Partners in the new Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre project came together to celebrate the Topping Out of the new building – a milestone which marks the end of external building works, and the start of the internal fit out.
Despite a harsh winter, particularly over the last few weeks, the new centre in Forest Corner, Edwinstowe is still on course to open its doors to the public this summer as planned.
Topping Out ceremonies traditionally mark the end of work on the outside of buildings – an important landmark in any project – and have been in existence for centuries.
The practice is thought to date to pagan times, though the earliest written record is of architect William Wykeham attending a Topping Out event at the Winchester School – on 28th March, 1393 – exactly 625 years before the Sherwood event!
Traditions range from attaching a yew branch to the highest beam of the building, to planting a new evergreen in the landscaping close to the new structure – which contractors, Woodheads, plan to do following the ceremony. All of these acts in some way offer thanks for the wood which has gone into the building, and hope to seal good luck for its future.
Partners from the consortium responsible for the new centre – which is led by the RSPB – visited the site on Wednesday 28 March to see the progress for themselves.
This includes Sherwood Forest Trust, The Woodland Trust, Thoresby estate and Continuum Attractions, all of whom are working together with Nottinghamshire County Council. They were joined by the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, who earlier this year pledged £500,000 funding towards the scheme.
Ross Frazer, RSPB’s project manager, said whilst there is still a great deal of work to be done before the centre opens its doors, having a water-tight building is a huge step towards it.
“Seeing the building emerge to this point has been hugely exciting, but the phase ahead is even more thrilling – the work we are about to start doing now is what will transform this stunning looking structure into a world-class visitor centre, which is no less than this legendary forest deserves.
“It will also take us even closer to opening our doors to the public, and taking over guardianship of this iconic place, which is the most exciting aspect of all!”
Nottinghamshire County Councillor John Cottee, Communities and Place committee chairman said, “This event marks the latest milestone for this fantastic new visitor centre which, when opened in Summer 2018, will see the transfer of the management of Sherwood Forest Country Park from Nottinghamshire County Council to the RSPB-led consortium.
“The new centre will be another platform to promote the international icon of Robin Hood and our world-famous Sherwood Forest.”
Work began on the building, which is situated in Forest Corner, on the edge of Edwinstowe village, late August last year. It is due to open its doors this summer.
The old centre, which is located in the Site of Special Scientific Interest within the forest, will be carefully dismantled then, and the area returned to nature.
The whole project is costing more than £5 million. Funders include Nottinghamshire County Council, The RSPB, Thoresby Estate, The Woodland Trust, D2N2 LEP and the Garfield Weston Foundation.
Work will now start on adding internal walls in the centre, shaping the welcome area, which will be packed with features and information to inspire visits into the forest, with stories about Robin Hood, Sherwood’s unique collection of ancient oaks and its wealth of wildlife.
The café and shop will be fitted out, and a new play area will be built outside.
For more information, see the project’s website www.visitsherwood.co.uk