Our history

Our history

In the last 30 years, a quiet revolution has been taking place in these 200 square miles of the Midlands. More than 9.5 million trees have been planted in what was once one of the least wooded parts of the country, steadily expanding and connecting woodland across a previously fragmented landscape.

It was grey, smoke filled, covered in coal dust. People had to wash the nets on their windows every week, because they'd just be covered in coal dust.

Hazel McDowell, Resident

From black to green

Following the closure of the coal mining and clay extraction industries in 1980s, large swathes of the Midlands landscape had been left scarred and derelict, with a loss of community identity and an uncertain future. But a passionate group of people had a vision; the first broadleaf forest to be created at scale in England for over 900 years. A place where woodlands would be at the heart of a revitalised landscape, with trees growing alongside where people lived and worked. 

A story of regeneration

In the late 1980s the government launched a competitive process to identify the location for a new multi-purpose forest. With a groundswell of public support, a landscape in need of change and an ambition to connect the ancient remnant forests of Charnwood and Needwood, the National Forest area was chosen. By 1991, the 200 square mile boundary was agreed and the first trees were planted. 

A place of transformation

From these early beginnings, the idea has been nurtured and grown, supported by partners and successive governments for over three decades. Today, the mines have been restored, the landscape transformed and Forest cover dramatically increased from only 6% of the land area to more than 23%. It is a success story of environmentally-led regeneration, restoring nature, improving the wellbeing of communities and stimulating the green economy.


What has been achieved so far

Over 100km
hedgerows planted
Over 100km
of promoted walks
Over 400
woodlands planted
of new sites
provide access to the public
Over 8,000ha
of habitat transformed
of which 2,500 hectares are non-woodland habitats
9.5 million
trees planted
woodland in active management
78% primary
schools providing regular outdoor learning
community groups managing woodland
tourism-related jobs supported per year

The National Forest will be a key element in this country's response to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. At a global level the Forest is a means of meeting international obligations towards sustainable development and helping to combat global warming.

The First National Forest Strategy. 1994-2004

From green to greenprint

Having restored an industrial landscape, the National Forest now faces its next challenge. Driven by the climate crisis, we urgently need to transition to net zero carbon and accelerate our tree and woodland cover. This means stepping up again with a bold vision and reaching out beyond the National Forest boundary to increase our impact. Our Greenprint vision to 2045 sets out these aspirations, with a strategy to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate and address the environmental, social and economic problems we all face.

Our vision

How you can help

This bold transformation has only been possible by passionate people coming together to support the National Forest. Our vision for the Forest depends so much on the commitment, generosity and support of people like you.

Become a Forest Champion

Help us continue to transform this place into a beacon for sustainability by becoming a regular donor and joining the team that are making change happen. 

Make a donation

Any donation, big or small, helps towards growing a greener, healthier and more sustainable future. 

Plant trees

We believe trees are transformational. Help us plant trees where people live and work by joining us for a planting event or dedicating a tree. 

Grants & Advice

If you are a landowner, business or community group in the Forest, we have grants and advice available to those who want to help continue to transform this place.