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NEWS RELEASE No: 1577026 NOVEMBER 2007


Christmas tree shop at Cannock Chase prepares for thousands of visitors


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Please note new opening times.

Foresters at Britain’s largest Christmas tree sales centre in Staffordshire are reassuring customers that they should still be able to get the Christmas tree of their choice despite reports that there will be a shortage of trees in the UK this year.

There has been a fall in the number of Christmas trees being imported from the continent after the European Union withdrew government subsidies for Nordmann Fir tree farmers in Denmark.

However, the Forestry Commission say they will again be stocking around 14,000 trees at the Birches Valley Forest Centre at Cannock Chase near Rugeley. Varieties available at the Centre include the popular Nordmann Fir, Fraser Fir and Lodgepole Pine, which are all sourced from the UK.

The Forestry Commission has also guaranteed that there will not be a significant rise in prices. Some people have been predicting big prices because of the fall in Christmas tree imports.

Doug Stanley, Sales Manager for the Forestry Commission at Cannock Chase, says:

“With public fears of Christmas tree shortages this year, we’re keen to reassure our regular and new customers that they should still be able to get the tree they want, including the popular Nordmann Fir that sheds fewer needles than other varieties.

"A real tree sums up the traditional spirit of Christmas. There’s something special about the smell and the feel of the needles that you can only get from the real thing.”

Each December, the Birches Valley Forest Centre is transformed into a winter wonderland packed with gifts, decorations, Santa’s grotto and the all-important Christmas tree. This year will be no exception.

Christmas trees will be on sale from 9am to 6pm each day between 1st and 21st December.

Father Christmas will also be making a spectacular arrival in the forest on Saturday December 1st at 11.00am to declare his woodland wonderland open for business. He will make his grand entrance on a sleigh pulled by a pack of Siberian Huskey dogs.

Meeting Santa costs £3 per child. Usual opening hours will be Saturdays and Sundays 9am to 6pm; 4pm to 8pm on 7th and 8th December and between the 11th and 15th December; and 4pm to 6pm between the 18th and 22nd December. However, opening times vary as Father Christmas is very busy at this time of year, so it's best to call the centre in advance on 01889 586593 to check he is not elsewhere delivering presents!

Prices range from £15 to £40 depending on size and species. There will also be late night openings on 6th, 7th, 13th and 14th December when the tree store is open until 8pm.

All Forestry Commission Christmas trees come from sustainable sources. For every tree harvested another one is planted.

People can also recycle their trees in the forest. Instead of leaving it out for the bin men in January, people can return their tree to the Birches Valley Forest Centre where it will be turned into chippings for them to use in their garden.

Around 300,000 Nordmann Firs will be imported to Britain in December compared with 1.2 million last year. The Nordmann Fir, which is commonly grown in Denmark, has been the most popular tree in British households since the early 1990s because of its limited needle loss. Around 6 million trees are sold in the UK every Christmas, of which half are Nordmann Firs.

For more information on real Christmas tree sales in your area visit the Forestry Commission’s website: www.forestry.gov.uk

Ends

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. IMAGES AVAILABLE: Image attached of Doug Stanley (Sales Manager) for the Forestry Commission at the Birches Valley Christmas tree sales centre attached. A higher res version is available by calling 015394-42436.

2. How to get there: From Rugeley head towards Penkridge along Hagley Road. The road changes into Penkridge Bank road as it enters Cannock Chase AONB. The Forest Centre is signposted on your left. From Stafford head towards Cannock on the A34. Follow the signs for Pye Green or Rugeley. Once on Cannock Chase continue to head for Rugeley until signs for the centre on your right. OS Grid Reference: SK018170

3. The Forestry Commission is the largest provider of countryside recreation in Britain with responsibility for over one million hectares (2.4 million acres) of forest, woodlands and open countryside. The West Midlands region covers the counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, the West Midlands and parts of Derbyshire and Leicestershire.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Doug Stanley (Sales Manager) or Rowan Clark (Education Officer) at the Forestry Commission’s Birches Valley Forest Centre at Cannock Chase on 01889 586593.

e-mail: doug.stanley@forestry.gsi.gov.uk