2024 is in full swing! We’re looking back on 2023 and celebrating some highlights of the year. 2023 was full of many incredible triumph’s as we started the year with a record-breaking planting season, continued to build upon our community engagement, had wildlife spectacles throughout the spring and summer months and saw our hub, the Forest Centre undergo several exciting developments and changes.

Record Breaking Tree Planting

We had a groundbreaking year for tree planting. With the help of the Trees for Climate programme we planted approximately 150,000 trees and nearly 7km of hedgerow – that’s 3.5 times more than we have ever planted in one single season before! As the smallest Community Forest in England, this was an amazing achievement and just highlights the continued hard work of our Forest Team.

In June of 2023 we joined our fellow Community Forests from across the country at the England’s Community Forest conference in Manchester. Our brilliant Brand and Fundraising Manager, Robina Ballard-Davis won the Impact Award for Queens Wood, one of our newer woodlands in Houghton Conquest. The award celebrated the scheme that made the greatest social, economic, and environmental impact for the year and recognised the work contributed by corporate planting days at the new woodland. Towards the end of the year, we welcomed two more Community Forests to the network, Trees on Tees in Tees Valley, and Derbyshire’s Heartwood Community Forest. This will be a brilliant contribution to the overarching criteria of England’s Community Forests in planting more trees and creating more woodlands. 


The Forest Centre

We saw a lot of change within our forest hub, the Forest Centre, too. We had the make-over of our upstairs area – creating the Terrace and the Balcony. We transformed the Balcony into the perfect cosy snug to read a book, catch up with friends and relax with a cup of coffee. The Terrace was transformed and decked out with sleek, modern, new furniture for you to sit and enjoy a cold drink in the summer days while looking out over the beauty of the Millennium Country Park.

We also introduced a new nook into the Forest Centre Café – Kids’ Corner. Our trial ran through summer of 2023 and we found that those visiting with little ones loved it. We have reading books, colouring in, and our tree wall where your little ones can colour in the tree leaves and decorate it. Another significant investment made last year was the revamp of our Play Area within our Café Garden. The Play Area was designed by Earth Wrights whose aim is to bring children into contact with nature through dynamic and nature inspired designs. Many of you enjoyed visiting our Play Area last year and we can’t wait to see you back for new adventures this year too.  


Left to right: Brand new Balcony, playing in the new Play Area, view from the Terrace.

Some things just keep getting better!

Although there was a flurry of changes in 2023, some things never change. We continued throughout 2023 to build on our community engagement, partnering with Bedfordshire Girl Guiding to produce our very own Forest of Marston Vale Quest badge, to inspire the future generation. We also hosted our very first collaboration with the Climate Coalition for their Great Big Green Week which saw us host a range of enriching green events, including tree walks, wildlife walks, plant sales and litter picking events. Keep an eye out for this year’s events, as we aim to go bigger and greener. Let’s not forget our incredibly successful, and sadly final, Forest Family Fun Day where you all came out to support us. We invited along talented local businesses, had a host of delicious food vendors, crafts, volunteer stalls and not to forget children’s favourites Bluey and Bingo. From the day we fundraised over £19,000 - this astonishing amount would not have been possible without you! The money raised will go straight back into our mission to continue to nurture and create woodlands within the Forest of Marston Vale.

We continued to gain support from existing and new Friends of the Forest supporters. Through a tough year we are forever grateful for your support and all your donations going towards growing the Forest. We can’t mention Friends of the Forest without mentioning our incredible, local, national, and global Corporate Friends of the Forest, and our family grew once again last year. We welcomed Dishoom, Woburn Safari Park and Twiflex to the circle, all of whom are making important steps to supporting the Forest. We also celebrated with our long-term Corporate Friend of the Forest, and impressive carbon net-zero business, Midas Pattern Company Ltd as we joined them to celebrate their achievement of being awarded the Kings Award for Enterprise – Sustainable Development.


Left to right: Senior Ranger, Nicola Ceconi, with Girl Guiding Bedfordshire, Bluey meets Fia the border collie, litter picking event for Great Big Green Week

What a year for wildlife

On a wilder note, we had a tremendous year for our wildlife as we welcomed back a pair of turtle doves, who continue to feed on our seed patches at the Millennium Country Park. The turtle dove has sadly been suffering a drastic decline throughout the UK, so it has been such a success to have these doves back on our site. We also caught some cheeky badgers on our wildlife cameras and welcomed three fledgling marsh harriers to the Millennium Country Park. Marsh harriers have always been a focal species for the Millennium Country Park as we set out to create prime wetland habitat, perfect for the marsh harrier to breed in. This sighting has been the first known breeding record of marsh harriers in Bedfordshire, highlighting our commitment to enhancing the diversity of bird species in the area. 


Left to right: Marsh Harrier - photo credit: Martin Rogers, Turtle Dove - photo credit: Liz Hall

Bring on 2024!

We are expecting 2024 to be even bigger and better. We will be introducing even more to do in our Kids’ Corner in the Forest Centre, including an array of craft activities. Launching at the end of January, we will be adding our Forest Bookshelf to the Balcony at the Forest Centre, where we will share some of our favourite books and authors with you in return for small donations to help the Forest to continue to grow. Throughout a 2-week period in January we are closed for a new year makeover as we clear the Forest Centre to renovate our brick flooring (see our opening times here). We will also be celebrating an incredible addition to the Forest Centre as we officially launch our Changing Places toilets onsite.

We will of course continue to nurture and preserve our woodlands to create a safe place for British wildlife and hope to end the winter months with a new tree planting record! Having already planted 50% of our total planting target before Christmas, by the end of this planting season we aim to have planted approximately 200,000 trees.

Other major changes being made this year will include the transformation of the Sensory Wildlife Garden as it undergoes a make over throughout this year.


Whatever else comes our way this year we want you to join us. Whether you visit one of our sites, join us for a volunteer activity or become a Friend of the Forest – we want to see how you will be spending the year too. Follow us on social media and don’t forget to tag us (@forestofmarstonvale) in all your 2024 adventures.