An ambitious project is being proposed to re-vamp Sherwood Forest Visitors Centre, which could also help put Robin Hood back on the Nottinghamshire map.
In the wake of Yorkshire’s attempts to hijack our legendary hero by claiming he has more ties to the white rose county than our own, local man Matthew Illsley is stepping up his own bid to help reclaim the outlaw.
His grand vision is to see two world-record-sized tiled mosaics of Robin and Marian, made up of thousands of photographs submitted by the public and laid close to the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest.
And for people to view the 30m sq images from an elevated height, and stunning views of the surrounding forest and beyond, a 40m-high mediaeval observation tower could be built next to it.
Matthew, who lives in Forest Town, has join forces with Sherwood Forest Trust and Thoresby Estates among others as part of The Roundhouse Consortium which is bidding for the tender rights to improve the park.
And the plans are gathering pace as Matthew says people are already showing interest in buying a tile and having their photo permanently etched onto an image of Nottinghamshire’s greatest symbolic hero.
The 35-year-old, who works for West Notts College, said: “I just thought it would be a great idea to do a giant image of Robin Hood with children’s images.
“I spoke to architects and people took it seriously, and the idea was integrated into their bid.
“It would be an opportunity for us all to be part of this.
“It would be unique, Robin Hood is an icon and our hero and families can be part of it.
“Every parent I have spoken to has said they would like to buy a tile.”
The project could be delivered at a cost of £1.1 m, and would be self-funding with Nottinghamshire folk and Robin Hood fans around the world snapping up the tiles.
The super-hard tiles would be made from vitreous enamel, a high-temperature fusion of glass and ceramic used on the London underground and could last more than a century.
The tower would be built with a steel frame decked in a mediaeval-style stone cladding.
Bids to improve Sherwood Forest Visitors Centre was put out to tender three years ago, but the winning bidder failed to come up with the cash to make the improvements.
The Roundhouse Consortium came runners-up, and Matthew is confident their bid could now land the prize.
A decision is expected by Nottinghamshire County Council next summer.
“We stand a pretty good chance and that will we will have a good bid. Every person will be able to contribute,” he added.
As for Yorkshire’s attempts to claim Robin Hood, Matthew pledged his support for Chad’s recently-launched campaign ‘Hands Off Our Hero’ saying: “If we do not make enough of Robin Hood then Yorkshire see it as a weakness.
“He is Nottinghamshire’s son, and if we make a point of promoting him there’s no chink in the armour for them to sneak in!”
To read more about the project, log onto www.sherwoodmosaics.com.