Tag: poetry

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-

   

Talk about Green Team – We Mean The Dream Team!

Well what a heady mix of interesting and amazing talent we had today at our tree planting. Where we planted at two sites on local housing land in Stockland Green. We were honoured today to welcome Stockland Green School and their Eco Council, the Green Team from Deutsche Bank, Birmingham and Birmingham’s Poet Laureate Richard O’ Brien. We were also accompanied by local councillor for the Bromford and Hodge Hill Ward, Diane Donaldson and her beautiful rescue dog, Gucci! After a chat with the eight students from Stockland Green School they had a very clear mandate for their local environment. ‘We really wanted to plant trees as we know how important they are to our environment and our health.’

‘We want our school to do more recycling, we want new bins and we want our school to ditch plastic, we campaigned for the school to get rid of plastic cutlery and we are well on the way to doing that.’ The students explained proudly. Next on the list is for Stockland Green School is to be free of plastic bottles, we can’t wait to hear about their progress.

 Walking to the site from Stockland Green School to the planting site the students noticed just how many trees lined the buy streets and dual carriageway, reducing CO2 and noise, acting as screening and looking beautiful. The students were eager to get planting on the first of two sites on housing land at Scafell Lane opposite Bleak Hill Allotments. Not only did they fill the holes, but with the help of the seven wonderful Deutsche Bank Green Team volunteers they dug the holes too.

We planted three varieties of crab apple tree today, ‘can you make a crumble with those apples? One student asked. We didn’t think it would taste that nice, but instead making a jelly or a jam might be preferable, but the real reason crab apples were chosen, because wildlife love them. The blossom is beautiful too.

Richard O’ Brien, Birmingham’s Poet Laureate was enjoying tree planting too, stating that it was the first time he had ever planted a tree – well Richard we hope and we are quite sure it won’t be your last!  As adults and younger students buddied up to plant the trees there was lots of chatter and lots of hard work. Digging, shovelling, stomping on the soil was quite a rhythmic and pragmatic approach to the planting, working as a team and admiring the trees that they had just planted.

After a quick de-brief, we all took the lovely walk across Witton Lakes to our second planting site, at Faulkners Farm Drive. There was plenty of wildlife and beautiful trees to look at as we chatted while walking. Our tree planting included Liquidamber Trees, that will provide beautiful striking colour in the Autumn months. Nestling the trees amongst the residential flats dotted here and there was a wonderful way of introducing trees, where there were none before.

There was lots of interest from local-residents and were pleased to hear that they would have something beautiful to enjoy in the autumn as well as the local wildlife. It was smiles all round as we finished planting the final tree with a feeling that we had achieved something lovely which of course together as the green, dream team we have!  You see planting trees can make you happy, planting trees make you calm and relaxed, planting trees is a community exercise, planting trees provides you with your own personal environmental legacy and planting trees can be cathartic. So, we say go and plant a tree! It will do you and your planet the world of good! Please check out the photo album for this blog here 

 

Testimonial from Catherine Harding, teacher from Stockland Green School – “I just wanted to say how wonderful this morning was! Being involved in the tree planting this morning has really opened our eyes to the importance of trees, and the students are really keen to watch them grow! So nice to be part  of a legacy in the community thee students live! ”

Poem about Tree planting at Stockland Green by Richard O’ Brien, Birmingham’s Poet Laureate

 

We Need All The Trees We Can Get   

After some training, even I can carve

a perfect New York pizza slice of turf,

but underneath this thin green strip

there’s levels of resistance:        see Chris switch,

one earphone in (a podcast; MMA)

from spade to fork,

mattock to wrecking bar,

and plunge and plunge and plunge

into the shallow store

of rubble.

 

‘Sometimes there’s more brick than soil,’

somebody says:

‘you want more soil than brick.’

 

And Chris, who graciously explained

what sets apart a shovel from a spade:

‘I’m just here to dig holes;

don’t get involved in any politics.’

 

The grass on turf put back

the wrong way up competing with

the new root-ball for water,

 

while a lady from the bank

takes black bags home to plant courgettes —

 

a quieter second life, having already

yielded to the Wyrley Birch Estate

their load of liquidambar.

 

Walking back to the car, we pass a stand

of beech and ash trees that long since outgrew

the schoolchildren whose job was treading flat

the earth around them ten years earlier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Audley School Year Four Poem

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

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

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

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

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

And on water, people bringing picnics under shady trees.

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

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

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

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

By Justine Marklew

Return to Nature – We Certainly Did!

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

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

There was a whole range of eco-themed activities, entertainment for the whole family to enjoy and participate in. Environmental arts, music, writing, craft, nature trails, story-telling, inspiring talks, delicious food and a wonderfully progressive community atmosphere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BTfL is Collaborating with Mandy Ross, Poet, Children’s Author and Community Arts Practitioner

Well, September has arrived and Autumn is around the corner. And BTfL is excited to be part of the Return to Nature Festival on September 14th at Holders Lane Woods in Moseley – a woodland celebration of the natural world held by Forward Arts.

Mandy Ross and Return To Nature Festival

There will be a whole range of eco-themed activities, entertainment for the whole family to enjoy and participate in. Environmental arts, music, writing, craft, nature trails, story-telling, inspiring talks, delicious food and a wonderfully progressive community atmosphere. BTfL will be there placed in a beautiful clearing of the woods surrounded by a charming canopy of trees and greenery.

We are hoping you will all join in the fun with us and our creative activities related to trees and nature, including a nature walk to collect tree seeds and making a seed pots to take home and to help to create a Poe-tree! We are very excited to be collaborating with Mandy Ross, a Community Arts Practitioner, poet and children’s author based in Birmingham who will be working with BTfL at the Return to Nature Festival.

From 2-5pm Mandy will be overseeing a community writing workshop including seed collecting and planting. Mandy will also be encouraging the audience to write a community poem together based around tree memories. With words written on leaf shaped paper by each individual and collected to build a beautiful community poem which will be performed in the afternoon.

Mandy says: ‘This will be the first time I have worked with BTfL and it’s very exciting. But it’s not my first experience with BTfL. Last year I was involved in planting a tree in memory of my friend Jo Skelt, Birmingham’s Poet Laureate 2013/14 who sadly died of breast cancer.
Planting a tree in Jo’s memory through BTfL was such a lovely experience. Myself and my friends went to Pype Hayes Park and worked BTfL and with other people to plant a small forest – not just one tree! I was so impressed with how BTfL worked I was happy to be approached to work with them at the Back to Nature Festival.

I often go back to visit the trees planted at Pype Hayes in memory of Jo to see how that wonderful forest is doing – its growing healthily and beautifully.
Birmingham is a very green city and we are lucky to have so many green open spaces to enjoy. Seeing how many trees BTfL plant each year shows they have a very big commitment to continuing to make the city of Birmingham even greener and healthier.
‘I have always been interested in arts and nature and working with BTfL will be a great collaboration. Working around nature and encouraging people to share their personal stories gives an individual a voice to express themselves and share memories and experiences with others. Being immersed in nature brings out a creative energy in people. The community poem we will be writing at the Back to Nature Festival will allow many different voices to be heard and it’s a very positive experience. Living together in a beautifully diverse city, hearing about different experiences and points of view brings us closer together and a greater understanding and appreciation of each other.

It’s inspiring!

An example of Mandy Ross’s work with community groups

Sharing stories and experiences is good for our wellbeing also. A sense of wellbeing has always been a strong strand that carries through my work. Finding ways to encourage people to be creative, engage in writing and the arts and nature as a way of telling a story is something I’m fascinated with. My collaboration with BTfL doesn’t stop after the Return to Nature Festival, we will also be collaborating with schools to deliver workshops together during this tree planting season – exciting times!’

BTfL says: “Please come and join us for a wonderful celebration of our natural world!’
The event starts at 11am at Holders Lane Woods, Holders Lane, Moseley B13 8NW and the activities and music will go on until 8pm.

Copy by Justine Marklew