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Forestry Minister at National Forest Forum

Thursday, 31st March 2011

Jim Paice, MP visited The National Forest and planted a tree at the new National Forest Cycle Centre

Jim Paice, MP, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, addressed an audience of over 100 people at the National Forest Forum, held on 31 March at Conkers Discovery Centre, Moira, Leicestershire.

The Future of The National Forest, a forum for friends and partners, was one of the periodic major meetings of The National Forest’s wider community. The Minister spoke warmly of the success of the Forest and its inspiration as a model for involving communities in their local environment.  He was particularly impressed, as was the whole audience, with the two volunteers who gave presentations, John Macdonald and Paige McWilliams, who both give their time to look after the Forest and encourage others to do so as well.

There was also news about exciting new developments in the Forest.  National Forest Company Chair, Dinah Nichols, spoke of the recent progress of the Forest and outlined future plans. Stephen Woolfe, Chair of the National Forest Charitable Trust, announced the change of name from the Heart of the National Forest Foundation to the National Forest Charitable Trust, and outlined plans for the future and the Trust’s work for the long-term care of the Forest with the National Forest Company.

Dinah Nichols said: ‘Despite the turbulence of the past year, I am pleased to report that we are in good heart, with continuing Government support, for which we are very grateful. We have met our target for planting, we are about to open the Cycle Centre with our colleagues in the Forestry Commission, and we have built a strong reputation locally, nationally and internationally.

‘This is actually my last day as Chair of the National Forest Company and the last six years have flown by. My final words would be to encourage everyone to keep asking themselves: “What can the Forest do for me, for my business, for my organisation?” and let us work in partnership to achieve new things together. Equally, please ask: “What is it that I can do to help create a healthy, beautiful and self-sustaining place, The National Forest, for future generations?” I know we will all rise to the challenge of taking care of this wonderful green asset which is being created - and enjoy ourselves greatly in doing so.’

Stephen Woolfe said: ‘Our charity has worked in partnership for over 13 years in transforming the heart of The National Forest from dereliction into a woodland park with Conkers in its midst.  In so doing, we have always enjoyed an excellent collaboration with the National Forest Company.

‘With our charitable status we are delighted to be working ever more closely with the Company, collaborating on the long term creation and care of the whole National Forest. 

‘To these ends we are now known as the National Forest Charitable Trust helping to create a woodland legacy for generations to come.’

After time for questions, the Minister had the opportunity to see Hicks Lodge, the new National Forest Cycle Centre, which is due to open in June. The £1.5 million centre includes a bike hire shop, visitor centre and café and eight miles of new off-road cycling trails. The smart new timber and glass visitor centre uses environmentally-friendly technology, including a wood chip boiler, solar panels and rainwater harvesting. The Minister planted a silver birch tree, the first of the landscaping trees on the site, accompanied by Joanne Cooper (Mayor) and Andrea Robinson (Clerk) of Ashby Woulds Town Council, and Angela Chamberlain (Chair) and Colin Wood of Hicks Lodge Trust.

He also viewed Pick Triangle, a woodland between Conkers Discovery Centre and Albert Village. Pick Triangle is a vantage point from which it is possible to see The National Forest in microcosm: a restored lake, clay workings, new housing and new woodland plantings.

The Minster ended his visit to The National Forest at Rosliston Forestry Centre, where he saw the Visitor Centre, environmentally-sustainable business units, the lottery-funded Herbie garden under construction, and the centralised woodchip-fuelled heating system.