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Andy Burnham helps Bolton pupils plant first site of 120 mile new Northern Forest

School children, spades at the ready, are this week turning out in force to play a hands on role in creating a greener landscape for their future.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham joined them on Wednesday 14 March to plant trees at Smithills, the first site of the ground-breaking new Northern Forest.

Conceived by the Woodland Trust and England’s Community Forests, including City of Trees in Greater Manchester, Government provided £5.7m to kick-start the £500m project in January.

This week sees the first of the trees going in to the ground at the Woodland Trust’s new Smithills site on the edge of Bolton.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham with local pupils at the site (Photo: Chris Bull Photography)
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham with local pupils at the site (Photo: Chris Bull Photography)

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said:

“The Northern Forest is an ambitious and impressive project and I’m pleased to have played my part in planting the first of what will become 50 million trees established over the next 25 years.

“We do things differently here in Greater Manchester – City of Trees is our bold plan to plant a tree for every man, woman and child in our city-region within a generation. We are working to deliver an outstanding natural environment for everyone living and working here, able to be accessed and enjoyed by all.”

Pupils of St Peter’s Smithills Dean C of E Primary joined Andy Burnham in planting on Wednesday, one of many local schools taking part in the project.

Woodland Trust’s Smithills ranger Russ Hedley said:

“We’ve not seen an ambitious project like this before. It will take £500m, 25 years and 50 million trees to bring it about. This week marks the start and we’re impressed by the excitement and enthusiasm shown by the children.

“By the time they leave education the trees will be almost to the tops of their heads and starting to take the shape of a young woodland, and by the time they raise their own children it will be teaming with wildlife. That’s a wonderful thing to remember you’ve been part of .”

Further plantings across Greater Manchester will take place led by project partner City of Trees. Jess Thompson, said:

“This is just the start and gives new momentum to the large numbers of planting activity we do across the city region to bring trees into the heart of urban areas for the benefit or people and wildlife.”

Woodland Trust CEO Beccy Speight who launched the Northern Forest tree planting on Monday 12 March, said: 

“The Northern Forest is a ground-breaking 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 well-being, create more prosperous communities and areas more resilient to the effects of climate change.”

On Saturday The Trust alongside City of Trees is welcoming the general public to come along and do the same. To reserve a spade, visit its website.

The Woodland Trust’s newly acquired Smithills Estate has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Biffa Award, Viridor Credits and Oglesby Charitable Trust

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About City of Trees

City of Trees is an innovative and exciting movement, set to reinvigorate Greater Manchester’s landscape by restoring underused, unloved woodland and planting a tree for every man, woman and child that lives in the City Region, within a generation.

For more information visit

Woodland Trust

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.

The Trust has three key aims: i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable, ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life, iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares. Access to its woods is free.

Northern Forest

Northern Forest is a partnership between The Woodland Trust, the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK, and Community Forests: City of Trees, Mersey Forest, HEYwoods and White Rose Forest. Northern Forest will plant 40 million trees over the next 25 years embracing core cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds as well as Chester and Hull with M62 as its spine.  Northern Forest aims to connect people with nature, create growth and investment opportunities, reduce climate change and flood risk, improve health and wellbeing, support the rural economy and develop innovative funding mechanisms for the future. Ultimately it aims to leave the natural environment in a better state.

There are currently five Community Forests that sit within the proposed area for the Northern Forest including: City of Trees, White Rose Forest, Mersey Forest, HEYwoods and South Yorkshire Forest.

The Northern Forest covers an area of 13 million people and has 7.6% woodland cover – well below Europe’s average. Across England, only 10% of our land area is covered by woodland. In Scotland that stands at 18%, and in France, Germany and Spain it is 31%, 33% and 37% respectively.