Minor British Institutions: The National Forest

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Not to be confused with the New Forest or the National Trust, though it shares things with both, the National Forest is 20 years old this year. Its 200 square miles and 7 million trees cover a swathe of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire, delivering many of those old coal-mining areas back to their pre-industrial past. After all, a thousand years ago almost all of England was covered in trees, the woods forming the original fossil fuel and building materials for the first phase of national economic development.

The acorn of the idea was a 1987 proposal from the Countryside Commission for an environmentally sustainable, partly commercial forest to be created in the Midlands. The first sapling was planted in 1990 and ever since the forest has been transforming this chunk of middle England. It is sponsored by the Government and supported by private companies and individuals: one case where people have been able to see the wood for the trees.