By Dulcie Flegg
Perfectly situated in the centre of England, the National Forest covers 200 square miles, spread over Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Although the forest is only 25 years old, over 8.5 million trees have been planted, creating over 400 beautiful woodland areas for the adventurer to discover.
What hidden treasures can be found in the National Forest?
National Trust Stoneywell Cottage is built in Arts and Crafts style and is very well hidden away in a quiet valley, surrounded by woodland and nature. The grounds themselves include a large vegetable patch and croquet lawn, as well as woodland walks. Visitors can relax with some homemade cake and a nice cup of tea on the lawns by the little teashop.
Century theatre is Britain’s oldest surviving travelling theatre, and is designed to be completely mobile. It was created by an engineer called John Ridley, and was funded privately, with donations from a number of celebrities, including “Noddy” writer Enid Blyton, and detective novel author Agatha Christie. This mobile theatre was forced off the road after a change of legislation in the 1970s. It was initially sited in the Lake District, before moving to its home in Coalville in the National Forest in 1996. Today it is used for a wide range of community theatre and entertainment events.
Moira Furnace is one of the best preserved blast furnaces in the country. It's life as a working furnace was short-lived and it was used as housing for mining families between the 1850s and 1970s. The furnace sits by a restored section of the Ashby Canal, close to the Conkers Visitor Centre.
The Sir John Moore School, which is tucked away in the village of Appleby Magna, is actually used as the local primary school. The rest of the large Grade 1 listed building is used by the local community for various events, including a food fair every August. The building was originally created by Sir Christopher Wren for Sir John Moore, who later became Mayor of London!
Melbourne Hall was home to Lord Melbourne, the namesake for Melbourne in Australia. The gardens are open to the public and are home to some of the oldest yew trees in the country. Discover the pet cemetery area, enjoy a rose-lined path that comes alive with scent in the Summer time, and of course, the trees are stunning in the autumn. The surrounding hall yard is home to many crafts businesses and a cafe.
Mount St Bernard Abbey has recently become the only brewer of Trappist beer in the UK, joining an elite band of only 11 other breweries worldwide. The Abbey, set within the rolling countryside of Charnwood, is the only Cistercian monastery in England. Visitors are welcome to wander around the grounds and the church and can of course buy the beer -Tynt Meadow English Trappist Ale.
5 Noon Column Sculptures by sculptor David Nash stand in different parts of the National Forest. Carved from oak, each is slightly different to reflect the varied landscape and history of the National Forest. Several are well hidden in the Forest, ensuring a true adventure!
So with all of this and much more to discover, such as the Battlefield Steam Railway, Breedon Church and Bradgate Park, there is something in the National Forest for everyone; from the avid adventurer, to the laid back holiday maker, you are guaranteed to have a magical time. Come discover the hidden treasures for yourself!