THE first government-funded trees that will form part of the Northern Forest project have been planted in Radcliffe.

More than 170 native British species trees were planted by pupils at St Andrews Church of England Primary School in Graves Street yesterday.

Forestry Minister David Rutley made a special visit to meet pupils and staff at the school as they planted the first saplings.

They began the planting of 200 saplings to fulfil the Woodland Trust and Community Forest Trust's aims for more than 50 million trees between Liverpool and Hull over the next 25 years.

The trees planted at St Andrews were the first of the government’s £5.7 million investment in the Northern Forest.

Representatives from the Community Forest Trust, Chair of the Woodland Trust, Baroness Barbara Young, and government Tree Champion Sir William Worsley attended the occasion.

A group of pupils took it in turns to share the following words with the special visitors: "We wanted to say thank you to the people planting all the trees we have today.

"Our school is very grateful for the Woodland Trust and City of Trees for letting us be part of this amazing project.

"Planting these trees will help our environment in many ways such as preventing floods, providing us with more oxygen, encouraging wildlife to come onto our school grounds and helping us to improve children's health.

"We will also have the opportunity to be educated in forest school where we will learn about nature and how to survive in the wilderness.

"We will have lots of fun in the future with the trees in our school.

"Thank you for everything you have done."

Yesterday, each school pupil had the chance to get involved by planting English Oak, Alder, Hawthorn, Crab Apple and Hazel trees in the grounds.

St Andrews hopes to develop a forest school area, including an outdoor classroom and space for the pupils to engage with nature.

Headteacher Stefanie Wilson said: "We were very honoured to have a number of special guests come to visit us and plant trees.

"All the children were really really excited about it."

In Bury, there is only five per cent tree coverage compared to the national average of 13 per cent.

Minister Rutley said: "It was privilege to visit St Andrews and see the Northern Forest take root, and to plant the first of many government funded trees which will contribute to what will one day be a great and mighty forest.

"This new forest will benefit communities across the north of England and deliver on our pledge to leave the environment in a better state for future generations."

Government backing for the project was announced by the Prime Minister in January.

Spanning more than 120 miles, the Northern Forest will help boost habitats for woodland birds and bats and protect iconic species such as the red squirrel – alongside providing a tranquil space to be enjoyed by millions of people living in the area.

Simon Mageean Northern Forest Programme Director for the Woodland Trust said: "A new Northern Forest will strengthen and accelerate the benefits of community forestry, support landscape scale working for nature, deliver a wide range of benefits, including helping to reduce flood risk, and adapt some of the UK’s major towns and cities to projected climate change.

"The North of England is perfectly suited to reap the benefits of a project on this scale. But this must be a joined up approach, we’ll need to work with Government, and other organisations to find innovative funding mechanisms to ensure we can make a difference long term."