Transforming Landscapes

Transforming landscapes from black to green. 

One of the key aims of the National Forest is landscape transformation. When we began, much of the area now covered by the Forest had been left scarred by decades of coal, clay and gravel extraction. While these industries had built the local economy, their decline left areas of un-restored land that blotted the landscape.

Working with our partners, old collieries and quarries have been transformed from barren post-industrial landscapes into thriving green spaces full of wildlife and places to enjoy. Collieries have become country parks, quarries have become wetland wildlife havens and disused railway lines now provide off-road cycling routes.

This transformation is driven not just by a need to repair our natural environment, but also to improve the lives of local communities. People’s living and working environments have been improved, giving them more opportunities to relax in the fresh air, live more healthy lifestyles and engage with nature. 

Though our landscape is certainly looking greener, it doesn't mean our work has stopped. We're always looking for more opportunities to restore scarred land and repair our environment, as well as ensuring that we never lose touch with what once was here. Celebrating the landscape change and ensuring our heritage is always kept alive, whether through storytelling, arts, or song. 

Ashby Canal

The Ashby Canal opened in 1804, but by the 1940s it had largely become derelict with parts of it having been filled in, others affected by mining subsidence. With the creation of the National Forest came a renewed push to restore the canal and, between 1999 and 2005, the section from Moira to Donisthorpe was restored and rewatered. It now hosts the annual Ashby Canal Festival.

Hicks Lodge Cycle Centre

Hicks Lodge, outside of Moira, was worked for clay and coal at various times between the 1930s and 1990s. Throughout all this, a woodland called Fox Covert was protected, even being temporarily isolated on its own cliff in the 1990s. In total, an area equivalent to 164 football pitches was excavated up to a depth of 200 feet! But, in the early 2000s, the site was restored to woodlands, lakes and grasslands. It is now the site of Hicks Lodge Cycling Centre and is a local hotspot for wildlife.

Sence Valley 

Between 1982 to 1996, the land between Ibstock and Heather formed part of a large opencast colliery covering 186 hectares. After extracting 8 million tonnes of coal from the site, part of the site was restored as a country park. 98,000 trees were planted across 60 hectares and a network of lakes created along the River Sence. It is now a popular local park supporting a rich variety of wildlife including otters.

Swadlincote Woodlands 

Situated in the heart of Swadlincote, it is easy to forget that this 35 hectare woodland park was once a landfill and opencast colliery. It was restored in the mid-1990s and has seen the planting of over 40,000 trees, together with the creation of new ponds, meadows and a network of footpaths. It now offers a play area, picnic site and an orienteering course. A walk up the hill gives spectacular views overlooking the town and Trent Valley beyond.

Farm to Forest 

While the most spectacular transformations have been to old collieries and quarries, much of the National Forest has been created on farmland. While we are careful to make sure that food production remains the priority, there have been many opportunities for farmers to create new woodlands and habitats on their land. A great example is the Grange Wood estate near to Overseal, where the landowners used our Changing Landscape Scheme to convert over 40 hectares of intensively managed arable land into new woodland, grassland and the restoration of a historic parkland.

Get involved and make a difference 

From keeping heritage alive to helping us care for woodlands, we need people like you to help us continue to transform landscapes. See how you can get involved or support us by donating.

Heart of the Forest


Support us monthly