SCHOOL children were invited to help plant the first trees at a new community wood in York.

Seven pupils from Poppleton Ousebank Primary School took part in the commemorative planting at the new York Community Woodlands, alongside figures from City of York Council and Forestry England.

They were the first of more than 100,000 trees and shrubs which will be planted on the 194 acres near Knapton village over the next few years.

Forestry England will be planning, planting and caring for the woodland after being chosen by York council as the first delivery partner.

The woodland will provide benefits to York’s natural ecosystem by promoting biodiversity, as well as supporting carbon absorption from the atmosphere like a ‘carbon sink’ to help the city reach its carbon net zero goal by 2030.

The expansive green space will also benefit residents as an area to promote health and wellbeing, active travel and green skills development.

Future plans for the area include multi-user trails, wooded areas, wildflower meadow and an area for contemplation.

The council's executive considered a report in August 2020 setting out the authority's vision and aims for York Community Woodland as part of its goal to cut carbon emissions and plant 50,000 trees by 2023.

The report paved the way for the significant land purchase, using £1.61m capital funding from the council’s £3m Northern Forest budget.

Council leader Cllr Keith Aspden said: “Planting the first trees in our new community woodland marks a significant milestone for the project. I’m delighted that we’ve begun to break ground and sow this woodland for the residents and visitors to enjoy for generations to come.

“As Forestry England work across the next couple of years preparing and planting the site, there will be many opportunities for local residents to get involved in shaping and enjoying this new community space.

“While the woodland will see thousands of new trees planted, we have also set a city-wide target to increase tree canopy cover in York from 10 to 13 per cent by 2050, which would see York’s tree population increase by around 10,000 a year.

“We need residents to join us and take action to plant more trees and make York greener. The city could be well on its way to reaching this target if every household in York which had space, either in a garden, allotment or park, planted just one tree!”

Jim Lee, head of woodland creation, Forestry England, said: “These first saplings mark an exciting start in creating this wonderful new woodland and it was lovely to see the enthusiasm and care from the children of Poppleton School as they planted them.

"As it grows and matures, York Community Woodland will be an inspiring place for local people of all ages to enjoy and explore, as well as providing huge benefits for wildlife and nature recovery.

"As Forestry England continues the work started by the children today and plants the many thousands of trees that will make up the woodland, we hope more people will get involved.”