The official opening of Sherwood Forest’s new visitor centre saw a welcome return for one dedicated supporter of the reserve.
Mike Dilger, wildlife presenter on the BBC’s The One Show, began his conservation career in Nottinghamshire when he worked on projects with both the University of Nottingham and at Sherwood Forest nature reserve.
Mike returned to the forest to celebrate the official opening of the visitor centre, which opened its doors properly for the Robin Hood Festival in August following a takeover from conservation organisation The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Upon returning to the centre, Mike said: “One of my jobs whilst I was working here as a conservation volunteer coordinator was to put up a new fence around the Major Oak, so it’s a location I know well and as such is a place close to my heart.
“I’m delighted to return and I am amazed by the new visitor centre. “I cannot wait find out more about the future plans for this special forest.” Around 200 people looked on as the Major Oak Pop Choir sang songs to welcome guests.
Other guests included Phil Rose, who is known to millions as Friar Tuck in the 1980s programme Robin of Sherwood.
.During the official opening Gemma Harworth, senior site manager at the new centre, said she was happy to see so many people that helped bring the project to life and to celebrate “a new chapter”.
She said: “Whilst the last 12 months of building has been a huge focus for us, the project dates back much further than this, and includes years of planning to help bring it to fruition.”
“It is great to see so many of those who played a part in this process coming to see what they helped to create, now the building is complete and operational.
“We recognise that a project of this ambition needs backing from so many different quarters. “We are especially thankful for the support of the local village residents and groups, and plan to host a community event to celebrate with them a little later in the year.”
Kay Cutts MBE, Nottinghamshire County Council Leader Councillor said: ""We would like to thank everyone who has worked with us as this exciting project has developed.
"The official opening is a proud moment and it is inspiring to think that millions of people visiting our iconic Sherwood Forest will enjoy spending time at the visitor centre in the years to come."
Councillor John Cottee, Committee Chairman for Communities and Place, at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: "It is a landmark occasion to witness the official opening of the new Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre.
"As a county council, we have demonstrated our total commitment to the project from the start with our investment of £4 million. .
"Our world-famous Sherwood Forest, historic Major Oak and legendary Robin Hood will go from strength to strength following the completion of this scheme."
The facility, which cost more than £5 million, was completed in August following a year-long build.
The building and the National Nature Reserve are managed by an RSPB-led partnership which includes Sherwood Forest Trust, Thoresby Estate and the Woodland Trust, working together with Nottinghamshire County Council, who provided £4 million towards the cost of the project.