“And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be, are full of trees and changing leaves” ―Virginia Woolf,To the Lighthouse

Well its with a heavy heart we write our final blog as the BTfL project ends in its current form. But we accept that change comes like the seasons and like the seasons changing we bloom, blossom and grow.

We believe that through our 16-year history BTfL has bloomed and blossomed and will continue to do so as http://birminghamtreepeople.org.uk/ take on the BTfL project. BTP are fantastic custodians of the BTfL project and as well as continuing community tree planting BTP are leading the way in achieving Birmingham becoming an urban forest and leading the way in greening up the second city. Please follow their great work –

Twitter – @BhamTreePeople

Instagram – birminghmatreepeople

Facebook – Birmingham Tree People

It seems like a long time since the first BTfL spade was cut into the ground and our final 100,000th tree was planted in Cannon Hill Park by the BTfL team an the BTfL family and remembering everything in between is a joy!

We are currently printing our final annual review and in that are some staggering numbers, 6700 children and 7000 volunteers who have joined us through rain, wind, sleet snow, thunderstorms and  sunshine, always with wide smiles and an abundance of energy and enthusiasm.

 

As a team we have been reminiscing over the last few weeks about they good times, the challenging times, the great times, as well as the freezing, cold wet muddy times! And of course BTfL uses any exscue to chat over tea and cake and as you all know BTfL are great believers in Communitea.

 

Our chairman Geoff, remembers a couple in particular –

What a challenge remembering back over a sixteen-year period and a hundred thousand trees , so many wonderful memories and so many happy participants, be they schoolchildren, volunteers, or the local community, but two of my most memorable are , The Snake, the site was Bromford Recreation Ground in the north of the city,  and the team had planned a big planting with children from a local school as our helpers  As we neared the planting time the skies suddenly darkened and we all rushed for our waterproofs as the heavens opened

Then as quickly as it started, the rain stopped, the sun came out and we started to hear excited chattering .We looked across the site to see a “yellow snake” of dozens of excited children winding their way towards us having taken shelter under an overhanging hedge during the downpour

The snake just kept getting longer, there were nearly 100 children , each in their yellow ” flecky ” jacket and they had been joined by two of the local police who escorted the ” snake” across the busy road next to the site.

   

With teachers, parent helpers etc and boundless enthusiasm, they planted their “mini Forest” in no time and sadly, all too soon, lined up two by two to recreate their yellow snake which wound its way joyously back towards their school, complete with police escort!

And secondly Friends and Family, over the years we have done about 15 friends and family events, so memorable and often so moving, with participants ” celebrating ” occasions or remembering loved ones

The 2022 event in late March was well attended by 80 people including one ” family group ” of over 20 who had come from all over to remember a loved one who had passed on during Covid and who sadly could not have a family funeral. The family decided they would all meet up and plant trees with us on the Lickey Hills to remember their loved one and create a special place they could visit in the future, and of course leave a green legacy and I was privileged to work with them on their special family occasion and felt grateful we had helped them create a lasting family memory.

For our committee member and founder of BTfL along with Geoff Cole, Sue Griffith remembers,

The Reading Tree Project took place in the first few years of the life of BTFL – 2006-2008. It was a joint scheme with Birmingham Voluntary Services Council. In 2007/8 we planted at; Holy Family RC School, Blakesley Hall Primary School and Oldknow Junior School. In 2008/9 we planted at Ladypool Road Primary School. I know that this tree is thriving today.
CSV provided classroom sessions about the importance of trees , supported by books from the Central Library (to promote reading) and the pupils wrote poems about trees. As the spring planting meant that the trees were not in leaf, the poems, written on leaf shaped pieces of paper, were hung by the pupils on the trees. Each tree was surrounded by a hexagonal bench a while after planting so that pupils could use the shady place for reading and friendship. Therefore it was more than just a tree in the playground, it was a lovely symbol of friendship, leaning and shared knowledge. They were extra large Tulip Trees also planted around the harsh tarmac playgrounds to give the school some greenery and trees to enjoy.
I have recently visited trees we planted in 2011and have noticed that they have their own seedlings, so we have not one but two generations of trees at this site, its beautiful to see and understanding as time passes by these trees with also provide seedlings means we have multiple generations of BTfL trees.
 

Our former Project Manager, Jane Harding remembers,2008-09 – my first season with BTFL!

Getting stuck in helping to organise and run planting events around the city – what a lovely thing to do!

Gaining one of the largest Government ‘Big Tree Plant’ Grants in 2011

We launched BTFL’s Big Tree Plant at Colebourne Meadows, Hodge Hill on 2ndDecember 2011 with the help of the Lord Mayor and 45 school children from Colebourne J&I School, who planted 1000 saplings.  BTFL had a grant from the Big Tree Plant each year for 4 years, planting over 21,000 trees under the scheme and involving over 2500 people in the planting events funded by the grant.

The start of a long term partnership with local staff from Deutsche Bank in 2012

Deutsche Bank Birmingham became a ‘Platinum Sponsor’ of BTFL in 2012, providing funding annually for tree planting and bringing many staff over the next 10 years to help at planting events.

Over the years we returned to the Lickey Hills several times with Deutsche Bank staff and local school children to create the Deutsche Bank Wood – a new area of native broadleaf woodland and hazel coppice, planted to replace many diseased larch trees that had to be felled. In just one season in 2014-15, 3000 trees were planted at two events by almost 250 people!  One event event took place in the snow and included the Lord Mayor planting BTFL’s 40,000thtree.

The Woodland Workshops run in several seasons for Deutsche Bank staff at the Lickey Hills were a great hit with them, always getting booked up straight away! The staff loved their days out doing woodland management activities under the guidance of Rangers at the Lickeys, really getting stuck in to the hard work, and being rewarded with a camp fire lunch.

Perry Common Recreation Ground – a never ending crocodile of children

In February 2019 a record number of children – over 150! – helped to plant areas of new woodland at Perry Common Rec with the help of Deutsche Bank staff, local residents from Witton Lodge, and students – over 200 people in all and 1500 trees. A huge event and a pretty tiring one to manage – we did lots of running around!

Plant a Tree for Life sponsorship – families coming together to plant trees

Every year BTFL holds an event specifically for local people who have sponsored tree planting – many people planting trees to remember a lost loved one or to celebrate a family occasion.  These events are always wonderful – seeing groups of family and friends come together to plant trees to commemorate a special person or event is a huge pleasure. As many as 150 people a year have attended these events and have always remarked how special it is.

Planting the 50,000thtree in December 2015

In 2015-16, Cllr Ray Hassall, one of the founders of BTFL, was Lord Mayor and he helped to plant BTFL’s 50,000thtree in City Centre Gardens, assisted by Deutsche Bank staff and Trustees of the Birmingham.

Launching the new partnership with the Woodland Trust in the 2016-17 season

A wonderful event at Cofton Park in March 2017 officially launched the partnership BTFL forged with the Woodland Trust. Over 160 adults and children planted 1500 trees to create a new woodland in this large park, including a large group of tiny children from Rednal Hill Nursery School – our youngest planters!

The ‘Save the Broad Street Tree’ Campaign in 2016

BTFL joined the campaign to save the last 100 year old plane tree in Broad Street in 2016, a campaign which, though ultimately unsuccessful, brought to the fore the value of mature trees to humans, nature and the environment, especially in an urban setting. The tree was felled in February 2017, but considerable media coverage was achieved to raise the profile of the importance of retaining mature trees, and the Council pledged to create a new and stronger tree strategy as a result.

    

Debbie Needle our Project Manager, (magician/miracle worker/Gandalf the Great/Luke Skywalker/Wonder Woman/Hermoine Granger – especially over the last two years) wanted to share one of her favourite poems with us.

We have to extend a huge thank you to our fantastic committee member Simon Needle who without his constant support, action and pragmatism, this project would never been possible. And like we say to him, Not all heroes wear capes, Simon wears welly’s and a fleece his ‘Keep Calm and Plant Trees t-shirt!’

The Heart of a Tree – by Henry Cuyler Bunner

What does he plant who plants a tree?
He plants the friend of sun and sky;
He plants the flag of breezes free,
The shaft of beauty, towering high;
He plants a home to heaven anigh;
For song and mother croon of bird
In hushed and happy twilight heard—
The treble of heaven’s harmony—
These things he plants who plants a tree.

What does he plant who plants a tree?
He plants cool shade and tender rain.
And seed and bud of days to be,
And years that fade and flush again;
He plants the glory of the plain;
He plants the forest’s heritage—
The harvest of a coming age;
The joys that unborn eyes shall see—
These things he plants who plants a tree.

What does he plant who plants a tree?
He plants in sap and leaf and wood,
In love of home and loyalty
And far cast thought of civic good—
His blessing on the neighbourhood
Who in the hollow of his hand
Holds all the growth of all our land—
A nation’s growth from sea to sea
Stir in his heart who plants a tree.

 

And for me, Justine, the Communications and Liaison role, well it’s been working with a fantastic team, loving the energy and fun the children the bring, the passion and smiles of all our volunteers, and of course the beautiful trees. It’s impossible to choose a particular moment, so I’ll sum it up simply by saying – I’ve loved all of it – every single  minute – thanks BTfL.

We believe you, your children, your grandchilren and their children will enjoy all the trees we have planted together because it’s about a shared legacy that we can all enjoy and benefit from. So we wanted to say a huge thank you to eveyone who has followed us, supported us, planted with us, talked about us and  drank oodles of tea with us.

We only ask one more thing of you all – keep on loving, respecting, talking and planting trees…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 comments

  1. Susan Cole says:

    I am so proud of what you have all achieved in the planting of 100.000 trees which will help to make Birmingham greener for many years to come.

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