From helping us focus, to improving physical health, there are so many reasons to visit a forest and we’ve set out to discover the best ones near you in the UK.
What are the benefits of forests?
Forest bathing has become increasingly popular; it’s a common practice in Japan where people spend time in woods – a practice that is recently being validated by western doctors and prescribed to help with mental health and anxiety.
There are a multitude of reasons for visiting a nearby forest alongside the health benefits of exercising. Spending time in a forest:
- Improves sleep
- Increases energy level
- Improves mood
- Reduces stress
- Improves ability to cope with pain
- Boost immune system
- Accelerates physical recovery
How forests help our mental health
The air in the forest is filled with phytoncides, the chemical released by plants as a defence mechanism. However, when we breathe in the phytoncides, it is proven to boost our immune system.
The benefits don’t stop there, with phytoncides proving to kill viral cells, and can even detect and control early signs of cancer.
This is also why there should be more plants in urban areas.
Quick links to forests near me
Forests Near Me: The UK’s Best Forests To Visit
1. Kielder Forest (Northumberland)
Kielder Forest is the UK’s largest forest and is home to the biggest man-made lake in Northern Europe. It is a great location for those seeking to cycle, walk and spend time outdoors.
It is also a home for a wide variety of wildlife, including a growing population of Ospreys.
Experts at Kielder Forest are actively breeding and attempting to re-establish the population of Ospreys, with an ongoing record of success.
You can support by donating to their Osprey Watch.
Ospreys are not the only thriving species at Kielder Forest, it’s home to otters, frogs, salmon, roe deer and red squirrels. It is through a partnership with the Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE) that Kielder Forest is conserving the population of red squirrels.
Plan your visit by seeing what species you will most likely see.
2. Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest (Kent)
Covering 128 hectares, Bedgbury is a key partner with the Fauna & Flora International’s Global Trees campaign, helping to make a big contribution to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. They collect endangered seeds from all over the world and bring them back to Bedgebury for propagation.
This means that over 2000 trees and shrubs are grown at Bedgebury every year, with surplus seedlings distributed around the UK and Europe.
In total, there are over 400 conifer species that are under threat, which Bedgebury protests and propagates, and Bedgebury is determined as a ‘safe site’ for the International Conifer Conservation Programme (ICCP) run by the Royal Botanic Gardens.
The forest itself is home to over 10,000 conifers, with 2,300 different varieties – 56 of these species are labelled as officially vulnerable or critically endangered. It also includes the three tallest Leyland Cypresses in the UK.
With respect to activities, the forest has various orientation trails and activities, has a Go Ape on site, plus cycling trails and Gruffalo sculptures across the area.
3. Wyre Forest (Worcestershire)
Located to the west of Birmingham, Wyre Forest is the largest woodland National Nature Reserve in the country.
Although largely deforested, Wyre Forest, is one of the largest remaining ancient lowland coppice oak woodlands in Britain.
There are bikes that are available for hire, alongside trails suitable for exploring, walking and running.
They also provide trampers for hire, meaning that some of the trails are mobility-accessible – notably the Wren, Buzzard and Woodpecker trails in addition to their forest roads.
Amongst the wildlife found at the forest are fallalow, roe and muntjac deer, polecats, otters and mink. There are also several bat species that live in the area.
At Wyre Forest, their meadows are tended to by cattle (including Shetland cattle which are a rare breed) as a sustainable alternative to mechanical mowing – although there are also pigs and sheep present.
Wyre Forest also offers opportunities for 8-14 year olds via The Young Rangers Clubs, who can take part in educational activities.
4. Thetford Forest (Norfolk and Suffolk)
Situated in the heart of East Anglia, Thetford Forest takes its place as the UK’s largest man-made lowland forest, comprising 18,730 hectares. Described as a patchwork of pines, heathland and broadleaves, there is much to explore in Thetford Forest.
Host to a variety of animal and plant life, from the four species of deer (Red deer, Roe deer, Fallow deer and Muntjac) to ten of the UK’s 14 bat species, Thetford Forest also has a rich history with people.
Undertaken by hundreds of individuals by hand, the trees were planted in the 1920’s to increase and sustain the nation’s issue with deforestation after the First World War.
Today, Thetford Forest, are hosting an initiative aimed at celebrating the ageing forest workers who were a part of this feat as a part of their Oral History Project.
There are so many activities to be done: from choosing one of the many trail walks, to mountain biking, ‘Go Ape’, and Thetford Forest even hosts events such as outdoor concerts and theatre productions.
If you’re interested and local, consider joining Friends of Thetford Forest (FoTF), a voluntary organisation which aims to increase community involvement and understanding of Thetford Forest.
5. New Forest National Park (Hampshire)
New Forest is a gorgeous ancient woodland packed with beautiful scenery and rich wildlife. A popular escape for those who need fresh air and a hot spot for outdoor lovers, there is so much that makes New Forest a must-see.
Approximately 220 square miles, New Forest has plenty of trails, rivers, and bike tracks, and was once a royal hunting ground for King William I and his noblemen.
New Forest hosts a unique mix of wildlife across their three primary habitats: heathland, woodland and bogs.
Some of the animals that can be found are the infamous New Forest Ponies, yet these are not wild animals but do roam freely, alongside pigs and cattle.
There are also, of course, deer. New Forest is home to five varieties of deer (Red deer, Roe deer, Fallow deer, Sika deer, Muntjac deer). Finally, New Forest has Britain’s only venomous snake the adder, as well as Britain’s rarest reptile, the sand lizard.
Within the heart of New Forest National Park, there is Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary, where there is a platform for the public to observe deer within a large meadow.
For those seeking rest and relaxation, New Forest is also the location of one of our favourite stays, Limewood Hotel.
6. Sherwood Forest (Nottinghamshire)
Sherwood Forest is a name that resonates with many as the home of the legend Robin Hood. With a great cultural significance and history amongst the trees, there are also an abundance of things to explore.
Throughout the year, there are many events that take place, from informative and inspirational guided walks, to heritage trails and even challenges, there are things to do for people of any age.
One of the most famous and long standing attractions of Sherwood Forest is the Major Oak, that’s been standing from anywhere between 800 and 1000 years! In its lifetime. It survived fires, snowstorms, and marks itself as one of the most impressive ancient trees in the forest.
Sherwood Forest is also home to a variety of wildlife, from willow warblers and woodpeckers, to rabbits and deer. It also hosts an abundance of fungi, with more than 300 species recorded, as well as St John’s wort plants and foxgloves.
So whether taking a gentle stroll or seeking adventure, Sherwood Forest has a lot to offer.
7. Ashdown Forest (Sussex)
One of the largest public open spaces in the South East of England, Ashdown Forest welcomes 1.5 million visitors every year – and for good reason.
Famous for being the Hundred Acre Wood from the Winnie-The-Pooh stories, visitors are given the chance to follow in the footsteps of the iconic characters.
To keep the fairytale-like landscape, Ashdown Forest, has conservation initiatives to help preserve biodiversity and protect ecosystems from climate change.
Some of the wildlife includes the incredible Nightjar that come all the way from Africa to breed at Ashdown, ancient breeds of sheep, cattle and ponies, and rare insects and spiders.
Ashdown Forest also has an impressive history, with landscapes dating back thousands of years.
The forest even has evidence that suggests humans occupied the area more than 50,000 years ago. In slightly more recent history, there is a Roman road stretching across the forest, and was known to have been regularly visited by Henry VIII.
Activities available depend on the season, but visitors have the chance to go horse riding, following tracks across the 6,500 acres of unspoilt heathland. For those desiring an enriching experience, Ashdown Forest, partnered with Natural England and the Friends of Ashdown Forest, offer a variety of educational opportunities.
Help keep Ashdown Forest protected from development by donating and raising awareness.
8. Hainault Forest (Essex)
Consisting of 113 hectares of mainly ancient woodland pasture and 54 hectares of arable land, Hainault Forest is home to a wealth of wildlife and plant species. Once a royal hunting ground, now the forest is now the place to be for walking along the sculpture trail, hiring a boat, and even visiting a zoo.
With an astonishing 158 bird species recorded, this is an ideal spot for bird watching. In early summer, it is possible to hear the nightingale or a turtle dove, or spot the bounty of butterflies that call the forests their home.
Badgers, voles, and bats are also known to make the woodland their home. With respect to plantlife, there is an abundance of fungi from Dead Man’s Fingers and the Candlesnuff Fungus, alongside grand oaks, ashes and hornbeams.
Hainault Forest is one of the few remaining forests in Essex, with its origins being one of the many forests covering Britain just after the ice age. After being declared as a specially protected forest by Henry I all the way back in the early twelfth century, the forests have remained relatively untouched.
Support Hainault Forest by volunteering or donating to fund conservation.
9. Grizedale Forest (Lancashire)
Some of the activities you can find here alongside the standard walking trails are mountain biking trails (with bikes to hire), a family-run campsite, and an aerial assault course. There are also sculptures placed throughout the wooded areas for you to find.
Easy to navigate trails are situated throughout the 8,000 acre land, with ‘easy going trails’ suitable for wheelchair users, Grizedale is an exceptional location to admire the British landscape.
10. Ashridge Estate (Buckinghamshire)
Ashridge Estate covers 5,000 acres of woodland and caters to everybody. The National Trust hosts a wide variety of events, from collective forest bathing to expert-lead photography workshops, as well as opportunities like hosting a barbeque here.
The estate itself is composed of varying landscapes, with rolling chalk down lands, lush meadows and ancient trees, Ashridge Estate is truly a place of beauty – of which can be navigated via hired mobility vehicles.
Ashridge Estate’s most famous tree, the Frithsden Beech, is one of the many ancient trees in the estate, and featured in a multitude of films from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Les Misérables and Sleepy Hollow.
Fallow deer are also an integral part of the estate’s identity, with the first deer being brought onto the land in mediaeval England, and are most commonly spotted in October during rutting season.
Whether you’re visiting with your dog for a leisurely stroll through the bluebell fields, or out to spot the butterflies, birds, and other wildlife, Ashridge Estate offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling of everyday life.
11. Epping Forest (Essex and London)
Located on the border of Essex and London, Epping Forest stretches across 6,000 acres and is a beautiful expanse of native trees with over a hundred lakes and ponds. Made up of more than 50 distinct areas of woodland, grassland and other landscapes, there is much to explore.
Epping Forest is home to 50,000 ancient pollard trees, an astonishing 85% of the UK’s veteran beech pollards, and is consequently an area of national and international conservation importance.
The forest is accessible for everyone, with multiple visitor centres for those needing extra information. It also has a public golf course, sixty football pitches as well as a wedding venue, for those seeking Epping Forest as a place for activity.
With respect to wildlife, Epping Forest is home to the rare knothole yoke-moss, which only grows in three places in the UK, and is one of the best and diverse locations for fungi as there are over 1,500 recorded species – including the rarest beech deadwood-dependent fungi in Europe.
There, with even more rare species dependent on Epping Forest, help with maintaining the valuable ecosystems by donating and raising awareness.
Forests In Wales Near Me
12. Gwydir Forest (Conwy)
Gwydir Forest is located within the heart of Snowdonia National Park, and takes its name from the ancient Gwydir Estate. A breathtaking mix of forests, lakes, and mountains, the forest covers 7,250 hectares.
There are set walking trails with different grades of difficulty that run throughout the forest. For those seeking a challenge, there are orienteering courses that are also graded on skill level.
The forest also has a multitude of paths and cycle tracks, some of which follow the trails of long forgotten roads to disused lead mines.
As part of the National Forest For Wales, Gwydir Forest is under the commitment to create new areas of woodland, enhance existing woodland and to restore Wales’ irreplaceable ancient woodlands.
Gwydir Forest is famous for its towering Douglas Fire and Norway spruce trees, with some over 180 years old, and also encompasses some of Wales’ most important oak woodlands. It is also a popular spot for wildlife watching due to the variety of birds (including buzzards , peregrines and goshawks), reptiles, and butterflies.
13. Clocaenog Forest (Denbighshire and Conwy)
Covering 6,000 hectares, Clocaenog Forest lies in the heart of Mynydd Hiraethog and is known for being the home for the last remaining populations of red squirrel in Wales.
Alongside the red squirrels, Clocaenog Forest is also vital to the increasingly rare black grouse. Visitors can also find buzzards, sparrowhawks and goshawks. During the spring, birdwatchers can even find wood warblers, willow warblers and many more.
A mixture of moorland and farmland, the wooded areas are dominated by Sitka spruce, the forest is also populated with Norway spruce, larch, and pine. There are hom to tree bumblebees, wood ants and even the rare small pearl-bordered fritillary.
Support the red squirrel population by donating to the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales.
14. The Spirits of Llynfi Woodland (Bridgend)
The Spirits of Llynfi Woodland is a ten year project (2015 – 2925) to transform a former industrial site into a 75 hectare community woodland park. With over sixty thousand trees planted, from broadleaves to fruit, the woodland was designed and developed with the community in mind.
Sponsored by the Welsh government Nature Fund and the Ford Motor Company Global Fund, The Spirits of Llynfi Woodland was made to bring nature to the community.
The Spirits of Llynfi Woodland is famous for the statue named The Keeper of the Colliery, an oak sculpture of a miner to celebrate the lives of the hundreds of miners who once worked throughout the valley. A poem was also commissioned for the unveiling of the sculpture.
The woodland includes footpaths, cycle trails and was all running trails for those seeking exercising in nature.
Learn how you can support The Spirits of Llynfi Woodland by volunteering or visiting.
15. Wentwood (Newport)
Once a part of Chepstow Castle, Wentwood is 873 acres of a much larger 2,500 acres forest. In fact, Wentwood is the largest block of ancient woodland in Wales, and is the remainder of the continuous forest that once stretched from the River Usk to the Wye.
Wentwood has historical and cultural significance, having been mentioned in ancient texts, the site where outlaws followed the Welsh revolt against English rule, and became a major felling site during the seventeenth century where many of the ancient woodlands were lost.
Composed of a myriad of roads, tracks, footpaths and bridleways, Wentwood is highly accessible (although there are some short, steep climbs and can be muddy in winter) and is a popular location for horse riding, dog walking, orienteering and cycling.
With respect to the wildlife, Wentwood has a rich variety of habitats and biodiversity. Wentwood is a great attraction for birdwatchers as there are over 70 species of birds that have been recorded on the site.
Likewise, there are 23 species of butterfly, many varieties of fungi like fly agaric and chanterelle, and a host of creatures.
The people at Wentwood are actively regenerating the woodland due to the damage cause by conifer plantations and reintroducing native trees, like a mix of oak and cherry trees amongst other broadleaves.
Support Wentwood by visiting or even volunteering at the site.
16. Wye Valley Woodland (Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Monmouthshire)
Bordering England and Wales, and of course the River Wye, Wye Valley woodland is home to impressive bluebell and blossom scenes – meaning there are breath-taking views of colour almost all year round.
The Wye Valley is composed of heathlands, dry grassland, broad-leaved and coniferous woodland, and inland rocks; it is because of these impressive variety of habitats and biodiversity that the Wye Valley Woodlands are a designated Special Area of Conservation.
The primary reasons for the Wye Valley conservation is because of the Asperulo-Fagetum beech forests, which are rare within the UK, the ecological variation associated with Tilio-Acerion ravine forests, and the Taxus baccata woods.
Some of the creatures that call the Wye Valley Woodland their home are the lesser horseshoe bat, one of the smallest bats in the UK, otters, mink and even reintroduced beavers that haven’t been in Britain for around 500 years.
Forests in Scotland Near Me
17. Loch Ard Forest (Stirling)
Loch Ard Forest is a picturesque destination for those seeking adventure, cycle rides and family strolls. With a bounty of woodland and water based wildlife, Loch Ard is truly a natural treasure.
There are a variety of walking trails, with varying difficulties and lengths, so it is easy to cater the trip to the designed level – and likewise with the cycling trails. Some of these trails are decorated with sculptures created by the local artist Rob Mullholland.
Due to the nature of the Loch, there is an expansive amount of open water to consider, and provides opportunities for an abundance of water-based activities like fishing, or boat-hiring.
The diverse landscape also means a rich wildlife making it an ideal spot for those wishing to find red squirrels, birds (118 species including ospreys) and roe deer, with unusual seats and shelters for viewing points.
18. Coille na Glas Leitre (Highland)
Coille na Glas Leitre is one of the very few truly wild landscapes in Britain, having existed for at least 8000 years, and is one of the main reasons that it became one of the first National Nature Reserves.
Coille na Glas Leitre is composed of a large ancient pinewood, a freshwater loch that has islands of historical significance, and a view of the summit of Beinn Eighe. There is also an onsite Scottish Natural Heritage visitor centre where visitors can engage with an interactive experience of the wildlife and history of the area.
The panoramic views make for an incredible walking destination, as well as a place for a perfect picnic – with a designated picnic area.
19. Inchcailloch (Stirling)
Inchcailloch which means island of the old woman if found in Loch Lomond. From carpets of bluebells to still waters, Inchcailloch is a tranquil and wild location that is a rich habitat for birds, flowers, plants and insects.
Amongst the wildlife, there is a church and burial ground that is of great cultural importance and is the only Schedule Ancient Monument in the Loch Lomond area. In fact, around 1,300 years ago the island was the location where an Irish princess settled and set up a nunnery – becoming the namesake of the island.
While reaching the island, of course, requires a boat, on the island there are multiple paths that take just over half an hour and picnic tables for those seeking a relaxing visit. There is also a small campsite on the south of the island which is open during the spring and summer months.
The woodland is home to a huge variety of insects that consequently attract an array of birds from the redstarts and wood warblers to the woodpeckers and treecreepers. These insects find their homes in the deceased trees so dead trees are only removed from the island if it becomes a threat to visitors’ safety.
Whether visiting to birdwatch or admire the Scots pine, Inchailloch is truly a breath-taking island that feels largely untouched. Keep up to date with the national park by subscribing to their newsletter or to volunteer for National Parks UK and directly help conservation efforts.
20. Ariundle and Sunart (Highland)
Ariundle is a Celtic rainforest and one of Scotland’s National Nature Reserves, with beautiful scenes and landscapes that include the River Strontian. Loch Sunart is home to otters, seals, ducks and waders and gives visitors the opportunity for water-based activities.
Historically, Ariundle was the site of a lead mine that operated from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century. There is also a main settlement in Sunart is called Strontian, or Fairy point, due to the discovery of minerals.
With respect to wildlife, both Ariundle and Sunart cover a great expanse of land. In Ariundle, visitors will most likely find ancient ‘sessile’ oaks that are protected, that are home to the rare chequered skipper, pearl bordered fritillary and small pearl bordered fritillary. There are also the more elusive pine martens, otters, and wildcats that call the ancient woodlands their home.
While in Sunart, the loch is bounded by ancient oaks that cover the hillsides and is one of the best surviving remnants of the ancient Atlantic oak forest. There is also moorland, including peat bogs, as well as the woodland.
Support Forestry and Land Scotland take care of beautiful regions like this by volunteering.
21. Glen Affric (Highland)
Glen Affric is a mixture of native pinewoods, lochs and moorland, creating an amazing variety of landscapes for biodiversity. These pinewoods are one of the largest ancient Caledonian pine woods in Scotland, making up miles of Glen Affric.
The region was saved sixty years ago from becoming an area to grow commercial timber, and luckily the dense conifers were only planted in some parts of the glen. The conservation work at the time helped restore and maintain the magical landscapes that make up Glen Affric.
In addition to being a brilliant example of Caledonian woods, it also has incredible Douglas fir trees, Loch Beinn a’Mheadhain, Plodda Falls, Dog Falls, and River Affric. There is so much to see and explore in the extraordinary landscape.
The wildlife that call Glen Affric their home range from the red deer stags to otters, and are also a site for ospreys and both red- and black-throated divers. As well as basking in nature, it is a popular site for walking, cycling, hiking and camping.
Support Forestry and Land Scotland take care of important landscapes like Glen Affric by volunteering.
Forests In Northern Ireland Near Me
22. Castlewellan Forest Park (County Down)
Castlewellan Forest Park is a gorgeous park that covers 460 hectares; with a lake in the middle of the park, there are an abundance of activities that visitors can do from park walks to camping, canoeing and mountain biking.
Set amongst the Mourne Mountains, Castlewellan Forest Park is noted as an Area of Outstanding Beauty and also has remnants of historical and cultural significance, including Castlewellan Castle that was built in 1856.
Also, there is an incredible Peace Maze made from six thousand yew trees, making the maze the world’s second largest permanent hedge maze – and all to commemorate the peace and reconciliation efforts of Northern Ireland.
There is also the National Arboretum, founded in 1740, which contains trees from Asia, North and South America, and Australasia, and the garden is currently being restored and conserved. So while many of the flora aren’t native to the region, visitors can appreciate the natural world that comes from across the globe.
23. Tollymore Forest Park (County Down)
Covering 1,600 acres, Tollymore Forest Park was the first state forest park in Northern Ireland and is considered an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. From the rivers, streams, mountains and glens, Tollymore Forest is a breathtaking landscape.
The area has a rich history stretching all the way back to the twelfth century when it was controlled by the Magennis clan. In fact, visitors may stumble across the various stone monuments and architectural features that are centuries old. In more recent history, the forest has been a popular filming location, having been featured in Game Of Thrones and Dracula Untold.
The Shimna River flows through the park and is a spawning ground for salmon and trout, and is also considered an Area of Special Interest due to the ecology and geology. Animals at the forest include badgers, foxes, otters, and the rare pine martens.
With respect to conservation, there is a Tollymore Red Squirrel Group that consists of volunteers protecting the red squirrel population in the forest from squirrel pox – of which 90% of the park’s population of red squirrels died in 2011.
Likewise, a breeding pair of great spotted woodpeckers were recorded in Tollymore – the first breeding pair in centuries. Other birds present include kingfishers. Dippers, and Mandarin ducks.
24. Gosford Forest Park (Armagh)
Composed of diverse woodland and parkland, Gosford Forest Park covers 240 hectares. There are many trails running through the forest fit for walking, running, cycling, and horse-riding; they also offer off road, battery powered vehicles as part of their ‘All Out Trekking’ scheme.
Gosford Forest Park has a long history, some of which has made its mark on the landscape. During the Irish Rebellion of 1641, a manor house was destroyed by fire, rebuilt, and now only a stone arch remains.
The forest is known for its many outdoor play areas, including five unique superstructures, as well as wildlife spotting, a deer park, and adventure sports – so there are many activities to do with the family. Depending on the season, Gosford Forest Park also hosts a multitude of activities.
The forest itself is composed of conifers and broadleaf woodlands with trees from around the world which is home for a variety of birds including ducks and buzzards. There are also ponds that provide a water habitat for other ecosystems, too.
Gosford Forest Park is a great location for family visits or those seeking adventure.
25. Glenariff Forest Park (Antrim)
Glenariff Forest Park is one of the nine Antrim Glens in Norther Ireland, covering over a thousand hectares. Composed of planted woodland, lakes, conservation areas and outdoor recreation spaces, Glenariff Forest Park is an ideal location for walking, horse-riding and touring.
Within the park there are rocky gorges and a river that support a range of mosses, liverworts and ferns, and it is because of this biodiversity that Glenariff was designated as a National Nature Reserve. Visitors can see the river first hand with ease by walking along the timber walkway built around 100 years ago.
Notable creatures that are protected in the nature reserve include the red squirrel, hen harrier and the Irish hare. There are many trails that can be taken around the park, including a Waterfall Walk Trail, that allow visitors to easily bask in the beauty of Glenariff’s nature.
26. Clare Glenn Woodland (Armagh)
Running along the banks of the River Cusher is the delightful Clare Glenn Woodland, composed of hazel, oak, ash, and wych elm. From the red of the sandstone to the purples of the bluebells, there is beauty all year round.
Likewise, when in season, there are several different species of orchid that can be found in the forest. Following the riverside trail allows visitors to easily access gorgeous views of the landscape, and an insight into the homes of the dippers, grey wagtails and kingfishers.
There are also countless waterfalls amongst the dense forest, while also being highly accessible with the wide footpaths that are suitable for cycling, running, and walking.
For those needing to bask in the solitude of nature, Clare Glenn is an idyllic choice.
27. Cairn Wood (County Down)
Cairn Wood, or Ballysallagh Forest, unsurprisingly got its name from the old burial cairn situated in the native broadleaved forest.
Home to resident red squirrels and more, Cairn Wood has a permanent orienteering course as well as ongoing conservation of the squirrels and native trees – including beech, oak, birch, alder, rowan, holly and a few conifers.
As well as the beautiful landscapes, Cairn Wood is home to an array of song birds and rich with other wildlife.
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