After years of preparation, England’s newest long-distance walking trail has opened.
Over a hundred walkers set foot along the 75-miles of the National Forest Way to celebrate its launch last weekend.
The trail uses existing public footpaths and some private land to explore the length and breadth of The National Forest, linking the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and Beacon Hill Country Park in Leicestershire.
Split into 12 sections, the trail is accessible to walkers of all abilities.
Leaflets, signs and online information accompany each section of the walk, leading walkers through young and ancient woodlands, hidden valleys and along canal towpaths. It visits the market town of Ashby de la Zouch and celebrates the industrial heritage of this changing landscape at the heart of the Midlands.
Walkers will witness the area’s evolution from a rural landscape, through industrialisation and its decline, to the modern-day creation of a new forest.
Chief Executive of the National Forest Company, Sophie Churchill, said, “The National Forest Way takes walkers through our new wooded landscapes, through ancient forest, the former industrial heritage, farmland, villages, rivers and reservoirs – all framed by woodland.”
Richard Drakeley, Tourism Development & Promotions Officer for the National Forest Company, said, “As well as planting over 8 million trees since the early 1990s, many different wildlife habitats have been created, all adding to the experience of walking through this unique mix of rural and post-industrial landscape.
“Whether you walk it in one go, or in stages, the National Forest Way is going to be a great one to chalk up.”
Work began on The National Forest in the 1990s. The aim was to link up the ancient woodlands of Needwood and Charnwood, across 200 miles of the country’s least wooded regions in order to create habitats for wildlife, a woodland economy and a landscape for everyone to enjoy.
Find out more about the National Forest Way and plan your route on the website.
Photograph: ©2020VISION/Ben Hall – Daybreak over Beacon Hill, Leicestershire