Local is best for Sherwood Forest visitor centre
The finishing touches are currently being added to the new Sherwood Forest visitor centre, in preparation for opening later on this month.
The new centre will aim to give a big boost for the local economy once open, and is already making its mark. Contractors, Woodhead Construction, are based in Edwinstowe, just a stone’s throw from the new centre, and have revealed that more than 90% of the spend has been within a 40-mile radius of the site.
The RSPB-led partnership includes Sherwood Forest Trust, Thoresby Estate and the Woodland Trust, working together with Nottinghamshire County Council, who provided £4 million towards the cost of the project. Besides partners, other funders included D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, who gave £500,000, and the Garfield Weston Foundation.
Ross Frazer, RSPB project manager, said he was delighted that so many local workers and resources have been used whenever possible in the project, which is costing more than £5 million.
“I’m sure everyone connected to this area will be delighted to see these figures, and we’ll hope to continue in this vein going forwards when we open.”
Andy Stamford, Woodhead’s site manager, said a lot of time and effort went into ensuring that so much of the build was resourced locally.
“Woodheads is a local family firm, committed to this area, so I think everyone who has been involved in this project has a great deal to be proud of. It’s not just a wonderful looking building but a great asset for this area.”
Nottinghamshire County Councillor, John Cottee, Chairman of the Communities and Place Committee, said he was delighted by the news.
“After many years of work trying to establish a new Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre, I am thrilled that this has finally come to fruition and is almost ready to open.
“Working with our new partners, the RSPB and their consortium, I believe this facility will help Nottinghamshire to realise the true potential of the Legend of Robin Hood, in terms of increasing tourism and promoting the County on an international stage.”
These last few weeks of work include fitting out the new shop and kitchen and stocking both, and adding interpretation details around the site, which help bring to life the forest’s wonderful stories, from Robin Hood to ancient oak trees and wildlife.
Plans to landscape the area around the new centre have had to be put on hold temporarily, due to the unusually hot and dry weather this summer.
Ross explained: “Our landscape architects took the decision last week to not go ahead with the planting, having looked at the longer term weather, and advice about water conservation.
“It is a shame that the new centre won’t be surrounded by the wonderful greenery we had planned at the point we open, but it was the only sensible option, given that we need to be conserving water where we can.
“Our soil here is very sandy and doesn’t retain much moisture, so new plants would require a lot of water to help them bed in, and then survive this hot spell. We hope visitors will understand why we’ve chosen to wait, and look past the unplanted areas to our wonderful new building!”
As well as the new shop and café, the centre also includes a terrace, an outdoor amphitheatre and a new Robin Hood-themed playground, designed with the help of children.
Staff working on site and at the old visitor centre, which closed on July 23, have now transferred across to the new centre, where they’ve begun training, and all the preparation needed to open.
Robin Hood Festival
The centre will be ready in time for August 27 – which is the start of the Robin Hood Festival, when the new consortium will officially welcome the public to the new centre and the popular week-long event.
Gemma Howarth, RSPB’s senior site manager, said: “We felt the festival would be a fitting way for many people to enjoy their first visit to the new centre – bringing together the legends of old with our wonderful modern new building.
“We're really excited about hosting our first Robin Hood Festival. We know how well-loved the event is, and want to ensure we maintain all the things people enjoy so much about the festival, whilst also adding in a few new attractions. Robin himself will be battling with the Sheriff of Nottingham,and there will be lots of activities for children and families including storytelling, medieval music and performances happening at different times throughout the day.”
As the new centre opens, the old 1970’s visitor centre and car parks will be removed, and the site where they stand returned to nature.
For more information about the new building, opening events and the Robin Hood Festival, please see www.visitsherwood.co.uk