Haldon Forest Park

Pros and Cons

Although the building offered to us by the Forestry Commission was modest in size (around 140 sq.m.), discussions were had over this being a first phase of a joint initiative over a Centre in another part of the forest – an idea that really did not progress further.


The partnership with the Forestry Commission at Haldon initially offered the opportunity of developing ourselves in stages, as the Arts Council had most recently suggested.

The Forestry Commission provided considerable infrastructure such as walking, cycling and play trails, parking and toilets, and we benefitted from its regional and national marketing. Haldon Forest Park and its other site partners (Go-Ape, cycle hire and the Ridge Café) attracted a considerable number of recreational and casual visitors.

The fact that we were based in a forest gave us the opportunity to devise programmes that addressed that experience e.g. Forest Dreaming, University of the Trees and Wood Culture. The forest allowed us to erect temporary timber structures linked to our programme, to house activities and to demonstrate ways of building with wood.

Some early programmes, particularly Wood Culture, benefitted from generous funding schemes associated with timber production such as South West Woodland Renaissance. The start of our time at Haldon coincided with funding schemes involving rural regeneration administered though the South West Regional Development Agency (abolition announced in 2010) and the District Council.

Until 2008, the Arts Council in the South West was led by Executive Director Nick Capaldi who had encouraged CCANW from earliest times. The new Director Phil Gibby appeared to have less interest in the visual arts and had no direct contact with us.


For various reasons, most probably financial, the opportunity for the Forestry Commission to create a larger centre in another part of the forest never materialised (a new visitor centre is now planned to open at the end of 2024).

The Forestry Commission’s Regional Director Chris Marrow, who had been a great supporter of CCANW, took early retirement in 2010. For most of the time, activities had to take place in the same space as exhibitions, creating a lively atmosphere but perhaps not always ideal.

There was little or no interest or joint marketing from other site partners. Public transport to the forest was poor and never developed. There was a gradual fall in ACE funding from 2008/9 as the National Lottery moved towards supporting the 2012 London Olympics. After initial support, grants from local authorities dried up on account of cuts from central Government.

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