A Darlington environmental group was recently joined by the town's mayor to plant a weeping willow in a park to replace one that fell last year.

Darlington Forest Project and the mayor gathered in South Park to plant a golden weeping willow to replace one that came down in last summer’s strong winds.

The new tree is dedicated to Ann Hunter’s grandad William, who passed in 1992 after after a series of strokes.

The 39-year-old, from Darlington, said: “My mum, dad and grandad used to have picnics by the willows here. It was sad when this one came down so when we decided to plant some, I thought I want someone else to have that memory too.

“My grandad was the gentlest man, he loved bird watching. I know whenever I see these trees it will be like seeing my grandad again and I love the idea of birds making a home in them.”

Benches will be made from fallen trees and placed around Darlington.

Attending the planting with shovel in hand, Mayor Nick Wallis encouraged the project, which is working with the council to help meet climate goals.

Another golden willow was also planted in the park, sponsored by a couple whose granddaughter was born the day after a second willow fell. 

Roz Henderson, Darlington Forest Project coordinator, said: “People see trees along roads and lots of green space, then think Darlington is covered in them but it’s fields, not trees.

“Darlington only has four per cent tree cover, whereas the average in the UK is 13 per cent, so we’ve fallen behind.

"In the EU, the average is 35 to 40 per cent. We want to double the tree cover in Darlington in the next ten years.”

Project co-founder Cat McConnachie stressed an increasing number of people are feeling anxious about the climate emergency.

She said: “A lot of people are finding themselves in a pit of despair and just stop caring. But doing something like this will help those suffering from climate anxiety in a big way, because they are getting involved.”

Green Party councillor Mathew Snedker, who sits on the council’s climate change working group, said: “This isn’t just about planting new trees but preserving existing trees. No matter where they are in the town, whether it’s a backyard or an acre of land.

"We’re about getting the right trees in the right places for the right reasons.”