THE Woodland Trust has completed the £3 million purchase of the majority of the Smithills estate — ensuring the ground breaking restoration of the historic 1,700 acre site.

The conservation charity hit its fundraising target earlier this month after an anonymous donor gifted £500,000 towards the project.

Bolton Council signed over 1,144 acres of the estate on Monday and the Woodland Trust hopes to buy the remainder of the site within the next 12 months.

The organisation needs just £450,000 to complete the purchase from the council — but will then need £20 million over the next 20 years to restore Smithills estate to its former glory.

The Woodland Trust said the estate was one of the UK's most important habitats.

It is hoped threatened bird species such as skylarks, lapwings, cuckoos, little owls and meadow pipits will thrive in the restored landscape.

Mark Gordon, Smithills project lead for the Woodland Trust, said: “We want to celebrate the history of the area too by bringing its hidden and important industrial and archaeological features to life.

“Our hope is to welcome more people to the site by improving public access, creating new engagement activities and opportunities, as well as attracting social enterprise.

“The public campaign is further ahead than we thought it would be at this stage, which is fantastic, and is gaining recognition both locally and nationally.

“I think people have been inspired by how big and bold the Woodland Trust is being with its ambitions for this project.”

Schools and youth groups in Bolton and across Greater Manchester will also be invited to use the site.

The trust hopes that the landscape can be used to help "inner city kids" engage with nature.

As part of the restoration and maintenance, public access will be improved and extended with free public access being made a priority.

The organisation plans to engage with hundreds of thousands of people in the region and will encourage social enterprises to use the site's resources in a "sustainable way" promoting local livelihoods and investment in Bolton.

Alongside this the trust said it would work with a wide range of local groups "channelling local pride and passion into active enjoyment of the landscape and its heritage".

The estate, which will become the trust's largest site in England, has a rich history linked to the industrial revolution.

It is also a site with a proud history of social activism. In 1896, more than 30 years before the Kinder Scout mass trespass, 10,000 people took to the Smithills moors to demand their right to roam the moors.