The National Forest
One of the most ambitious and imaginative environmental projects of today, the National Forest covers 200 square miles of the English Midlands. It spans stretches of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire and incorporates the towns of Burton upon Trent, Coalville, Ashby de la Zouch and Swadlincote.
The National Forest is transforming, ecologically and economically, an area badly scarred by past mineral workings which was also one of the least wooded areas in the country. At the outset of the project in the early 1990s, woodland covered only 6% of the land there. Ten years later it had doubled – with about 500 new woods on 3,100 hectares. The goal is that woodland will clothe a third of the region, a third will remain in agriculture while the rest will be the towns and villages. 30 million trees (60% broadleaf; 40% conifer) will be planted in all. Land in the National Forest remains in the ownership of the private and public sector landowners.
The National Forest Company was set up in 1995 to spearhead the creation of The National Forest. It receives funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The prime purpose of the small NFC staff is, in partnership with others, to facilitate the Government’s commitment to create this new forest for the nation. This involves working closely with a wide range of partners which include public sector organisations such as the local authorities, commercial and voluntary organisations and the local community itself – and includes the Royal Forestry Society. Over 4 million trees have been planted to date.
The most commonly planted broadleaf species are English oak and ash with an increasingly large proportion of poplar. Conifers planted are primarily Corsican and Scots pine. It will take 30 to 40 years to reach the final target. However, the eventual aim is for it to be an evolving, working and sustainable forest with an ongoing planting programme.
The National Forest concept is attracting international attention. Its highly innovative work is:
- changing the landscape – 900 hectares of former mineral workings and derelict land have been restored to woodland, water features and open land for recreation.
- attracting millions of pounds of inwards investment via regeneration partnerships involving the Forest and creating new jobs.
- providing new or revitalising old visitor attractions and recreation facilities for the 200,000 residents and 10 million people who live within an easy drive of the National Forest.
- developing tremendous chances to enhance and create a wide spectrum of wildlife habitats offering many novel learning facilities for all ages.
- providing the environmental benefits of all trees – a planetary air-conditioning system, carbon sinks, leisure and pleasure, the renewable timber products we all use, diverse wildlife habitats and a general sense of well-being associated with the strength, endurance and gracefulness of trees and woodlands.