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Charnwood, a National Forest

Cademon Wood by Douglas Maas The National Forest’s varied landscape includes rolling hills, the ancient forests of Charnwood and Needwood, rock outcrops, parkland, rivers, canals, and lakes. The forest covers 200 square miles with parts of Leicestershire, Staffordshire, and Derbyshire included and encompasses more than seven million trees.
Charnwood Museum by Dave Bevis Morley quarry pre-Cambrian rocks by Sue Hutton

In Charnwood Forest the precambrian rocks are 700 million years old. Bardon hill, Leicestershire, is the highest point in Charnwood rising to 278 metres. From the top, on a clear day, you can see up to 15 counties and 5000 square miles. The river Soar running through the forest has a legend associated with it. It is said that King Lear is buried in a vault beneath the river.

There are forest activities for all ages. A Conkers Discovery Centre for families offers indoor and outdoor activities themed around the woods and the environment. A maize maze near Burton upon Trent has bridges, towers, and a quiz.

Bradgate Park scenery by Barbara Ballard A pack of circular walks from 3 to 22 miles long is available from tourist information centres in Burton upon Trent, Swadlincote, and Ashby de la Zouch. Several are wheelchair accessible. Bradgate Park in Leicestershire was created from Charnwood Forest around 750 years ago as a hunting park. In the park are the extensive ruins of the red brick Tudor Bradgate House, where Lady Jane Grey was born.

Ashby Castle ruins by Barbara Ballard Calke Abbey by Barbara Ballard There are many places with historical connections to visit within the area encompassed by the forest. These include the market town of Ashby de la Zouch, the town of Repton with its Saxon mausoleum, Tutbury castle (where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner), Swarkestone medieval causeway, Grace Dieu priory, Calke abbey (National Trust), Melbourne Hall gardens, and Catton Hall.

The industrial past can be explored at the Moira Furnace museum, Claymills pumping station, and Sharpe’s pottery museum. Loughborough’s street fair has been held since 1221 when king Henry III granted it a charter.

Facts about The National Forest
(provided courtesy the National Forest)

The 6% wooded cover in the area has been doubled, resulting in some 470 new Forest sites covering 3100 hectares (7660 acres). Four million trees have been planted - the target is for a total of 30 million.

The Forest is contributing to 27 of the UK Sustainable Development Indicators ranging from expansion of woodland cover, public access and improving the health of the population to reversing the decline in woodland & farmland birds.

The Forest population is around 200,000 & 10 million people live within a 90 minutes drive. The growing range of visitor attractions, from stately homes to new woodland sites, is already attracting 5.5 million visitors a year to the area.

890 hectares of former mineral workings and derelict land have been restored to woodland, water features, and open land for recreation.

735 hectares of Forest land is dedicated to nature conservation. The Forest also has its own Biodiversity Action Plan defining those species and habitats it can contribute to the UK Rio Summit commitments.
£35 million of inward investment has been attracted into the area via regeneration partnerships involving the Forest. This has generated some 500 new jobs. Investment through the unique National Forest Tender Scheme for woodland creation amounts to £13 million since 1995, bringing about diversification of land use and farm businesses and strengthening of the rural economy - 44 new jobs have been created while another 15 have been protected.

The 110 acre Outwoods is one of the oldest surviving woodland sites in Charnwood. It stands on some of the oldest rocks in Britain, formed 700 million years ago in the pre-Cambrian era. Rare fossils have been found in these rocks, some of which are in the New Walk Museum in Leicester and Charnwood Museum in Loughborough. Many of the plants growing in the Outwoods, such as cow wheat, pill sedge and sessile oak, are rare elsewhere in the county.

Visitor Information

Burton upon Trent Tourist Information Centre
Horninglow St
Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, DE11 9DG
Tel. 0 1283 508 111

Swadlincote Tourist Information Centre
Sharpe’s Pottery Museum
West St, Swadlincote, Derbyshire, DE11 9DG
Tel. 0 1283 222 848
Web: South Derbyshire District Council

The National Forest
Bath Yard
Moira, Swadlincote, Derbyshire, DE12 6BD
Tel. 0 1283 551 211
Web: National Forest

Bradgate Park
Newton Linford, Leicestershire
Three entrances: main one in Newtown Linford; also Cropston (Hallgates) and Old John (Hunts Hill). Swithland wood has two entrances, north and south.
Tel. 0 116 236 2713
Open: Visitor Centre, summer, Tue-Sun, noon-5pm, in winter weekends only, 1-4pm; Park, year round, dawn to dusk
Pay car parks; picnic areas

Calke Abbey
Ticknall, Derby
Tel. 01332 863 822
Open: House from mid March-end Oct, Mon, Tue, Wed, and Sat and Sun, 12.30-5pm; Garden same days as house from 11am-5pm, except in July to end first week Sep also open daily; restaurant and shop open various hours and days during the year; timed tickets at busy times.
National Trust property. A “frozen in time” baroque mansion built 1701-4, then declined, with interior, contents and collections of Harpur Crewe family intact from 1880s; 18th century state bed; open parkland, walled garden, physic garden, garden buildings; virtual tour.

On B586 Rawdon Road in Moira near Ashby de la Zouch, Derbyshire
Tel. 0 1283 216 633
Open: year round, 10am-6pm in summer; until 4.30pm in winter; Feb half-term open till 5pm; last admission one hour before closing.
Adventure playground; indoor play centre; Discovery Centre with treetop walk and pond activities, touchable exhibits; walks, sculpture and nature trails; train rides; water play; restaurants, shops, plant centre; workshops, craft and music events; ranger led activities
Web: Conkers

Elvaston Castle Country Park
Borrowash Rd (B5010)
Elvaston, Derbyshire
Tel. 0 1332 571 342
Open: year round, grounds 9am to dusk; old English garden open in the summer 10am-4pm, winter until 3.30pm—call first to check; car park open 9am-8pm summer and until 5pm in winter; shop open 11am-4.30pm daily from Easter-Oct and weekends from Nov-March
Former home of earls of Harrington, 250 acre country park and local nature reserve with ponds and reedbed, wet woodland and brook; waymarked walks; bridleway; picnic area; visitor centre with shop; bird hides; events; parking fee

Grace Dieu Priory
A512 Ashby to Loughborough road
Thringstone, Leicestershire
Tel. 0 1530 454 603
Open: daily, dawn to dusk; open site
1239 priory ruins turned into Tudor mansion

Moira Furnace Museum
Furnace Lane, Moira
Tel. 0 1283 224 667
Open: April-end Sep, Tue-Sun, 10am-5pm; Oct-end March, Wed-Sun, 11am-4pm
19th century blast furnace with guided tours of the museum; tea-room; craft workships; country park; narrow boat canal trips

National Brewery Centre Museum
Horninglow St, Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire
Tel. 0 1283 511 000; 0845 600 0598
Open daily 10am-5pm
Historic working micro-brewery, brewery museum with interactive exhibition; shire horse stables, historic vehicle collection; bar restaurant. Formerly called the Bass Museum
Web: National Brewery Centre Museum

National Forest Maize Maze
Postern House Farm, Tatenhill, Burton on Trent, Staffordshire, DE13 9SJ
Tel. 0 1812 333 315
Open: July 15-4 Sep; 10.30am-6pm, last admission one hour before closing.
Three miles of pathways, towers, and bridges in cornfield maze

New Walk Museum and Art Gallery
53 New Walk, Leicester, LE1 7EA
Tel. 0 116 225 4900
Open: daily, Mon-Sat from 10am-5pm, on Sun from 11am-5pm; closed Dec 24-26 and 31 and Jan 1; downstairs art galleries may be closed until noon on certain Saturdays for weddings
Collections of natural and cultural world; exhibitions include Wild Space on biodiversity, dinosaurs, rocks and fossils, ancient Egyptians, world art, and several other art sections; venue for music performances and weddings; limited on-site parking, full wheelchair access; coffee shop

Rosliston Forestry Centre
Burton Rd, Rosliston
Swadlincote, Derbyshire DE12 8JX
Tel. 0 1283 563 483
Open: daily
Meadows, ponds, fishing, play area, guided walks, talks, waterfowl, bats in the summer, owls and kestrels, snowdrops and bluebells, butterflies, conkers; lodges to rent; shop, restaurant; picnic areas, cycle rental; sensory garden
Web: Rosliston Forestry Centre

Tutbury Castle
Castle St
Tutbury, Staffordshire
Tel. 0 1283 812 129
Open: Easter Sun-mid Sep, call for hours
11th century ruined castle

Photos © by Barbara Ballard except courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Cademan Wood, Charnwood forest by Douglas Maas;
Charnwood museum by Dave Bevis;
Outwoods by Max Fascione;
Morley quarry Shepshed precambrian rocks by Sue Hutton

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