Audley School’s Trip to the Farm – Glebe Farm Park!

As heavy clouds loomed over Glebe Farm Park Recreation Ground, Btfl, Year Four, Audley School children and Mandy Ross, children’s author and poet donned our raincoats and marched down to Glebe Farm Recreation Ground with gusto. We weren’t going to let the threat of heavy rain put us off – and it didn’t.

Year four pupils from Audley School looking for tree seeds
Year four pupils from Audley School at Glebe Farm Park

BTfL had the honour of enjoying a morning with Audley School children learning about trees, nature and the River Cole with Mandy, Birmingham based, Arts Practitioner who led a workshop with the children celebrating nature at Glebe Farm Recreation Ground.

We started our workshop on the short walk to Glebe Farm Recreation Ground, asking the children about their tree memories…

‘My favourite tree is the one with the blue rope that we swing from.’

 ‘I love my Grandparents apple tree, Granddad picks the apples, Nan makes an apple pie.’

‘There is a small tree, I climb into where I can watch bikes and cars racing by.’

 ‘I loved the climbing tree in Sutton Park, I would climb it every time I visited the park, it’s not there anymore.

 ‘My Grandma has a fig tree, but the weather is too cold here so it doesn’t grow.’

Listening to the children’s tree memories was a poignant introduction to the workshop and on our journey to the site we pointed out trees, seeds on the floor and tree roots pushing though slabbed pathways. At the site, we quickly spotted the trees planted by children at Audley School and BTfL over the last eight years. Children were quick to realize that maybe those trees had been planted by older brothers and sisters in previous years.

Standing amongst the young forest, the children were amazed to learn that the trees planted with BtfL and Audley School were the same age as the children and that those trees and the children would grow together! We all stood quietly on the banks of the River Cole and listened to the swishing of trees in the wind and the gentle flow of the River. Asked to describe the river the children, said, ‘wet, mucky, aqua brown, calm, a home for ducks, muddy, flowing!’

Year four pupils from Audley School at the River Cole
Mandy Ross, teaching students about trees planted by BTfL and Audley School

Learning the names of the trees and the connection between the trees and the River Cole was inspiring to the children. We collected, seeds, conkers, leaves and acorns and the children loved the tactile quality of nature. Feeling the spikey conker shells, crunchy leaves and beautiful shiny conkers they were inspired to think about nature. With rosy cheeks glowing from being outside and embracing the elements we walked back to school full of chatter about trees!

Back in class the children were itching to get creative – and so they did. Drawings and quotes inspired by us imagining being a tree or a river, what season we loved, what we felt and saw from nature’s perspective.

Sharing thoughts and feelings about nature and nature’s perspective, enjoying the rhythm of the poem rather than rhyme!

All the children were eager to engage and what followed was a wonderfully imaginative creative poem – and best of all it was a group effort!

 

 

Audley School Year Four Poem

In the city, by the river, here we planted emerald trees.

Willow, Oak and prickly Hawthorne, juicy berries, swishy grass.

In the Autumn, by the river leaves are getting brown and crunchy.

Falling slowly in glimmering water, flowing gently to the sea.

In the summer, by the river, sun is shining on the trees.

And on water, people bringing picnics under shady trees.

In our forest by the river, we protect the baby trees,

To grow with sun and rain and soil, homes for owls, pigeons and squirrels.

The workshop was inspiring, we all agreed and made us think about nature which is always around us, always embracing us. We hope the children were left with a closer bond and a bigger love for nature.

From their enthusiasm, creativity and questions it’s clear the Year Four children of Audley Primary School in Stetchford already had that. And we hope that their passion for the natural world in their neighbourhood continues and grows like the beautiful trees we planted eight years ago.

By Justine Marklew

Trees Join Earth and Sky   Mandy Ross

 

Here are tree memories from many different audience members at the Return to Nature Festival. Tree memories turned in a poignant, heartwarming, beautiful collective poem. We celebrate trees, we celebrate words, we celebrate with each other! 

Collective poem, Return to Nature Festival, Holders Woods, 14 Sept 2019

 

Trees and woods join earth and sky.
Remember a tree? Tell us where? And why?

We ran down the hill, faster and faster,
but we knew which trees would stop us falling.

The tree in our grandparents’ garden
had a bench round the trunk for summer picnics.

We planted a tree to remember my baby sister, Freya.
Now every time we go to my dad’s boxing club, we water it.

Lost trees: a mature oak with her daughters surrounding her,
at the top of Shirley Park. Now all gone, victims of ‘progress.’

Nana’s apple tree, a worm in every apple.

Maybe Grandad will make cider.

Every year we roast chestnuts from the chestnut tree,
eat them hot, share them with our neighbours.

Planting baby trees in a snowy park
to remember our friend Jo, much missed.

Watching the cricket with Dad, under the shade
of the spreading horse chestnut in Kings Heath Park.

Oak after beautiful oak on Offa’s Dyke.The grace and ruggedness of trees,
solid, majestic and beautiful. Always inspired…

In Swedish myth, an ash, Yggdrasil is ‘the tree of the world’,
holding up the whole universe. Though most trees in Sweden are conifers.

An oak tree in the playground.
We climbed it to get away from the caretaker, who chased us.

A huge lychee tree long ago in our garden in Goa. The seed came from Macao.
It never gave us lychees, but all my cousins remember climbing it.

I had a Christmas tree as a kid. It moved house with us twice.

Ann remembers a den inside a willow tree, the scent of mock orange floating over.

Fraser hugs a tree in Moseley Bog. Too big to reach all the way around.
Jasmine runs round her apple tree twenty times to help the apples grow.

A wonderful beech tree near our house,
constantly changing, magnificent, home to many birds.
My mother lies beneath a beautiful carob tree. My father visited her there often.
‘I couldn’t have found a better place,’ he said.

Trees and woods join us to each other, and earth and sky.
Remember a tree? Tell us where? And why?

Return to Nature – We Certainly Did!

The BTfL team arrived at Holders Lane Wood in Moseley on the morning of September the 14th to join Forward Arts in celebrating the Return to Nature Festival. The sun light dappled through the beautiful canopy of trees that were overhead and it was beautifully serene.

As likeminded, groups, charities and individuals set up their stalls around in a large circle amongst the woods we had a feeling it was going to be a great day – and we were right!

There was 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.

The day was full of joy, laughter, and a wonderful sense of community. Hundreds of people visited the festival for the same simple thing – to enjoy everything nature had to offer.

A perfect setting with the last sunshine of summer shining down on us all day long. At BTfL we enjoyed collaborating with children and adults alike about the thrill and the importance of tree planting. How we should celebrate trees and enjoy everything they had to offer.

It didn’t take long before we had countless children and grown-ups making small plant pots made from recycled newspaper donning our stall, each with an individual acorn planted. Some people wrote a small message on the pot of their newly planted acorn, such as, ‘Happy Birthday Acorn!’

While most people who planted, an acorn were eager to take it home and grow it themselves, others who lived in flats and apartments or had very small gardens left their pots in our capable hands. BTfL has promised to nurture these newly planted trees and nurture them we will.

We also brought an array of fruit and vegetables to show where seeds came from, what kind of seeds there were, including coffee, peppers, apricots strawberries and of course chocolate! Unsurprisingly the chocolate got a lot of interest!

Our seed collecting walk with Simon Needle, Principal Arboriculturist/Principal Ecologist was a brilliant way of learning lots of weird and wonderful facts about trees too. We were all captivated with one of our audience saying the talk, ‘blew his mind!’

Then we were back to our stall to help people celebrate their ideas and memories about trees with, Mandy Ross, a Community Arts Practitioner, poet and children’s author based in Birmingham who loves that we live in such a beautifully green city. Mandy inspired each person to share their personal tree memory with us. To celebrate each tree story, we encouraged each of our new poets to peg their poetry on our own BTfL tree.

Mandy then built a wonderfully rhythmic poem, funny, heart-warming and poignant with many of our mini poets’ memories and personal stories about trees – to celebrate trees with a Poe-Tree! The Poe-Tree was then performed in front of an audience who from the cheers and the claps at the end reading really enjoyed it.

We would like to say a huge thank you to @ForwardArts for organising a wonderful festival celebrating the natural world. We would be there again next year in a heartbeat!  If there is a festival next year, fingers crossed!

 

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

Return to Nature at Holders Lane Woods

Forward Arts is holding a Return to Nature arts and well-being festival at Holders Lane Woods in Moseley on 14th September. There will be lots of colourful, creative, nature-inspired activities, suitable for all ages, as well as music, food and art.

For full details visit the website here:

https://www.forwardarts.co.uk/return-to-nature-festival

https://www.forwardarts.co.uk/workshops-activities

BTFL will be having a stand and running some creative tree-related activities such as poetry, seed collecting and seed pot making so why not come along and join us!

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LickeyHills

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thelickeyhills

Website: https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/lickeyhills

Welcome Justine!

We’re delighted to welcome our new team member Justine Marklew, who will be responsible for Communications, and liaison with schools and community groups.  Justine will be looking after our Twitter, Facebook and (new!) Instagram accounts, and looks forward to talking to all our followers!

 

Regent Park Community Primary School Park Visit

On Wednesday 10th July we went out to visit Sara Park with Year 4 pupils and teachers from Regent Park Community Primary School. We looked at all things trees. How do they grow? Why do we need them? There were some great questions asked like “How old is the park?” (we are still trying to find the answer to that one).

We searched the park for interesting shaped tree leaves and then used the Woodland Trusts leaf ident swatches to find out what trees were in the park.

Finally all the children made a huge “Wood Wide Web” to show how all the different species that live in the woodland interact with each other.

To get back to school we made a human “caterpillar” walking together in one line, teamwork in action. Well done everyone.

 

Thank you to HS2 Community Environment Fund for funding this session as part of our “Woodland Connections” Project.

Tree City of the World?

We are delighted to learn that the visit of the CEO of the Tree Cities of the World Network on 12th July was a great success and it is hoped that Birmingham will become the UK’s first official ‘Tree City’.

Well done to our close friend and colleague Simon Needle from Birmingham City Council who made a great presentation at the meeting about how Birmingham meets the criteria for the Tree City status.

More information can be found about the meeting here:

https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/news/article/448/birmingham_bids_to_become_a_tree_city_of_the_world

And more information about the Arbor Day Foundation in the US and the Tree Cities of the World initiative can be found here:
https://www.arborday.org/programs/tree-cities-of-the-world/

We’ll keep you posted on developments!

Congratulations Andrew!

BTFL has been working with HSBC UK in Birmingham over the last couple of years and we are very pleased to congratulate our main contact there, Andrew Marshall, on winning HSBC’s Global Sustainability Champion award.

The competition is part of HSBC’s Water Programme, which was launched in 2012.  The 8 year $150 million programme in partnership with Earthwatch, WaterAid & WWF has so far brought clean water to 2.5 million people and access to sanitation for 1.6 million in places such as Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Ghana and Nigeria.

Andrew set up a Birmingham ‘Green Team’ to highlight the bank’s environmental strategy and push local initiatives, and in his application he spoke about the relationship the team had forged with BTFL, and also highlighted the great work BTFL does in keeping our local parks green through volunteering, which provides a good sense of well-being for those staff who attend BTFL events.

The judges were looking for evidence of how Andrew’s sustainability work and actions had contributed real, measurable impacts in several categories: Knowledge & Understanding, Communication, Leadership & Delivering Sustainable Practices.

All the applications were externally judged by Earthwatch, WaterAid & WWF for work carried out throughout 2018.  In the end the judges couldn’t split Andrew and another colleague (James Davies), so in the end they decided to crown both as champions!

The two winners have been given the chance to physically go and work on one of the many projects through the Water Programme and they will join a project team in India in February 2020.

So well done Andrew from all of us at BTFL and keep up the good work!