Tag: Schools in Birmingham

Talking Trees With The Autistic Gardener!

‘I’m a tree nut! Plain and simple.’ Says award winning Alan Gardner, better known through his successful television career in garden design as the Autistic Gardener on Channel 4.

Alan, a seasoned celebrity garden designer from Sutton Coldfield, has an encyclopaedic knowledge and enthusiasm for trees which is wonderful. Waxing lyrical about trees with Alan over a cup of tea on the phone is no better way for BTfL to spend a soggy Monday morning.

Alan, is married to Mandy and a dad of three grown up children, Deanna 20, Reiss 25 and Hayden,28. Alan has Asperger’s Syndrome. His love of horticulture started as a young boy when he began to understand the joy of growing plants, especially cacti. Understanding that there were thousands of plants to learn about, to grow and to nurture started an obsession with horticulture which, excuse the pun grew and grew.

Alan, just starting his career in horticulture

Determined to carve out a career in horticulture Alan began working at Birmingham Parks Department in the late 1970’s aged 16 where he began to perfect his craft. In 1986  he left the parks department to design gardens.

His career has seen Alan create 40 Royal Horticultural Society gardens and won numerous awards at Chelsea, Hampton Court and Tatton Park. The last award Alan won was a silver medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015. His TV career began when he was approached by Channel 4 to present a garden design show in 2015.

In the show Alan re-designs gardens for neuro-typical clients with his five-strong team of trainees; all amateur gardening enthusiasts and all on the autistic spectrum with the programme emphasis on gardens, design and valuing individual differences and achievements.

‘Being autistic means I need to know everything about everything I’m interested in – there are no short measures.’ Alan explains.

‘I don’t call what I do a job, in fact I’ve never had a real job, I get paid for being me, getting to fly all over the world, design gardens, talk about gardens and autism is an absolute joy.’

A publicity shot for the Channel 4 series, The Autistic Gardener

But despite his high-flying career Alan’ feet are firmly on the ground and he enjoys supporting his local area and local community in their endevours to keep improving and maintaining their local environment to make it more biodiverse, beautiful, people friendly and community based.

Alan say: ‘I help a local community group in North Birmingham with John Porter of the parks department in Birmingham to plant in their local area to improve it, make it more diverse, wildlife friendly and more beautiful.

‘It makes the area look good and gives the local community a sense of pride in their environment and I am very much in support of them. It allows people ownership of something quite special.

‘When I started in Birmingham’s Parks department it was because horticulture and plants were of a very special interest to me.

‘Birmingham is one of the greenest cities in the country and I was propagator in charge of Birmingham’s tree nursery in Perry Barr. I’m glad I was a part of our city being so green.

‘There, we grew 12,500 trees, 123 different varieties to be planted in streets and parks in Birmingham.

‘Now years later I can go out for a walk and see an avenue of huge beautiful trees I grew them – it’s a lovely feeling.

‘Being autistic and having Asperger’s Syndrome means certain things draw my attention and I’ve always like things that are bigger than me including, cranes, electric pylon and trees.

‘The oak tree for example is a huge tree and has been here for a considerable amount of time. I’m fascinated by trees, how they got here, why some survive and some don’t.

‘Why some have so much colour and others show as short burst for a month and then are hardly noticeable for the rest of the year. An oak tree supports 200 types of insects while a Japanese Cherry will support virtually none.

‘Certain trees like cherries when in flower are beautiful breath-taking blossom trees, but any other time of the year you may walk past it and hardly notice them much at all.

‘Autumn colour are trees vying for attention, and they are so beautiful if we just take the time to look up and take note. I don’t believe we take enough notice of trees.

‘For me a visit to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens is an absolute joy. There are so many amazing trees to wonder at.

‘My favourite tree is Copper Beach which is over 200-yrs old in sits majestically in the Rose Garden. It is a beautiful specimen and the peacocks roost in it.

‘Redwoods too, I love to give Redwoods a hug. It’s like touching fibre glass and it’s a very cuddly tree. The Red Wood has a brilliant defence mechanism, that is the bark is fireproof – amazing trees!

‘Most of them planted in this country were planted at the same time as there was a bit of a craze for them.

‘Just like Monkey Puzzle Tree, you may notice them in the front gardens of Victorian house as people of that time were fascinated by them.

These are trees that were around at the same time as Dinosaurs – trees are quite amazing.  The semi-precious black coloured shiny stone Jet is the fossilized Monkey Puzzle Tree.

‘Trees are part of the glue that holds nature and our world together and as things feel like they are falling apart right now – we need more glue.

‘Planting and growing trees is a legacy that is very important and we must embrace them. I love trees and I was happy to come out with BTfL three years ago planting trees at Jones Wood in Sutton Coldfield.  It was a great morning, doing what I love to do, planting and soaking up the enthusiasm from the local community groups and schools that were also planting that day.

Alan with BtfL at Jones Wood

We need to plant the right trees, so people fall in love with then and stay in love with them. Street trees are wonderful, soften the hard edges. Developers need to plant the right tree and not just plant trees as a token gesture, clumping the wrong trees together without any thought.

In Cannock Chase there are lots of spruce and pine trees, they are good for the environment, but they aren’t great for wildlife and the ground is becoming sterile. But mixed woodland like Beech, Oak and Birch are great for the environment and biodiversity too. Planting these trees along with a good mix of native hedgerows is what we need more of and I understand BTfL is doing this year on year.

Alan working with school children at BTfL tree planting at Jones Wood

I’m happy to see a slow but very strong shift in interest in environment. I see it on a local level with more friends groups and friends of parks groups being organised and growing. There is a Friends Groups in Jones Wood that has emerged and is caring for the local environment encouraging wildlife, other plants and tree species and people.

The area was overrun by brambles and was killing off the beautiful bluebells. So the friends group got together, cleared the area of bramble and now it is a beautiful place to – just be!

You change things by giving it a sense of purpose like the wild area being looked after by locals at Jones Wood. Now people flock to it to enjoy everything this naturally beautiful place has to offer.

Our natural surroundings are so important and people are so preoccupied by just getting through life, not enough appreciating nature around them, although I think lockdown over the last few months has changed this. The slower pace of life has allowed everyone to appreciate their natural surroundings a lot more, so we are all connecting with nature on a deeper level, which makes us more like to invest in it.

I’ve travelled all over the world, New York, Texas, Los Angeles and have seen one side of America to the other. But in this country we have the finest trees in the world.

And for that we should feel very lucky!

A Wonderful Tree Themed Camera Obscura Workshop!

As part of our lockdown Summer engagement programme we worked with St Matthew’s Church of England School in Nechells, Birmingham on a Camera Obscura workshop. This was a fun workshop that enabled students to enjoy the practicalities of making the camera and then capturing images of trees and nature on their homemade camera’s.

We had worked with St Matthew’s Primary School back in February when we planted 10 trees in the local area. It was a lovely morning with children full of enthusiasm, curiosity, smiles and an impressive knowledge and understanding about trees so we couldn’t wait to revisit the school.

The workshop was run by Jo Gane, photographic practitioner and was funded by Matthew Murray Landscape Photographic Artist and Arts Council England and in collaboration with BTfL.

Jo’s specialist area of knowledge is the practice of early photographic processes and translating these difficult techniques into engaging hands-on workshop activities.

Matthew Murray is an award winning photographic artist working on an Arts Council of England project around the landscape of Arenig, North Wales.Matthew is working on an Arts Council of England project around the landscape of Arenig, North Wales.

As part of this project Matthew Murray developed an engagement programme working with artists, practitioners, charities and inner city schools, focusing on communities who may not have the opportunity to participate in these programmes in other circumstances.

Matthew Murray choose BTfL as the project he was interested in collaborating with because of our great environmental and community based work and we are very grateful for that.

Building small cardboard camera obscura is a simplistic, but magical way of understanding how light travels to project an image and a great way of exploring the world though a camera lens.

Camera Obscura is like the pinhole camera used in the 1800’s, camera obscura means, ‘dark chamber’ and is a photographic practice illustrating beautifully how photography is all about ways of capturing light.

In our fast-paced technological world where our phone cameras are an extension of our hands and are used to document every part of our lives, using images that can be manipulated until virtually unrecognisable from the original photograph – it was quite refreshing to go straight back to basics. Seventeen students from years five and six took part in the workshop over Zoom in two class bubbles, overseen by patient and hands on staff!

Running a school’s engagement workshop over Zoom was new to all of us. But within a couple of minutes we’ all settled in and listening intently to Jo’s instructions.

It was a proper Blue Peter inspired moment, as each student was given a cardboard box, masking tape, a lens and some tracing paper. It was clear at first the students weren’t convinced that a camera could be made from such simplistic bits and pieces.

But within half an hour we were well on the way to having the camera’s finished and ready to use.

Students and staff had worked exceptionally hard with Jo and produced their own camera to work with.

As Jo illustrated how to put the tracing paper in the cardboard box with the lens and the children and staff suddenly saw the magic of the images appearing in the box there was a joyous intake of breath and smiles all round.

     

 

It was a great opportunity for students to take their cameras and capture images all around school. The camera obscura works well when there is lots of good natural light, the only downside on that day was that it was a dull rainy day. But it didn’t stop students getting up and off around the school grounds using their camera to capture beautiful images.

The students then took their cameras home and no doubt shared the images with their friends and family capturing images of their home environment and all of nature around them, the flowers, the trees and the trees we planted with St Matthew’s Primary School last tree planting season!

If you would like to make a camera obscura, please click the link and watch the workshop online on BTfL’s YouTube channel.

Testimonial from Mrs. Tracey Adams, Deputy Headteacher at St Matthew’s Church of England School, Nechells, “The project to create pinhole cameras came at the right time, for St Matthew’s – a real ray of creativity during this new way of teaching  It was an opportunity for children (through zoom) to learn a new skill; interact with an expert and also to be inspired to explore the world of photography.  Our Year 5 and 6’s, and their teachers absolutely loved the experience.  We can’t praise this project enough, and want to thank Jo and Justine for getting us involved and Matthew Murray and Art Council England for funding it. 

 

If you capture images you would like to share, then please email them to justine.marklew@btfl.org.uk and we would love to showcase them on our social media channels.

If you would like to view the photographs taken during the workshop, please view, here 

We would like to say thank you to Jo Gane and Matthew Murray for making this happen.

We Have to Plant Millions More Trees! #TogetherWeWill

When BtFL were invited to visit King Edward’s Boy’s School in Aston in February. We couldn’t have been more delighted. A group pf 15 students had chosen BTfL as their chosen environmental charity in Birmingham to support. The King Edward students in collaboration with a charity called Envision wanted to raise funds to enable BTfL to plant more trees and promote what we do.

‘It’ all about the trees, we are all about the trees,’ they explained. ‘We have to plant millions more trees to save the world!

Envision is a ‘can do’ organisation driven by the desire to build a ‘can do’ generation with the ability to turn ideas into reality. Working with young people providing them with practical learning experiences in the world of work to empower them, give them confidence, skills, determination and value team work. Tackling social mobility through social action. It’s an amazing project and one BTfL have been very honoured to be involved in.

We visited the school to run an educational session about trees, our educational engagement programme has been funded by the Halpin Trust. This funding enables us, as a project to get the message about the importance of trees out there. Inspiring young people to think more about trees and engage more with trees and nature. Understanding that planting trees is an environmental legacy we should all be part of. Visiting the class back then it was clear they were a, ‘can do’ team, with great ability, creative ideas, a pragmatic and enthusiastic bunch wanting to change the world for the better – we were privileged to meet them and hear their ideas.

Their passion for trees and in particular trees in Birmingham along with deep concerns about environmental issues saw them discuss big plans which were to be spread over 13-weeks. But sadly, Covid-19 stopped everything, except the students’ determination to keep their promise to raise funds.

Under extremely difficult circumstances the students have ploughed on, when it could’ve been so easy to say sorry, we can’t do any more. In earnest, the students launched a fundraising page, that can be found, here.

Sharing the page, having weekly sessions with their Envision coach to bounce around creative ideas, before lockdown happened.

Conducting an engaging assembly to their peers about the value of trees and what BTfL do. They ran an interactive quiz using Kahoot about the importance of urban trees.

They had planned to accompany on us to celebrate Arbour Day in April. They were planning a fun day of activities at the Custard Factory, including quizzes, party games, and selling homemade samosas.

 

But despite all their plans coming to nothing, due to lockdown the students are still managing to raise funds. So, would you help them and us by sharing this page and even donating to it? Please click here to share or donate, here.

Enjoying what the students have to offer and absorbing their positivity and enthusiasm was a wonderful experience for us. Because as the class quite rightly stated, ‘It’s all about the trees and we’re all about the trees!’

So, help us plant more trees and add to the legacy that has made Birmingham one of the greenest cities in the world, the legacy led by students at King Edward School Aston, the legacy that our small part in changing the world for the better and the legacy that is, #TogetherWeWill

If Only BTfL Could Bottle The Enthusiasm For Trees At Our Planting Events!

Well we had scorned the wet weather, then we hoped for better weather, then we got dry weather! The seemingly endless rain had blighted some of our previous planting plans – but not today and the lovely sunshine got us back out where we belong – outside, planting trees.

Not only did we combat the mud to plant 1000 whips at Sycamore Recreation Ground along the River Cole we did it with 26 super-enthusiastic children from Waverley Junior School and four members of school staff, along with 40 wonderful volunteers, six from Lloyds Bank, six from HSBC UK, seven from HMRC, nine from the West Midlands Combined Authority, five Birmingham University, and seven from the Green Welfare Force. We were also joined by the BBC Radio Four Open Country radio show that recorded a programme about our urban tree planting – great company, we know!

After much anticipation, the sodden ground was sodden, but not so sodden it stopped us in our tracks! After the dedicated Woodland team had mole ploughed along the Recreation Ground we all took our spades and grabbed a handful of whips and in pairs planted, a soon to be beautiful woodland.

The reason the woodland is being planted is to improve the environment for the local community, improve the city’s tree canopy cover and reduce flooding on the recreation ground which is a flood plain. Only a few weeks ago the area was like a small lake due to the amount of rain that had fallen. Denying footie matches, dog walking, jogging, walking, kick abouts’, pondering, games of tag and nature trails.

       

Many of the children from the Waverley school group use the recreation ground regularly and they showed so much enthusiasm we wondered how we might be able to bottle it. Led by a wonderful team of four school staff members, in pairs the children began, in earnest to plant.  ‘I love being outside it makes me so happy to be doing this,’ said Atif a wonderful year four student working hard with his spade in hand. ‘I know when we plant these trees were leaving a positive mark on our community and our environment.’

Another student, Aisha remarked, it’s good to be outside in groups.’ Pointing to Atik, Aisha said, ‘we are in the same class and never talk to each other, but out here working together we are getting to know each other which is a nice thing to do.’ Aisha is right. We always consider every tree planting we undertake as a social occasion where a dynamic mix of different people get together and share a wonderfully productive hour or two!

The children were eager to point north, east, south and west, exclaiming that they lived one road away, around the corner, up the road from where we had planted this wonderful woodland. Some of the children were eager to let their friends and family know that they had planted trees today. ‘When I tell my sister that I’ve help plant 1000 trees today she won’t believe me because that’s huge!’ one beaming student explained.

     

All our volunteers worked with the children and by their huge grins we knew they were enjoying themselves, ‘it’ so good to get out in the fresh air…, what a lovely way to spend a morning…, when can we do this again…?’

We love it when our volunteers exude so much passion for this wonderful cause to make Birmingham greener, then greener and then a little bit more green! And as we all stood proudly for a photo call at the end of the planting everyone shouted trees – not cheese! And as we share in a biscuit and a lovely cup of tea we all chatted excitedly about this tree planting and the next one!

As ever would like to say a huge thank you to everyone that attended. Your company, your enthusiasm, your hard work and your tree planting legacy are never taken for granted. And who knew, getting muddy, pulling muscles we never knew we had, ankle deep in dirt, really can be a whole lot of fun!

A huge thanks to the Halpin Trust for funding this tree planting 

 

Please check out the photo album for this planting, here

Somerville School Brought Some Somerville Sunshine to Our Tree Planting!

Well, it was a smaller tree planting today, six trees today and a small group of six wonderfully excited year four, five and six students from Somerville School. These students and Somerville School were clearly ahead of the game as they pointed out six trees that the school had already planted at the entrance to school reception. We were very impressed.

On our walk to site the children told us that some of them were part of the Eco Council and enjoyed litter picking in their local area, connecting with nature, bird watching and had even been to a youth summit about climate change.  They also tended a fruit orchard at Bordesely Green Allotments – good work indeed! Second fact of the day the children were missing maths to plant trees – Hurrah, we all cheered.

The children paired up and chose a tree, Nadia and Ikram were raring to go and enjoyed listening to facts about the cherry tree they were planting. While Nadia worked methodically Ikram worked quickly enjoying throwing, ‘big scoops’ of soil in the hole for the tree. But it was team work and it worked well. Ikram was very proud to tell us he was part of the school Eco Council and worked hard designing posters about litter and reducing our car use.

Danish and Habib two young men working so hard they worked up a sweat and even on such a cold February morning took their coats off and shovelled in the soil to secure their trees. ‘It feels very grown up to plant a tree, but it also feels really nice.’ They smiled. We agreed that it always feels nice to plant a tree and there is no better way to lift a mood than to go outside, dig a hole, plant a tree and watch it grow! The students clearly loved being outside and getting muddy on a very small patch of greenery at the end of a residential road. Avis, the teacher said, ‘I walk past here a lot and I’ve never even noticed this piece of land, but I will notice it now we’ve planted some lovely trees here.’

   

At the end of the tree planting the children stood back and looked at their good work and there was a feel of distinct satisfaction at seeing their trees standing tall and settling in. Then we examined a piece of tree trunk cut about three inches thick, studying the rings and counting them on the inside of the tree trunk we worked out it was about 15-years-old. It was a lovely morning with lots of positivity in a very mall green pace. It proves that we never need a super big space to plant a tree, just the love and determination to get such a great job done!

While we worked hard planting we heard a good tree joke from one of the students. ‘What did the bee say to the tree on its return from work!’ ‘Hi Honey, I’m Home!’ Boom Boom! We like to end the our tree planting mornings with a smile and we certainly did today!

Please check out the photo album for this panting event here

Testimonial from Denise Macdonald, teacher at Somrville School, “We had a lovely morning planting trees with BTfL and we are really keen to continue our links with you and would jump at the chance of planting more trees!”

‘Trees are the Earth’s Lungs – The Best Thing We Can Do Is Plant More Trees.’

As BTfL waited patiently in the super sunlit staffroom of St Matthew’s Church of England School for 14 year-nine children to arrive, we didn’t think it couldn’t get any sunnier. Until these lovely smiley children arrived, which made the room brighter than ever. Ready for the off to our local tree planting site at Northumberland Street, Nechells the children wore a very impressive array of very swanky wellies. We were very impressed!

Hands up, excitedly with lots of questions and facts to share about trees, it was clear these children were happy and enthusiastic, eager to help improve the air quality and aesthetics of their local area by planting trees! ‘Trees are the earth’s lungs, we need them, so it’s good to plant more and more,’ one student explained. ‘It’s the best thing we can all do for the environment,’ another student exclaimed. ‘The world needs many more trees,’ came another student. Well we couldn’t agree more and were inspire by their wonderful statements about trees.

A five-minute walk to site we pointed our previous planting site at Barrack Street Recreation Ground in November, the trees looked right at home, just like todays will too.                                                                                                                 The children arrived at site paired up into two’s and quickly assigned themselves a tree. Standing to attention spades in and the children were eager to start digging. It transpired that one of the children, Michael lived right next to the trees and could see them out of his window. ‘Well, Michael, we are trusting you will talk to the trees and look after them as their closest guardian.’ Michael looked very proud and gave us an enthusiastic nod as he pointed to where he lived knowing he would have a lovely view of the trees and would see them grown and change each season.

The trees we planted are two Acer freemanii ‘Autumn Blaze’ (maple), two Betula albosinensis ‘Fascination (Chinese silver birch) and threeMagnolia kobus (magnolia with white flowers which are great for absorbing pollutants). And Michael and all the other residents would see some vibrant colour in the Autumn and beautiful flowers in the Summer.
 

As the children planted the chose names for their trees, one name stood out, ‘the tree of life,’ because planting a tree is the most important thing we can do for the environment and everyone’s life! In fact, two of the children were so impressed with planting trees they decided they would add a photograph of their tree planting to a time capsule and a memory box they had made to remind them and other people in the future of all the wonderful things they had achieved in life. Planting a tree is one of them!

‘When I grow up I am going to bring my husband and children to see these beautiful trees and I can tell them proudly I planted these trees, they kind of belong to me!’ one student told us. She was right of course; these wonderful trees will be here for many years to come – and these wonderful trees belong to all of us and we should love and appreciate everything they do. Only ever giving and never taking away!

 

There were so many wonderful conversations about trees and the children suddenly had an epiphany – we can dig, chat, laugh, stomp and straighten the tree all at the same time! So we also learnt an important lesson too – that multi-tasking really can be fun!

Please check out the photo album for this event, here

Testimonial from Tracey Adams, Deputy Head Teacher, ” We had a wonderful morning tree planting with BTfL and we would love to be involved again – Year four loved it so much because it is a forever experience and a memory to cherish.”

 

 

‘Everyone Should Plant At Least One Tree in Their Life – Here! Here!

Well it was our first whip planting of the season and the sun shined –  Hallelujah!

   

We eased ourselves into it by planting 500 whips of varying species at Spark Green Park. Our wonderful friends and students at Nelson Mandela School joined us, bringing their very enthusiastic and devoted Eco Committee. Along with some very smiley and hardworking students from Moseley School and Sixth Form.

As the older students buddied up with the younger students our planting was well under way before we could say, ‘spades at the ready!’ Not only did we have students planting trees, but five volunteers from HSBC were raring to go too. We were privileged to have the Lord Mayor, Mohammed Azim come and help us plant trees, as well as Councillor, Councillor Shabrana Hussain from the Sparkbrook & Balsall Heath East ward.

   

What a wonderful team we were, if we don’t say so ourselves!

Lots of chatter and lots of digging as we undertook notch planting for our whips – digging individual holes for each of the 500 whips planted. It sounds like hard work and it is, but it’s a lot of fun too and in such good company. The Lord Mayor grabbed a spade and planted lots of trees, working with the children chatting to them and enjoying the energy and enthusiasm buzzing around us all. When given a, Tree Lover’s League Badge, the Lord Mayor pinned it on is lapel with pride immediately and carried on digging!

A curious passer-by seeing all the activity and a wonderful sense of togetherness asked, what’s going on here then? ‘Tree planting, 500 trees, why don’t you come and join us,’ asked Sue, our BTfL Committee member! Chrissy, the lovely passer-by grabbed a spade and started digging immediately, ‘what a fantastic thing to do, I’m so glad I’m here.’ She exclaimed. Chrissy lived locally and was happy to invest a short and productive time in her local park improving the environment, enjoying the community spirit and making her local park a more beautiful green space than it was before!

   

HSBC volunteers brought a lovely sense of real pride and pragmatism with them and gelled quickly with the younger students, working in groups, guiding the younger students and supporting them with the harder digging.

The children from Nelson Mandela School enjoyed digging the holes and finding worms and placing the trees carefully in their individual holes. But trees aren’t the only thing on their environmental agenda. Students from Nelson Mandela School are reducing their disposable plastic bottle use to zero by introducing a reusable plastic bottle personalised with the school’s logo. The students undertake a regular litter pick, they have canvassed local businesses and local-residents about the importance of being more environmentally friendly and leading a more sustainable lifestyle. As well as getting the road near to their school closed for seven- hours during Clean Air Day in June 2020.

   

While Moseley School didn’t want to let go of their spades of and asked enthusiastically, ‘are there any more trees to plant?’ These students made sure that all the roots of the trees were covered in soil, deep in the ground and sitting straight up to give these trees the very best start in their lives. When the students from Moseley School understood, they had contributed to a 500-strong tree planting legacy in their local area, their response was – Wow! Asking all the students if the trees had been given any names? ‘Well all these trees are our eco-friends, so we’ve called them our eco- friends.’ And when we think about trees and their amazing positive environmental capacity, they are everyone’s Eco Friend – everyone’s Eco Best Friend.

   

The wonderful group dynamic, the positivity about connecting with nature, and appreciation of trees is something BTfL celebrate at every new tree planting event. It’s not something every person experiences when they get up for work in the morning. But we are lucky because it happens to us every day. But that only comes from working with such wonderful groups of students, school staff and volunteers! It’s a magic formula and we advise everyone to get a bit of it whenever they can – because everyone should plant at least one tree in their life!

Please click on the photo album for this event, here

Testimonial from Nelson Mandela School, ‘The ECO Committee from Nelson Mandela Primary School were involved in tree planting in our local park.  It was a great opportunity provided by BTFL   for the children to expose their love and concern for the environment.  We are trying very hard as a school to reduce waste,  use of plastic,  reduce pollution, save energy,  and generally looking  after our local area.  I would like to thank BTFL for supporting us in our mission to protect the environment. Thank You’

Its All About the Trees and We’re All About the Trees!

We’re a ‘can do’ organisation driven by the desire to build a ‘can do’ generation with the ability to turn ideas into reality.

This is the mission statement of Envision, a Birmingham Charity working with young people providing them with practical learning experiences in the world of work to empower them, give them confidence, skills, determination and value team work. Tackling social mobility through social action. It’s an amazing project and one BTfL have been very honoured to be involved in.

   

Choosing the environment as a core issue Envision approached four leading environmental charities in Birmingham to work with students promoting an environmental message, and developing a project. BTfL is proud to be one of them. It is a 13-week Community-Apprentice programme in schools across Birmingham raising awareness and funds for the charity of their choice.  BTfL were lucky enough to be chosen by King Edward Boys School in Aston and we had the pleasure of meeting the team this week and hearing all their exciting ideas.

Asking the group of 15-year nine students what made them want to wave the flag for BtfL. A simple question, with a simple answer, ‘It’s all about the trees.’ We totally agree! Trees have never been more important on the political, social and environmental agenda. And these wonderful students know it. The class listened to our presentation proudly wearing their BTfL badges.

      We started with a holistic approach asking the class to close their eyes for one minute and think of a positive experience in a green space they had as a younger child. Daniel, the team leader took charge ensuring very class members had their eyes closed so they could concentrate fully. There was a beautiful intense silence! Then came a stream of thoughts, forest school, survival school, being left in the park for five minutes after my parents forgot me, climbing and falling out of a tree, playing football, sport day! There was a sudden animation in the group as they remembered all their positive experiences in green spaces. It was lovely to watch.

We explained the students about the value of spending time around nature. It’s positive affect on our emotional and physical wellbeing. In-fact studies show that if we don’t spend time outdoors reconnecting with nature we experience Nature’s Deficit Disorder! A noticeable decline in our physical and emotional wellbeing. The answer – go outside and enjoy what nature has to offer!

‘We need more trees, it’s all about the trees, we have to plant millions more, we love and respect trees….’ The students explained. We loved their enthusiasm and explained that planting a tree is a selfless thing, planting a tree make you a good ancestor! A person planting a tree right now has nothing to gain from that tree. It’s future generations that will benefit from everything a tree can offer. It inspired the students to start writing down idea about how we can continue to get the younger generation excited about tree planting.

‘Planting trees in schools, having a mascot, a message/mission statement in an acorn, watch a seed grow from scratch, revisit the trees planted again and again.’ Ideas were thrown about the room thick and fast and as we finished our presentation and group work we understood that this class is committed to conveying a very positive message about the importance of trees and tree planting.

We are looking forward to seeing their creative ideas and celebrating a different perspective! Enjoying what the students have to offer and absorbing their positivity and enthusiasm.Because as the class quite rightly stated, ‘It’s all about the trees and we’re all about the trees!’

Five Trees planted at Penshurst Avenue – “Only 20 million More to Go!”

Well what a wonderful morning we had with 14 smiley Year Four pupils from Birchfield Community School in Aston. Proudly wearing their Birchfield Community School high vis jackets the children were well and truly prepared for our tree planting event at a small housing estate called Penshurst Avenue in Aston. Wellies on, check…., coats zipped up, check…., hats secure, check….. And off we went! Sunshine…. Check…., well  err we can’t have everything, but at least it wasn’t raining!

   

The children like all our other amazing eco-warriors we work with knew lots about the environmental value of trees and couldn’t wait to share their knowledge with us as we took the ten-minute walk from school to site. There were five trees to be planted and all the children were very excited about the prospect of planting their very first tree. The trees being planted were Hornbeam, which grows taller and narrower, picked specifically to be planted outside residential homes to avoid blocking out any light to residents homes. The second species we planted was the Silver Lime tree. This tree grows wider but was planted in more open areas.

The benefit of these trees that will nestling right next the very busy A34 dual carriageway. A very busy road with lots of congestion. These trees will help absorb the CO2 produced and add some lovely colour and foliage for resident to enjoy during the summer months.

The children eager to get going split into groups of three and put all their strength into dropping the soil around the tree in its new home. Five groups all working hard in their teams, sharing the workload and enjoying the cold but refreshing weather. ‘What are the plastic bits on the bottom of the tree for,’ one student asked. We explained that these loosely fitted plastic casings protected the trees trunk and bark from the damage a strimmer could do, ensuring the tree stays in the best health possible and damage free.

  While working together we could see there is a great sense of community in the area, passers-by waving and saying hello to the students, one shouting, ‘hey everyone, only 20-million more trees to plant, after that one, well done…’ ‘And then 20 million more after that!’ We shouted back.

The children worked exceptionally hard and didn’t stop at just planting, no, some of the children had collected some pebble along the way to decorate the bottom of the tree. ‘It’s tree jewellery, it looks nice! ‘One of the children said enthusiastically.

   

The children were very proud as they looked up at the trees they had planted. ‘Remember these are you trees, to enjoy and be talked about to all the people you know,’ we explained. ‘Yes!’ All the children agreed smiling. It was nice to finish our tree planting understanding that these children had just learned the wonderful value of trees, lessons they will take home and share with friends and family. A lesson all the children at our tree planting event recognise and value. And it’s a lesson none of us should ever stop learning! Please check out the photo album for this tree planting, here

 

 

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