Past Projects – 2006-07
Grove Park, Harborne
The Trees Committee celebrated National Tree Week 2006 by planting 30 semi-mature trees in Grove Park, Harborne on Saturday 25th November, despite the threat of storm force winds and heavy rain. Young people from the local schools needed their wellington boots as they shovelled in the soil, planted bulbs and firmed in the trees. More than one went home rather muddy, but they all had big grins on their faces. As they went home, they took away posters showing the different types of trees, including the oaks and the beeches that they helped plant, and an acorn newly planted in a pot.
Not only did the event encourage young people living close by to get involved in understanding more about trees, but also rekindled memories of the history of the park amongst the older generation. Several people came to the event who had known the park and its beautiful trees long ago. Also celebrated is the magnificent Cedar of Lebanon tree thought to be about 200 years old. Other trees, such as a Tulip Tree, were planted in Victorian times by the Kenrick family who lived at the Grove from 1877 to 1962 when the house was demolished.
Both Anne Kenrick, wife of the late Hugh Kenrick, and her son John took part in the tree planting. John said that his grandfather, Byng Kenrick, would have approved of the Birmingham Trees for Life project.
The new trees will help increase the biodiversity of the park – next autumn the new park keeper will be involving schools in planting native bulbs to naturalise in the grass around the trees.
One of the aims of Birmingham Trees for Life is ‘to encourage the involvement of everyone, especially young people in tree planting to stimulate their care for the environment’. The Reading Trees project gave more than 150 Birmingham school children the opportunity, not just to plant a tree in their school grounds, but to learn about the importance of trees to the environment. However the five trees they planted were no ordinary trees – they were Tulip Trees which not only have creamy white and yellow flowers like tulips in June, but also a generous canopy of leaves to cast shade in the playground. A hexagonal recycled plastic bench around the tree provided the perfect place for children to read about trees.
The project was a result of a partnership between the voluntary organisation Community Service Volunteers, the Civic Society, the Council and local businesses and was therefore an excellent example of the aims of Birmingham Trees for Life.
Farm Park, Sparkhill
Farm Park off Sampson Road, Sparkhill is an important green space in a densely built up area. In the nineteenth century, Farm Park was the grounds of the Lloyds Family who started the Lloyds Bank. The most interesting trees in this historic park are the avenue of mostly planes and limes leading to the neighbouring church, which was the family chapel. In the summer of 2005, the tornado caused a great deal of damage to the church and about 80 trees. The church has been demolished but the avenue of trees is being replanted.
At the end of February 2007, local people and children from Conway Junior and Infant School gathered to plant 30 semi-mature trees. The local Parks Manager Sue Amey had chosen maples, cherries, whitebeams, rowans and lime trees. The school children were invited to help plant the trees, making sure that the soil was carefully put around the roots of ‘their’ trees. The trees replanted were chosen to replace those lost and to add ornamental interest. The opinions of the local residents were sought about what sort of trees local people wanted.
Much has been done to stimulate interest in the park amongst the local community, and ‘Sure Start’ had a family fun day event planned which coincided with this event to encourage residents and parents participation.
Ward End Park
In November 2006, during National Tree Planting Week, children from Nansen Road School, Sladefield Infant School and Thornton Road Infant School gathered in Ward End Park to help plant 30 trees to replace those that had been blown down during the winter of 2006, or had had to be cut down because they were too old and diseased. On arrival they were met by Guy Dixon of Community Services Volunteers (CSV) who told them about the importance of planting trees and how they should be looked after, involving them in a ‘question and answer’ session in which they proved not only to be interested in but also very knowledgeable.
The group of enthusiastic youngsters were accompanied by their teachers, local councillor Ansar Ali Khan, Councillor Ray Hassall, (the City Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture), Hodge Hill Director Rob James and Constituency Parks Manager Mike Wheale. Also included in the day were members of T.S. Dolphin, the Sea Cadets who have their base in Ward End Park.
The tree planting began with the important step of explaining how trees are planted. The 30 trees were of different types – all of them native species: beech, scots pine, hawthorn, alder and ash trees.
The hard work of digging holes for the large trees fell to the City Council grounds maintenance contractors who look after the site – Service Team. They not only dug the holes and lifted the heavy trees into them, they provided spades for everyone to help finish off the planting, and also provided drinks!
After the tree planting, the children were given the opportunity to plant acorns in pots assisted by Leo McKevitt and Jan Tomlinson from the Ranger Service. It is hoped that the acorns will grow into trees to be planted out in the future.
Manor Farm Park, Northfield
In February 2007, children from Northfield Manor School braved the cold weather to plant 20 oak trees at Manor Farm Park. The site chosen in the park was alongside Whitehill Lane where in 2000 a Millennium Woodland was planted by local people. Those travelling up and down Whitehill Lane see this site regularly and it is hoped the wood will form an important part of the linked open spaces in this area.
The Friends of Manor Farm Park were also involved. They had looked at the whole park and recommended where the trees might be planted and they came and talked to the children on planting day. In particular, local resident Tony Sames, who has been involved in environmental education in the city for many years, spent time explaining about trees and their importance to the environment.
Championship Woodland, Perry Park
At the beginning of March 2007, Birmingham hosted the 29th European Athletics Indoor Championships at the National Indoor Arena, with 600 competitors from 50 countries participating, and a massive media entourage reporting throughout the world on the event and the City. The stadium was a virtual sell-out for the whole event, which was worth over £3 million to the economy of Birmingham and the region. After organising many previous successful events, the “Birmingham Team” again triumphed, staging what the President of European Athletics, Hansjorg Wirz, described as “”imply the best ever Indoor Championships”.
The Local Organising Committee, chaired by Councillor Ray Hassall, along with one of the event’s main sponsors, Spar UK, wanted to leave a green legacy from the Championships and approached Birmingham Trees for Life to arrange a suitable tree planting event with links to athletics and involving local children. It was agreed that 50 trees would be planted, one for each country participating in the Championships, and English Oaks were chosen as a suitable species, being the national tree of England. Perry Park, to the rear of the new National Athletics High Performance Training Centre, was chosen as the planting venue, adjacent to the Alexander Stadium, spiritual home of athletics in the City and the home of Birchfield Harriers, who have trained so many of the countries top athletes. Hilliers Nurseries, one of the countries top tree nurseries, supplied the trees. Spar International and Spar UK are major sponsors of athletics and one of the main sponsors of the Indoor Championships. The company celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2007 and the planting ceremony was used to commemorate their anniversary as well as the Championships. A number of their senior executives joined children from Calshot Primary School, Great Barr, Birmingham Park Ranger service staff, Glendale Grounds Maintenance contractors, local Park Keepers, Senior and local City Councillors, staff from Alexander Stadium, representatives from Birmingham Trees for Life and the guest of honour, former triple jump World Record holder, Ashia Hansen, on the morning of 27 February 2007 to plant the trees, which will be known as the Spar Championship Woodland.
The children all met Ashia, well and truly planted the trees as only children can, got very muddy, loved every minute and all left with a “goody bag” from Spar.
As well as the Championship Woodland, Spar also donated and planted a superb specimen weeping cedar tree, Cedrus deodara, at a ceremony in City Centre Gardens to mark their 50th Anniversary. The tree, which closely resembles the evergreen tree featured in Spar’s logo, should in time make a superb specimen right in the heart of the city, just 100 metres away from the National Indoor Arena.
As thoughts move on to London 2012 and the Olympic Games, we all hope our “legacy trees” flourish and add to the city’s green environment as a lasting reminder of the successful 2007 Championships here in Birmingham.
Perry Hall Playing Fields, Perry Barr
At the end of February 2006, children from Dorrington Road school gathered at Perry Hall Park to plant thirty trees. The children not only helped to plant the trees but they joined in some games with Park Ranger Debbie Needle which helped them to learn about the importance of trees in a fun way.
The hard work of digging the holes and putting the trees in place was organised by the Constituency Parks Manager, Peter Short, aided by the City Council’s local Grounds Maintenance Contractors, Glendale Managed Services.
Geoff Cole, of Birmingham Trees for Life (and formerly Head of Parks at the Council for 30 years) was on hand to remind children how important trees are for the environment. The Chairman of the Civic Society Freddie Gick, and local Councillor Talib Hussein were also on hand to offer their help.
Cotteridge Community Orchard
On Friday 27th October 2006 the first apple tree was planted at Cotteridge Community Orchard. The day marked the beginning of the final stage in the transformation of a rough patch of neglected land adjacent to Cotteridge Park into a real orchard for local people to enjoy. The aim of the project was to create a community orchard, which will be a focus for work with local people and local schools to look at growing, harvesting, cooking and eating good food. The site for the orchard, adjacent to Cotteridge Park, was once railway allotments, but the allotments were abandoned and the site became overgrown. Local people waited some time to be able to buy the land – they raised nearly £4,000 by donations, carol singing and selling home-made Christmas cards. Following a very generous donation of £3,000 from the Midlands Co-operative Society, the Friends of the park were able to buy the site, and the local community had worked hard to clear it of rubbish and brambles. With financial help from BTFL, a partnership was formed with a Worcestershire fruit tree grower Frank P Matthews Ltd. Nick Dunn from the company helped the Friends of Cotteridge Park to select the best varieties from the wide range of modern and heritage varieties that he cultivates at his tree nursery. Nick’s grandfather raised the apple trees that were planted in gardens when the Bournville Estate was laid out in the 1900s, so he is now carrying on a family tradition of bringing the countryside to town.
In the following February, the planting of the orchard was completed. Local volunteers helped Nick Dunn and his team plant nearly 30 young apple trees. To ensure a good start, they were staked and had netting put around their stems to prevent rabbits from eating them, and to the surprise of the Friends of Cotteridge Park, several of the young trees came into blossom that spring!
Apple Day 2006, Cotteridge Community Orchard
In October every year, Common Ground co-ordinates an annual celebration of the apple, orchards and local distinctiveness. This celebration was initiated in 1990 it has since been celebrated each year by people organising hundreds of local events. All over the country around the 21st October, people gather together to celebrate the diversity of the apple and its many uses and qualities.
BTFL particpated in Birmingham’s Apple Day when more than 50 different varieties of apple were available for tasting at Cotteridge Community Orchard. Local children tasted red, green and yellow apples of all different shapes and sizes with such wonderful names as Lord Derby, Broadholme Beauty, Yellow Ingestre, Hereford Russet, Edward VII, Golden Knob, Laxton’s Fortune.
There was apple juice to drink, apple bobbing and a nature treasure hunt. The first three apple trees were brought from Worcestershire by Nick Dunn and were planted in the orchard in the afternoon.
Officers of the Civic Society, local Councillors, parents and friends joined in the Apple Day and were on hand to drive home the message that trees and apple trees are essential to health and our quality of life!
Orchards were once widespread throughout the British Isles and until recently every farm, country house and suburban garden had its own collection of fruit trees. In Birmingham, when the Bournville Estate was laid out by the Cadbury’s in the 1900s, every garden was planted with fruit trees and there was even a company orchard to ensure that every member of staff had ‘an apple a day’. However, pressure on land and the importation of cheap fruit from abroad has caused the loss of many of these small orchards. Apples are now mostly bought in plastic bags, perfectly shaped and coloured from supermarkets, but taste and variety and local production may have been forfeited.
However there is now resurgence in the interest in orchards and apples. Organisations such as Common Ground are campaigning to remind us of the importance of orchards. This organisation is well known for linking nature with culture, focussing upon the positive investment people can make in their own localities, championing popular involvement, and by inspiring celebration as a starting point for action to improve the quality of our everyday places.
In an urban context, orchards provide places for quiet contemplation or local festivities, a reservoir of local varieties of fruit and a refuge for wildlife. They can teach children that apples do grow on trees and can taste delicious! In many cities, Farmers Markets are bringing back the concept of local food and promoting fresh ‘home grown’ organic produce – in Birmingham, Farmers Markets are increasingly popular. The old phrase ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ is now being backed up by research that shows that apples may have many health giving qualities and children benefit enormously from eating them.
Radleys Park, Sheldon
The planting of trees has an important symbolic role in the fight against climate change and we were delighted when Birmingham International Airport asked Birmingham Trees for Life to be their partners in a tree-planting scheme in March 2007 at Radley’s Park, Sheldon. Members of the Trees Committee joined pupils from Elms Farm Primary School, local Councillor Sue Anderson and BIA’s community team to plant over 40 trees – some semi-mature ones and some to extend the woodland.
Jack Wilson, Head of Community and Environment at BIA commented on the initiative: “The airport has agreed, in principle to operate a carbon dioxide offsetting scheme and has identified tree planting as one of the ways to do this. We are conscious of the impact we have on the environment and our local community and this is just one way we can give something back”.
The local park manager Mike Wheale gave the pupils a lesson in why trees are important for the environment before they received their certificate and made tree badges to take home.