Tag: Trees

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

 

 

 

 

 

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 Blossom!

With longer days and more sunshine and nature slowly waking back up Spring has definitely-sprung! And nothing says Spring more than a beautiful blooming blossom tree.

Right now, we can all enjoy the spring time flowers on crab apple, cherry, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Rowan, to name but a few and it’s a joy to see them in full bloom. But it is a short and spectacular window as they don’t last long, but even watching a flurry of petals dancing in the breeze as the flower fades and the delicate petals fall is mesmerizing.

Blossom is truly beautiful and a spectacle to behold and is celebrated across the world.

In Japan Hanami is an important event centred around its much-loved cherry blossom trees (Sakura), crowds in their thousands flock to see the spectacle of the trees in bloom in March/April time.

The Netherlands celebrates a Cherry Blossom Festival. The celebration includes picnics with family and friends under the blossoming trees, with Japanese themed celebration of food and drink and the cherry blossom seen as a metaphor for life. Life’s new beginnings, to celebrate the beautiful things in life – but never forget their fragility

There is also the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC, 1000’s of cherry blossom trees bloom and have been 100-years! And every tree a gift form Japan.

Every new tree planting season, BTfL will plant blossom trees across Birmingham with school children and volunteers ensuring Birmingham’s residents can enjoy their beauty and that Birmingham gets prettier every Spring.

And despite the pandemic we managed to plant 40 blossom trees in North Birmingham this month.

The trees were a month late going in, but nevertheless they were bedded down as part of the HS2 funding programme to plant trees in build up areas Birmingham so that resident can benefit from the improvement in air quality, flood management, encourage wildlife and make they area greener.

In the areas of New Hope Park, B7 5HR, Ward End Park,B8 2HB, Elliott Street, B7 5QS and Mount Street B7 5QT

Trees planted last season in Bournville Park are already blooming beautifully so this time next year the residents the above postcodes will be able to enjoy all the benefits blossom trees bring.

So, as a tribute to Birmingham’s blossom trees, as well as planting them BTfL decided to celebrate them in a small corner of South Birmingham, Bournville with BTfL committee member Fiona Williams photographing the trees and sharing them with our followers and readers.

    

The legacy of parks, open green spaces and trees comes for the Cadbury Brothers and started in 1842, when John Cadbury opened a small shop in Birmingham and quickly grew into manufacturing chocolate and in the 1870’s the brother moved their site to Birmingham building a factory called Bournville after the small stream running through it.

His aim was that one-tenth of the Bournville estate should be “laid out and used as parks, recreation grounds and open space, becoming known as the, ‘factory garden.’

Ensuring social reform for his factory workers, enabling them to enjoy good housing and a substantial garden to improve and enhance the quality of family life and no doubt hundreds of the blossom trees in Birmingham are another beautiful legacy eft by the Cadbury Brothers

From March to May we must make the most of blossom trees, sitting under them and admiring them so here are a few for you to enjoy before they fade by the end of May – if you see a beautiful blossom tree you would like to share with us then please send it to – justinemarklew@btfl.org.uk – thank you.

The Urban Tree and the Birmingham Trees for Life Legacy

Here is a blog celebrating the urban tree in Birmingham written for Birmingham Contemporary Music Group @BCMG please enjoy.

Look around you wherever you go – outside your front door, the local park, a city street, your nearest school, or community space, your garden, your neighbour’s garden. Trees are never far from your eye-line wherever you go or wherever you are.

Imagine just for a moment your city, town, village or local area without trees and green spaces! It would be sparse, grey and lifeless. All concrete, straight lines and angles, no birds chirping, no blossom blooming, no beautiful green canopy cover or vibrant autumnal colour.

Not only would we miss trees’ huge environmental impact, their positive effect on our air quality, health, wellbeing, and on wildlife – we’d miss out on their beauty!

Trees have never been more important, and their value can never be over-estimated. It’s a message Birmingham Trees for Life repeats every year.

Birmingham Trees for Life has been a small, pragmatic project achieving great things in the city of Birmingham for 14-years. If you live in Birmingham, it’s almost guaranteed that at least one of the trees in your local park or green space has been planted by Birmingham Trees for Life.

In that time, we have planted over 90,000 trees in parks and green spaces, and worked with over 6000 volunteers including thousands of school children. We plant between 7000 and 10,000 trees a year during tree planting season, between November and March. As every new tree planting season starts, we bed down our beautiful standard trees in urban spaces, work with school children and volunteers planting thousands of whips.

We watch as these wonderful woodlands grow, encouraging biodiversity, adding colour and canopy cover and we appreciate their beauty, environmental legacy and positive impact on our physical and emotional wellbeing. Not only that, the impact of green spaces on the city’s economy is worth £11-billion.

Trees absorb CO2, produce oxygen and support biodiversity. Trees reduce flooding, cool hot cities, absorb pollutants, provide a food source for people and wildlife and reduce noise in built up areas. They also provide shade and shelter. One mature tree can absorb 48lbs of CO2 per year. Multiply that by 90,000 and you have an epic figure, resulting in a legacy that BTfL is very proud of!

What we and every individual or community we work with do is create a tree legacy!

But it’s not just about planting trees, it’s about involving the great people of Birmingham in everything we do. Whether you are a school, community group, volunteer, stakeholder or sponsor we embrace and celebrate your support.

Children and adults have planted trees with us in the sunshine and in the pouring rain. Not even the worst weather dampens their spirits nor ours because we all understand that every tree planted is a legacy, helping save the environment one tree at a time.

When we plant a tree, we feel a sense of empowerment, of ownership, of humility – it’s therapy!

We believe that so many people in Birmingham have been part of the BTfL legacy that it’s like six degrees of separation – you might not have planted a tree with us yet, but you probably know someone that has! And if you haven’t planted a tree with BTfL yet, you can always plant a tree of your own. Here at BTfL we live and work by the mantra “ask what you can do – pledge to plant a tree or two!”

As one of our 10-year-old volunteers from St Matthew’s Church of England School said, “trees are the earth’s lungs and we have to keep planting them”. So we do!

In addition to planting trees, at BTfL we also enjoy forging new working relationships – one of which is with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group as they prepare for their T R E E concert in the Spring.

Geoff Cole, Chairman of Birmingham Trees for Life says: “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.”

Our partnerships across the city with artists, poets, musicians and educators help spread the message about how important it is to nurture nature, from planting trees and celebrating trees through digging holes and bedding down our saplings to art, singing, writing, drawing and composing!

And every new tree planted, every new partnership, linked or joint community venture achieved is helping BTfL celebrate that Birmingham is one of the greenest cities in Europe. The city has 571 parks totalling over 14-square miles of public open space, more than any other equivalent sized European city.

Birmingham boasts over one million trees – as many as the population of the city!

Who would have thought it: Birmingham, central to the industrial revolution could be a green beacon of environmental greatness for its population. So much so that only last year Birmingham earned the international accolade of becoming a Tree City of the World!

To become a tree city of the world, Birmingham had to meet five core standards – establish responsibility; set the rules; know what you have; allocate the resources; and celebrate achievements. Birmingham Trees for Life worked closely with the City Council to review the city’s tree policy going some way in meeting the requirements of becoming a Tree City of the World.

As each new tree planting season approaches BTfL pays attention to increasing tree planting in inner city areas where air is more polluted. By filtering polluted air, reducing chemical smog formation, shading out harmful solar radiation and providing an attractive, calming setting for recreation, trees can have a positive effect on the incidence of asthma, skin cancer and many stress related illnesses. The positive effects of the green environment, especially trees, on mental health are now well-documented, especially since lockdown.

Humans have evolved to live in harmony with the natural environment – when we are deprived of contact with it, our mental and physical health suffer – and the benefits are for everyone.

Planting trees does everyone in the city and the world a very big favour. What could feel better than that? We know – planting another tree!

So never underestimate the urban tree. Whether it stands alone on a street corner, is rooted in your garden or blossoms beautifully in your local park.

Love that tree and appreciate that tree; celebrate that tree and better still – plant a tree!

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

Hope Gardens – Hoping Our Beautiful Flowering Cherry Trees Bed Down Nicely

 

 

3/12/2020

A message from our Chairman Geoff Cole, here 

Well the team at BTfL all gave a united cheer as we dug our first spade into the ground to plant our first tree of the season in National Tree Week! It had been a long time coming and we had been itching to get out and engage in our normal timetable. Unfortunately, we have been unable to work with schools or volunteers this year so far, but never fear – we eventually got here and will be back to normal as soon as we can be.

At Hope Gardens, a small park in Nechells as part of our HS2 funded programme the BTfL team planted five flowering Cherry Trees. Despite the rain and the cold our spirits weren’t dampened and we were all so happy to be outside on site, doing what we do best – putting trees in the ground.

These five Prunus Royal Burgundy ornamental trees will bring beautiful spring colour, a gentle snow flurry of delicate petals falling all around as Spring turns to Summer. They will bring more biodiversity, improve air quality, flood defences, tree canopy cover and will beautify the park even more for local resident to enjoy all through the year.

While planting the trees two of the local residents were curious as to what we were up to and wanted a friendly chat. There was a big thank you from one local lady as she walked through the park, ‘what a lovely thing to do. I have a cherry tree in my garden.’ As she pointed to the beautiful  trees on the borders of the park, with a smile she told us how she remembered those established trees being planted 25-years ago.

A gentleman passing by shouted a big thank to us for improving the area with more trees! ‘Here here,’ we all cheered back!

It’s good to know that the local-residents of Nechells appreciate their trees and love seeing more planted. In 25-years our Flowering Cherry Trees will look splendid and even more beautiful with each passing year.

And while resident can enjoy the new trees we have planted what many of them may not know is that there is a very special tree in Hope Gardens Park!

With a history going back to the Jurassic period, the Metasequoia glyptostroboides, its common name, (Dawn Redwood) is a tree that dates back to the dinosaurs and had been known formally for years through fossils deposits across the other side of the world. Sadly these trees were deemed extinct until the early 1940’s when it was found growing in a remote part of China. Since then every Metasquoia glyptostroboides in the world has come from that small population of trees from China. How amazing to trace back this beautiful specimen of a tree in Hope Gardens back to the dinosaurs all the way from East Asia!

So who knew such amazing tree history sat quietly nestled on the borders in Hope Gardens.

And who knows what next year might bring – a bit of normality hopefully when we can think about enjoying our tree planting events with schools, volunteers and our wonderful corporate sponsors.

Because believe it or not planting trees is only half the story. Planting trees is about building a bit more of Birmingham’s beautiful green history, adding to the BTfL legacy and feeling the love and ownership of every tree we plant together – and together we will plant these trees!

Please see a link to our photos here

 

 

 

 

 

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.’

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.

Volunteers’ Week – A Celebration of Coming Together for a Common Cause!

Volunteers’ Week 2020 runs from 1st – 7th of June and is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make by Volunteering  in the UK every year.

As well as helping others, volunteering has been shown to improve volunteers’ wellbeing. It’s human nature to feel good after helping someone out. Volunteering can also help you gain valuable new skills and experiences, and boost your confidence.

It’s true to say that an hour can really empower – empowering you, the volunteer, the charity and the community. Giving you a sense of common purpose, pride and togetherness. It adds to your skill set and improves mental and physical health too.

 

The UK has a society that historically has strong links to volunteering as well as teamwork across the country. This is in part due to the nations large wartime past as well as several national crisis’s over different eras.

Often, volunteering is closely associated with an individuals’ beliefs, passions or alternatively they may have historical connections with a group. Furthermore, many people choose to volunteer as they would like to do something meaningful in their spare time.

Birmingham Trees for Life works with volunteers throughout the tree planting season and over 14-years we have worked with 13000 volunteers and we are grateful to every single one of them and all their hard work and dedication to tree planting.

As BTfL is a very small team on a very large project, planting 7000-10,000 trees a year over 14-years. In a five-month window that means we need that help. We couldn’t achieve the planting of nearly 100,000 trees since our beginnings in 2006 without that help.

In fact, volunteering nationwide props up the UK economy and the financial activity of volunteers is worth nearly 24 billion pounds annually.

Volunteering has a great deal of other value too –

 V – Versatility

O – Opens your mind

L – Learn New Skills

U – Understanding

N – New Sense of purpose

T – Team Work

E-  Empowerment

E – Emotional Wellbeing

R – Raising Awareness

Here BTfL talks to three members of Friends of Parks Groups across Birmingham to see what motivates them to volunteer.

Emma Woolf, MBE, a trustee at, BOSF, (Birmingham Open Spaces Forum) and a dedicated volunteer at Cotteridge Park says: ‘I’ve been volunteering in Cotteridge Park since 1997. I’m just one of many volunteers who keep the park tidy, weeding, planting and pruning.  As well as the gardening, we have volunteers who raise funds, share information on social media, help school groups and lead physical activity sessions.

There is so much done by volunteers to make our parks lovely places to be. The volunteering in our park is just one piece of the puzzle across the city. In 2019 parks and open spaces volunteers in Birmingham contributed more than £600,000 worth of work to our communities.

I give about 50-hours a month and what motivates me is that so many other people are giving their time, so I want to support them – and it makes me happy!

 We have a team of 50-volunteers that work on the annual CoCoMAD festival. We have a team of about 20 people helping at regular gardening, litter picking, helping school groups etc. We also run a forest school where children come and connect with nature get muddy and have so much fun.

We have worked with Birmingham Trees for life over a long period and in February we planted 10 standard trees at various sites across the park with children from Cotteridge Primary School and Kings Norton Girls School.

The important thing about volunteering is to find something you enjoy doing. If you’re not getting paid, then you must enjoy what you’re doing!

If you would like to volunteer for Cotteridge park, please check their social media platforms

Find Friends of Cotteridge Park on Facebook at Friends of Cotteridge Park and on Twitter at – @CotteridgePark

Brenda Wilson, 63 is the secretary for Friends of Queslett Nature Reserve and says: ‘I’ve worked as a volunteer at the reserve for 13-years.

The QNR is a reclaimed quarry, not long after it became a nature reserve the Friends of Queslett Nature Reserve was formed and we have been going strong ever since.

I became the secretary of the QNR friends group back then, but I volunteer in the nature reserve every week too.

My passions are the environment and conservation and I’m so motivated by making those small, but important change to improve QNR. Fundraising, social media, publicity, litter picking, bat walks, patrolling the reserve and engaging with the parks community.

    

  Its’ a very vibrant community, but we are always on the lookout for new members.

Being a volunteer gives me a sense of pride and achievement, keeps me busy doing something worthwhile. I do it for the absolute love of it.

We are guests on this planet and we should treat our host with more respect than we do. When I volunteer at QNR I feel I’m doing my bit for the planet. I dedicate eight-12 hours a week of my time to it and to hear the birdsong, to watch the wildlife on the reservoir, to see it come to life in the Spring and to chat to it’ visitors is a really wonderful thing.

But it’s a legacy that is much bigger than me alone. Every one of our volunteers is an important cog in that wheel. There are no egos, just a shared love of nature. Some individuals might pledge an hour a week or ten hours a week, we are grateful for whatever time that person dedicates to the QNR.

 

We always need volunteers and younger volunteers would be wonderful too.

We continue to maintain the park, work with the ranger service and like-minded environmental and conservation groups like Birmingham Trees for Life.

Our future-plans include engaging with more volunteers who can help us look after the park. We would like to incorporate some some council land near to QNR to turn it into a haven for nature.

We would also like to have a memorial gate at the QNR built in memory of Councillor Keith Linnecor. Keith is my cousin and was the founder member of The Friends of QNR and chairman. He did a huge amount of volunteer work at QNR to make it the haven it is today and was a determined advocate for it.

Sadly, Keith passed away in February. His legacy at the QNR is huge and wonderful. He showed such passion and dedication and we would love to honour all the amazing dedication that he showed to it over the years – that would be lovely.

The QNR is central to the community here and over lockdown it became even more so. Highlighting just how important nature is to us all and I will continue to nurture it for as a long as I can.

If you would like to volunteer for QNR please contact them through their social media platforms

Facebook -The Friends of Queslett Nature Reserve

Twitter – @the_queslett 

 James Hinton, 45 works with the friends of Perry Park and says: ‘I’ve been a member of the group since it started over two years ago.

It started when the building for the Commonwealth Games began as the Alexander Stadium is in Perry Park. We wanted to ensure the parks interests were being looked after. We are a small, but dedicated group of eight people. Perry Park is an important open green space to its residents. The park is in a busy built up area and open green spaces are intrinsic to our wellbeing.

There is a beautiful reservoir brimming with all kinds of birds and wildlife and we want to keep it looking beautiful so we go on regular litter picks. We started guided walks in the park for the local community. It’s especially good for the older generation who might feel isolated, building a more cohesive community.

I have a pretty intensive job in an office to get into the park and do some physical tasks to improve the park is great. I dedicate a day a month and feel I am doing everything I can to improve the area for everyone to enjoy.

 

As a friends group, we feel a sense of togetherness and stewardship, it’s satisfying to see that we are making a difference to our park. We are from many different backgrounds and in other circumstances we may never have met, but our common cause has given us a sense of togetherness to work in this green space which is an asset to the community.

When the public are using the park, and see us working in it, they are happy to talk to us, to thank us for our time. That’s another very important part of volunteering for me.

There is a stretch of land at the edge of the motorway that we would want to turn it into a wildlife reserve where schools and communities could visit and learn about nature. We would like to work with the Commonwealth Games to regenerate some parts of the park and ensure its looked after properly before, during and after the games.

We are always looking for new volunteers to join the Perry park Friends Group and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Everyone who volunteers has a special reason why.

Mine is to ensure my park is in as good a shape as it can be, so people want to come and enjoy everything it has to offer.

There was a time I might’ve said; I don’t have the time to volunteer through my busy schedule. But actually of course we can all find a bit of time through the week or months if we want to. It’s just about finding your niche, your passion. It might only be an hour or two a month, but rest assured that time will be cherished, celebrated and valued more than you can imagine.

For me it’s a win, win situation. You take out of volunteering what you put into it.

It’s empowering and instils a sense of ownership and pride and we should never take those feeling for granted!

 If you would like to volunteer at Perry Park or become a member of the Perry Park Friends Group, please contact them via Twitter – @friends_perry

 

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