A guest blog by Michael Copleston, RSPB's Regional Development Manager for the Midlands

The anticipation is now palpable as the days and months creep forward to RSPB opening a brand new visitor centre and take on the management of the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve.

I’ve just been at another superb Robin Hood Festival with my 2 year old daughter, along with thousands of other families, and how brilliant it was to see people having fun in the heart of an historic forest. So many people love Sherwood, and from all walks of life.

RSPB and its many partners in Sherwood have a huge job to do. We’re now getting to the business end of the project when bricks and mortar, timber and stone, and all of the landscape design that goes into creating new facilities for hundreds of thousands of visitors start to be pieced together.

Artist's impression: 3D view of planned visitor centre from amphitheatre. Image credit: JDDK – rspb images

I’m mindful that the Major Oak has seen pretty much everything come and go in the past thousand years or more, Kings, Queens, Vikings, and civilisation as we know it, but I hope this really is where legends still grow, and the RSPB and partners can build a legacy to be proud of for the next thousand years.

There is no doubt RSPB’s new chapter at Sherwood Forest is a bold step in combining our great love (and purpose) of protecting our finest places and priority species, together with an unprecedented opportunity to grow support and connections to nature.

Sherwood is clearly known first and foremost for its Robin Hood connection which transcends countries and cultures globally, but interestingly one of the hidden marvels of Sherwood for many is the internationally significant collection of Ancient Oaks. Every one of these weather-worn trees, a living sculpture, has watched over this wild kingdom for more then 600 years.

In fact, this collection of Ancient and Veteran trees is arguably the largest group anywhere in Europe, being a curious remnant of the Royal Hunting Forest landscape and a historical artefact of our ship building past.

Ecologically, ancient oaks offer shelter and sanctuary for hundreds of species, some of which may only exist in tandem with the unique habitat provided by massive, twisted, gnarly oaks filled with countless pockets and holes of living and dead wood. The eminent Forester Oliver Rackham once wrote “Ten thousand oaks of one hundred years are no substitute for one five hundred year old oak tree” which gives a serious indication of their value.

But importantly, the RSPB knows that together with others such as the Sherwood Forest Trust, the land owner Thoresby Estate, Woodland Trust and further stakeholders throughout the Sherwood landscape that there is a significant plight and conservation need. These ancient oaks have seen their forest home shrink by over two-thirds in the last two centuries. If Ancient Oaks like the thousand individuals left in the wider Sherwood landscape are to survive for future generations, they need nature lovers like us and you to help them.

The main man: Robin Hood taking aim in the forest. Image credit: Colin Wilkinson

We know that improving the existing habitat and survival of these Ancient Oaks will benefit a huge variety of species, and across the wider National Nature Reserve mixtures of open heath, wood pasture and open rides benefits many others, such as woodlark, nightjar, redstart, as well as broader assemblages of invertebrates and flora. Interestingly Sherwood is still home to the lesser spotted woodpecker, a bird the size of a sparrow, and our work behind the scenes will continue to target species such as this diminutive bird that since the 1970s has suffered such disastrous decline that over 75% have been lost in the UK.

Here is your chance to be a part of this. Please visit and enjoy the new facilities and incredible reserve when we open the doors next year, but first if you can, we would greatly appreciate your support at the start of this special project. We have a great team but a huge amount of work ahead of us. We would love for as many of you as possible to become a Guardian of Sherwood Forest, helping us raise £250,000 before the 11th of August and support our new legacy for Sherwood and help its ancient oaks and the wildlife they shelter.