YOUNGSTERS have celebrated their hard work after helping to transform a once dismal plantation into a thriving woodland.

Durham Wildlife Trust has been awarded a grant to further develop its tree-planting at Thornley Wood – a former quarry site just below Tow Law – three years after the children of Tow Law Millennium School were the first to begin the planting.

On Thursday, exactly three years later, eight pupils, walked from the school in Tow Law a mile down the road to unveil an interpretation panel on the site.

Since the first initial planting there have been more than two and a half thousand broad leaved trees, including a hedge, planted by volunteers from Durham Wildlife Trust, the community, Darlington Sea Scouts and Beavers, Tow Law Beavers and Scouts as well as pupils from Wolsingham and Tow Law Millennium school.

From a dark and dismal pine plantation, the site is now emerging as a very different habitat with an array of wild flowers in the summer and once the trees and hedges are established, they will provide shelter, nesting and food for invertebrates and birds.

Owned by Wolsingham Parish Council, Thornley Wood is now an amenity site, with paths and a picnic area which boasts views over Weardale on a clear day.

Durham Wildlife Trust’s Heart of Durham Project has just been awarded a Durham County Council grant of £150 towards further planting at the site and the ‘Green Leaders’ from Tow Law Millennium School are keen to lend a hand.

Helen Dobson, the teacher in charge of the ‘Green Leaders’ said: “These are very passionate youngsters. They pitch their environmental statement to their classmates and are then chosen by a democratic vote as representatives of their class.”

David Sugden, chair of Wolsingham Parish Council, said: “I am very pleased to see how Thornley Wood has developed over the past three years from a dark conifer plantation to one that now has so much environmental potential.

"It is a tribute to the Durham Wildlife volunteers and community groups who have invested their time in planting and caring for the trees and new hedges.

"It is hoped that the wood will be well used in the summer as an amenity site as the views are quite spectacular.”

As a former domestic waste tip, fragments of pottery, glass and china were collected over the time the trees have been planted – it is planned that these reminders of the site’s past will be used in willow balls which will be placed on the site next year.