An ancient forest once used by Henry VIII for hunting will be better protected after a further £1.2million was won to conserve it.

Redbridge Council successfully bid for the funding from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund to enhance and conserve Hainault Forest.

The forest is the last fragment of a medieval Royal hunting forest established by Henry I that included Hatfield and Epping which has more than 500,000 visitors per year.

The authority secured £4.2million towards the woodland’s conservation last month from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the council invested £1.5million directly from its budget – meaning total investment in the forest now stands at £6.9million.

Money from the Mayor of London will be used to restore Victorian farmhouses within the woodland and create a creative hub for craft industries and entrepreneurs.

The new centre will be called The Forge and will provide jobs and vocational training for the community.

Cllr Jas Athwal, council leader, said: “This is more fantastic news for Hainault. The forest is a magnificent urban oasis in our borough and the funding from the Mayor is another huge boost in our efforts to rejuvenate a very special place.

“The project is a good example of how our regeneration of Redbridge is benefitting the whole community by supporting businesses and creating jobs and training opportunities in the area. I’d like to thank the Mayor for his generous support, which along with the other investment is helping mark a new chapter in the iconic forest’s history.”

Jules Pipe, deputy Mayor of London for planning, regeneration and skills, said: “The Forge project in Hainault is a great example of how the Mayor’s Good Growth Fund helps give Londoners greater access to green spaces.

“As London moves towards becoming a National Park City, Redbridge Council is creating an important space within a much-loved forest which will support entrepreneurs and bring businesses together – as well as creating jobs and training opportunities for generations to come.”

Covering a total of 800 acres Hainault Forest includes 250 acres of greenbelt, ancient woodland and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).