AN ambitious bid to plant a new “forest” of 375,000 trees across Essex has been kicked off in Braintree.

School children and dignitaries helped launch the new tree planting initiative last Thursday.

Children from Braintree’s White Court Primary School planted the first 41 trees at Great Notley Country Park as part of the Essex Forest Initiative.

The Essex Forest Initiative is Essex County Council’s project to plant 375,000 trees across the county over the next five years.

They were joined by county council leader David Finch and environment and climate change action boss Simon Walsh.

Braintree Council chief executive Andy Wright also joined the group.

He said: “I’m passionate about trees and have spent a lifetime planting so it’s fantastic everyone is realising their importance for the health of our young people and nation.”

Mr Finch and Mr Walsh were the first to break the ground by planting a 12ft oak tree, which was originally displayed in County Hall to illustrate the council’s commitment to tackling climate change.

Mr Finch said: “I’m delighted that so many people have joined us today who share out commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and our passion to reducing climate change.

“This is just the start of the Essex Forest Initiative and over the next few months I hope that residents and community groups across Essex join us in planting many more trees, helping us leave a legacy for future generations.”

Mr Walsh added: “We are now very aware of single-use plastics, polluted air, climate change gases and we have decided the time is ripe to start to repair our environment in Essex. I’m pleased that one of our country parks has been chosen as the site of the first planting.”

The initiative is part of the county council’s climate change action plan announced earlier this year.