A MAJOR conservation project which has planted thousands of native trees, reduced pollution and developed wildlife habitats is celebrating its first anniversary.

The Dearne Valley Green Heart Nature Improvement Area, in the centre of the former South Yorkshire coalfield, is one of 12 national partnership projects created a year ago.

The aim of the NIAs is to improve the landscape through restoring, expanding and joining up wildlife-rich areas.

In the Dearne Valley, £559,980 in funding from the NIA was granted and since the area was created last April, the project has secured an additional £1.8 million of Heritage Lottery Funding.

It has planted nearly 3,000 native trees at the reclaimed Barnsley Main site, worked with Yorkshire Water and other partners to agree a 20-year plan to improve the most polluted water course in the area, Cudworth Dyke, and developed wildlife-friendly farming schemes to help farms support and create wildlife habitats.

It's also worked with Barnsley Council to create several wildlife-rich meadows, worked with more than 1,000 children across 12 schools on nature conservation and involved dozens of locals on walks in the valley.

"All of the partners have been working hard together to make the area an even better place for nature where local people and visitors can relax and enjoy the great outdoors," said Pete Wall, the project's manager.