The history of Forest Holidays is deeply rooted in the history of the Public Forest Estate. During the post war years and through the 1960s and 70s, a public desire to spend recreation time in natural environments was growing. In response, the Forestry Commission made plans to begin steadily creating new facilities for visitors, with the Forest Cabins Branch being formed to oversee the building of new holiday cabins.
These cabins sowed the seeds of later recreational access. Spare workers’ houses were converted to cottages and four cabin locations were established between 1972 and 1980 at Deerpark in Cornwall, Keldy in North Yorkshire, and Strathyre and Loch Awe in Scotland, in addition to a number of already established campsites across Great Britain.
The cabins provided a unique opportunity for people to experience overnight stays within the forest and these four cabin locations remained in direct management of the Forestry Commission until 2006. At this point, the demand from the public was still growing, more capital investment and operational expertise was needed to expand its offering, so in 2006 the Treasury asked the Forestry Commission to find a private sector partner.
Photo: Keldy Cabins in the 1970s
A new partnership was formed with the Camping and Caravanning Club to manage and expand the overnight accommodation provision in the forest. This evolved in 2012 to two new partnerships, Camping in the Forest with the Camping and Caravanning Club and Forest Holidays with a new investment partner. From 2006, this investment allowed new cabins to be introduced in Hampshire, the Forest of Dean, North Yorkshire, Sherwood Forest, Argyll, Norfolk and Stirlingshire.
Whilst the need for timber production declined after the war, the importance of managing the forest environment for nature was growing and a more diverse range of tree species were planted. The significance of woods and forests in the landscape began to be recognised and the management of habitats for wildlife became another central avenue of the Forestry Commission’s work. Many Forest Holidays locations have a history of recreation dating back over decades and many wooded areas have seen a wide variety of uses before they were planted.
Today the cabins operated by Forest Holidays are all in forests that are managed by Forestry England, Forestry and Land Scotland and Natural Resources Wales on behalf of the nation. Their professional approach to sustainably manage the forests allows them to keep our public forests and woodlands as special places for nature, which people can enjoy, and businesses can thrive in. Today they deliver all of this with a huge range of commercial partners, working to offer new ways to experience and enjoy the forest and bring in new ideas and skills to complement and enhance their expertise.
Partnerships such as those with Forest Holidays provides valuable income which is reinvested, helping to connect everyone with the nation’s forests, creating beautiful places for people to enjoy, wildlife to flourish and businesses to thrive.
To date, Forest Holidays has invested over £100 million into rural areas across Great Britain, creating 10 cabin locations and employing nearly 600 local people.