastal towns and Ashdown Forest this Wealden town is gaining in popularity.250 new homes have been built including 15 per cent affordable housing. Prices are much more affordable compared nearby Haywards Heath.
East Sussex County Council, Wealden District Council and Pub is the Hub are working together to encourage and support pubs who want to grow and expand into new services for their communities. Pub is the Hub is not-for-profit organisation supporting rural pubs that are thinking of broadening their range of services.
They encourage licensees, communities, pub owners, breweries, local authorities and the private sector to work together to match community needs with additional services which can be provided by the local pub.
The Roebuck Inn is the only pub in the village of Laughton, in East Sussex. It specialises in local produce and ales and was previously closed for two years before an extensive refurbishment. The pub has a large hall which was previously operated as a cabaret venue, with a sprung dance floor which was installed by the Canadian Airforce who were stationed nearby during the war. The area has a long association with the arts, Lee Miller’s home is nearby along with Charleston House, the country home of the Bloomsbury set, and Glyndebourne Opera House.
Pub is The Hub has supported the development of live theatre and performance at the pub with a grant from its Community Services Fund towards the creation of an adaptable, movable stage in the hall. Along with Pub is The Hub, licensees Tony Leonard & Dominic McCartan are working with Applause Rural Touring and Inn Crowd in the provision of high quality touring theatre, music and literary projects at the Roebuck.