Young Green Leaders Practice What They Preach

Pupils from Tow Law Millennium School reveal the new interpretation panel at Thornley Wood.

Durham Wildlife Trust has been awarded a grant to further develop its tree-planting at a new County Durham wood and a group of local schoolchildren helped mark its third anniversary.

Three years ago, a group of children from Tow Law Millennium School were the first to begin the planting of a new woodland at Thornley Wood, a small former quarry site just below Tow Law.

On Thursday 5th December, exactly three years later, eight pupils, members of the ‘Green Leaders’ group, walked from the school in Tow Law a mile down the road to unveil an interpretation panel on the site.

The Green Leaders group are from left to right Ella Telford, Charlotte Brown, Kani Kantharupan, Carson Davies, Serena Stagg, Thomas Birch, Kian Sharkey and Darcy Thompson with David Sugden, Wolsingham Parish Council, and Anne Porter from Durham Wildlife Trust

Since that 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 local community, Darlington Sea Scouts and Beavers, Tow Law Beavers and Scouts as well as pupils from Wolsingham and Tow Law Millennium schools.

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 a wide range of invertebrates and birds.

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

Durham Wildlife Trust’s Heart of Durham Project has just been awarded a Durham County Council ‘national tree week’ grant of £150 towards further planting at this site and the Green Leaders are very keen to lend a hand.

The Tow Law Millennium ‘Green Leaders’ Group was started in September 2017; made up of two children from each year group, 1-6, the group meet once a fortnight to discuss how they can make the school more environmentally friendly.

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

This year the Green Leaders have been learning about greenhouse gases, how they can help the environment through recycling within school, even presenting data to the school’s Governing Body on the school’s energy use and how they planned to support reducing the energy use further. This week was zero plastic week with all pupils encouraged not to bring into school any single use plastic.

David Sugden, Chair of Wolsingham Parish Council, said: “I am very pleased to see how this site has developed over the last three years from a dark conifer plantation to one that now has so much environmental potential. It is a tribute to the Durham Wildlife Trust volunteers and community groups who have invested their time in planting and caring for the trees and new hedges. It is hoped that it will be well used in the summer as an amenity site as the views are quite spectacular. Thornley Woods will be part of the Wolsingham Parish Council town trail web map so it may bring people to see it who may never have known it is here.”

Anne Porter, Durham Wildlife Trust’s Heart of Durham Project Officer, said: “The green leaders were a delightful group and very committed to their environmental beliefs. Practicing what they preach they walked from the school in pretty foul weather to help unveil the interpretation board. They are very keen to come back early in 2020 to help plant the trees awarded to Durham Wildlife Trust from Durham County Council’s national tree week. They will be the generation who hopefully will see this site flourish and see the trees reach maturity”

Anne Porter shows the green leaders the trees that pupils from their school planted, 3 years before.

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.

The new board at Thornley