Hello – We Are The Friends of Swanshurst Park

Once used as common grazing land, then bought by the council and designed by Henry Giles as a fishing pool Swanshurst Park has been a well-loved green space for nearly 100-years. Once including a busy boating lake and mini golf course the park lies between Billesley and Moseley in the south of Birmingham.

Swanshurst Park has always been a well-loved green space and while there have been lots of changes at Swanshurst Park over the years one thing has always been central to it – people.

That love transcended into action when the idea of a Friends of Swanshurst Park Group was discussed – and within just six weeks there were over 20 members and a growing list of local people wanting to help nurture their local park. Hamira Sultan came up with the idea of starting a friends group and has been wowed by the whirlwind of interest and pledges from local people to keep Swanshurst Park looking functional, beautiful and central to its community.

Hamira, a mum of one and works for Future Parks Accelerator as the Director of Naturally Birmingham www.futureparks.org.uk and a Public Health Consultant lives in Moseley.

   

Hamira says: Swanshurst Park backs onto my garden and I feel lucky that it is so accessible to my family and me. As a child, I was brought up in Perry Barr, there weren’t many parks and certainly none within walking distance of my home. My family never had a car so I never got to enjoy parks as a child. I didn’t like getting dirty and even as a young adult I had no interest in gardens or gardening so I bought a flat, not a house.

When I moved to Moseley four-years-ago suddenly I had a garden and a park to enjoy. I was surrounded by nature – I had no idea what I’d been missing!

When my son, Esa, (now aged-four) was born I started to understand the value of green spaces and nature. I learnt to ride a bike with my son in Swanshurst Park, I enjoyed the playground and the swings for the first time and realised we were connecting with nature together- a first for both of us.

We started building lots of happy memories in that park – and it is all about building memories. If we all stop and think for a moment when asked, ‘what’s your favourite park?’ There will always be an impassioned response and a story to tell. Now it’s difficult to keep myself and my family away from the park. Whatever the weather we are out bike riding, on nature trails, in the playground or spotting birds around the lake.’

Hamira’s job at Future Parks Accelerator is committed to making all parks and green spaces more accessible. The aim, to have better management of parks and green spaces, ensure the community have greater wellbeing because of their local green spaces, a wider demographic of the community become involved in their parks and green spaces and that the local area will be a better place to work, live and visit because of these green spaces.

Hamira spends a great deal of her spare time promoting, improving and enjoying Swanshurst Park along with 23 volunteers and counting – making the park look wonderful and accessible. Hamira says: “We want to encourage more people to engage with their parks and access the great green spaces around them regularly. Not just see their park as a place to visit, but a place to invest in. For children and adults to connect with nature, to understand the value of their green space and to love it. For it to be an extension of their home.

So, last November I started thinking about starting a Friends of Swanshurst Park Group. I put the word out and the response was brilliant. After some insight and advice from BOSF I set about putting my ideas into action. It’s been nearly four months and we have wonderful group of volunteers with a varied pool of skills to share, teachers, community workers, people with local knowledge who have lived in the area for years.

One of our most eager volunteers is Esa, he will come on litter picks, he checks on the birdlife around the pond with me. He understands about the wild flowers in the park and how we should leave them to bloom and not pick them.  He helps with our organisation of nature trails. He knows the names and types trees in the park.

We now have regular litter picks (within COVID-19 restrictions), we’ve tidied up the signs to the park, asking people to park their cars responsibly and safely. We are now running education sessions for children and adults and encouraging engagement from the local community.

It can be disheartening when we see litter strewn inter park or bins over-spilling with rubbish. As much as it upsets me, I try to think that if there is litter in the park, there are people in the park and if there are people in the park they are benefitting physically and emotionally from it. Not everyone is brought up with the same insights about littering or social expectations so we try not to lecture people, rather show how much more lovely the park is if we all contribute a little to keeping it clean and tidy. And now with every new visit to the park, I notice more joggers, cyclists, dog walkers, families, people playing football, exercising and enjoying nature.

We have big plans for our park and we are applying for community funding to maybe put a wild meadow in our park, have more educational workshops and have youth workers engaging with the children who use the park. We have members who are coming up with some great ideas for people to access nature in the park and for us to nurture young advocates for our park, so the message will filter through children, parents, grandparents and so on.

We know our park is seeing more interaction and a lot of positive feedback about the work we are doing. And we ask if you are interested in becoming a member of the Friends of Swanshurst Park group we will always welcome your input and interest in the park. The park means different things to different people. Whether it’s a socially distanced chat on a park bench, part of a rambling trail, dog walking route or regular play date – or even a quiet space to sit and unwind. One in eight British homes does not have a garden, so parks are more important than ever. So while you might need your park – never forget your park also needs you! If you are interested in the work of the Friends Swanshurst Park or would like to become a member please follow or contact them on social media –

Facebook -Friends of Swanshurt Park 

Instagram – friends_of_swanshurst_park  

Twitter – @FOSwanshurst

e – swanshurstpark@gmail.com 

 

 

The Urban Tree and the Birmingham Trees for Life Legacy

Here is a blog celebrating the urban tree in Birmingham written for Birmingham Contemporary Music Group @BCMG please enjoy.

Look around you wherever you go – outside your front door, the local park, a city street, your nearest school, or community space, your garden, your neighbour’s garden. Trees are never far from your eye-line wherever you go or wherever you are.

Imagine just for a moment your city, town, village or local area without trees and green spaces! It would be sparse, grey and lifeless. All concrete, straight lines and angles, no birds chirping, no blossom blooming, no beautiful green canopy cover or vibrant autumnal colour.

Not only would we miss trees’ huge environmental impact, their positive effect on our air quality, health, wellbeing, and on wildlife – we’d miss out on their beauty!

Trees have never been more important, and their value can never be over-estimated. It’s a message Birmingham Trees for Life repeats every year.

Birmingham Trees for Life has been a small, pragmatic project achieving great things in the city of Birmingham for 14-years. If you live in Birmingham, it’s almost guaranteed that at least one of the trees in your local park or green space has been planted by Birmingham Trees for Life.

In that time, we have planted over 90,000 trees in parks and green spaces, and worked with over 6000 volunteers including thousands of school children. We plant between 7000 and 10,000 trees a year during tree planting season, between November and March. As every new tree planting season starts, we bed down our beautiful standard trees in urban spaces, work with school children and volunteers planting thousands of whips.

We watch as these wonderful woodlands grow, encouraging biodiversity, adding colour and canopy cover and we appreciate their beauty, environmental legacy and positive impact on our physical and emotional wellbeing. Not only that, the impact of green spaces on the city’s economy is worth £11-billion.

Trees absorb CO2, produce oxygen and support biodiversity. Trees reduce flooding, cool hot cities, absorb pollutants, provide a food source for people and wildlife and reduce noise in built up areas. They also provide shade and shelter. One mature tree can absorb 48lbs of CO2 per year. Multiply that by 90,000 and you have an epic figure, resulting in a legacy that BTfL is very proud of!

What we and every individual or community we work with do is create a tree legacy!

But it’s not just about planting trees, it’s about involving the great people of Birmingham in everything we do. Whether you are a school, community group, volunteer, stakeholder or sponsor we embrace and celebrate your support.

Children and adults have planted trees with us in the sunshine and in the pouring rain. Not even the worst weather dampens their spirits nor ours because we all understand that every tree planted is a legacy, helping save the environment one tree at a time.

When we plant a tree, we feel a sense of empowerment, of ownership, of humility – it’s therapy!

We believe that so many people in Birmingham have been part of the BTfL legacy that it’s like six degrees of separation – you might not have planted a tree with us yet, but you probably know someone that has! And if you haven’t planted a tree with BTfL yet, you can always plant a tree of your own. Here at BTfL we live and work by the mantra “ask what you can do – pledge to plant a tree or two!”

As one of our 10-year-old volunteers from St Matthew’s Church of England School said, “trees are the earth’s lungs and we have to keep planting them”. So we do!

In addition to planting trees, at BTfL we also enjoy forging new working relationships – one of which is with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group as they prepare for their T R E E concert in the Spring.

Geoff Cole, Chairman of Birmingham Trees for Life says: “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.”

Our partnerships across the city with artists, poets, musicians and educators help spread the message about how important it is to nurture nature, from planting trees and celebrating trees through digging holes and bedding down our saplings to art, singing, writing, drawing and composing!

And every new tree planted, every new partnership, linked or joint community venture achieved is helping BTfL celebrate that Birmingham is one of the greenest cities in Europe. The city has 571 parks totalling over 14-square miles of public open space, more than any other equivalent sized European city.

Birmingham boasts over one million trees – as many as the population of the city!

Who would have thought it: Birmingham, central to the industrial revolution could be a green beacon of environmental greatness for its population. So much so that only last year Birmingham earned the international accolade of becoming a Tree City of the World!

To become a tree city of the world, Birmingham had to meet five core standards – establish responsibility; set the rules; know what you have; allocate the resources; and celebrate achievements. Birmingham Trees for Life worked closely with the City Council to review the city’s tree policy going some way in meeting the requirements of becoming a Tree City of the World.

As each new tree planting season approaches BTfL pays attention to increasing tree planting in inner city areas where air is more polluted. By filtering polluted air, reducing chemical smog formation, shading out harmful solar radiation and providing an attractive, calming setting for recreation, trees can have a positive effect on the incidence of asthma, skin cancer and many stress related illnesses. The positive effects of the green environment, especially trees, on mental health are now well-documented, especially since lockdown.

Humans have evolved to live in harmony with the natural environment – when we are deprived of contact with it, our mental and physical health suffer – and the benefits are for everyone.

Planting trees does everyone in the city and the world a very big favour. What could feel better than that? We know – planting another tree!

So never underestimate the urban tree. Whether it stands alone on a street corner, is rooted in your garden or blossoms beautifully in your local park.

Love that tree and appreciate that tree; celebrate that tree and better still – plant a tree!

Because a world without trees is a world without lungs and a world without lungs is a world with no future!

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