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Nick Williams, 7, takes a high-speed turn during a toboggan run down a hill at the Swadlincote Ski and Snowboard Center. The center is part of a full spectrum of activities offered within the National Forest. (ukw# 49p cs)

Nick Williams, 7, takes a high-speed turn during a toboggan run down a hill at the Swadlincote Ski and Snowboard Center. The center is part of a full spectrum of activities offered within the National Forest. (ukw# 49p cs) (By Sean Kimmons / S&S)

SWADLINCOTE — Spread out within The National Forest, about 30 miles northeast of Birmingham, one can ski down an artificial slope, experience a fast-paced toboggan ride, meet man’s closest living relative and learn about a man-made forest.

Don’t be misled by its name, though, because unlike national forests in the States, England’s National Forest is still in its adolescent stage. It is not uncommon to see treeless farmsteads take up more space than sporadic patches of woodland.

According to the brochure, almost 7 million trees have been planted in the 200-square-mile area that falls under The National Forest. The planting process, which began about a decade ago, is expected to continue for another 15 to 20 years until woodland covers about one-third of the area.

If trees don’t float your boat, there is no need to worry. With its numerous water and outdoor recreational activities, historical places, horse-racing and even a Coors Brewery, it’s safe to say that The National Forest is more than just trees.

Many of the attractions can be found in the towns of Burton Upon Trent, Swadlincote and Coalville.

In Swadlincote, visitors can ski or snowboard down a steep slope covered in a plastic surface called Tech Matt 2000. Lessons are required before hitting the slope solo. None are required for the 650-meter toboggan ride at the town’s ski and snowboard center.

The Twycross Zoo, just 12 miles south of Swadlincote, is perhaps one of the most popular attractions in the area.

Attracting more than 450,000 visitors a year, the zoo is known for its world-class collection of primate species that include gibbons, gorillas, chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, lemurs, orangutans and bonobos, which share 95 percent of the same DNA as humans.

Besides primates, the zoo has lions, camels, giraffes, elephants and penguins, among many other animals.

Before heading out to The National Forest, do some research. Information Tickets & Travel offices on base may be able to hook you up with The National Forest travel brochure. There are also helpful Web sites.

The National Forest covers a large area, so it will take more than one day to explore and hit the top attractions. Hotels, self-catering accommodations and camping sites are scattered throughout the area.

For more information ...Here are some helpful Web sites:

The National Forest: www.nationalforest.org or www.visitnationalforest.co.uk

Twycross Zoo: www.twycrosszoo.org

Swadlincote Ski and Snowboard Center: www.swadlincoteskislope.co.uk

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