Category: News

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:

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




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:

And more information about the Arbor Day Foundation in the US and the Tree Cities of the World initiative can be found here:

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!

Farewell and thank you to Jane E!

After over ten years in the role of School and Community Liaison for Birmingham Trees for Life, Jane Edwards is leaving us this week for a well-earned retirement.  At Jane’s final BTFL Committee meeting, Chairman Geoff Cole presented Jane with a keepsake to remember all the trees, children and events that have been part of the last decade.

BTFL’s mission is not just about planting trees, it is as much about involving local people in helping to plant them, especially school children.  Over the years, Jane has worked with hundreds of schools and teachers, to enable thousands of pupils to enjoy tree planting, often for the first time, and the pleasure and benefit they gain from outdoor activities involving the natural environment is always evident.  This year’s event at Perry Common Rec was her record – 153 children on one site over just a couple of hours!

So, on behalf of both BTFL and the Birmingham Civic Society, and especially myself, I’d like to thank Jane for all her hard work and tenacity, and for the good-natured and efficient way in which she always got on with the job.  Jane – you’ll be missed!

BTFL is looking for a new member to join our team!

Would you like to help get people involved in tree planting? BTFL has an opportunity for someone to take on our Communications and Liaison role, as Jane Edwards is leaving us after over a decade in the role.  This is a freelance self-employed role, part time, with variable hours.  Full details can be found here: Communications & Liaison role May 2019

If you fit the bill, and would like to apply, please email your CV to by 28th June 2019.