Historic first planting of ‘groundbreaking’ Northern Forest

12 March 2018

The ambition to create a Northern Forest spanning 120 miles took root today on the hills above Bolton.

The first of 50 million trees to be planted over the next quarter of a century from Liverpool to Hull were put in the ground today, 12 March 2018, by local community representatives, volunteers, funding bodies, government ministers and MPs.

This varied army of planters is an indication of the breadth of expertise, money, influence and enthusiasm needed to pull off landscape change on such a scale.

Conceived by the Woodland Trust and the Community Forests, of which City of Trees is one of, Government provided £5.7m to kick-start the £500m project in January.

Smithills, the Woodland Trust’s newly acquired urban fringe site near Bolton, is the site of the first planting.

CEO Beccy Speight welcomed Thérèse Coffey, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Dan Jarvis MBE, MP for Barnsley Central, and Chris Green, MP for Bolton West, to join Bolton mayor, Roger Hayes and Horwich mayor, Stephen Rock in planting the first trees.

They were be helped by members of the eco-club of St Peters School and local volunteers and residents.

Woodland Trust CEO Beccy Speight said: “This is another iconic moment both for Smithills and the north of England. The Northern Forest is a groundbreaking project which is bold in its aim and never more needed! England in particular is losing trees, with planting rates stalling and woods lost. The North in particular needs to benefit from investment of this kind, with woodland cover woefully meagre at just 7.6%, well below the UK average of 13% and far below the EU average of 44%. And that’s significant, as investment in green spaces and trees in particular are shown to improve our health and wellbeing, create more prosperous communities and areas more resilient to the effects of climate change.”

City of Trees Director, Tony Hothersall was in attendance, helping the new trees take root. He comments;

"It's fantastic to see the first trees as part of the Northern Forest planted here in Greater Manchester. At City of Trees we have been working hard to plant more trees and bring underused, unloved woodland back into use for the benefit of both people and wildlife."

He adds; "City of Trees is proud of be the Greater Manchester part of the Northern Forest".

The remainder of the week will see schools visit the site to take part in tree planting and on Saturday there will be a community tree planting in partnership between City of Trees and the Woodland Trust.

To support tree planting in the Northern Forest, donate £10 today.