The UK’s newest long distance walking trail has launched The trail uses existing public and permissive footpaths to explore the length and breadth of the Forest, through parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire, linking the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and Beacon Hill Country Park in Leicestershire.
Volunteers have been out testing and waymarking the route. “Walking the National Forest Way, you are constantly surprised by the variety of what you see. All England is here: coal and granite, heathland and hills, meadow and water – all framed by woodland.”
Sophie Churchill, Chief Executive of the National Forest Company, added: “This is a very special moment in the development of The National Forest. The new National Forest Way is an expression of how far we have come over the last twenty years and the early days of the Forest. Creating habitats for wildlife, working with communities and our local landowners, building businesses that have grown out of the Forest – all this work is part of what we have achieved in the Forest so far.”
She continued: “The National Forest Way will take walkers through our new wooded landscapes, through ancient forest, the former industrial heritage, farmland, villages, rivers and reservoirs – all framed by woodland.”
The National Forest area covers 200 square miles of the counties of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire. This is part of a plan to increase woodland cover within its boundaries from an initial six per cent to about a third. No multi-purpose forest on this scale has been created in the UK for one thousand years. To date the proportion of woodland cover in the Forest has more than trebled to 19.5 per cent and in 2012 HRH the Duke of Cambridge planted the eight millionth tree in the Forest. Year by year, The National Forest has been steadily turning what was once one of the least wooded areas of England into a multi-purpose, sustainable forest.
The National Forest provides environmental, social and economic benefits, including landscape enhancement, creation of new wildlife habitats and major new access and leisure opportunities. It is an excellent example of sustainable development – with environmental improvement providing a stimulus both to economic regeneration and to community pride and activity.
For more information on The National Forest see www.nationalforest.org