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From magical illuminated trails, festive woodland walks and holiday-inspired crafts, to buying a Christmas tree right from the heart of the forest, Forestry Commission England has a range of events and activities running across the country for all the family to enjoy.
South West England
Visit the Enchanted Christmas event at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum in Gloucestershire, and experience a spectacular one mile illuminated trail highlighting the striking structures of Westonbirt’s trees against the winter night sky.
The event runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening from the 28 November to 21 December. The opening night will feature a lantern parade led by Father Christmas, his elves and a fairy, closely followed by the first 300 visitors, each carrying a lantern.
South and East England
At Alice Holt Forest, near Farnham, families will be lead along an illuminated trail until they reach a fairy-lit toy factory at Winter Wonderland. The magical Christmas experience will include fun-filled workshops of games, singing, role-playing, arts and crafts.
Father Christmas will also be in residence. Visitors can make their Christmas wish, receive a small gift and feed the reindeer a magical carrot.
Alice Holt’s Winter Wonderland will be open every Saturday and Sunday from 23 November and daily from Saturday 13 December until Christmas Eve.
Alice Holt Forest will also offer Christmas wreath workshops on Tuesday 2 and Wednesday 3 December.
Over in the New Forest, a Christmas Walking Safari will take visitors on a 2.5 mile gentle meander around Bolderwood before a well-deserved glass of mulled wine. The walking safari will take place on Wednesday 17 December and dogs are welcome.
A festive craft market will run on the last Sunday of every month at Wendover Woods, near Halton. Visitors to the market will be spoilt for choice with handcrafted items and ethically sourced products. The market will take place on Sunday 23 November and Sunday 28 December.
Santa will make a grand arrival at Cannock Chase Forest, close to Rugeley, on Saturday 29 November.
Real reindeer will pull Santa on his sleigh through the forest to open his log cabin grotto and the forest reindeer enclosure.
Santa’s Grotto at Cannock Chase will be open every Friday evening and Saturday and Sunday until Sunday 14 December. All children visiting Father Christmas will receive a small gift and their very own Christmas tree sapling to plant at home.
At Delamere Forest, Cheshire, children will be encouraged to put on their best Santa costume and join the Santa Fitness Trail on Monday 22 December. Suitable for five to eight year olds, the session will start with pass the parcel and musical statues before a hunt in the forest to find sparkly Christmas tree decorations.
North and North East England
Visitors to Dalby Forest in Yorkshire can visit Father Christmas in his magical woodland grotto on the 6, 7, 13 and 14 December. Every child who visits will receive a gift and a real Christmas tree sapling to plant at home.
At Whinlatter Forest the RSPB will host a free festive workshop on Sunday 14 December. Visitors will be encouraged to make decorations to hang on the Christmas tree.
Festive creativity is also a key theme at Hamsterley Forest, Durham, and Chambers Farm Wood, Lincolnshire, which will hold decoration and wreath workshops on Sunday 7 December and Saturday 13 December respectively.
Across England, the Forestry Commission will also open Christmas tree sales centres offering a variety of trees that are grown in the UK in a well-managed way, including trees that are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified.
To find your nearest centre, purchase a Christmas tree online or check out top tree tips on keeping your tree fresh and healthy over the festive holidays visit www.forestry.gov.uk/christmas.
Throughout the winter, families are also invited to go on a forest adventure with the Gruffalo’s Child, as part of Forestry Commission England’s 15th anniversary celebrations of the much-loved character. The trails have been created to inspire children to explore woods and forests and learn about nature. The self-led trails are free to visit and can be found in 24 forests and woods across England until February 2015.
For more information on the Gruffalo’s Child trails visit www.forestry.gov.uk/gruffalo
For more information on Forestry Commission Christmas events across England visit www.forestry.gov.uk/christmas.
Notes to editors:
1. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Further information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/england
2. Forestry Commission Discovery Passes vary in price from £20-£55 for annual membership. For more information visit www.forestry.gov.uk/pass
3. Norway Spruce Christmas Trees can be purchased from the Forestry Commission online, as well as from sites across the UK, from www.forestry.gov.uk/christmas. All trees are FSC (Forest Stewardship Certified) and delivery is free. All orders can be placed now with delivery available from Monday 1 December 2014 to Thursday 18 December.
4. 2014 marks The Gruffalo’s 15th anniversary and The Gruffalo’s Child’s 10th anniversary and will see a range of celebratory events which are being driven by Magic Light Pictures. It started in March with a national schools tour of Gruffalo themed days in partnership with Film Nation; The Gruffalo birthday month at the Eden Project was celebrated in May and Gruffalo films will be performed live with the Northern Sinfonia in October. The anniversary year also sees the launch of Gruffalo reading frames with Specsavers along with other new and exciting product ranges including luxury wooden toys from Bajo and anniversary publications from Macmillan's Children's Books.
5. The Gruffalo’s Child Forest Trail Locations
The list below shows the locations of the Gruffalo’s Child activity trails, those marked with an asterisk are also home to one of The Gruffalo’s 7ft sculptures.
1. Alice Holt Forest, Surrey*
2. Moors Valley Country Park*
3. Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest, Kent*
4. High Lodge, Thetford Forest, Suffolk*
5. Wendover Woods, Buckinghamshire*
6. Jeskyns, Gravesend, Kent
7. Birches Valley Forest, Cannock Chase*
8. Delamere Forest, Cheshire*
9. Hicks Lodge, Derbyshire
10. Sherwood Pines, Nottinghamshire*
11. Salcey Forest, Northamptonshire
12. Top Lodge, Fineshade*
13. Beechenhurst, Forest of Dean
14. Haldon Forest Park, Exeter, Devon*
15. Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Gloucestershire* (Gruffalo’s Child trail dates are 1 December 2014 – 28 February 2015)
16. Cardinham Woods, Bodmin, Cornwall
17. Haughmond Hill, Shropshire
18. Wyre Forest, Worcestershire*
19. Dalby Forest, Yorkshire*
20. Guisborough Forest, North Yorkshire
21. Whinlatter Forest, Nr Keswick, Cumbria*
22. Hamsterley Forest, Country Durham*
23. Kielder Water and Forest Park, Northumberland
24. Grizedale Forest, Nr Hawkshead, Cumbria