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Where is The National Forest?

The National Forest covers 200 square miles in the centre of England, spanning parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire. It incorporates the towns of Burton upon Trent, Coalville, Ashby de la Zouch and Swadlincote. The National Forest is easily accessible from the M1, M42/A42 and the A38.

It is approximately 40 minutes from Birmingham, Derby and Nottingham and Leicester is very close to its boundary on the south eastern side. About 10 million people live within a 90 minute drive of The National Forest.

What is The National Forest and why do we need it?

The purpose of The National Forest is to show that forestry – in all its dimensions – can bring many benefits including and beyond the woods themselves.

In its relatively short life The National Forest has transformed an area badly scarred by past mineral workings, which was also one of the least wooded areas in the country.

The National Forest is an area-based initiative which is now stimulating business, leisure, tourism and educational activity. It also helps to address climate change through trees taking up carbon, landscape change that helps deal with climate change (eg shade through trees) and by producing wood which can replace materials with a heavier carbon footprint.

The National Forest is one of the most ambitious and imaginative sustainable development projects of today. It won the inaugural Sustainable Development UK Award in 2008 recognising that it is ‘much more than trees’.

Who pays for it?

The idea of a new forest for England was proposed by Government as a national project. Central Government, (Defra) provides c£3.5m pa. Additional public sector money is levered in for projects, whilst private sector companies sponsor activity and tree planting. The voluntary sector (eg Wildlife Trusts and Woodland Trusts) draws in its resources to manage some of the woodlands in the Forest.

What is national about The National Forest?

The National Forest is a bold and long term experiment to show how, in lowland England, forestry can be made relevant to the big needs of society in 21st century UK.

It is a national showcase in its scale and breadth of aims, with many aspects of it reflected to different degrees by other initiatives, such as the Community Forests, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the National Parks. It provides a testbed for many aspects of contemporary forestry and environmentally led regeneration.

Its location also makes it a natural venue for individuals and businesses to participate in planting and supporting the Forest, wherever they are based in the UK.

The National Forest welcomes overseas visitors and is a leading UK example under the European Landscape Convention.

Who owns The National Forest and pays for the planting?

Nearly all the woodland in the Forest remains in the ownership of its private and public sector landowners. The National Forest Company itself owns very little land and does not own any of the visitor centres and attractions in The Forest.

Where next for The National Forest?

We are half way to our target of around one third woodland cover. We must continue to create the Forest into the future.

The new Delivery Plan for The National Forest to 2014 was published on 30th March 2009. It has some clear key messages:

  • Keep creating The National Forest: a lower but still ambitious Forest creation target of 200 - 250ha a year, with more linking up of existing woodlands.
  • Make the most of what we've created: a focus on quality in all aspects of the Forest, its sites and its attractions, including management of existing woodlands.
  • Communities at the heart: doing more to ensure that local communities know, love and are involved in their part of the Forest.
  • Telling the story: communicating more to more people, about the big picture for The National Forest and about local sites
  • A national showcase: The National Forest has a lot to tell others about its successes, as well as things it can learn from others

When will The National Forest be finished?

We don’t know for sure. Forests and woods are always evolving and needing care, so you could say it will never be finished. The rate of planting will of course influence when the creation stage is reached. At current rates, (and these vary depending on land coming forward), reaching around a third woodland cover across the 200 square miles would take around 30 years.

Do you take land that could grow food crops?

Yes, sometimes we do. Planting is determined mostly by whether landowners want to put some of their land to trees and sometimes farmers have chosen trees as part of their use. High grade (Grade 2) agricultural land only makes up 10% of the area (no Grade 1); we only plant on higher grade land with the willing consent of land owners.

Around another 15% of the 200 square mile area is required to reach the target and this would have minimal impact on the country’s food production capability.

The National Forest is supported by the Government’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: it is part of the national approach to how the country uses its land, which includes creating good, resilient landscapes in areas of growth pressure, to balance intensive agriculture and other land use.