The future of Sherwood Forest is looking healthy as the UK's leading bird protection charity is expected to land a £5.3m contract to manage the land.
Cuckoos, woodpeckers and willow warblers all nest in the forest. Now its nature reserve and new visitor centre are set to be run by a consortium led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
The legendary home of Robin Hood attracts 350,000 visitors each year and boasts England's Tree of the Year, the Major Oak.
Woodland, wildlife and heritage at the site will be celebrated in the project, which will be launched ahead of a target opening date of winter 2017.
Mike Clarke, RSPB chief executive, said: "This is a hugely exciting project and a great opportunity to deliver a fantastic new facility for people, communities and the forest.
"Our core charitable activity is all about managing landscapes for nature and engaging people and we have a proven track record of delivering, to a high standard, exactly what is required."
Once a new visitor centre is built, the current visitor centre will be returned to its natural forest habitat.
David Parker, acting area manager for Natural England, said: "The iconic Sherwood Forest nature reserve is Nottinghamshire's premier wildlife site and internationally important for its famous ancient trees and special woodland wildlife.
"This new modern visitor centre will enable people to continue to marvel at and enjoy this specially protected site in a more sustainable way."
The successful bidder, chosen by Nottinghamshire County Council to manage the site, is a consortium led by RSPB and includes the Sherwood Forest Trust, Continuum Attractions and Thoresby Estate.
Jennifer Spencer, chief executive of tourism body Experience Nottinghamshire, said: "Sherwood Forest is already one of the most popular tourist attractions in Nottinghamshire, and is known around the world for its role in the Robin Hood legend.
"It is sure to attract even more visitors to the area, while also carefully preserving the forest for future generations."
The county council owns the site and will monitor it throughout the 20-year contract. All paperwork is set to be finished by the end of September.
Council leader Alan Rhodes said: "A bright new chapter for Sherwood Forest country park and the legend of Robin Hood is a step closer with this announcement as we move to final contract talks."
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