New £5m Sherwood Forest visitor centre opens

RSPB's new visitor centre Image copyright RSPB
Image caption The new visitor centre has a shop and a cafe

A new £5m visitor centre at Sherwood Forest has officially opened ahead of the annual Robin Hood Festival.

The RSPB, which runs more than 200 nature reserves across the UK, got the go-ahead to manage the Nottinghamshire woodland in 2015.

The forest, synonymous with the Robin Hood legend, is home to 1,000 ancient oaks, including the Major Oak.

Thousands of people are expected at the 34th festival, the first to be led by the conservation charity.

Image copyright Visit Sherwood
Image caption The Major Oak is believed to be about 1,000 years old

The RSPB said its new centre, in Edwinstowe, will provide a "modern gateway to the forest" and includes a shop, cafe and an amphitheatre where performances will be staged.

The charity was chosen as the preferred bidder by the county council to manage the reserve with a number of partners, including the Thoresby Estate, which owns the land where the centre is located.

About 350,000 people visit the ancient forest every year and the RSPB has pledged to focus on "conservation management" of the site.

It is home to nightjars, woodlarks, lesser spotted woodpeckers, marsh tits, redstarts and woodcocks.

Image copyright Colin Wilkinson / RSPB
Image caption Sherwood Forest is synonymous with the legend of Robin Hood

However, the charity said the woodlands had shrunk and become separated, while heathland had decreased by 95% over the past 150 years.

It said its aim was to create new habitats and make existing areas bigger.

The Robin Hood Festival, which runs until 2 September, will see a number of events including storytelling, performances, archery and puppetry.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Thousands of people visit the Robin Hood Festival every year

Gemma Howarth, from the RSPB, said: "We know how popular this event is, and how much people love coming to Sherwood to celebrate the legend of Robin Hood.

"We're really excited about leading this year's festival, and providing a new home for it in our brand new centre."

The land where the existing 1970s visitor centre was located will be restored to wood pasture as part an agreement with Natural England.

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