Tag: Community

Our Community Tree Champions Dug Deep with Smiles and Sparkle That Made Our Day – and possibly the Queen’s!

What started out as a slightly grey and dull morning, quickly turned into an energetic ball of fast and furious fun in Highgate Park. BTfL were planting five multi-stemmed Silver Birch trees to make a natural screen for an ugly wall in the corner of this beautiful Victorian Park. Making it a little bit prettier and much greener with the help of 15 smiley children from Chandos Primary School, six fantastic volunteers from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association and Dame Christine Braddock, the Queens representative  for the Queens Green Canopy Platinum Jubilee celebrations, of course the brilliant Woodland team and not to mention three members of our dedicated BTfL committee and organised by the City of Nature Alliance Member Project.

Highgate Park with its 146-year history was opened in 1876, the first park created by a town council, itself. It was opened to give city dwellers in a largely industrious built up areas some green space go enjoy – so the idea of nature to aid wellbeing isn’t such a new thing after all! The park was hit by 200 German bombs in the Second World War, but was restored graciously in 1952.

  

 

Today the park is used by everyone in the local area, strolling and chatting, dog walking, jogging, a short cut, a quiet place to sit and cool place to shade and is as important today to it’s residents as it was when it first opened. The bandstand and park keepers cottage may be gone, but it’s centre of the beating heart of Highgate can never be underestimated.

  

  

The children from Chandos Primary School told us just how much they used the park and how important it is to them. So, we were happy to tell them that these trees are now part of the park’s legacy and part of these children’s personal legacy.  With that in mind the children quickly organised themselves into BTfL Tree Champions and mini BTfL Tree Champions as the Year six children mentored the year one children at our tree planting event. These children were so eager to get planting, they couldn’t wait to get hold of the spades and start digging and scooping. Taking a great interest in what type of trees we were planting, investigating the branches and buds, eager to see the trees in Spring time covered in beautiful green leave and taking the tree labels back to school to share their knowledge with their pupils. One eagle-eyed student was eager to know why the label stated, ‘tree passport?’

Great question BTfL said, and explained that the passport is an official label for the movement of trees within Great Britain and crown dependencies, demonstrating compliance with plant health. With a disappointed look the eagle-eyed student remarked, ‘oh I thought the trees are came over on a plane from a nice hot country where they had been on holiday!

What a lovely idea!

The children were quick to tell us that many of them lived locally and would be able to see the trees from their homes. ‘Well give them a wave each morning, show your friends and family these beautiful trees, explain their importance to the local area and of course let everyone know that you were planting thee trees for everyone who uses the park and live in the local area and of course the Queen!,’

‘The Queen?’ they gasped.

Wide-eyed wonder took over as Dame Christine Braddock explained that the children we were also planting these trees as part of the Queens Green Canopy celebrations, asking everyone who can to plant a tree to do so.

‘So we’re helping out the Queen today?’ one student asked, ‘Oh Yes, BTfL explained, and how many children in their lifetime can say that – not many!

 

So, it was decided that the students should name the trees – just in case the Queen ever came to visit them – well we believe it could happen! So, her Majesty  can enjoy all the wonder of Team Tree, Head Tree, Silver Tree, Queenie the Tree and Chandos the Tree! What beautiful names. But not only was the energy from Chandos school a beautiful thing, but having six wonderful volunteers from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association in Birmingham at this planting too.

This fantastic community organisation who have groups all over the country will be celebrating a very special milestone this year too – their centenary. And to celebrate they are planting 100,000 trees. We are honoured that they chose to come and complete part of that milestone with BTfL and we thank them very much for doing so. This is the first of their three visits to tree planting events with BTfL, so watch the space.

 

But we had to say SNAP! Because it’s a special year for BTfL too as we will be reaching our 100,000th milestone – this season we will plant our 100,000th tree in Cannon Hill Park in March 2022! So many trees and so much to celebrate!

So we celebrate more trees in the ground, more greenery to enjoy, cleaner air in an industrial area of our great city, more emotional investment from local children in the area, a school that no doubt would love to come back with us and plant some more trees, BTfL helping achieve a centenary of 100,000 trees planted this year by Ahmadiyya’s Muslim Women; Association, not to mention adding to HRH QGC Platinum Jubilee tree planting celebrations and achieving part of the City Of Nature’s Alliance plan for the city!

Well for a cold dank Tuesday morning we think we all did quite well. So always remember that mantra – team work really does make the dream work! Thank you everyone. Please view our photo album from this event here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Busy, Bustling, Beautiful Vibe At Our Community Tree Planting Today!

Today BTfl made their way to Selly Oak Park for our community tree planting and what a wonderful group of people came to join us to replace Hawthorn trees along the side of Gibbons Road. But before we started as always  we surveyed our previous plantings near to the Scout hut in the park. We were pleased to see that our Walnut trees planted ten years ago are doing exceptionally well. And just for a few moments we took some time to love and admire all the beautiful trees in the park. After that we swiftly moved on to welcoming 19-students from years seven, eight and nine and three members of staff arrived from Bishop Challoner Catholic College, local Councillor Tristian Chatfield, the wonderful Selly Oak Park Friends group who do such an amazing job of keeping the park looking fantastic and six member of the Dawat-E-Islami MIDLANDS Community Group to our event. Considering we had four trees to plant and a cascade of enthusiasm from everyone, the holes were dug, the trees placed in the holes and bedded down before  we could say, ‘plant a tree and get air for free!’ But as todays tree planting showed us in particular and like all our other tree plantings show us, tree planting events aren’t always just about planting trees. No – talking trees, sharing stories, feeling empowered, re-living history together and taking pride in all all we do to help the environment – is just as important.

We heard many amazing stories today while planting trees. The story of the legendary Selly Oak Tree that was planted at the junction of Oak Tree Lane and the Bristol Road around 1830 possible to celebrate the Coronation of King William IV. The tree was damaged during construction of local houses and was deemed to danger to leave standing so in 1909 it was felled. The Selly Oak tree stump was then placed in Selly Oak Park with a brass plaque to record it’s legacy.

Then the amazing work that Dawat-E-Islami MIDLANDS Community Group  explained that they are doing, not just tree planting in the West Midland, but all over the world. Working with local communities and school children across the globe, planting two million trees last year. Yes we said two million trees! The six volunteers from the group told us all about their work, we were all ears and wowed by the numbers. We felt very honoured that they had chosen to join us today and will do at future plantings.

The planting of a tree is regarded in the classical Islamic tradition as an act of continuous charity, the most desirable sort of good deeds. The Prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, said that if one plants a tree then whatever is eventually eaten from it whether by humans or animals counts for the planter as a an act of charity.

 

As BTfL distributed our BTfL badges to the students form Bishop Challoner Catholic College two young students began reminiscing about the last tree planting they had been to with BTfL at St Ambrose Barlow School  in Newey Goodman Park in Hall Green in November 2019. One of the wettest, coldest and muddiest BTfL tree plantings on record! But with grins the two students explained even with the worst weather imaginable they loved every minute of it – here here!

 

Not only that all the students from Bishop Challoner Catholic College today are part of the school Eco Group, growing flowers, plants, herbs, fruit and vegetables to provide food for their garden kitchen, making strawberry  jam to sell to raise funds for school projects and to grow raspberries so that any student who walks passed the fruit can look, admire, pick and enjoy organic home grown fruit, raspberries, strawberries and apples – and if we have been privileged enough to be able to pick fruit we’ve grown ourselves we all know how magical and satisfying the feels! Their next project to plant some trees on school premises – via whips from the Woodland Trust.

So today as always was a brilliant day all round and it proves two very important things – trees always, but always bring people together and – it really is good to talk!

Please view the photo album for this planting here 

 

Our Mini Tree Champions Were Loud and Proud to Be Planting Cherry Trees in Balsall Heath Park

‘Are you ready to plant some trees?’ Birmingham Trees for Life asked 35 eager children from Anderton Park School. What came back was a very loud and very proud YES! Which nearly knocked us off our feet! That kind of energy we love! Not only that, teachers, Mr. Jarvis, Mrs. B and Mrs. Kaur were also happy to grab a spade and enjoy the sunshine and the tree planting. We had two year two classes, as well as four volunteers, Dave, George, Marcus and Pete to lend a hand as well. As always overseen by our very own Geoff, Viv and Debbie as well as the legends that are the Woodland Team.

  
The  ten cherry blossom trees were planted in Balsall Heath Park where a close knit community enjoy their park and use it every day. A couple of local residents were very pleased see us planting trees in their much loved park.

The trees can almost be seen from Anderton Park School building and the children wanted us to know that they will be keeping an eye on the trees, watching how they  change from their sleeping mode right up until February, seeing their spring buds in March and April and their beautiful blossom in May. Our mini tree champions promised to take photos of the lovely blossom and share it with us year on year. Knowing these trees are in such safe hands is a wonderful feeling. But only do we have mini tree champions, but our volunteers from a city wide removal firm promised to plant a tree for every house move they undertake – that makes perfect business sense to us at BTfL and we are grateful that Dave and his staff understand the utmost importance keeping an industrial second city clean and green!

The children worked really hard planting the trees and for year-two aged-six it was hard work, but their were no complaints just smiles and giggles as they worked in groups of five chatting and digging and scooping and chatting.

 

There seemed to be an element of disappointment when we had finished planting as if the children would’ve liked ten more trees to plant.  Instead we suggested love of trees doesn’t end outside, the classroom is a great way to celebrate trees to through art, poetry and story writing. Not only that, we began an impromptu maths lesson counting branches and working how ten trees could grow so many branches – when the conversation moved to millions and billions, we scratched our heads, gently changed the subject and stepped away from the maths!

As we said a huge thank you and gave Anderton Park School three cheers for all their hard work and enthusiasm, some children said they walked through the park every day to school, to the shops, to the mosque, to play or enjoy some exercise and that every day they would look at their trees and be proud – and we hope still very loud!

Please enjoy the photographs taken of this tree planting event here

 

 

 

 

 

The Oval School Children Wowed Us With Tree Knowledge Today!

Another day another tree planting event in Tree Week 2021. Today couldn’t have been more different from your previous tree planting. After the wintery wonderland yesterday it was a dry beautiful day today with oodles of sunshine and oodles of enthusiasm – just how we  like it.

And for a little blast from  past we checkout the trees BTfL had planted eight years ago in the field opposite to Old Yardley Park – they were doing brilliantly.

   

But soon we were busy welcoming our helpers, 19-children of mixed year groups from the Oval School’s student council. Local councillor Deborah Harries, our fantastic volunteers Jess and Jay, teacher, Alexander and teaching assistant, Teasha and of course our BTfL committee members, Deborah, Geoff and Sue. What a fantastic turn out.

    

We love it when our guests dig in, excuse the pun, everyone was so eager to get the the 10 Acer’s in the ground that it was breeze. The children’s tree knowledge was amazing, not they the children ask many questions, as their enthusiasm to learn more was quite clear. The students were very excited about the prospect of being able to see their trees growing season upon season and all of them promised to visit their trees whenever they can.

Today we saw a stomp dance around the trees as the children bedded the trees down, we learned the difference between a volcano and a donut, in the way we plant trees.  Ensuring that the earth around the tree is flat instead of piled up around the tree and the tree stake. The children talked eagerly about Giant Redwoods in America. The thought of a huge awe inspiring tree is always one that gets us all excited and all children we work with know about theses trees and can’t wait to hear their knowledge. But they were just as excited about ‘their’ trees. We also love it when children describe the trees they have planted with us as ‘their’ trees – because of course they are. Knowing these children feel like Guardians of the trees makes us sell with pride, one student proclaiming, I’m going show my Mom, my sisters and my whole family these brilliant trees!

There was also a lot of interest from the children about how they could get jobs and careers with trees, asking Deborah how he because so involved with trees –  well of course that is alway music to our ears. Knowing the trees install so much excitement and interest that children much even consider a career working with trees – well as far as were were concerned that was our job done.

And the answer that question is three fold – hard work, passion and an unfailing passion for trees – after all as we always say,  a world without trees, is a world without lungs and a world without lungs is a world  with no future! And always remember, if you only plant one tree, you are making a difference.

Here is a link to the album of photographs taken today – thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our First Day Back Planting the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Very Special Tree!

Well, what a morning we had! The sun was shining brightly in the Forest School Garden of Yenton Primary School. The hole had been dug and there was a beautiful Acer campestre Elegant tree waiting to be planted by 47 Year-Five children.  The  School Student Council, Dr. John Craggs, the Crown Appointed Deputy Lieutenant for the West Midlands, The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Muhammed Afzal and excited staff from school as well two  enthusiastic members of the BTfL team happy to be out at a tree planting – our first one in nearly two years!

And what a lovely way to start the season it was!

The tree planting at Yenton Primary school was a very special event. Yenton Primary School was chosen to be one of only three schools in the West Midlands to have a tree planted in their grounds to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

  

This season we are all being encouraged to plant a tree for the Jubilee.

The setting couldn’t have been better as the beautiful sunlight dappled through the tree canopy of the forest school. Children lined up to be part of this very special ceremony. Dr. John Craggs made a speech on behalf of the Queen to thank the  children and the school for taking ownership of the tree and how as custodians there would nurture and care for this tree.

The children will see the tree through all seasons and will sit under it to read and to enjoy every thing their forest school has to offer.  Dr John Craggs talked about one of his friends who had attended Yenton Primary School in 1971 and how she had left  to carve out a wonderfully successful career and to travel the world – inspiring words for the students to hear.

The Headmaster, Paul Smith also spoke on behalf of the children and the staff to thank The Queens Green Canopy for this special gift and how honoured the felt to have been given the tree.

Then the tree was planted by nearly every school child at the planting, every member of staff and by The Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Lieutenant Dr. John Cragg all taking a spade full of earth and placing it in the hole and around the tree – talk a about team work making the dream work!

   

But then the tree needed bedding down so we asked the children if they could stomp? Almost all every eager hand waved in the air wanting to bed down the tree with some stomping.

Once that was done the tree felt very secure. Only then the beautiful ornamental tree guard was placed around the tree and the plaque celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee tree was placed on it for everyone to look on and admire.

   

Once again it was smiles all round, but then the big decision of naming the tree – a decision for the school council. After a few suggestions, they decided diplomatically and unanimously that the tree should be called, ‘Yenty!’

What a great name, for a great tree, in a great school!

So here sits Acer campestre Elegant, the first Queens Jubilee Tree planting in the West Midlands, a tree that celebrates the Platinum Jubilee – Queen Elizabeth II, 70-years on the throne! No doubt this tree will be loved, sat under, admired, photographed, hugged, read around and watered for the next 70-years by children generation upon generation of Yenton Primary School. And while some of us may not be around to see that day. Some of the children that planted the tree today may well come back to visit the tree with their children and their grandchildren – and by golly that’s what we call a tree legacy!

Here is a link to the photo album of the day.

If you would like to record your tree planting as part of the Queens Jubilee tree planting programme your can find all the information here

 

 

 

 

 

18-Months Late for School – Now We’re Back in the Classroom!

Well last week saw us back in school and like most students who recently returned to normally schooling after the Summer holidays we couldn’t be happier. It’s one 18-months since we have been in a classroom setting teaching children about trees, but better late than never!

Our first school educational session was with Lickey Hills Primary School. The school had  been so disappointed they couldn’t come and plant with us previously and that the pandemic had stopped us that we promised to visit them in school as soon as we could return.

What a lovely morning we had with 60 Year-Six children who were eager to share all their knowledge not just about tress, but about biodiversity, the power of nature, local wildlife, creepy crawlies, parasites and fungi!  With every question we saw a sea of hands waving eagerly at us wanting to share their thoughts, knowledge and opinions – and some the children’s knowledge was encyclopaedic!

We were very impressed.

As much as we enjoyed the classroom setting, when you are talking trees,  there is only one place to be – outside!

So with our tree identification booklets in our hands we ventured out onto Lickey Hills Primary School playing fields. There were many species of different trees and hedgerows, as well as a space where this year the new Lickey Hills Primary Forest School will start.

In pairs the children darted off in different directions, studying their tree guide and throwing tree names in their groups and discussing leaf shapes, bark texture and leaf fungus.

The black tar like patches on the leaves the Maple trees were spotted immediately. This is a fungal pathogen in the genus Rhytisma has taken hold. When the fungus initially infects a leaf, it causes a small wide, yellow spot. As the season progresses that spot spreads, eventually growing up to 2cm wide. The spreading yellow spot also changes colours as it grows, slowly turning from a yellow-green to a deep, tarry black.

The tar spots don’t emerge right away, but are typically obvious by mid to late summer. By the end of September, those black spots are at full size and may even appear to be rippled or deeply grooved like fingerprints. The fungus only attacks the leaves, leaving the rest of the maple tree alone – there came a collective phew from the children happy that their Maple trees were safe!

Children also looked for and found evidence of Gall Wasps whose tiny cocoons were embedded the tree leaves.

We reminded the children that September is also seed collecting month, discussing the way seeds are dispersed by wind, by animals, water or by exploding.

      We gave the children some soil and some Birch seeds to plant and nurture in the hope that they will grow and one day, in a few years time we will look up and see the Birch trees amongst all the other native specimens in the grounds of Lickey Hills Primary School – that was an exciting prospect for the children.

Working small teams was the key and almost all trees had been identified by the time we went back inside to discuss trees some more.

As the children settled back into their seats there was one very important virtue of trees that the children suddenly began to understand – trees affect on our wellbeing.

Smiles, flushed cheeks. energised and a really positive mood radiated around the classroom and we pointed out that  being amongst trees, nature and everything else green spaces have to offer has emotional and physical benefits that might not always be recognised immediately.

The children all agreed that outside waste of they favourite places to be because it made them happy – and after a wonderful morning with the children BTfL agreed that our mood had been enhanced too – not just by trees, but by the children’s knowledge, enthusiasm and passion for nature!

Thank you Lickey Hills Primary School – keep up the good work!

 

 

 

 

 

The MAC Eco Fest Was Simply the Best!

Well it was a long time coming, but BTfL were so happy to be back in the fold at MAC Eco Fest this weekend.

Like all of us, we have missed personal contact with friends, colleagues, supporters and the general-public to chat, share ideas, laugh together and talk trees!

It was almost two years to the day since we enjoyed a get together like MAC Eco Fest and we didn’t realize just how much we’d missed it until we got back to it.

The weather was kind and it was bright and sunny outside in Cannon Hill Park and the atmosphere inside the MAC at the festival was lively, energetic, inspiring and, what’s that word – normal!

Normal, is something we haven’t felt for months and it is something we should celebrate and never take for granted. One thing is for certain we won’t be.

What was lovely for BTfL was sharing a stall with Birmingham Tree People. Now if ever there was a match made in heaven – it’s this one.

 

BTfL plants trees with communities and volunteers and Birmingham Tree People maintains trees with communities and volunteers.

Now we know it might seem like a no brainer, but what better way to start the tree planting season than with Birmingham Tree People.

The public that visited our stall were of all ages and were eager to find out all about trees or more about trees, also share their personal stories about trees. How to get involved in planting them and maintaining them.

Some came for advice about what trees to plant and where, suitable trees for their garden, how many trees we plant and maintain, how they could get involved.

Lots of children loved reading and looking at our  displays, taking our tree educational booklets and going on tree hunts in Cannon Hill Park before the leaves fall from the trees, taking away seeds to plant and colouring in nature posters.

And what we loved most of all was hearing children tell us how much they know about trees!

One of the key messages we heard was how much more people are now appreciating their green spaces, parks and nature since lockdown ended.

We couldn’t be happier that trees are at the forefront of people’s minds.

But not just that, people’s passion for trees is growing and we spoke to many members of the general-public who want to make a mark on the tree legacy in Birmingham. One way you can do that is to log on to Birmingham Tree People’s website and learn how to become a tree warden in your local area, the training is free and you will learn so much while becoming an active tree advocate, here’s the link, check it out.

When we did get a chance to wonder outside in the park, we relished the autumnal colours on the trees, rusty reds, golden yellows and warm ambers glistening in the sunshine. The trees in Cannon Hill Park never cease to amaze us.

 

As do the beautiful people of Birmingham and beyond who visited our stall at the Eco Fest.

And with every new conversation about trees comes more enthusiasm, passion and pragmatism.

And we have plenty more room for much more of that because as we always say, we have to love, love, love trees.

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

It’s a big thanks to the MAC Eco Fest for allowing us to share that message far and wide!

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 

 

 

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!