Robin Hood (Ade Andrews), Friar Tuck (Phil Rose) and Mike Dilger, wildlife presenter on the BBC’s The One Show, helped officially launch the new £5.3m Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre yesterday 4th October.
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 the University of Nottingham.
Nottinghamshire County Council Leader Councillor Kay Cutts, MBE, Councillor John Cottee, Communities and Place Committee Chairman, and Nottinghamshire Vice-Lord Lieutenant Tim Richmond OBE were among the other guests at the launch event.
Around 200 people looked on as the Major Oak Pop Choir sang songs to welcome guests, and Coun Cutts, RSPB Chief Exec Mike Clarke and BBC One Show presenter Mike Dilger gave speeches at the official opening before a plaque was unveiled.
Mike Dilger said: “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.”
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.”
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.”
Robin Hood, aka Ade Andrews, VisitEngland Ambassador, said: “This is a new chapter in the story of Sherwood Forest. It is about time Robin Hood was put on the pedestal he deserves, so we have this iconic figure representing the environment in this part of England which is our most famous forest – Sherwood Forest.”
Phil Rose, known to millions as Friar Tuck from the hit TV programme Robin of Sherwood, was also at the official opening. He appeared in every episode in all three series of the programme in the 1980s which starred first Michael Praed then Jason Connery as Robin Hood. It also featured Ray Winstone as Will Scarlet.
Gemma Howarth, RSPB senior site manager, said: “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.
“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.”
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 the Garfield Weston Foundation and the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership; the private sector-led partnership of business, local authorities, skills and training providers, and community and voluntary organisations, promoting economic growth across Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Derby and Derbyshire. It invested £500,000 in the visitor centre via its Local Growth Fund, allocated by Government to part-fund infrastructure projects directly benefiting the economy.