TV presenter returns to Sherwood to celebrate the opening of new visitor centre

Mike Dilger, the wildlife presenter on the BBC’S One Show made a welcome return to Sherwood Forest to officially open the new visitor centre! Mike, a naturalist who has become a regular on the nation’s TV screens thanks to his wildlife features on the popular BBC1 family show, began his conservation career in the county, working for the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers after graduating from Nottinghamshire University.

“One of my jobs whilst I was working there as a Conservation Volunteer Coordinator was to put up a new fence around the Major Oak, so it’s a location I know well and as such is a place close to my heart. I’m delighted to be returning, and cannot wait to see the new visitor centre and find out more about the future plans for this special forest,” said Mike.

The Thoresby team went to visit the new visitor centre last week and was amazed by the new building, from the layout to the extra facilities put in place such as lifts and disabled beds in the toilets. They have thoroughly thought through the planning of the new visitor centre to enhance visitors experience from the moment you park up to the moment you first walk through the doors. The potential for events on site is huge and we can’t wait to see whats in the pipeline!

Fun Fact: Thoresby Park is a partner in the centre and owns the site and large areas of Sherwood Forest including the Major Oak and more!

The facility, which cost more than £5 million, was completed in August following a year-long build.  The building and the National Nature Reserve are managed by an RSPB-led partnership which 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.

The new centre opened to the public this summer, in time to host the 34th annual Robin Hood Festival, but the event which took place on 4th October was a chance for many dignitaries and businesses who have supported the project to have a look at the building.

Gemma Howarth, RSPB senior site manager, said she is looking forward to seeing the team which helped bring the project to life come together to celebrate the official opening.

“Whilst the last 12 months of building has been a huge focus for us, the project dates back much further than this, and includes years of planning to help bring it to fruition,” she said.

“It will be great to see so many of those who played a part in this process to come and see what they helped to create, now the building is complete and operational.  We hope it will be a very enjoyable occasion for all involved.

“We recognise that a project of this ambition needs backing from so many different quarters.  We are especially thankful for the support of the local village residents and groups, and plan to host a community event to celebrate with them a little later in the year.”

Councillor John Cottee, Committee Chairman for Communities and Place, at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “It is a landmark occasion to witness the official opening of the new Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre. As a county council, we have demonstrated our total commitment to the project from the start with our investment of £4m. Our world-famous Sherwood Forest, historic Major Oak and legendary Robin Hood will go from strength to strength following the completion of this scheme.”

Nottinghamshire County Council Leader Councillor Kay Cutts MBE said: “We would like to thank everyone who has worked with us as this exciting project has developed. The official opening is a proud moment and it is inspiring to think that millions of people visiting our iconic Sherwood Forest will enjoy spending time at the visitor centre in the years to come.”

Phil Rose, known to millions as Friar Tuck from the hit TV programme Robin of Sherwood, will be among the guests at the official opening. He starred in the hit TV show, first broadcast in 1984 – the same year the Robin Hood Festival first began – and went on to appear in every episode in all three series of the programme which starred first Michael Praed then Jason Connery as Robin Hood. It also featured Ray Winstone as Will Scarlet. Phil also visited Sherwood to meet visitors at the Robin Hood Festival in 2015.

It was built by local contractors, Woodhead Construction, based in Edwinstowe village, just a few hundred yards from the centre.  It is hoped the new building and operation at Sherwood Forest will provide a boost for the region’s tourism and economy. During construction, more than 90% of the spend was made within a 40-mile radius of the site. The retail and catering operations continue to source as much of their produce locally too.

The centre includes a welcome area, new shop and café, and an outside terrace and amphitheatre. A new Robin Hood-themed playground, designed with the help of local children, is due to be completed imminently.

Now that the new facility is open, work will begin soon to sensitively remove the old visitor centre and car parks, to return the site to nature.  The area is a designated site of special scientific interest, and highly protected, which is why a new location had to be found for a visitor facility.

For more information about the new building and future events, please see www.visitsherwood.co.uk