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Horse riders and carriage drivers have even more off-road routes and facilities to explore and enjoy, thanks to the continued redevelopment of land within the National Forest — a 200 square mile area covering parts of Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire.

The regeneration project aims to turn what was once one of the least wooded areas of England into a multi-purpose, sustainable forest, providing environmental and economic benefits, including landscape enhancement and the creation of new wildlife habitats.

Landowners are being encouraged to establish areas of woodland within the forest boundaries, as well as developing new access and leisure facilities for members of the public, with the needs of riders and carriage drivers high on the list.

“The provision for equestrian activities has been a high priority since the earliest days of the forest’s development more than a decade ago,” says Carol Rowntree Jones of the National Forest Company, which was set up to create the multi-purpose forest in April 1995.

“We now have 42 locations within the forest where people can come and enjoy spending time with their horses. The sites range from basic riding routes, which are suitable for carriage drivers and riders alike, to cross-country courses such as Eland Lodge Farm, which was designed by top eventer Ian Stark,” explains Carol.

“Many of the sites allow free riding, while others work on an annual permit scheme to encourage responsible attitudes towards the land and facilities.”

An increasing number of sites have been prepared with carriage driving in mind and Minister for Nature Conservation, Ben Bradshaw (pictured below right), experienced the suitability of one such route for himself during a recent visit to the forest.

The Minister was impressed by the ongoing work and said: “Defra’s aim is sustainability and the National Forest Company is doing well to help us achieve this aim. It is important that we continue to create and enhance areas such as this for recreational needs, to increase public access, and people’s participation in the new woodland.”

The National Forest Company produces a free guide to the equestrian facilities within the forest, which lists details of all the sites including cross-country courses, carriage driving routes, permit information, parking facilities and details of links with existing bridleways.

For your copy of the free guide contact (tel: 01283 551211).