HE ACHIEVED more in a lifetime than most could in several.
Even his untimely death a year ago this week has not put a stop to the inimitable Felix Dennis living his dream.
It was June 22, 2014 when multi-millionaire publisher, poet, wine and woman lover lost his battle with cancer.
Twelve months on, Observer editor Chris Willmott found out how his dream continues to live on.
In his latter years Felix gave up his hedonistic ways, enjoying the tranquillity of his Dorsington estate near Stratford and his caribbean home on the island of Mustique.
And it was from these two havens he dedicated much of his time to his two greatest passions – poetry and creating a brand new woodland reaching from the Vale of Evesham to the Forest of Arden – The Heart of England Forest.
He planted more than 3,000 acres of native trees across his planned forest and lived to see the millionth tree being planted in his forest.
The anniversary of Felix’s death also saw the publication of his latest and last anthology of poetry – I Just Stepped Out – dealing with the issue of cancer in his typically swashbuckling style.
Felix Dennis will always live on through his words in print.
And he will always live on through his other great passion – his forest.
His publishing empire, its profits and many of his millions were bequeathed to the Heart of England Forest charity, which he set up before his death.
David Bliss, estate manager, trustee of the charity and long-time friend of Felix cares passionately about the forest – and about carrying on Felix’s dream.
“Felix is still a huge miss,” he said.
“We are carrying on with his dream and it is achievable.
“He would be very proud of what we are doing and I still feel he’s behind us 100 per cent.
“In typical Felix tradition, he left things in very good order and with very clear instructions – so it’s business as usual.”
And business as usual it is.
In the first ten to 15 years of the Heart of England Forest Felix inspired, oversaw and secured the planting of 3,000 acres of new native woodland with over one million trees.
In the past 12 months the purposefully steady and organic growth of the forest has continued with another 300 acres and 120,000 trees being planted on land surrounding Felix’s Dorsington estate and in Spernal Lane between Great Alne and Studley, where he also created and was the first resident of his natural burial ground.
“The long-term aim is to continue just as we are and to reach our goal of around 30,000 acres of beautiful woodland,” added Mr Bliss.
A brand new car park in Barton, between Bidford on Avon and Welford on Avon has now been opened for people to set off on the mapped-out walks around Dorsington and further seasonal car parks are being opened for visitors to set themselves into the forest.
There is also 60 acres of planted sapling forest in the Spernal section of the project, which the charity is encouraging the people of Alcester, Great Alne, Studley and beyond to embrace and enjoy.
Despite all the financial backing of Felix Dennis’ estate, the charity relies heavily on volunteer support to ensure that as much of the money as possible is used for land acquisition and the purchase of trees.
Local volunteers, local schools and local businesses are getting more and more involved with the fantastic project – but more help and support is needed.
Not only to help plant the trees and finance the project, but to spread the word, by mouth or by social media, about just what an amazing project, now and into the future, the Heart of England Forest is and will be.
Anyone wanting to get their walking boots or wellies on and head out into the beautiful acres of growing forest can access maps, guides and spotters’ guides for children from the website – www.heartofenglandforest.com.
The website details everything you need to know about the walks and the forest – its creation and its future.
Through the website you can also get involved financially, by becoming a Friend of the Forest for £3, £5 or £10 a month, which will give you all the guided walks and maps, a car parking pass for the car parks and regular newsletters and information – and, of course, will help fund the new trees.
Trees can also be dedicated in memory of loved ones past and present for just £25 which includes a special tag to remain on the tree forever.
“We want people to get involved in any way they can and want,” added Mr Bliss.
“Come and enjoy the forest, come and help out in the forest, donate to the cause, tell people about it.”
Visit: www.heartofenglandforest.com for everything you need to know about the forest and www.felixdennis.com for everything you need to know about the man himself.