Author: janeedwards1

BTfL is Collaborating with Mandy Ross, Poet, Children’s Author and Community Arts Practitioner

Well, September has arrived and Autumn is around the corner. And BTfL is excited to be part of the Return to Nature Festival on September 14th at Holders Lane Woods in Moseley – a woodland celebration of the natural world held by Forward Arts.

Mandy Ross and Return To Nature Festival

There will be a whole range of eco-themed activities, entertainment for the whole family to enjoy and participate in. Environmental arts, music, writing, craft, nature trails, story-telling, inspiring talks, delicious food and a wonderfully progressive community atmosphere. BTfL will be there placed in a beautiful clearing of the woods surrounded by a charming canopy of trees and greenery.

We are hoping you will all join in the fun with us and our creative activities related to trees and nature, including a nature walk to collect tree seeds and making a seed pots to take home and to help to create a Poe-tree! We are very excited to be collaborating with Mandy Ross, a Community Arts Practitioner, poet and children’s author based in Birmingham who will be working with BTfL at the Return to Nature Festival.

From 2-5pm Mandy will be overseeing a community writing workshop including seed collecting and planting. Mandy will also be encouraging the audience to write a community poem together based around tree memories. With words written on leaf shaped paper by each individual and collected to build a beautiful community poem which will be performed in the afternoon.

Mandy says: ‘This will be the first time I have worked with BTfL and it’s very exciting. But it’s not my first experience with BTfL. Last year I was involved in planting a tree in memory of my friend Jo Skelt, Birmingham’s Poet Laureate 2013/14 who sadly died of breast cancer.
Planting a tree in Jo’s memory through BTfL was such a lovely experience. Myself and my friends went to Pype Hayes Park and worked BTfL and with other people to plant a small forest – not just one tree! I was so impressed with how BTfL worked I was happy to be approached to work with them at the Back to Nature Festival.

I often go back to visit the trees planted at Pype Hayes in memory of Jo to see how that wonderful forest is doing – its growing healthily and beautifully.
Birmingham is a very green city and we are lucky to have so many green open spaces to enjoy. Seeing how many trees BTfL plant each year shows they have a very big commitment to continuing to make the city of Birmingham even greener and healthier.
‘I have always been interested in arts and nature and working with BTfL will be a great collaboration. Working around nature and encouraging people to share their personal stories gives an individual a voice to express themselves and share memories and experiences with others. Being immersed in nature brings out a creative energy in people. The community poem we will be writing at the Back to Nature Festival will allow many different voices to be heard and it’s a very positive experience. Living together in a beautifully diverse city, hearing about different experiences and points of view brings us closer together and a greater understanding and appreciation of each other.

It’s inspiring!

An example of Mandy Ross’s work with community groups

Sharing stories and experiences is good for our wellbeing also. A sense of wellbeing has always been a strong strand that carries through my work. Finding ways to encourage people to be creative, engage in writing and the arts and nature as a way of telling a story is something I’m fascinated with. My collaboration with BTfL doesn’t stop after the Return to Nature Festival, we will also be collaborating with schools to deliver workshops together during this tree planting season – exciting times!’

BTfL says: “Please come and join us for a wonderful celebration of our natural world!’
The event starts at 11am at Holders Lane Woods, Holders Lane, Moseley B13 8NW and the activities and music will go on until 8pm.

Copy by Justine Marklew

Ranger Dave Talks To Us About Birmingham’s Green Spaces

Dave Beardsmore, ‘Ranger Dave’ as he is affectionately known, talks to us about the joys of his job as a ranger based at the Lickey Hills. 

‘Why don’t you just switch off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead….’ Some of us may remember this familiar song lyric from the classic children’s TV programme from the 1980’s, ‘Why Don’t You,’ and some of us won’t – but the sentiment is the same. Chatting to Dave Beardsmore, a passionate and dedicated ranger based at the Lickey Hills Country Park it’s clear that’s what Dave wants us to do too. Dave wants to get us closer to nature and he won’t stop until our wellies are caked in mud and we wonder at how lucky we are to have so many beautiful green spaces in Birmingham. Here at BTFL, we understand that every cog in the wheel that keeps Birmingham’s green open spaces functional, maintained and beautiful needs to be celebrated.

Ranger Dave and a view of the Lickey Hills

And Dave, along with the rest of the team at the Lickey Hills and across the city help do that every day. A city with more than 600 parks – more than Paris! Us Brummies’ are very lucky and Dave knows it. Dave has been a ranger for Birmingham City Council for eight years and couldn’t see himself doing anything else. Dave says: “I had a job once in a garage, I hated it, working inside felt claustrophobic to me so I left. That was in 1983 and I’ve never worked inside since. Who wouldn’t love working in this beautiful 524-acre landscape full of woodland, heathland and wide-open spaces that is the Lickey Hills! This is where I am based, but myself and the rest of the rangers here work all over the city. This job is varied. We don’t just tend to the green spaces in Birmingham. We are the connection between the city council parks department and the public. As well as land management, tree felling, litter picking, fire-fighting, environmental study and dealing with anti-social behaviour we help educate the public too. And we are very fortunate to have the enthusiasm, passion and practical help from, friends group and friends of parks groups. Volunteers that help us maintain the parks throughout the year. These amazing people are invaluable to us.

View of the Lickey Hills and Dave’s Nature Trail Quiz

For the public, there is a varied programme of activities throughout the year to get people closer to nature, especially children. In an age of technology where lots of children sit at home playing video games for hours we need to communicate that at their nearest park there is an adventure just waiting to happen! We help communities develop growing places in their local area where they can plant, nurture, harvest and eat fruit and vegetables they have grown. It’s very rewarding to be able to eat what you have grown! We work with Birmingham Tress for Life through their education and tree planting sessions with local schools across the city. Children and adults love to plant these trees, it gives them a sense of pride, ownership and understanding over that space and the newly planted trees and it provides a small organic personal legacy, where they can point and say proudly, ‘there’s the tree I planted!

Tree roots at the Lickey Hills

When we have to fell diseased trees we work with Birmingham Trees for Life to replace these trees. We had to fell 324 trees recently, but with the help of Birmingham Trees for Life and their sponsors Deutsche Bank, Birmingham we cleared the area and planted 6000 more trees. And we will continue to work with Birmingham Trees for Life to plant more and more trees. Here at the Lickey Hills throughout August we have play days, putting on activities like bug hunting, den building, environmental arts and crafts, music workshops and small picture quiz nature trails and larger self-guided nature trails. On one day alone this Summer there were 600 people enjoying the play day. We looked out from the information centre at the Lickey Hills and saw a sea of smiling happy faces. The responses we get from parents and children is so positive, they enjoy getting outside, getting muddy and getting closer to nature. And if they come and enjoy our play days once, we know that they will visit again. And it’s all free.

Getting outside and close to nature is good exercise, it’s educational, it’s good for emotional wellbeing, people learn new skills and it helps us all appreciate our natural environment much more. It eases stress and anxiety and improves general health. Eco Therapy is real, just step outside and find out for yourself. But don’t forget to turn off your TV on the way out!

Copy: Justine Marklew




Adderley Primary pupils extend their tree knowledge.

Today was supposed to be sunny…..but instead it was dismal and dull. That was until we entered Adderley Primary School, which was vibrant and bright and full of enthusiastic pupils.

After a brief chat we all headed back to the Adderley Park, to take a look at the trees the school planted with us last season. The news was good…….and bad! Several of the larger standard trees had been deliberately broken off, but on a more positive note- those remaining were thriving. We stopped to look at all the smaller whips the pupils had planted and they were also growing well.

Pupils were challenged to look at trees in more detail and try to recognise and remember at least one that they liked.

We were amazed at the knowledge these young pupils already had surrounding trees and the general environment.  They were all really excited to see the wonderful resources provided by HS2 that would mean they could extend their knowledge further. Great school, great event…..thank you HS2 for your sponsorship of this great initiative. Here are a few more photos!

Bordesley Village Community School learn more about trees.

Thanks to HS2 funding, BTFL have been able to spend more quality time with schools that lie near the proposed rail route. 

As well as a teaching period in the class room, we had time to take them into the local park and introduce them to the wonder of trees and what happens to a tree during its life.


Bordesley Village Community School helped plant a number of trees in Garrison Park earlier this year but there was little time to look at other trees in the park and learn their names and what each part of a tree does- so today was a new experience for them.

You can see how busy they were collecting leaves and creating ‘food webs’, via this link.

Back at school Debbie showed them all the fun resources in their packs to keep them interested in trees and the environment they live in. Thank you BVCS for sparing time in your busy school day for TREES !

BTFL planting season 2018/19 comes to an end.

Today marked the final planting event for schools, communities and families with BTFL for this season. Trees are now leaving their winter dormant period, so we will suspend planting until November this year when we begin again for our 2019/20 season !

Our thanks to everyone that has joined us on site, ‘Friends’ of parks, schools, corporate groups and volunteers. We couldn’t do it without your support. We also need to give special thanks to BCC Woodland team, who make sure all our spades and trees arrive at the right place and prepare all our sites. Finally a thank you to all the BCC Parks staff and our BTFL volunteers who give their time to make things happen!

Keep watching this site to see what else we are up to, as we are busy with schools and events during the summer- helping to spread the word about the importance of trees.


Families and Friends sponsor trees with BTFL.

Families and friends who sponsor trees with BTFL get to come along and plant the trees themselves, in a Birmingham Park. This year our venue was the Lickey Hills Country Park.

This year,  over 50 ‘planters’ joined us to plant well over 500 new saplings in an area that has been recently cleared. Sponsors are able to make a donation and are welcomed, along with their families and friends, to join BTFL staff and volunteers planting up new areas of woodland. Often people are planting in memory of a loved one or maybe to celebrate a birthday or special event…….or just for fun!

After initial safety instruction they all set off to plant their saplings and we have tried to capture that moment and also the groups who were working together via this link. 

Why not join us next year? You will find details on how to take part on this web site. 

Busy day at Norman Chamberlain Playing Fields.

Today we returned to Norman Chamberlain playing fields to plant some much smaller saplings than those we planted  last Saturday….but there were 1500 of them!

Luckily, we had many hands to make light work of the planting as we were joined on site by pupils from Tile Cross Academy and Dame Elizabeth Cadbury school plus volunteers from HSBC,    Shah Satnum Ji Green S Welfare Force and staff from the Woodland Trust. Add to that the 3 BTFL staff and 2 of our committee plus the Woodland Team (who had already done all the preparation)…..and we were done in just over an hour. Amazing !













First of all we had to make sure that everyone had good instructions as to their role and how to make sure they carried it out safely…….but even more importantly, we needed to make sure we fed and watered them all at the end!  Our thanks to Green S Welfare Force for supplementing our lunch with some very tasty extras. Follow this link to see us all at work.