AN area of woodland is springing up after local schoolchildren helped plant 21,000 trees.

Smithills estate is now home to the first of 50-million trees which will be planted across a 120-mile stretch from Liverpool to Hull over the next 25 years.

The Northern Forest project received £1.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund to create new forests and woods in the foothills of the Pennines.

The youngsters from St Peter’s Smithills Dean CE Primary were joined by Bolton Mayor Roger Hayes, Horwich Mayor Steve Rock, Manchester Lord Lieutenant Warren Smith, Bolton West MP Chris Green and Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis at the ceremonial planting event at the site last month.

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Environment, Thérèse Coffey, also attended and spoke about the government’s commitment to the project conceived by the Woodland Trust and England’s Community Forest.

The £500m project gained national attention when the Prime Minister announced a £5.7m government contribution in January.

Woodlands Trust CEO, Beccy Speight, said: “The north in particular needs to benefit from investment of this kind, with woodland cover woefully meagre at just 7.6pc – far below the EU average of 44pc.”

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham also joined the tree-planting effort ahead of announcing Greater Manchester’s ambitions to ditch single-use plastics by 2020 at the city-region’s first Green Summit.

Members of St Peter’s Smithills Dean's Eco Club were the first of 130 pupils to plant a total of 1,200 trees.

Oak, silver birch and rowan trees will help attract a range of invertebrates which will nurture birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Big Smithills funders planted a tree alongside Forestry Commission and Natural England representatives and a further 2,300 trees were planted by organisations including GVA, Selfridges, Phoenix Futures, Myerscough College and the Bolton Light Cinema.

By the end of this month, the total number of new trees planted at Smithills is set to reach 21,500.

100 members of the public helped plant 1,400 trees at the first community tree planting day.

Another planting event will be held later in the year and anyone interested in taking part can email or call 0330 333 5314.