Youngsters will be picking up shovels to help plant a quarter of a million trees to create the first Young People’s Forest, the Woodland Trust has said.
The trust is in the process of acquiring a 162-hectare (400 acre) former coal mine site near Heanor in Derbyshire, known as Mead, and plans to turn it into a forest in a mass youth engagement project.
The conservation charity has teamed up with #iwill, a campaign set up to increase volunteering and social action opportunities for young people, to provide an opportunity for youngsters to create the woodland and shape its future.
Two outreach officers will soon be recruited to connect Mead with schools and existing youth projects, as well as probation and young offenders’ programmes.
The first of 250,000 saplings will be ready to plant from next autumn, with youngsters wielding the shovels and involved at every level of the project, which could also involve career training, workshops and musical festivals.
Project chief Carol Honeybun-Kelly, of the Woodland Trust, said: “This is a really exciting opportunity as it’s the first time we’ve ever acquired land expressly for youth engagement.
“We want to make a really concerted effort to ensure young people feel this new wood is for them.
“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.”
Charlotte Hill, chief executive of the charity behind #iwill, said: “It’s super that we are able to harness such an unusual site.
“It’s equidistant between Nottingham and Derby, and a million people live within a 20-minute drive.
“It feels powerful to have a really inspiring project for young people embedded in the community.”
The Woodland Trust has received support from the #iwill Fund, which is backed by the Big Lottery Fund and Culture Department, while Pears Foundation and Veolia Environment Trust have provided funding.
Some £500,000 has already been made available to help the trust buy the first quarter of the site.