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Sence Valley Forest Park

Sence Valley Forest Park landscape in 1997

Sence Valley Forest Park, just outside Ibstock, was once an opencast coal mine. Today it is a well-frequented landscape of woodland and open water that attracts large numbers of bird species, insects and other animals.

Between 1982 and its closure in 1996, this stretch of the Sence Valley was part of a large series of opencast collieries that covered over 186 hectares (or 0.7 square miles). During this time nearly 7 million tonnes of coal were extracted, much of which was used in power stations. But by the mid-1990's the coal industry was in serious decline and the Sence Valley mines had closed. Much of the area was returned to farming but 60 hectares (150 acres) were given to Leicestershire County Council for the creation of the forest park. With support from the National Forest Company, over 98,000 trees were planted in 1998 and Sence Valley Forest Park was born.

Sence Valley Forest Park landscape in 2006

Now the forest park is a mosaic of woodlands, open water and wildflower meadows that is teeming with wildlife. The Forestry Commission, which manages the park, works constantly to make it more attractive to people and wildlife. Recently an artificial nesting wall was created next to the Horseshoe Lake to encourage sand martins. The birds used to nest in piles of sand found on the old opencast site. However, when mining finished, the sand was removed and the martins lost their nesting site. But since the creation of an artificial sand bank, each summer the wall is a blur of motion as they dart in and out of their nests to feed their chicks.