Popular visitor destination, Cannock Chase Forest, have announced they are instructing their festive food partner to cease trading at the site from Monday 7 December to help reduce the number of people coming to the site following another weekend of record visitor numbers.
Visits to green spaces have surged in recent months, as people look for outdoor places to visit, exercise and feel safe during the pandemic. Cannock Chase Forest has seen record numbers visiting as people make the most of the open spaces and the wellbeing benefits of being amongst trees and nature. The addition of the festive food cabins to the businesses operating at the site has pushed these numbers to a level that site managers Forestry England feel uncomfortable with.
Jo Atkinson, Head of Recreation & Public Affairs for Forestry England, said
“We are a public body, but we receive little public funding and generate most of our revenue ourselves. The money people pay to park at our carpark on Birches Valley is important for us to be able to maintain and manage the Cannock Chase Forest visitor facilities. The high visitor numbers is definitely helping to support not only that work, but also our on-site business partners who, like many, have had a difficult year financially. However, the most important thing for Forestry England is to keep visitors, local residents and our staff safe, and there are clearly a number of safety concerns with the forest being this busy – ranging from some visitors parking thoughtlessly or dangerously on the surrounding roads, through to difficulties in maintaining social distancing measures – so we needed to take action.“
Adam Bradbury, part of the Forest Centre Management team at Cannock Chase Forest, said
“We are working hard in extremely challenging circumstances to manage things on the ground to help take care of visitors. This weekend we had over three times more staff trying to manage the car park and additional car parking spaces available. However, the scenes over the weekend were still unacceptable to both us and many of our visitors, so we have taken the difficult decision to stop our seasonal catering partner activity. These festive food cabins have been with us each Christmas for many years, but this year had been incorrectly labelled by some people as a Christmas Market. This added to the already high visitor numbers, as people desperate to get a Christmas fix headed to the Chase.”
Christmas tree sales will continue at Cannock Chase Forest until 20 December as planned, with separate car parking available for Christmas Tree customers. Forestry England continues to use their website, social media channels and on-site safety signage to remind people to stay local, to be prepared to turn around and go home if the car park is full when they arrive and to follow the government’s tier system guidance when planning their visit.