THE VISION of Felix Dennis to plant a new forest in Warwickshire and surrounding counties will continue in tribute to the flamboyant entrepreneur.
The multi-millonaire publisher lost a long and painful battle with cancer when he passed away aged 67 surrounded by family and friends at his Dorsington home near Bidford on Sunday (June 22).
The Heart of England Forest Project was a joint effort between the media maverick and charity The Heart of England Forest which started work back in 2001.
The aim was to plant and preserve a large native forest in the heart of England stretching from the remnants of the ancient Forest of Arden to the edge of the Vale of Evesham.
And while some experts claimed it was a ‘nigh on impossible’ dream, last September the one millionth tree – an oak sapling – was planted at Great Alne. By the end of the planting season in March, another 100,000 had been planted.
At the time committed ecologist Mr Dennis, who began planting trees south of the River Avon in 1995, said: “Successive governments have excelled at talking about tree planting for generations, but their record of achievement as far as native woodland goes is dismal.
“The British countryside has just about Europe’s lowest density of native tree cover. It is time to put things right, both for our own sake, and the sake of the soil, our rivers and streams, environmental biodiversity and those creatures we share the land.
“The millionth tree is just the beginning. It represents only ten per cent of our eventual target. We have nine million young saplings to plant yet. Let’s get on with it!”
Mr Dennis was a larger than life character.
He shot to fame as one of the founders of 60s counterculture magazine Oz, which was caught up in a high-profile obscenity trial in 1971.
He went on to found Dennis Publishing, which published many successful titles including men’s magazine Maxim and The Week, which helped him amass a fortune estimated around £500 million.
He was as well known for his wild private life as he was for his phenomenal business success.
He once claimed to have spent as much as £100 million on “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” which led to a crack-cocaine addiction in the 1990s.
“It was complete madness,” he told the BBC in 2006. “I’m very embarrassed about it. I had a wonderful time, I’m not going to lie, but I shouldn’t have done it. It was fun at the beginning, but then it becomes not so pleasant.”
In later life he successfully turned his hand to writing poetry, penning his first in 1999 on a post-it note while being treated in hospital for serious thyroid condition.
He went on to publish five books of verse, and give sell out recital tours on both sides of the Atlantic – giving proceeds from the tours – which included sharing the contents of his wine cellar with audiences – to The Heart of England Forest Project.
A funeral date has yet to be confirmed but the self-confessed “born-again atheist” had already decided he wanted to be buried in a linen wrap in a cardboard coffin in his beloved forest with an oak tree planted on his head.