A new generation of ‘forest parks’ is planned as a way of encouraging more use of government-owned green spaces for recreation.
Things are already going with a swing at South Barrule Forest Park, where visitors are flocking to popular Segway, Laser Mayhem and the recently extended Ape Mann attractions.
The car park has been extended and there are plans to redevelop the former forestry depot, with ideas under consideration include camping pods, a café and a shop and offering cycles for hire.
The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture, which manages 7,000 acres of plantations, alongside 18 national glens, is working with the Manx Mountain Bike Club to construct a mountain bike ‘skills loop’ at South Barrule to complement the existing 1km and 5km bike trails.
South Barrule’s ponds will be improved for the benefit of wildlife and visitors.
Archallagan, the island’s largest continuous woodland, has been christened the Forest of A Thousand Trails. While most of the routes are via unmarked paths, Archallagan boasts a newly created junior mountain bike track, an exercise trail and a play area thanks to volunteers from the End to End Legacy project and Zurich International.
The recently opened orienteering course at Archallagan is already attracting visitors of all ages.
Conrhenny, on the outskirts of Onchan, is a community woodland project where the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture has created two new ponds, picnic areas and a way-marked exercise trail. There is a series of mountain bike trails created by a local volunteer group called Loaghtan Loaded.
It is also home to the Children’s Wood, where primary school children have grown and planted 3,000 broad leaf trees over the past six years in the Trees for Life initiative.
Improved road signage will soon point the way to South Barrule Forest Park, Archallagan Forest Park and Conrhenny Community Woodland.
New Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture Richard Ronan said: ‘With all the recent improvements, it may really be a case of “if you go down to the woods today,you are sure of a big surprise!”.’