Sorry – Tree Planting Events Cancelled Due to Lockdown

Apologies to all the schools and volunteers that were scheduled to attend our planting events this season in January and February 2021. All tree planting events are now postponed due to Covid lockdown restrictions. We will endeavour to reschedule some of these events if lockdown restriction are eased in March. We hope to deliver whip planting in March as planned and to deliver our Friends and Family Sponsorship tree planting event. Please watch this space and follow our social media platforms for news and updates. We appreciate your understanding – thank you
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Review of the BTfL Year 2019 – 2020

Well here we again looking back at another year. Normally we would be celebrating planting another 10,000 trees and working with hundreds of volunteers, but as we all know 2020 has been a very different and very difficult year for all of us.

When lockdown happened our tree planting activity stopped and has struggled to get properly started again.

We understood that the world had bigger priorities than tree planting. It was disappointing not to be outside breathing in the fresh air digging holes and building on those great relationships we share with the people of Birmingham.

But as we all adjusted it was clear that there was one positive outlet. The one revelation for everyone was – nature!

We all began to appreciate and absorb and enjoy everything outside had to offer. The sunshine, wildlife, flowers blooming, trees flowering, a walk barefoot on the grass. Our gardens and green spaces became a sanctuary that aided our wellbeing and physical health.

    

Now nature as a healer is not news to us and we couldn’t help, but hope that nature and trees Birmingham’s green spaces would continue to be appreciated for what they do – nurture our physical and mental wellbeing.

So instead of asking our friends and followers to join us outside we asked them to enjoy the outside and tell us about the wellbeing through their window.

It was a lovely moment in BTfL’s year when we received photos and words describing a green space or garden of individuals celebrating nature outside their window and how it was helping them through lockdown.

It was an insight into how nature does heal without us even being aware of it. It doesn’t matter whether it is one tree on your doorstep that you watched that same squirrel climb up every day, a window box where you grew herbs or a garden where wildlife thrives and trees bloom.

We then asked local school children to draw trees. It was an opportunity for students to study trees, their shapes, leaves, trunks and surrounding habitat and interpret it in some wonderful ways. The results were beautiful from some very talented students.


Along with the trees drawings we also undertook to Camera Obscura workshops as part of our HS2 funding programme. Here the children built their own pin hole camera via Zoom under the direction of Jo Gane, photography practitioner and funded by photography artist, Matthew Murray through his arts council funding.

Then the children captured images of trees and nature around their school grounds using a cardboard box, tracing paper and a small lens with magical results.

 

These projects ensured we kept in touch with schools and undertook artistic projects while we couldn’t plant trees. It was so successful we are now looking at organising a fuller arts and education programme during the summer months, so please watch this space.

And while lockdown was in full swing we said a sad goodbye to our Project Manager of 12-years, Jane Harding. Jane was leaving for pastures new, we were ad to see Jane go and wished her all the luck with her new adventures. Then we  welcomed our new Project Manager, Sophia Nasreisfahany.

An unusual and challenging time to join a busy project, but Sophia has settled brilliantly, bringing great ideas, lots of enthusiasm and a passion for trees that we all share.

We celebrated tree memories asking, committee members and followers to share a special memory about a tree, or indeed a special tree in their life.

It was another great insight into how trees bring such positivity, warm emotions and happy memories.

While we had more tine over the summer some committee members looked back at previous tree plantings going back 16-years.

It was an opportunity to celebrate these small woodlands thriving in areas where before we planted trees there was – nothing.

    

Seeing a wide variety of native and non-native trees growing in urban areas, providing a safe habitat for wildlife, cleaner air, reduced flooding and a much more beautiful landscape to enjoy – we felt a small swell of pride.

We have continued to promote the West Midland’s Combined Authority’s Virtual Forest too.

The West Midlands aims to increase tree canopy cover to 25 percent, to combat climate change, but we need your help to count the trees being planted.

So, if you click the link you can register the trees you have planted in your garden or anywhere else so we can get a better idea of just how many trees are growing in the West Midlands.

https://www.wmca.org.uk/what-we-do/environment/west-midlands-virtual-forest/

To continue the theme of arts, culture and trees we have recently began working with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.

BTfL’s partnership with BCMG comes as the BCMG ensemble prepares for its concert, where it will perform, T R E E in Spring 2021.

T R E E will include the world premiere of Christian Mason’s new Sound Investment commission ‘The Singing Tree’, with text by Paul Griffiths, and ‘Concertini for ensemble’ by Helmut Lachenmann.

BCMG also plans to offer a wide range of resources and creative music-making activities for young people, related to environmental matters.

BCMG Artistic Director Stephan Meier comments, “During the past couple of years, a number of composers have told me of their intention to write music inspired by nature, trees in particular. We believe great art should grow from a sound relationship with nature; as I write, Christian Mason is busy composing a sort of oratorio in the shape of a tree, based on a libretto specifically written for this occasion by Paul Griffiths. We are delighted to partner with Birmingham Trees for Life as we prepare for the World Premiere of The Singing Tree, and I hope that our work together will ensure that the impact of this music goes way beyond the concert hall.”

Geoff Cole, Chairman of Birmingham Trees for Life, comments: “Trees are so important, especially in a large industrial city like Birmingham, and if we want less pollution, less flooding and cleaner air we simply have to plant more trees! By partnering with organisations around the city, including BCMG, we can help to get the message out about the importance of trees to our environment.”

We are excited at the prospect of working in conjunction with BCMG in Spring 2021. Working in local schools planting trees and undertaking educational engagement sessions to aid BCMG’s TREE legacy.

Our tree experts on the BTfL committee will also be lending their expertise and undertaking woodland walks with BCMG to learn all about the value of trees, especially in a large urban area like Birmingham.

And while we have been unable to plant trees we have been working towards finding other areas to plant trees to create small woodlands in areas that need greener areas for people to enjoy and a place for biodiversity to flourish – exciting times!

So, considering BTfL was stopped in its tracks like everybody else, we were forced to change, adapt and become more innovative. We continued to reach out digitally enabling people to engage with trees on a different level which has been a revelation for us.

So, we may have been and may still be physically distanced for a while – but socially we have stayed connected. And connection in these times of lockdown, isolation and sometimes loneliness,  connection is what we all of us need in bucket loads!

We would like say thank you to ur partners and funders  and to everyone who has supported BTfL-

   

Tree Memories, Favourite Trees, Tree Legacy!

As every new tree planting season starts and we bed down our beautiful standard trees in urban spaces, work with volunteers planting 1000’s of whips and watch as these wonderful woodlands grow, encouraging biodiversity, added colour and canopy cover, we appreciate trees, their beauty, environmental legacy impact on the economy and our physical and emotional wellbeing.

But what about our personal tree memories, our favourite tree, how trees have the power conjure a certain emotion or feeling.

If we stop for a moment and think about it, many tree memories start in childhood, climbing that gnarly old twisted willow tree, the joy of picking fruit from a tree in a garden, relaxing in the shade under that same tree on a hot summers day, sitting a well-worn tree stump, the hypnotic sun dappled patterns of leaf shadows dancing on the ground or even sitting with a pen and paper and drawing a tree as a child!

BTfL asked supporters, followers and volunteers about their tree memories, favourite tree and the response was wide and varied. One thing was clear all tree talk was, joyous impassioned and emotive. Illustrating that trees nurture our emotions as well as health and our surroundings, so here are some for you to enjoy!

Viv Astling, BTfL Committee Member and former Chairman of the National Forest Company – 

The tree I have chosen is one I look out on every day. Its an Oak and it is on the edge of a small green outside my house. We moved here over 45-years ago and the oak tree was more or less as it is today. Perhaps its well over 100 years old. It has had some major surgery over the decades under the watchful eye of the local residents (including me) which has enabled the tree to retain its shape and vigour.

At the millennium there was discussion about planting another tree funded by the residents but nothing happened. In the absence of collective action, my wife rang the City Council and asked for more trees and they appropriately planted three more oaks. So we have a green with four oaks. That was at a time when the Council had a tree planting budget.

The tree is frequently used in the Summer as a stopping off place on the way home by children from the nearby school as it gives great shade and the soil round the tree forms a slope for lounging. Sometimes its the place for leaving coats and bags during a game of football. The tree presides over the green with some authority and the three newcomers have a great role model for their future development. I have no doubt it will outlive me and continue to provide pleasure and comfort by just being there and filling the skyline.

 

Nicola Folbigg, Forest School, Warley Woods – 

My favourite tree a beech tree at the top of Warley Woods near the entrance by Upper St Marys in Bearwood.

I love the beech trees of Warley Woods. This tree is one I see every day when I walk my dog. I’ve walked in this park since I moved to Bearwood over 10 years ago. Beech trees are grand and the colours throughout the season are beautiful.

It is calming and grounds you when you walk past this tree. I remember the fairy tale book my mum used to read to me, it had fairy tree houses amongst the Beech trees, so I’ve always loved looking up into the canopy. I could never tire of the woods and trees and my wonderful job which allows me to work in among the trees everyday as a forest school teacher.

Geoff Cole, Chairman of Birmingham Trees for Life and formerly Assistant Director, Parks, Sports & Events at Birmingham City Council  

I have seen amazing trees in amazing places, but my favourite tree is Betula Ermanii Polar Bear, (White Barked Birch) in my back garden. 10 years in my garden and it’s thriving. With it’s amazing white winter bark, large glossy green leaves and ‘Lamb’s Tail,’ catkins it’s the first tree I see every morning and the last tree I see each night. It reminds me of every changing season and is truly a thing of beauty.

 

Simon Gulliver, volunteer member and  horticulturalist and Gardens & Parks Consultant, National Trust –

I thought about this and then realised that a tree with a great story and one I love is the ‘dawn redwood’ at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The scientific name for it is Metasequoia glyptostroboides – bit of a mouthful, but a grand name for a grand tree.

This species grew in Europe over 150 million years ago, but was unknown to science except as a fossil until it was discovered growing in a single valley in China in 1941 and introduced to Western cultivation in 1947. It was propagated and distributed around the world and so now it is here in England again growing on the main lawn at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. It is a beautiful deciduous conifer that colours a deep bronze in autumn.

The tree was probably planted in 1948 or 1949, but alas was located where the new Curator’s house was to be built (now the Study Centre) and so in 1960 it had to be moved “to a prominent position on the main lawn”. Showing a significant will to survive, the plant known in China as the ‘water fir’ is thriving on this dry sandy slope!

The seeds of the tree were sent to Britain from the Harvard University Arboretum – the Arnold Arboretum, and here is another connection with Birmingham. The famous plant hunter Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson began his career at Birmingham and eventually after many adventures became the Keeper of the Arnold Arboretum. He died tragically in a car crash and when eventually interred in the Mount Royal Cemetery in Canada a tree was chosen to be planted alongside his grave. They could have chosen many of his intorductions including the dove tree, but no, because he collected so many new plants for our gardens from China the latest tree to be discovered was chosen – and it was a dawn redwood.

So when I look at this tree I think about the vagaries of evolution, climate change and how it could so easily have become extinct, but also the way it connects us with the natural world through its beauty and also links plants and people with through its associations.

Ross McGuinness – My family were all born in Scotland (minus me and my older brother); so as a child I had many long car journeys between Bromsgrove and Dundee, passing through the Scottish Highlands. A key memory for me on these journeys is seeing a familiar type of tree once we crossed the Scottish border and got ever closer to Dundee. As a young child, my brother and I used to point out that we could see the ‘Dundee trees’ as we called them. Which is now a sarcastic joke as adults if we ever make the journey. The tree is actually the Douglas Fir.

The majestic Douglas fir is named after Scottish botanist and collector David Douglas who, in 1827, sent the first seed from North America back to Britain. Its botanical name – Pseudotsuga menziesii – commemorates Archibald Menzies, who discovered the tree in 1791.

It has a lifespan of 500-years and can grow up to 60-metres in Britain. It has soft needles with two grey bands underneath. The oval shaped cones hang downwards with a three point bract – a special type of leaf – on every scale. The Douglas fir’s bark is a reddish-brown, fissured and corky and it; native to British Columbia to California.

The Douglas Fir is the major timber species in its native North America, and its imported timber is sold here as ‘Oregon pine’. Originally grown in this country for ornamental purposes, it is now a valuable timber tree used for sawmill timber and paper pulp. Today the timber is used for construction work, high quality plywood and veneers, as well as for furniture and panelling.

Sophia Nasreisfahany, Project Manager BTfL – 

One of my favourite trees as a child was a weeping willow in the school field. The willow dropped all the way down to the ground so you could hide inside like a secret den. We often played running in and out of the leaves but I also loved this tree as it was a great place to find some quiet time. I would often take a book a sit under the tree hidden amongst the drooping vines where I could hide away from the world and get lost in a book. To this day weeping willows are still one of my favorite trees.

I also loved the cherry blossom trees from my junior school which lined the play ground and covered it with beautiful pink and white blossom each spring, I am sure I remember us using it as confetti when role playing on the playground pretending we were getting married and throwing handfuls of blossom in the air as confetti. Its amazing how children use their imagination to combine nature and play.

I can picture the willow tree perfectly in my head! Was a smallish tree and the vines used to droop all the way around to the floor like a curtain it was a great hiding place as a kid.

Tonia Clarke, Chair of Birmingham Tree People – 

My favourite tree is the Grand Fir.   There are two in Sandwell Valley and I always smush the needles as I go passed.   I love that it smells of grapefruit!  The resin smells great as well and after smelling it I feel a bit healthier.  It must be the anti bacterial, anti fungal, anti viral volatile organic compounds getting into my lungs.  Just what I need this winter.

Nancy Nancy Evans, Director of Learning & Participation at BSCM –

It’s so difficult to choose – Sweet Chestnut, Cedar of Lebanon, Oak…, but, I’ve gone with beech because it looks so glorious, with or without leaves, all year round. And because of the beautiful beech wood in Warley Woods near my home which is like a natural cathedral.

 

Fiona Williams, BTfL Committee Member –

This is a cherry tree in our garden.  It was a wedding present given to us when David and I married 29 years and 4 months ago.  It is as strong as our marriage. We usually have a battle with a pair of pigeons on who is going to get the cherries first.  I usually win, to be fair the pigeons get some of the cherries, but I get the most!

 

 

 

Tamara Tempera, Marketing and Communication Manager at BCMG –

I’m fortunate enough to live next to a magnificent park in the North of Italy. Two years ago it was heavily damaged by the storm “Vaia”, which left hundreds of km of forests in the region to be restored. This Cedrus is one of the few who still stands tall in the park and every time I see its scars I cannot but admire its resilience.

After reading these we hope you think about your own tree memories and share them with your nearest and dearest. You could even share them with us at justine.marklew@btfl.org.uk

It’s clear that trees muster a million and one feelings and thoughts and as you travel around take time look and appreciate trees. Birmingham is a green city with 571 parks and public open green spaces and over a million trees. Think about each one of those trees needing a space to place it, planning, planting, maintenance and due care  and respect by every individual that walks or sits under it. brushes past it, stands for a moment to admire it, picks the fruit or leaves off it, brushes against it’s bark or treads on the acorns, pine cones, catkins, conkers and other seeds that fall from it. The shade it provides from heat or the cover it provides from rain.

Trees are a labour of love and love them we must and while we do that enjoy the moment a tree gives you – that moment of joy, relaxation, exhilaration, satisfaction, comfort, amazement and memory!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope Gardens – Hoping Our Beautiful Flowering Cherry Trees Bed Down Nicely

 

 

3/12/2020

A message from our Chairman Geoff Cole, here 

Well the team at BTfL all gave a united cheer as we dug our first spade into the ground to plant our first tree of the season in National Tree Week! It had been a long time coming and we had been itching to get out and engage in our normal timetable. Unfortunately, we have been unable to work with schools or volunteers this year so far, but never fear – we eventually got here and will be back to normal as soon as we can be.

At Hope Gardens, a small park in Nechells as part of our HS2 funded programme the BTfL team planted five flowering Cherry Trees. Despite the rain and the cold our spirits weren’t dampened and we were all so happy to be outside on site, doing what we do best – putting trees in the ground.

These five Prunus Royal Burgundy ornamental trees will bring beautiful spring colour, a gentle snow flurry of delicate petals falling all around as Spring turns to Summer. They will bring more biodiversity, improve air quality, flood defences, tree canopy cover and will beautify the park even more for local resident to enjoy all through the year.

While planting the trees two of the local residents were curious as to what we were up to and wanted a friendly chat. There was a big thank you from one local lady as she walked through the park, ‘what a lovely thing to do. I have a cherry tree in my garden.’ As she pointed to the beautiful  trees on the borders of the park, with a smile she told us how she remembered those established trees being planted 25-years ago.

A gentleman passing by shouted a big thank to us for improving the area with more trees! ‘Here here,’ we all cheered back!

It’s good to know that the local-residents of Nechells appreciate their trees and love seeing more planted. In 25-years our Flowering Cherry Trees will look splendid and even more beautiful with each passing year.

And while resident can enjoy the new trees we have planted what many of them may not know is that there is a very special tree in Hope Gardens Park!

With a history going back to the Jurassic period, the Metasequoia glyptostroboides, its common name, (Dawn Redwood) is a tree that dates back to the dinosaurs and had been known formally for years through fossils deposits across the other side of the world. Sadly these trees were deemed extinct until the early 1940’s when it was found growing in a remote part of China. Since then every Metasquoia glyptostroboides in the world has come from that small population of trees from China. How amazing to trace back this beautiful specimen of a tree in Hope Gardens back to the dinosaurs all the way from East Asia!

So who knew such amazing tree history sat quietly nestled on the borders in Hope Gardens.

And who knows what next year might bring – a bit of normality hopefully when we can think about enjoying our tree planting events with schools, volunteers and our wonderful corporate sponsors.

Because believe it or not planting trees is only half the story. Planting trees is about building a bit more of Birmingham’s beautiful green history, adding to the BTfL legacy and feeling the love and ownership of every tree we plant together – and together we will plant these trees!

Please see a link to our photos here

 

 

 

 

 

It’s National Tree Week 28th November – 6th December 2020

Well it’s National Tree Week, the biggest celebration of trees in the UK. It’s  BTfL’s long awaited circle in the calendar.  In normal circumstances, we would be running arts and education sessions, tree bathing and enjoying nature walks and planting trees all  over Birmingham with our varied group of followers, supporters and many schools.

But this year is anything,  but normal.

If our planting season had gone to plan, we would be celebrating our 100,000th tree in the ground this season. But although it’s disappointing there is always next year!

So, tree week is a very different celebration this year, so just like we hug our trees here at BTfL, we are wrapping our arms around the new normal and celebrating in a different way.

As a very busy project we hardly get a moment to put our spades down and pause for breath or even celebrate what we’ve achieved over the last 14-years.

So, this year we wanted to look back and enjoy some of our previous plantings, with a view to what great things are in store in the future.

This pandemic has brought buzz words, ‘lockdown, face mask, Covid, isolation, test, track and trace and – wellbeing!

Wellbeing is something we’ve all had to think about and whether It’s our own, our family, friends or neighbour’s wellbeing is taking care of our emotional needs in these difficult times.

This year, wellbeing has been all about re-discovering nature. During lock down are movements were limited, so what did we do – we all went for a walk!

And with that walk came an even greater appreciation of our green spaces, parks and trees.

At the beginning of lock down we enjoyed the colour and vibrancy of spring blossom. These are trees we plant in built up areas, knowing that local-residents will enjoy the beautiful flowers and the snow flurry of delicate pink and white petals falling to the round as the blossom fades.

Then came the beautiful summer canopy cover when trees and their leaves bloom in to vibrant greens providing large canopies for us to shade under and gasp in wonder!

And during the second lockdown we have enjoyed all the drama of Autumn colour changes, with beautiful radiant reds, glowing orange, yellows and rusty browns of Liquid Amber,  Maple, Rowan and Oak to name just a few.

And even though winter has arrived our wonderful trees still look amazing with their super strength and structure of trunks and branches evolving into weird and wonderful shapes, and curves.

So here are some examples of established trees we’ve planted over the years for you to enjoy.

ChinnBrook Meadows, Billesley 2011-2012

  
This was a very special event as it marked the planting of BTFL’s 10,000th tree on 17th March 2011. The honour was given to the Lord and Lady Mayoress, Cllr and Mrs Gregory, and they were joined by the Chairman of The Birmingham Civic Society, David Clarke. They were not alone, as teenagers from Cockshutt Hill Technical College worked to help primary pupils from Our Lady of Lourdes plant well over 100 trees. These included 5 oaks & 5 alder, plus whips of alder, oak, field maple and small leaved lime. These trees are thriving in an already green area used by cyclists, ramblers, children, dog walkers, runners enjoying all the fresh air and beautiful greenery this areas has to offer.

Hazelwell Park, Strichley 2011- 2012  

   

Friends of Hazelwell Park, with help from the Ranger service, planted a number of fruit and nut trees in their local green space. The trees planted included eating, cooking and crab apples, plums, pears, cherry and of course giant hazels. The project has helped turn a neglected area of the park into a community orchard and increased the foraging potential throughout. The trees will increase biodiversity in the area when insects like bees will be encouraged there by the flowering trees and help pollinate them. The planning and planting of an edible park in an urban area presented the Friends group with a new and challenging project. The group is now looking forward to learning how to care for their trees and in the future a fruitful harvest.

Victoria Common, Northfield 2011-2011 

   

BTFL has filled gaps in an avenue along the main path with flowering hawthorns and cherries and increased the park’s tree collection with an Indian bean tree and a foxglove tree.  The Friends of the park were, on the same day, busy creating a new orchard, also through Big Tree Plant funding. A very busy and well loved park used by the local schoolchildren form St Laurence’s Junior and Infant School which is on the parks doorstep. In the summer locals take full advantaged the shade these trees bring, adding to an already diverse and unusual collection of native native British trees and none native trees. 

Trittiford Mill, Billesley 2009 -2010

     

The rain didn’t deter the pupils of Our Lady of Lourdes Junior School. With the help of their teachers, Ranger Adam Noon, Councillor Axeford, her husband, and Geoff and Jane from BTFL, they successfully planted 10 large trees at Trittiford Park.  They all went back to school very muddy but happy, and keen to know when they could come again!  Pupils and teachers have promised to keep an eye on the trees. Trittiford Mil Park is dominated by a large lake with a path weaving’s way around the water. With little open space it, BTfL found enough it to plant some trees and watch them grow into beautiful young specimens, here today.

Daisy Farm Park 2009- 2010

   

The Friends of Daisy Farm Park and the local Ranger Adam Noon planted 181 mixed whips at Daisy Farm Park as part of the BBC’s World Record attempt on Saturday 5th December.  Oak, Hazel, Hawthorn, Ash, and Field Maple were planted to fill gaps in an existing hedgerow and to further extend the wooded area. In addition, a small grey alder was planted in a waterlogged corner of the playing field. Now it’s looking like a small healthy woodland all of it’s own. Along a busy road with lots of residential areas this small woodland is helping purify the air and provides a wonderful environment for wildlife to thrive.

Kings Norton Park 2017 – 2018

   

Once again we helped the Friends of Kings Norton Park to continue establishing an avenue of beautiful Redwoods with support from a Birmingham resident, Luc, who also came along to help to plant the trees. We were also joined in the mud by two local families. The trees we previously planted have established well so we hope that in a few years the avenue will really start to take shape as the trees mature. This park is part of the history of the Birmingham Civic Society too so it was one of our Centenary plantings.

Grove Park, Harborne 2006 -2007

 

BTfL planted standard oak trees, with a number of happy volunteers,enjpying the ray weather, and odd ray of sunshine.  Now they are looking extremely healthy and their acorns have produced young plants at the edge of their canopy.  You can see that the mowing regime in the park has cut swathes through the grass.

Queens Park, Harborne 2017 – 2018

In partnership with Trees for Cities this planting involved several teams of volunteers and each one had to identify a tree in the storage facility, read a map to find out where its location should be, move it to the planting site (wheelbarrows to the ready) and then dig a large planting hole.
After planting the tree, they were asked to add stakes and ties and finally mulch around the base. Trees for Cities had mobilised over 30 volunteers from various organisations to assist us, pupils from nearby Baskerville School also helped, as did some local residents.

Two years later, the trees are very well established. This Liquidambar vigorous, healthy leaf growth in May this year. The couple have been proudly back to see it several times!’

Note the red brick building in the background showing the tree being planted and now the trees well established and looking wonderfully healthy.

Reminiscing about these events is only a tiny handful of the hundreds of planting events we done over the years. So far 6000 children and volunteers have planted over 90,000  trees and counting.

We are happy at the progress ours/your trees are making and revel in the knowledge that almost every child, volunteer, teacher, environmental group, corporate sponsor, friends and family member, or any individual who has ever planted a tree with us – will in the future point, smile and say, ‘there’s my tree!

It’s a legacy that stays with everyone that has dug that hole, placed that tree inside the hole and stomped down the soil to keep that tree in place.

Despite this terrible pandemic we hope that lockdown has given us all more time  to engage with nature and trees. Like BTfL does this year in and year out.  Because planting trees is good for physical and emotional wellbeing, allows children and adults to become part of a tree planting legacy, improve their local environment, investing in the local area, empowering children and nurturing civic pride.

Every new tree planted in Birmingham is an environmental legacy. Children engage on an enthusiastic level with the tree planting and take ownership over the trees they have planted. Trees that in 20-years-time students and your school can re-visit and see their trees thriving.

So when lockdown is over and we get back to what we consider normal we will be looking to the future, to planting 90,000 more trees and never forgetting how important trees were to people during lockdown and hoping that the little space in your heart you made for trees and nature  during those sunny walks in lockdown 2020  will continue grow just like our wonderful trees!

We Turned the World Upside Down – It Looks Beautiful!

‘Please can we have another one?’ That was the request from St Matthew’s Church of England School in Nechells, Birmingham on the prospect of a second Camera Obscura workshop.

We completed our first zoom Camera Obscura workshop during the summer lockdown. Year Six students enjoyed the logistical challenges of making their own Camera Obscura, then capturing images on it.

The message from the deputy, head teacher, Tracey Adams, was we’d love to do another one in the future.

So, Tracey your wish is our command.

This time we worked with 27 year-five students, the classroom was full of eager students scissors and sellotape in hand raring to go.

The first question was, ‘do we have any students who accompanied us on our tree planting last season?’

At least 15 hands shot up with beaming smiles its testament to that a lovely morning planting flowering cherry tree amongst others in a large communal garden surrounded by flats and maisonettes near to St Matthew’s Church of England School where some of the children lived.

The workshop was run by Jo Gane, photographic practitioner and was funded by Matthew Murray Landscape Photographic Artist and Arts Council England and in collaboration with BTfL.

 

Jo’s specialist area of knowledge is the practice of early photographic processes and translating these difficult techniques into engaging hands-on workshop activities.

Matthew Murray is an award winning photographic artist working on an Arts Council of England project around the landscape of Arenig, North Wales. Matthew is working on an Arts Council of England project around the landscape of Arenig, North Wales.

As part of this project Matthew Murray developed an engagement programme working with artists, practitioners, charities and inner city schools, focusing on communities who may not have the opportunity to participate in these programmes in other circumstances.

Matthew Murray choose BTfL as the project he was interested in collaborating with because of our great environmental and community based work and we are very grateful for that.

The workshop started and the children listened intently to the zoom tutorial by Jo. Mrs. Pringle the class teacher busily rebounded from one student to the next helping them cut cardboard, stick tracing paper and watch their simplistic cardboard camera gradually came to life.

Working with a generation that has been completely immersed in communications technology and where phones and the internet at the forefront of learning, social interaction, entertainment and school and work. A homemade camera made from bits of craft is a million miles from anything the student had known before, but all the same it was fun, refreshing, creative and artistic.

Once the cameras had been made images quickly started to be captured through their homemade lenses.

There was a gasp of ‘wow!’ The children placed the camera in front of their faces and there was a sudden urge for all the students to turn their cameras upside down.

That’s because the image projected is upside down and works very much like the workings of the human eye.

Thankfully it was a sunny day so the sunlight highlighted white images particularly well.

We agreed that to capture images of beech trees, with their distinctive white bark would be particularly dramatic.

We know that the children will take their cameras home share the wonderful workings of their camera obscura’s with their family and friends and capture images of trees, nature, wildlife and autumn foliage.

We can’t wait to see the wonderful results of how year five at St Matthew’s Church of England school turned the world upside down and made it look captivating, enchanting and beautiful.

Welcome Sophia into the BTfL Fold

I am pleased to introduce myself as the new Project Manager working with Birmingham Trees for Life. I was excited by the opportunity to undertake a role where I could make a positive difference and actively be part of tree planting in my own city of Birmingham. Coming from a local authority background and more recently working in the voluntary sector I hope the range of skills and experience I bring to the role will benefit the organisation, its supporters and the local community as well as the environment.

Adult life can be very demanding, challenging and in some cases stressful but I found that taking time out to walk through the woods, appreciate the trees and reconnect with nature helped me to reduce my anxiety and stress levels and became an essential coping tool for me in everyday life, enabling me to function more efficiently by regularly taking time out to enjoy nature. I don’t know what I would do now without regular walks in the woods or forest and feel this is an experience everyone should get to enjoy. Of course there is so much more to tree planting and the essential benefits of trees but I thought I would share with you just one of the reasons I am so passionate about planting and protecting trees, particularly in more urbanised areas where there are typically less green spaces for communities to enjoy.

I have learned so much already from the team and Committee members but look forward to learning lots more. It is woeful that our usual planting season is interrupted due to covid-19 and government restrictions but we won’t let this stop us and look forward to delivering some alternative activities for this planting season whilst we still hope to make it possible to do some planting towards the end of the season. I look forward to meeting our regular friends and sponsors as well as meeting new communities and volunteers when possible.

Goodbye and good luck BTFL!

Well this is my last week at BTFL and I have handed over the role of Project Manager to Sophia.  After 12 years, 8 of them as Project Manager, it seems very strange to be signing off.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time working for BTFL and have had a lot of fun planting trees with so many different people all over Birmingham.  As Justine’s last blog post said, it’s been a varied role – everything from digging holes to speaking at Council Scrutiny meetings, from doing financial spreadsheets to showing children how to use a spade, and all things in between!  I was very touched by all the lovely comments from friends, colleagues and supporters I have worked with over the years – thank you.

BTFL operates as a very lean project with just 3 part time paid freelance members of the team to organise everything – thanks to my colleagues Justine and Debbie, and previously Jane E and Sue for the great teamwork and mutual support.  I would like to thank all the volunteer Committee members who have supported us over the years with their time and expertise, and I am forever grateful too to Simon Needle for all his tireless good humoured help with all our planting logistics and liaison with the Council.  Our Chairman Geoff Cole is a massive champion for trees in this city, and we couldn’t have done all this without him.  Thanks too to all the lovely lads in the Woodland Management Team who have never let us down, and to our friends and colleagues in the Parks Department.  Too many other people to mention everyone, but special appreciation to Deutsche Bank Birmingham’s Green Team and Andrew Marshall at HSBC UK – it’s been a real pleasure working with you.

My last season planting trees was not able to be completed unfortunately due to lockdown in March, and our meetings since have been ‘virtual’, so it’s been a bit of a strange end to my 12 years, and not what I would have liked, but I hope to haunt BTFL for a little longer yet by volunteering at one or two planting events this autumn where I might see people for real (Covid restrictions permitting of course)!

So it’s time to hand over the reins, good luck to Sophia, Debbie and Justine this season, and I’m sure the project will continue to do wonderful things for trees and people in Birmingham!

Over 90,000 trees and counting….

I’ve been very lucky to have enjoyed such a great role and I hope I leave behind a small green legacy in the city which has been my home for 35 years.

So thank you again everyone, and farewell!

Love from Jane xxx

Goodbye Jane – thank you and good luck!

76170 trees planted!

Working with 9500 volunteers!

Overseeing 300 tree planting events!

Not everyone can boast numbers like that and we wouldn’t normally publicise Jane’s vital statistics – but these are Jane’s BTfL vital statistics and are quite amazing!

   

Jane Harding has worked as Project Manager and dedicated tree hugger at BTfL for the last 12-years and it’s a wonderful legacy Jane should be proud of.

Jane’s hard work and passion for trees will live on for decades to come as we enjoy all the trees Jane has been involved with planting. If you live in Birmingham and you use your park we can guarantee that you will pass trees, sit under trees and enjoy trees that Jane has helped plant.

Jane’s passion for trees is a driving force that has seen Jane knee deep in mud, fighting off  gale force winds and battling through snow blizzards! But no one said this was a glamorous role. Rewarding, insightful, fun, dynamic, energetic and holistic are just a few of the things this role brings with it and working for a project like BTfL needs organisation, creativity, reliability and a sense of humour – all of which Jane has in bucket loads.

Jane has put her heart and soul into her role as Project Manager at BTfL and it’s with a heavy heart we say goodbye as Jane takes early retirement and goes on to pastures new. No doubt those pastures will be full of trees!

Here are a few words from Jane: ‘Over the years this role has seen me be a planter, teacher, writer, ‘sheep dog’, organiser, bookkeeper, photographer, spokeswoman, campaigner and minute taker, to name but a few, all in the name of trees.

‘Working with BTFL has always presented plenty of variety – not least in the unpredictable weather! Planting in the winter, when the trees are dormant, means working in bright sunshine, pouring rain, freezing sleet and falling snow, knee deep in mud or trying to dig rock hard ground. Never let it be said that we tree planters are not a hardy breed! ‘Running around on site keeping an eye on how our schoolchildren and adult volunteers are doing has certainly kept me fit! There have been many highlights over the years; herding 153 children at Perry Common Rec.

 

‘So many of the children we meet have a good knowledge of what trees do for us and why they matter, so I leave BTFL hoping that my small contribution in helping them get first-hand experience of planting trees will stand them in good stead as future custodians of our planet. I will certainly miss seeing the children’s excitement, which never fails to warm the heart at our events.

‘Building a long-term relationship with Deutsche Bank Birmingham’s Green Team, launching the partnership with the Woodland Trust at Cofton with over 150 volunteer planters, working with a great team, and being a part of the drive to make trees a central strand of Birmingham’s strategy to create a liveable city. It has been particularly satisfying to plant trees in some of the more barren areas of the city, and to give so many children (and grown-ups!) the opportunity to experience the joys of trees and nature.

   

‘It’s a lovely thing to show someone how to plant a tree for the first time and see them take so much pleasure in it. I hope I leave behind just a small contribution to the city which has been my home for 35 years, my ‘green legacy’, which will have an impact for many more years to come. It’s been fun, and very rewarding, and I shall miss it all! Bye!

 

Jane’s drive, dedication and vision, not to mention her smiles and warmth will be sadly missed and here are some good luck messages celebrating Jane’s legacy at BTfL.

Our Chairman Geoff Cole says: ‘We say goodbye to our Project Manager, Jane Harding this summer. Jane has been with us for 12 years, with 8 of those years as Project Manager. She has been the “backbone” of BTFL during her time, quietly and efficiently managing the project and keeping us all in order. We hope she is immensely proud of her achievements,

and in recognition of her outstanding service, The Birmingham Civic Society, which we are all part of, has announced Jane will be presented with their Silver Medal at the Society’s AGM later in the year; well deserved. We all wish you well in your ‘retirement’ Jane, and hopefully from time to time you may pop back to help us plant a few more trees.”

 Jane Edwards former Schools Liaison role says: “This photo is my favourite with Jane and was taken at Lickey Hills. I must say; Jane was a joy to work with and I hope I can now count her as a lifelong friend! Her work ethic was bang on, as she made it clear what she wanted you to do and then left you to get on with it. She responded to e mails and messages quickly to avoid you having to guess what was required. All in all, a great boss! On a personal level, she is always friendly and never moody and if she is stressed – she hides it well!

My funniest memories with Jane are on a one-off occasion, Jane turned up on completely the wrong site and had a cross City dash after she realised we were all at another venue. At Cofton Park we were expecting about 150+ small children.  I was at home chilling and Jane rang and asked ‘where are you?’ I had missed the planting in my diary! The prospect of dealing with all those small kids traumatised her! Luckily I lived nearby and made it just as they were arriving on site!! The relief on her face said it all.”

 Andrew Marshall, HSBC:“On behalf of everyone at HSBC in Birmingham, I wanted to say a massive big thank you to Jane (and everyone connected to BTfL) in accommodating staff from HSBC over the last 3 years. Personally, it has been a real privilege to learn so much about trees from Jane and I’ll miss working with her in the future. Jane’s passion for all things trees and her mission to keep Birmingham green and beautiful is really infectious and has really inspired me on my own quest. I know Jane has also inspired many others along the way, and I can certainly vouch for those colleagues from HSBC who were fortunate enough to volunteer with BTfL over the last few years who have certainly felt this.

We all wish Jane the very best in her next chapter of life and we hope that this brings many years of happiness. It’s bound to involve trees somewhere! From everyone at HSBC, take care and thank you Jane for everything.”

Sue Griffiths, BTfL:“My favourite memory of Jane is at Woodgate Valley which was a very large event early in Jane’s planting career – December 2009. On the Saturday over 130 people in family groups planted 280 trees, following on from businesses earlier. Her cheerful organising skills, marshalling so many people, were well demonstrated and we had great fun. It’s been like that ever since!”

Amelia Ladbrook: “Birmingham Civic society says: “Thank you for your huge contribution to BTfL and the Birmingham Civic Society. The organisation has gone from strength to strength and
have a legacy to be proud of. Best wishes for the future.”

 

 

Viv Astling, BTfL:“Jane has been such a friendly face with a warm smile and often a pre-Covid hug at our planting events. Not once or twice, but on every single occasion. Whatever the weather and whatever the circumstances including coping with missing children or trees that smiling face has overcome the problems.

‘I recall an early planting with Waitrose at a site in the far-flung reaches of Sutton Coldfield when we had horizontal rain driven by a gale force wind. Jane confessed she had quite a lot of water in her boots. But never the less she smiled regardless of the weather.

Many thanks Jane and every good wish for the future. We will miss you and your smile.”

Bill Heslegrave, BTfL:“I shall always treasure memories of Jane’s warm greetings and friendship at BTFL meetings and events, her constant hard work on BTFL’s behalf, her infectious enthusiasm for all things environmental, plus her feistiness when combatting governmental or corporate obduracy. BTFL would not have progressed to where it is today without her drive and ability to make things happen. I for one will miss her lots.”

Mark Eagles KallKwik:“It’s been an absolute pleasure working with you over the past 12 years in your role with BTFL. Where has, the time gone? I wish you every happiness in the next chapter of your life and I hope you enjoy every moment. Hopefully see you again if you are in the City Centre. Good Luck!”

Sophia Nasreisfahany, BTfL:“Being a new recruit to the BTFL team I have only known Jane for a short while but would like to thank Jane for making me feel so welcomed into the BTFL team. It is clear Jane has been a highly valued and respected member of the team for many years and that colleagues are sad to see her leave. I have tried my best so far to absorb as much knowledge and insight as I can from Jane whose expertise will be greatly missed. I can only hope that in time I will be able to live up to Jane’s reputation and help to maintain the fantastic work of BTFL and everyone who supports us. Jane will be a tough act to follow and I am sure will be sadly missed by colleagues and partners, myself included. Thankyou Jane, for helping me off to the best possible start in my new role by sharing your expertise (and many helpful spreadsheets) that I am sure have equipped me as much as possible. I hope you feel you are leaving your role in trustworthy hands and wish you the best of luck and much happiness in your new ventures.”

Julia, Green Team Deutsche Bank:“Dear Jane, we were going through pictures from our tree planting events since 2012 and while the colour of DB T-Shirts changed over the years there were always two constants, you and happy colleagues feeling they have made a difference. Thank you for all your hard work you have put into these events, we have learned a lot over the years and not just about trees but about Birmingham too. All the best for the futurefrom Julia, Muireann, Nate and the rest of the DB Birmingham Green Team”

Justine Marklew, BTfL:“Being a relative newbie myself at BTfL Jane has been a great support. I love the ethos and objectives of BTfL and Jane’s passion for trees and improving our environment has always been paramount. My first year at BTfL has been a wonderful transition made even more rewarding and enjoyable by Jane, who has endorsed creativity and a new approach to social media and Comms. I understand Jane’s passion for trees and BTfL and I understand it must’ve been a difficult decision to leave a role that does so much good and is so rewarding. I wish Jane all the very best in her new venture whatever that may be. Never look back, but always look up at all the beautiful trees you have planted! Thanks’ Jane!

 Fiona Williams, BTfL:“Jane, you have always carried out your duties efficiently and effectively.  I have learned a lot about trees from you and really appreciate it.  It’s been nice to know you and I wish you every happiness in your new place.

Deborah Needle BTfL:

Thousands of trees and millions of leaves

An amazing thing to have achieved

So many children stomping the mud

Learning and laughing can only be good

 Leading the project with joy and smiles

Creating a forest that stretches for miles

Always there to oversee

You cared for each and every tree

 Welcoming planters from far and wide

Describing the work and brimming with pride

Spreading the word – the wonder of trees

Giving us oxygen, beauty and bees

 Thank you, Jane for all you’ve done

I promise I’ll keep fighting on

Caring for trees from their roots to their shoots

In the cold and the rain and in muddy boots

 Thousands of trees and millions of leaves

An amazing thing to have achieved

As you move on to projects new

I wish you luck in all you do

 Simon Needle, Principal Ecologist/Arboriculturist: “It has been a pleasure to work with Jane over the last ten years. During the time, I worked as BCC Conservation and Woodland Manager Jane provided a friendly and professional link to the BTFL project. It was always an enjoyable part of my job to plan where the seasons trees were going to go and what species would be best suited to the site and Jane’s input into those decisions meant that it was always a joint effort between BTFL and Parks, partnership working at its best.

Then when it came to planting Jane was always out on-site rain or shine keeping us on our toes and making sure the trees had the best possible start. The thousands of trees Jane helped to plant and the hundreds of children she has engaged with is a wonderful legacy for the City and for Janes work with BTFL. I wish her all the best for the future.”

 

So, Jane thanks for all your hard work, we will miss you and wish you all the very best for all the next exciting chapter in your life. You have had a huge impact on BTfL, you leave Birmingham a more beautiful, cleaner greener city thanks to all the trees you helped plant across Birmingham. All the time you have taken to help educate and inspire our younger generations to love trees and all the volunteers who have eagerly planted with us come rain or shine under your supervision.

It’s a wonderful legacy to leave with and we feel privileged and proud to have worked with you on such a special and successful project as BTfL – thank you!

 

 

Talking Trees With The Autistic Gardener!

‘I’m a tree nut! Plain and simple.’ Says award winning Alan Gardner, better known through his successful television career in garden design as the Autistic Gardener on Channel 4.

Alan, a seasoned celebrity garden designer from Sutton Coldfield, has an encyclopaedic knowledge and enthusiasm for trees which is wonderful. Waxing lyrical about trees with Alan over a cup of tea on the phone is no better way for BTfL to spend a soggy Monday morning.

Alan, is married to Mandy and a dad of three grown up children, Deanna 20, Reiss 25 and Hayden,28. Alan has Asperger’s Syndrome. His love of horticulture started as a young boy when he began to understand the joy of growing plants, especially cacti. Understanding that there were thousands of plants to learn about, to grow and to nurture started an obsession with horticulture which, excuse the pun grew and grew.

Alan, just starting his career in horticulture

Determined to carve out a career in horticulture Alan began working at Birmingham Parks Department in the late 1970’s aged 16 where he began to perfect his craft. In 1986  he left the parks department to design gardens.

His career has seen Alan create 40 Royal Horticultural Society gardens and won numerous awards at Chelsea, Hampton Court and Tatton Park. The last award Alan won was a silver medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015. His TV career began when he was approached by Channel 4 to present a garden design show in 2015.

In the show Alan re-designs gardens for neuro-typical clients with his five-strong team of trainees; all amateur gardening enthusiasts and all on the autistic spectrum with the programme emphasis on gardens, design and valuing individual differences and achievements.

‘Being autistic means I need to know everything about everything I’m interested in – there are no short measures.’ Alan explains.

‘I don’t call what I do a job, in fact I’ve never had a real job, I get paid for being me, getting to fly all over the world, design gardens, talk about gardens and autism is an absolute joy.’

A publicity shot for the Channel 4 series, The Autistic Gardener

But despite his high-flying career Alan’ feet are firmly on the ground and he enjoys supporting his local area and local community in their endevours to keep improving and maintaining their local environment to make it more biodiverse, beautiful, people friendly and community based.

Alan say: ‘I help a local community group in North Birmingham with John Porter of the parks department in Birmingham to plant in their local area to improve it, make it more diverse, wildlife friendly and more beautiful.

‘It makes the area look good and gives the local community a sense of pride in their environment and I am very much in support of them. It allows people ownership of something quite special.

‘When I started in Birmingham’s Parks department it was because horticulture and plants were of a very special interest to me.

‘Birmingham is one of the greenest cities in the country and I was propagator in charge of Birmingham’s tree nursery in Perry Barr. I’m glad I was a part of our city being so green.

‘There, we grew 12,500 trees, 123 different varieties to be planted in streets and parks in Birmingham.

‘Now years later I can go out for a walk and see an avenue of huge beautiful trees I grew them – it’s a lovely feeling.

‘Being autistic and having Asperger’s Syndrome means certain things draw my attention and I’ve always like things that are bigger than me including, cranes, electric pylon and trees.

‘The oak tree for example is a huge tree and has been here for a considerable amount of time. I’m fascinated by trees, how they got here, why some survive and some don’t.

‘Why some have so much colour and others show as short burst for a month and then are hardly noticeable for the rest of the year. An oak tree supports 200 types of insects while a Japanese Cherry will support virtually none.

‘Certain trees like cherries when in flower are beautiful breath-taking blossom trees, but any other time of the year you may walk past it and hardly notice them much at all.

‘Autumn colour are trees vying for attention, and they are so beautiful if we just take the time to look up and take note. I don’t believe we take enough notice of trees.

‘For me a visit to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens is an absolute joy. There are so many amazing trees to wonder at.

‘My favourite tree is Copper Beach which is over 200-yrs old in sits majestically in the Rose Garden. It is a beautiful specimen and the peacocks roost in it.

‘Redwoods too, I love to give Redwoods a hug. It’s like touching fibre glass and it’s a very cuddly tree. The Red Wood has a brilliant defence mechanism, that is the bark is fireproof – amazing trees!

‘Most of them planted in this country were planted at the same time as there was a bit of a craze for them.

‘Just like Monkey Puzzle Tree, you may notice them in the front gardens of Victorian house as people of that time were fascinated by them.

These are trees that were around at the same time as Dinosaurs – trees are quite amazing.  The semi-precious black coloured shiny stone Jet is the fossilized Monkey Puzzle Tree.

‘Trees are part of the glue that holds nature and our world together and as things feel like they are falling apart right now – we need more glue.

‘Planting and growing trees is a legacy that is very important and we must embrace them. I love trees and I was happy to come out with BTfL three years ago planting trees at Jones Wood in Sutton Coldfield.  It was a great morning, doing what I love to do, planting and soaking up the enthusiasm from the local community groups and schools that were also planting that day.

Alan with BtfL at Jones Wood

We need to plant the right trees, so people fall in love with then and stay in love with them. Street trees are wonderful, soften the hard edges. Developers need to plant the right tree and not just plant trees as a token gesture, clumping the wrong trees together without any thought.

In Cannock Chase there are lots of spruce and pine trees, they are good for the environment, but they aren’t great for wildlife and the ground is becoming sterile. But mixed woodland like Beech, Oak and Birch are great for the environment and biodiversity too. Planting these trees along with a good mix of native hedgerows is what we need more of and I understand BTfL is doing this year on year.

Alan working with school children at BTfL tree planting at Jones Wood

I’m happy to see a slow but very strong shift in interest in environment. I see it on a local level with more friends groups and friends of parks groups being organised and growing. There is a Friends Groups in Jones Wood that has emerged and is caring for the local environment encouraging wildlife, other plants and tree species and people.

The area was overrun by brambles and was killing off the beautiful bluebells. So the friends group got together, cleared the area of bramble and now it is a beautiful place to – just be!

You change things by giving it a sense of purpose like the wild area being looked after by locals at Jones Wood. Now people flock to it to enjoy everything this naturally beautiful place has to offer.

Our natural surroundings are so important and people are so preoccupied by just getting through life, not enough appreciating nature around them, although I think lockdown over the last few months has changed this. The slower pace of life has allowed everyone to appreciate their natural surroundings a lot more, so we are all connecting with nature on a deeper level, which makes us more like to invest in it.

I’ve travelled all over the world, New York, Texas, Los Angeles and have seen one side of America to the other. But in this country we have the finest trees in the world.

And for that we should feel very lucky!