YOUNGSTERS have been getting their hands dirty in a project designed to encourage them to be proud of their environment.

In the first initiative to be staged at the new Darlington Children's Centre, on the Branksome estate, about 20 mothers and their children spent the day planting shrubs.

The project was designed to boost interest in the environment, encourage parents to take an active interest in the community and brighten up the area with plants donated by Darlington Borough Council.

The centre's development officer, Alison Hope, said the initiative was the first at the centre.

"It is about getting parents involved in decision-making," she said. "Here they are coming together to improve their own environment and take pride in their own homes."

The centre opened last month, at a cost of nearly £630,000, in the grounds of Mount Pleasant Primary School. It has been financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the Government under its SureStart scheme, which targets under four-year-olds, ensuring they get the best start to life.