New research reveals that a record 8.7 million visitors came to the National Forest UK in 2017. As the total number of trees planted in the National Forest since the early 1990s now stands at 8.7 million, that’s effectively one tree per visitor.
Twenty-five years ago, large areas of the Midland’s landscape had been left scarred by centuries of coal mining and other heavy industry. But a passionate group of people had a vision: a forest. The first forest to be created at scale in England for over 1000 years, it transformed and literally turned the landscape from black to green.
National Forest spans across parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire and aims to link the two ancient Forests of Charnwood and Needwood. Its main towns and villages include Burton upon Trent (famous for brewing), Coalville and Swadlincote (formerly associated with the coal mining industry) and the historic town of Ashby de la Zouch.
Thanks to the passion for conservation, here you can see snowdrops at Dimminsdale Nature Reserve, carpets of bluebells at Lodge Hill Bluebells at Yoxall, marvel at the veteran oaks at Calke Park, their tiny buds brown as a hare, the dusty yellow hazel catkins, or tiny ruby flowers of the alder. Look for kingfishers at the National Memorial Arboretum, Sence Valley Forest Park or skimming at the edges of the reservoirs in the Forest.
Visitor numbers have increased by 6.4% on the previous year, exceeding the average increase nationally, while the value of tourism to the Forest has also increased to £428m, sustaining more than 5,000 jobs for the first time.
John Everitt, Chief Executive, National Forest Company, said: “Tourism is the fastest-growing sector for the UK, and here in the heart of the country we are demonstrating how the creation of the National Forest is growing the economy as well as improving the environment and people’s wellbeing. Where better to experience all the benefits of getting outdoors and being amongst trees and woodlands, than in a Forest that is easily accessible to 10 million people in our Midlands conurbations.”
The figures demonstrate excellent progress towards the Plan’s goal of increasing spend and jobs by 15%.
The first expression of this ambition was the inaugural Timber festival in the National Forest UK, held in July this year. Over 4,000 people attended the three day camping festival, which was held amongst woodlands just outside Ashby de la Zouch and celebrated the transformative impact of trees and forests through the story of the National Forest.
Local craft ale and street food providers added to a lively programme of music, arts, talks and woodland activities, and local accommodation providers enjoyed extra business where festival-goers chose not to camp.