Dennis Publishing Is Serious About Trees

Felix Dennis, the late founder of Dennis Publishing, owner of Maxim in its heyday and now publisher of The Week and Mental Floss, was a famously eccentric fellow: an accomplished poet. He claimed to have spent $100 million supporting his mistresses and told the press he was addicted to crack for two years in the mid-1980s.

He owned 18 Rolls Royces and Bentleys but never had a driving license. In 2008, he also claimed to have murdered a man  and gotten away with it, but later retracted the statement. (It’s not clear how many of his more sensational disclosures, if any, were true).

One of his most puzzling claims over the years was his stated intention to recreate the primeval forests of England, most of them felled in the medieval and Renaissance period to build Britain’s Royal Navy and merchant fleet and feed its insatiable appetite for charcoal for heating and industry.

For years, no one could quite tell if this was another one of his jokes, but his obsession with England’s lost forests is actually part of a long tradition with mythic and literary overtones, hearkening back to the Druids and Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest.

In 1996, Dennis showed that he was perfectly serious (or appeared to be so) with the first plantings of native broad-leaf trees on his huge estate in Dorsington, Warwickshire. In 2011, he founded the Heart of England Forest Project charity, which received the bulk of his fortune on his death last year, estimated at around $800 million.

By that time, Dennis had already planted over 1 million native English trees covering 3,000 acres on his huge estate in Dorsington, Warwickshire, and in the decades to come, the Heart of England Forest Project plans to bring that number to 13 million trees covering 30,000 acres.

So yes, Dennis was serious about it, and Dennis Publishing, which still contributes to and supports the Heart of England Forest Project, is fully committed to carrying on his work. This week, the company unveiled plans to plant 10,000 trees in a single day, with a social media component to get British children involved in the project.

Using the hashtag #TreesforTrees, Dennis is inviting kids and their parents to post a drawing of a tree on Facebook or Instagram, or send it via email; for each picture received, the charity will plant a real tree in the forest.

All the pictures will be combined to create a “digital forest” that can be explored online; the artist for one winning submission will also get to name this particular section of the real forest.

In addition to British distribution, an advertisement explaining the project will appear on Clear Channel Outdoor’s high-profile digital displays in New York City’s Times Square.

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