National Forest Way: Walkers invited to use 75-mile trail

Bluebells in National Forest at Pear Tree Wood in Leicestershire The National Forest Way includes a section in Pear Tree Wood near Ratby in Leicestershire

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A new 75-mile (121km) walking trail has been opened in the National Forest after five years of preparation.

The trail uses public rights-of-way and some private land to take walkers from the National Memorial Arboretum to Beacon Hill in Leicestershire.

National Forest Way is divided into 12 stages with leaflets provided for each one, a spokesman said.

The National Forest covers 200 sq mi (518 sq km) in Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

"The trail leads through young and ancient woodlands, market towns and the industrial heritage of this changing landscape at the heart of the midlands," National Forest Company chief executive Sophie Churchill said.

Saplings in National Forest The National Forest was opened in 1995 and more than eight million trees have been planted since then

Catherine Graham-Harrison, National Forest Company chairman, said: "The opening of the way is like a coming of age for us.

"Many years of work have gone into creating the forest, with more than eight million trees planted and new habitats created and maintained - meadows, grassland, wetland, and, of course, woodland.

"There's still more to do, alongside our partners and local communities, to create and maintain this wonderful forest for everyone, but the opening of the long distance trail is a marvellous way to show how far we've come," she added.

Sunrise in National Forest The National Forest aims to stimulate business, leisure, tourism and educational activities in the area

Car parking is available at most of the stages and most of the route is accessible by public transport.

The National Forest Way was created by a partnership involving the National Forest Company and Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire County Councils, with the support of local landowners and chartered surveyors Fisher German.

Beacon Hill, Leicestershire The trail ends at Beacon Hill Park in Leicestershire, which is the site of a Bronze Age fort

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