NEWSCASTER and journalist Jon Snow has agreed to lead a charity which is planting, preserving and protecting a new forest across parts of Warwickshire and Worcestershire.
And Mr Snow has revealed he will be getting his hands dirty and planting some of the 130,000 trees that the Heart of England Forest charity will plant between November and March next year.
The 67-year-old award winning journalist was a friend of Felix Dennis, the publishing entrepreneur who in 2003 established the project to plant a 30,000 acre forest near his home in Dorsington near Stratford.
Just days before Mr Dennis died last year, he phoned Mr Snow – a friend of more than 30-years – and asked him to chair the board of trustees of the Heart of England Forest, tasked with bringing the project to fruition.
“He called me about 15 days before he died and who could say no? said Mr Snow. ” I was very touched that he asked someone who is not known as a businessman or a wise guy, and that someone was me.
“The project appeals to me in so many ways. Above all, that it will be a public resource. It is a lung for that part of the country and will make up, in part, for the loss of the Forest of Arden.
“I confess, I don’t know Warwickshire that well but I am sure that will change. I have been up several times but not often enough yet to plant a tree but that will soon be rectified.
“I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and taking on this challenge and seeing at close quarters the forest grow and develop.
“We are about ten per cent of the way to the target of 30,000 acres of woodland – so it’s a long old journey, but we are talking about a fantastic resource which will be around for our children, their children and many future generations.”
The UK currently only has about 12 per cent tree cover compared to the rest of Europe which ranges between 27 and 36 per cent.
Mr Snow added: “It’s quite scary the amount of cover we have and Felix felt very strongly that something should be done about changing that, and I’m picking up the baton from Felix now.
“I think people will want to identify with the project and will want to be connected to it.
“In the long-term it will be very exciting. There are challenges because, of course, with a forest that has not been there for a long time the little saplings in green tubes are not that enticing but there are also parts of the forest which are mature and beautiful to walk and explore.
“The fact it can be used by people for walking, cycling and that future plans include camping and even green burial at some stage is great.
“In 30 years I would hope that we are well on the way to 30,000 acres. It might be in cases that we have to link areas of woodlands along planted corridors.
“The greatest responsibility is the enormity of this project and the good it can do for the environment and communities within the Midlands. I really do want to fulfil it for all those reasons.”
The Heart of England Forest has so far created more than 3,000 acres of new woodland, consisting of over one million trees.
Visit www.heartofenglandforest.com for further details about the charity, including how to become a friend of the forest or volunteer.