Pupils from Mapperley Primary School got their hands dirty last week to help plant the first trees of a new forest near Shipley Country Park.
The junior class took part in the launch event for the UK’s first Young People’s Forest, which will eventually see around 250,000 trees planted on the 400 acre former coal mine site known as Mead.
The project is being led by the Woodland Trust and is expected to involve thousands of youngsters from across the region in the coming years.
Trust spokesman Carol Honeybun-Kelly said: “It’s really exciting as it’s the first time we’ve acquired land expressly for youth engagement.
“If young people see themselves having an impact here, it will give them confidence to think they can change things in their own lives and beyond.”
Mapperley was chosen to help the launch after achieving gold status in the trust’s Green Tree Schools Award – an initiative which teaches children, parents and staff about their local landscapes.
Headteacher Richard Cripps said: “The plan for the new forest is a really good way to get people learning, enjoying nature, and caring for the environment. The children were very excited and enthusiastic to be part of it.
“It will link to Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s Woodside Farm, which we already use as a Forest School but it’s going to increase educational opportunities and a lot of other schools are going to benefit.”
Two outreach officers will soon be recruited to link Mead with schools, youth projects, probation services and young offenders’ programmes.
The project includes #IWill, a campaign to increase youth volunteering and social action, and is backed by Government and Lottery funds, the Pears Foundation and the Veolia Environment Trust.
So far £500,000 has been invested to buy the first quarter of the site.
#IWill chief executive Charlotte Hill said: “It feels powerful to have a really inspiring project for young people embedded in the community, on such an unusual site with a million people living within a 20-minute drive.”