STRATFORD’S eccentric, multi-millionaire publisher, poet and planter of trees Felix Dennis had a vision to create a brand new forest in the heart of England, spanning the rolling countryside of Warwickshire from the Cotswolds to Henley in Arden.
And he lived to see thousands of acres of land planted with well over a million native trees by the time of his death of throat cancer in 2014 after a brave, typically determined battle with the disease.
His dream and vision – including a legacy of millions of pounds to be used solely for the forest – was left in the capable hands of the guardians of the Heart of England Forest, trustees who continue to acquire land and plant trees in his memory and as he wished.
Newsreader Jon Snow is the chairman of the board of trustees, heading up the team of David Bliss, Alison Hunter, Ian Leggett and Anthony Burton CBE.
And the team has now been strengthened by the appointment of the charity’s first chief executive – Beth Brook.
She joins the charity from Fair Train, a national charity from the education sector and was previously chief executive for the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom.
An ecologist by trade, Beth has remained active within the sector, as a volunteer and as a member of the Forest Education Network board – also serving as a previous trustee for the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and the Forest Schools Association.
Already 1.5million trees have been planted – creating England’s largest new native forest and the next few years will see the forest develop further with more trees planted and plans to invest in facilities to develop the forest into a visitor destination.
Jon Snow, was quick to praise Beth’s arrival.
He said: “Beth brings with her a fantastic combination of leadership qualities and experience of the rural environment and we are very much looking forward to working together.”
Beth added: “I am thrilled to be joining the Heart of England Forest at such an exciting time. With a clear mission and a 65-year business plan, I certainly won’t be bored.
“I am looking forward to working with communities, supporters and volunteers who will help create an environment which not only plants trees but will also create sustainable social, environmental and economic benefits for future generations to come.”