Annual report reveals 9 million trees planted and outdoor learning offers 60% of primary schools support during the pandemic

10th Jan 2022

We are pleased to announce that in the most challenging year for a generation, the National Forest was able to present a positive view of the future through the excellent results published in our recent Annual Report, covering the year 2020/21. 

Outdoor learning


The National Forest has come into its own throughout the pandemic and our repeated lockdowns. The more than 200,000 people who live in the Forest have been able to find solace and exercise in the many young and established woodlands that comprise the National Forest throughout its 200 square miles. Three decades of tree planting in and around where people live and work, has meant that woodlands and green space were easily available to people, just when they needed them. 

The latest annual report highlights the role the Forest has played supporting people through the challenges of Covid-19, providing woodlands to exercise in close to home, and outdoor spaces for primary school children to learn in safely, reconnect to the natural world and offer a boost for their mental health.  

After three decades of Forest creation, we reached our 9 millionth tree milestone during this year. Lockdown restrictions meant the celebrations for the 9 millionth tree had to be virtual, but with the help of Aardman Animations and Shaun the Sheep the planting event was hugely popular, with the nation’s favourite outdoors character planting the tree in a specially created video.  

More than 60% of primary schools in the Forest are now delivering regular outdoor learning sessions for their students, supported by schools' networks facilitated by the NFC and many being funded by the NFC to train staff and prepare their grounds as outdoor woodland classrooms. This is a massive achievement, especially in the light of all that schools have been through in the past year. But head teachers say how much outdoor learning can help with children’s mental health and social development, both of which are invaluable in these continuing challenging times. 

We have achieved several notable milestones with more than 200 hectares of forest creation achieved during the year, woodlands in management reached 82% (less than 60% nationally), and 80% of all new habitats providing public access for communities in the Forest. We were able to launch a new habitat enhancement grant to support biodiversity, due to a new partnership with Severn Trent. Woodland owners and landowners who are interested to know more can find further information here

John Everitt, chief executive of the NFC, said: “I am proud that the National Forest presents a positive view of the future, for a greener, healthier and more sustainable planet. The Forest has played an important role to support people through the challenges of Covid-19, providing greenspace to exercise close to home, outdoor spaces to retreat to safely, and reconnection with the natural world to boost mental health.”  

John went on to thank the partner organisations that work with the National Forest: “It is clear that whilst Covid19 has been the immediate threat, climate change remains the most pressing issue of our time and only through such collaboration with partners will we be able to create the positive future we all need.”  

Ian Duncan, chair of the NFC, said: “I believe the National Forest’s demonstration role is now more important than ever as the country looks to make the right changes to policy, investment and decision making that can spark a green recovery. Tree planting is rightly taking centre stage with the government’s new Trees Action Plan and Nature for Climate Fund, as well as intense international effort and scrutiny on carbon. Here, the National Forest is well placed to showcase both innovation and best practice, with a model that can deliver multifunctional outcomes while ensuring value for money for the public purse.”  

You can read the full Annual Report 2020/21 here.