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Culture & Leisure Masterplanning
£5m - £20m
Heart of the National Forest Foundation
Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Derbyshire
1,000 acres
Carol Costello

The Heart of the Forest Masterplan will create a beautiful and enticing landscape which local people and visitors will be eager to explore and come to cherish as a special place.

Heart of the Forest Masterplan

In May 2006 we completed a masterplan for an area of the National Forest that had once been a colliery, as well as designs for potential new buildings and structures within it.

Our masterplan considers the variety of people and ages who will use the forest park and responds with a variety of places within it; some scenic and tranquil, others active and playful. It enhances existing routes and provides new ones for a variety of modes of transport. The masterplan also indicates a possible site for a future passenger railway station on the existing Mineral Railway line to serve visitors to the forest and local communities.

The Conkers Aerial Walkway will provide a connection between the north and south areas of the site currently separated by the mineral railway. Made of Cor-ten steel columns that will support long-span composite timber and steel trusses, the walkway will at certain points be nearly 50 feet above the ground. Generous circular platforms designed for resting, picnics, birdwatching and more will sit on top of the main columns. Additionally, two iconic new footbridges over existing roads will provide vital connections and create symbolic gateways to the forest park. 

Other landmarks will include the Conkers Tower which will provide views over the forest park, the Water Sports Centre on the Lake and the Creative Forest Experience building as a unique rural, woodland and forest craft attraction where visitors will be inspired to take part and share skills from around the world.


The area called the ‘Heart of the Forest’ is situated on the site of the former Rawdon Colliery. The mine, closed in 1991, had left behind not only a scarred landscape, but a community facing an uncertain economic future. The Heart of the National Forest Foundation (HNFF) have been working with a number of community groups to instigate a series of regeneration projects, which include the Conkers Visitors attractions funded by the Millennium Commission. 

We worked with the HNFF over eight weeks to create a masterplan for the Forest that aims to enthuse, educate and engage the local community and visitors, encouraging active participation in its planning, creation and long term stewardship. The working landscape will be useful to the community and the National Forest with opportunities for local enterprises.

One proposed element of the masterplan is the Demonstration Forest. This would be laid out in radial sections, each containing a different tree crop. Once established it will be a real working landscape with a saw mill at its centre. The sawn timber will be used in the Creative Forest Experience for wood working and for a multitude of forest products. The Demonstration Forest will also be used as an educational landscape to teach forest stewardship.