The RSPB-led consortium, which includes the RSPB, the Sherwood Forest Trust, The Woodland Trust and Thoresby Estate, have officially opened the £5.3m Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre. Designed by Newcastle-based architects, JDDK Architects, who also secured Planning Permission from Newark and Sherwood District Council and undertook the extensive public consultations to fine tune the design prior to construction, the Centre has been built by Woodhead Construction in a 12 month programme.

After a competitive tender, JDDK Architects were selected as architects for the project following previous projects for the RSPB, most prominently at the award-winning Saltholme Wildlife Reserve and Discovery Park Visitor Centre in 2009.

The actual centre is a 558sq metre split level structure designed to lead visitors into Sherwood Forest as JDDK Principal Architect, Alison Thornton-Sykes, explained,  “One of the main features of the Centre is its curved, twisted form, created by staggered roof beams, which reflect the forest environment and the “Trees that sheltered him” concept of Robin Hood. There are several different elements to this from creating an initial welcoming area for visitors with toilets, retail and recreation facilities to creating wilderness zones to give visitors a real sense of the ancient forest environment. Indeed, one of the most popular attractions of the whole area is the magnificent Major Oak, the approximately 1,000 year old oak tree where the Merry Men outlaw band supposedly slept.”

“The linear format pulls visitors through and down the 5m level change into the double height café space and out to the exterior amphitheatre sheltered by the overhanging canopy, an integral part of the roof. The building has been designed to achieve a BREEAM Very Good rating with an Air Source Heat Pump heating the building combined with the natural solar gain from the full height glazing to the Forest facing gable end.

Externally, the site is divided into two separate areas, one for the actual visitor centre and service area and the other for the main visitor car and coach park, a result of the RSPB’s intention that physical access to the site and all its opportunities should be available to as many people as possible. The building is now knitted into the existing community at Forest Corner so that a village square is formed between the new building and the existing cricket club, YHA hostel and the Arts & Crafts Centre.

Ross Frazer, RSPB Project Manager, added, “We were tasked with providing a visitor centre which would be a modern gateway to the ancient forest, and feel that the completed building matches this brief perfectly. JDDK designed a centre befitting of this legendary forest, and produced a building which sits beautifully in this landscape, of which we are extremely proud.”

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