Walking the National Forest Way: a stroll amid a transformed Midlands

It’s the time of year to check out the bluebell woods of England’s National Forest, which stretches over the former mining fields of Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. We take it stage by stage, with stops for food and sleep

The National Forest, now more than a quarter of a century old, is the result of a need for regeneration after the end of mining, and the desire to transform one of the UK’s least-wooded areas into a wild and wonderful expanse for exploration. In a sense it is an effort to reconnect with the past, a past before men and machinery extracted coal and clay from this land in the Midlands – 200 square miles of it – in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire.

When the first tree was planted in 1991 this became the country’s first new forest in more than a thousand years. At that time only 6% of the area had forest cover; 26 years on and that figure is 20%. Eight and a half million trees and 16,500 acres later and the National Forest links the ancient forests of Needwood in Staffordshire and Charnwood in Leicestershire. It also offers an array of activities and attractions, plus accommodation at hotels, farms, cabins and campsites.

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