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A Very Royal Tree: Duke Plants the 8 Millionth Tree in The National Forest

Tuesday, 16th October 2012

Photo Credit: Simon Deacon/Burton Mail

The Duke of Cambridge has planted the 8 millionth tree in The National Forest.

He planted a pin oak in the grounds of St. George’s Park, when he and the Duchess of Cambridge came to The National Forest recently to open the new national football centre near Burton upon Trent.

A scarlet-leaved pin oak was chosen to reflect the red of St George, and the Duke planted it on raised ground between the stunning new training facilities, the education centre and the hotels that form part of the development.

It was a great honour to welcome the Duke and Duchess to the Forest, and even though the day was very much a sporting occasion, they took time to talk about the tree and the setting of St George’s Park in the forest landscape.

The national football centre has been over a decade in the making, and the National Forest Company has worked closely with the Football Association throughout this time to ensure that the design of the new centre made the most of its wonderful setting within the Forest. It lies in the historic landscape of Byrkley Park, the former home of the Bass brewing family, in the ancient forest of Needwood. The development has been made with sensitivity and care to sustain the heritage and wildlife habitats of the Park.

The centre boasts two Wembley size pitches and two hotels - a Hilton and Hampton by Hilton - not to mention a major sports health facility and conference centre. Outside, the Park is graced with many magnificent established trees, and new planting complements the parkland landscape; now its undulations are echoed in the stunning timber, glass and burnished steel architecture of the new national football centre.

Catherine Graham-Harrison, Chair of the National Forest Company, said: “We are delighted and grateful that the Duke of Cambridge has planted such a significant tree in the development of The National Forest, and in such an auspicious setting. It is a remarkable occasion in this very successful sporting year - the opening of a national landmark for one of our best loved sports.

“Ours is a robust forest with plenty of room for kicking a football around – these trees are pretty sturdy! We hope all the guests at the new national football centre will enjoy the magnificent trees in this beautiful park, a gem in the midst of this burgeoning Forest.”

The National Forest is the largest environmentally-led regeneration project in the country. It spans parts of the three counties of Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. Since the early 1990s, thousands of native broadleaf trees – predominantly oak, ash and birch – have been planted each year with farmers, charities, local councils, schools, businesses and individuals throughout the 200 square miles of the Forest.

The National Forest has always been about much more than the trees. Planting trees and creating woodlands can help regenerate communities, create work through tourism and woodland management, improve wildlife habitats, and indeed, human habitats, by providing opportunities for leisure and recreation: where people can walk, cycle, picnic, watch the birds. Trees are essential for our mental and physical well-being.

More than 400 new woodlands have been created or brought back into management since the start of The National Forest, and three times the amount of land has been made publicly accessible, where previously people could not walk or enjoy the outdoors.

Previous ‘millionth’ tree planters have included Jonathon Porritt and John and Irene Cox of Nottingham, a local couple who celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary in 2006 and were invited to plant the 7 millionth tree in the same year.

The planting of the tree at St. George’s Park is significant as it is in line with the 20 year Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) which is being implemented at the site. The action plan has been prepared by the Football Association in consultation with the National Forest Company to provide a framework so that the site can be managed to maintain and promote biodiversity without compromising the primary function of the national football centre.

Photo Credit: Simon Deacon/Burton Mail