The Forestry Commission has completed a £5 million project to create a host of new visitor attractions and facilities at Alice Holt Forest, near Farnham. The five year investment in the 2,000 acre public forest has seen the addition of a 120 seater café, a purpose built visitor centre, new outdoor activities plus a brand new activity centre opened to visitors today.
The new activity centre, part funded by National Lottery funding through Sport England, will host a range of new activities including yoga and archery. It is also home to cycle and equipment hire including a fleet of brand new “foot bikes”. These specially designed scooters, available to hire for adults and kids alike, are perfect for using on rough terrain and forest tracks.
The upgrade of the Alice Holt Forest site, owned and managed by the Forestry Commission, began in 2013 with the creation of a new visitor centre and purpose built toilet block. Since then a whole host of improvements have been made including major new play areas, a dedicated outdoor seating and picnic spot, and an expansion of the car park to make the site more accessible for the 450,000 people who visit the site each year.
Several new outdoor activities have recently been made available at the Forest. These include Canicross, an annual event offering dog owners a great way to run with their four legged friend. For those who prefer to walk, there are new orienteering kits including a special Gruffalo themed map for children. For the school holidays, forest adventure camps offering wild learning are now available for children aged five years and above.
Investment at the site has also focussed on the woodland environment. Over the last five years the team who look after the Forest have planted 15 acres of new trees including Oak, Beech, Sweet Chestnut, and Hornbeam trees. With nature in mind a number of environmental improvements have also been made including a new wood pellet boiler providing sustainable energy to the visitor centre and café.
Use of the Forest for outdoor activities has grown with over 20 local sports and community groups now hosting regular events here including weekly Parkruns and regular Buggy Fit groups. Working with environmental charity Groundwork, Alice Holt is now also a key location for schools wanting to benefit from outdoor learning. Over 9,000 school children have visited the Forest over the last three years with many more coming this year.
2019 is set to continue to be a big year for Alice Holt with further new attractions planned. This spring, visitors to the Forest will see two major new play structures being installed to celebrate the Forestry Commission’s centenary year. Made from sustainable materials these large scale installations will be located in the main playground by the visitor centre and café, and on the popular Habitat Trail.
Bruce Rothnie, South Forest Managing Director at the Forestry Commission, said;
“It is our job to care for local forests and ensure that people can enjoy spending time in these special places and build a special connection with them. This major investment at Alice Holt Forest has helped us care for this beautiful woodland and greatly improve what is on offer to local people and visitors.”
He added, “It is fitting that this project has been completed in the same year that we are celebrating our centenary and looking ahead to the next chapter in our development. By investing in sustainable new building and facilities we can ensure that Alice Holt Forest offers a great day out in the woods long into the future.”
Sport England’s Director of Property, Charles Johnston said; “Sport England is working to make it as easy as possible for people to get active so they can enjoy the physical and mental health benefits associated with it. People lead busy lives, so we need to bring fun, accessible activity options to places they already enjoy going, like the Alice Holt Forest. We’re delighted to be funding a new activity centre which will offer new cycle and scooter hire facilities providing improved opportunities for the local community and visitors to explore the woodland.”
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