The Sherwood Forest Trust – the only charity entirely focussed on Sherwood Forest – is 25 years old this November.
From the time of William the Conqueror Sherwood Forest was a Royal Hunting Forest – a playground for the medieval kings – and at its peak stretched over most of Nottinghamshire west of the Trent. But by the early 20th century it had dwindled to only a shadow of its former size. The coal beneath the forest brought mining, industry and jobs – but at the expense of nature.
Through two world wars the Forest was used by the Army for training troops, to hide huge amounts of ordnance and ammunition, even as a secret oilfield. That even fragments of the Forest’s former heath and ancient woodland survived is perhaps a miracle.
In the 1990s, Nottinghamshire County Council and the major landowners, charities and agencies working in the area recognised that if action wasn’t taken, the special heathland, woodland and grassland nature habitats that had developed over centuries were in danger of disappearing – along with the local history and heritage of this iconic landscape. The fruit of much discussion was the Sherwood Forest Trust – initially housed within the County Council but emerging eventually as a completely independent charity.
Like all charities the fortunes of the Trust have waxed and waned. In the heady days of the early 2000s it co-ordinated The Sherwood Initiative, a £5.5M project funded by the Heritage Lottery, combining practical ‘grassroots’ nature conservation with with heritage projects and organising local events and festivals to strengthen Sherwood Forest communities which were struggling with the economic effects of a dying coal industry.
A slimmer, leaner Sherwood Forest Trust later continued the work, still achieving major successes such as planting more trees than any other charity participating in the national Trees for School project in (Date?) and working with a local volunteer group and district council to get Local Nature Reserve status – and then win a prestigious “Green Flag” award – for Oaktree Heath, a once neglected piece of ancient heathland on Mansfield’s urban fringe.
The Trust created popular annual events such as the Major Oak Woodland Festival, where dozens of craftspeople set up stall in the leafy glades of Robin Hood’s former stamping ground to demonstrate traditional woodland crafts. Improvements to footpaths, education packs for schools, support for volunteer conservation groups and funding a major community archaeology project at King John’s Palace in Clipstone were amongst many achievements.
But as the Sherwood Forest Trust moves into its 26th year, how does a small but passionate local charity weather the storm of Covid?
Chief Executive Patrick Candler explains the challenge:
“In normal times autumn would be our most productive time of year, starting with the Major Oak Woodland Festival and the beginning of the tree planting season. In every past year we’ve been able to fund a tree planting or heathland restoration programme with the help of sponsorship from local businesses. This year, businesses are struggling and managers distracted. Even setting up a meeting to discuss sponsorship is difficult.
“Outdoor events, normally a great place to meet people, sign up new volunteers and raise donations, are cancelled or on hold.
“Fortunately we can still work with schools. Suzie, our project Officer on our latest heritage project “Spirit of Wartime Sherwood” helped two classes experience a “WW2 Evacuees Day” – reliving how wartime children from the cities were relocated to the country. She’s now working on how to offer the day to home educated children who don’t normally get the chance to participate.
“And we’re very grateful to the national Lottery Heritage Fund, who helped us through a critical time with an emergency grant.
The Trust has made two short videos highlighting its work and why Sherwood Forest is important.
“Check them out,” Patrick urges. “With local support Sherwood Forest and the Sherwood Forest Trust will still be around in another 25 years. Donations, sponsorship and support are the birthday present we most hope for.”
Why Sherwood Forest Is Special
About the Sherwood Forest Trust (with subtitles)
Contact: Dr Patrick Candler, Chief Executive, The Sherwood Forest Trust, tel. 07876 806646
Back to all