One UK organization is transforming an industrial landscape into a green, thriving woodland. The National Forest Company planted the first tree around 25 years ago, and today they’ve planted eight million trees in 200 square miles in the Midlands, creating the country’s first new forest in 1,000 years. Former coal miner Graham Knight told The Guardian, “It is quite difficult to put into words what’s happened here and the impact it has had on people. Perhaps the best way to think about it is that people seem…well, more happy somehow.”

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Many of the coal mines in the area were shuttered in the 1980’s. The local community took a hit – and then the trees started growing. Knight told The Guardian, “Twenty-five years ago all this was an opencast mine. Mud and dirt with hardly a tree to be seen. Now just look, people want to live here, they are proud to be from here – it has totally changed how people feel.”

Related: Former coal miners receive training for renewable energy jobs

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The forest has revitalized the community. National Forest Company CEO John Everitt told The Guardian the project has had several side benefits, from creating jobs to improving health to offering a habitat for wildlife to sparking tourism. 7.8 million visitors venture there every single year, and the forest has led to around 5,000 new jobs with hundreds more forthcoming. There are hundreds of miles of trails for people to hike or bicycle, craft beer and food businesses in the area are thriving, and there’s a growing timber industry.

One of Everitt’s goals is to have an outdoor woodland classroom and forest school teacher in every primary school. He told The Guardian, “Children who were maybe nervous of the outdoors are benefiting from being able to walk or cycle or simply play in the woods.”

You can support the organization by joining in on one of their tree planting events or donating here. Head on over to The Guardian’s article for astonishing before and after pictures as well.

+ The National Forest Company

Via The Guardian

Images via The National Forest on Twitter (1,2)