Young people to plant first trees of pioneering new forest

Posted On: 
10th May 2019

Hundreds of young people gathered on a former coal mine site as they planted the first trees of Britain’s first Young People’s Forest.

The Woodland Trust is in the process of buying Mead – the site of the former Lodge House opencast colliery – near Heanor, Derbyshire and is empowering children and teenagers to pick up their shovels and plant 250,000 trees over the coming years.

Today 135 young people visited the site for the first time for a host of activities, including planting the first ceremonial trees.

Being the first youngsters to get a taste of the project, it is hoped over the coming months and years that they will be involved in planting the trees, events and interpretation of the site - and taking pride in its future as it is transformed into a 400 acre woodland.

Carol Honeybun-Kelly is leading the £4.7m project on behalf of the Trust and said with young people taking action on climate change, it’s a fitting time for such a project.

She said:

“With climate change at the forefront of the news, for young people there is no better way to get involved in a project to boost the environment - by creating this new Young People’s Forest.

“The hope of this project is to engage new generations in environmental concerns, help develop within them a passion for woodland conservation and encourage them to learn new skills.

“It is really exciting to be welcoming the first wave of young people to the site in what is our first piece of engagement. We hope the event inspires them to continue to be involved as the project develops.

“Young people themselves will be driving the decisions here but I would love this to be a place where all kinds of things can happen - career training, practical workshops, bushcraft sessions, music festivals. The potential is terrific.”
 

She added:

“It’s quite fitting that in a week where the country welcomed a new royal baby, Archie, we have the start of this project. Trees planted this year will be reaching maturity by the time he is 18.”

Former member of pop band JLS, JB Gill, now turned farmer and presenter, is backing the project and said the wood will be an “oasis for people and wildlife”.

He said:

“It’s slap bang in the middle of an urban landscape – as the wood grows and thrives, visitors will get lost wandering around paths, roaming open grasslands, and exploring new wildlife habitats.

"We need young people to be involved right from the start. Their decisions will shape what this forest will become. Their vision will help this forest grow into a place for them and their community.”

On launch day, there were young people from several local schools, including Mapperley CofE School, Heanor Science College and Howitt Primary Community School. 

Also today:

- All young people took part in interactive art activities
- Young people planted ceremonial trees – the first new trees for the forest
- A drone took aerial shots of the young people spelling out YPF (Young People’s Forest)

Although youngsters have planted five larger saplings on the site at the event, mass planting will start from autumn.

The Woodland Trust pledged to work with children and young people to create the Young People’s Forest as part of the #iwill4nature, a campaign to grow environmental youth social action during the Year of Green Action.

To date the Trust has received fantastic support from Pears Foundation, the Pears #iwill Fund, the Veolia Environmental Trust and Biffa Award, as well as Nationwide Building Society and a gift left by a Trust supporter in their will. This funding has helped the project get off to a flying start.

But, the Woodland Trust still needs help to raise a further £705,000 to realise all its ambitions for this exciting project. Visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/mead to find out more and make a donation to help transform Mead in to a thriving place for people and wildlife. 

The forest supports the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan’s ambition to connect young people with the environment.

Forestry Minister David Rutley said:

“Trees have countless benefits, from helping us in the fight against climate change to improving our health and well-being.

“Launched as part of our Year of Green Action, this innovative scheme will connect young people to nature and benefit communities across Derbyshire. The trees that are planted here will contribute to what will one day be a vital forest – helping deliver on our pledge to protect and enhance the environment for future generations.”

The land sits in a fantastic position; south of Heanor and adjacent to the very popular Shipley Country Park, which itself is next to the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Woodside Farm.Together, these three areas would make more than 500 hectares (nearly 1,300 acres) of connected, wildlife friendly space for people to enjoy. Around one million people live within 20 minutes’ drive of the site.

Mapperley C of E School, which is attending the launch, has achieved gold status in the Woodland Trust’s Green Tree School Award and has planted free trees provided by the Woodland Trust on nearby land.