Shade of the Canopy

Summer Social 2023: How did it go?

The rain didn’t dampen these volunteers’ spirits because BTP’s Summer Social of 2023 had a room full in attendance. As our successes and endeavours continue to grow, we wanted to share the day with old and new volunteers, giving presentations, talks and workshops to display our ongoing work in Birmingham. We want to continue building a base of knowledge and a wealth of ‘treeformation’ for our volunteers, tying into wider projects, partnering with other organisations, to elevate this work onto a wider platform.

Street Trees
Nina giving a street tree survey presentation
Nina giving a street tree survey presentation

After registration and an introduction from Tonia Clark and Ian McDermott, Nina Griffiths started the summer social with a thorough presentation, highlighting her current work on the street tree surveying. They are assessing the crown die back, overall condition and possible damage of newly planted and old street trees around Birmingham neighbourhoods. The study highlights the lack of biodiversity and various recurring problems, proving that these citizen science surveys are imperative due to their informative results, showing what we can do to improve certain areas.

L2 Awards
Steve Watson hugging Ian McDermott, receiving his L2 Arboriculture award.

Following on from this fountain of knowledge, several volunteers that have undertaken their own quest to further their qualifications within arboriculture we rightly rewarded; Deb Cashmore, Tonia Clark, Willie McGee, Julianne Statham, Tanya Upton, Stephen Watson, and Lawrence Weston (unfortunately not in attendance) were awarded their certificates for completing the L2 Arboriculture course. This is the first course that BTP have run, and the students have done spectacularly, as well as the second course currently running and going well.

iTree Eco 2023
Mac giving an iTree Eco survey update
Mac giving an iTree Eco update

Ian McDermott, having presented the awards, had no time to rest before delivering a detailed presentation on the iTree Eco 2023 survey of Birmingham Coventry and Solihull. As some of you will know, our volunteers completed the survey in a shocking two weeks, exhibiting great determination and enjoying themselves whilst doing so. The survey intends to supply the information needed to increase canopy cover and green space in key areas, having surveyed the random plots around the City of Birmingham that our volunteers oversaw. This has been a spectacular achievement for us and our volunteers, who deserve the praise, as it has been completed faster than any study of its kind previously, as well as being the largest. Congratulations to everyone involved.

Tree Trails
Dee giving a tree trails presentation - photographed through tree leaves
Dee giving a Tree Trails presentation

Not only did we provide our survey updates, but Dee Brettle gave an interesting talk on the work she has done, to digitize the Friends of the Parks’ Tree Trails, to keep exact locations updated and reducing costs of printed trails. If you have a mobile, playing ‘Pokémon Go for trees’ is something that can be encouraged as a green prescription, for old and young, and the online data can include seasonal images, provides extensive information at the beginning of each trail (the Friends group involved, the trail and trees).

Practical Sessions
Ian helping the urban forest volunteers identify species, whilst Dee plots them using TreePlotter.

During the split practical sessions of the summer social for the Street Tree surveys and Tree Trails, the groups were able to learn from Nina and Dee first-hand, showing the volunteers how to measure and record street tree data, as well as selecting the best species of trees to include in your trails. We managed to gain two new Street Tree volunteers, but we are keen to find more, so if you are interested in looking after your trees near you, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


After tea, coffee, and delicious cake made by Julianne, the day wound to a close with the group talking and buzzing with enthusiasm. We want to thank those of you who attended, those who presented and organised the event, and those who provided culinary help. We are looking forward to our next event, but if you want to stay updated in the meantime, please join our ever-growing mailing list.

MAC’s Big Green Weekender

BTP will have a stall alongside fellow organisation BOSF on Sunday 17th September, at MAC’s Big Green Weekender, promoting trees and the urban forest.

If you are interested, and hopefully you are, please come along and visit us! The stall will be looked after by several Trustees and employees throughout the day, and we would love to see some familiar – and new – faces at the event.

Please note BTP are only attending the second day of the weekender, Big Green Sunday.

mac's big green weekender

iTree Eco? Completed!

As of roughly 8pm last night (02/07/23), the iTree Eco 2023 citizen science survey, carried out by our incredible team of urban forest volunteers, has been COMPLETED! A huge congrats to the volunteers, who have completed the survey faster than any of its kind previously. That’s no mere feat, and we want to make sure they know the important role they have played during this project, and the wonderful things we can do for Birmingham’s urban forest with the results.

Summer Social 2023

BTP's Summer Social! The BTP Summer Social 2023 Educational Meet, 13th August | Winterbourne Botanic Gardens, Tea, coffe & cake - graphic

Come along, volunteers and newcomers alike, to the Summer Social that BTP are holding at the Horticulture School, a part of Winterbourne House and Gardens, for a jam-packed day of talks and activities with the Trustees and new employees of the charity.

Find out more about urban tree management, get some updates on the Street Tree and iTree Eco surveys that are underway, and there’s even an L2 Arboriculture awards ceremony. There will be some food and drink provided, and the event is free to attend, so what’s stopping you? We look forward to seeing you at our summer social event!

iTree Eco: BBC Radio WM at 7:35pm tonight!

A graphic created to illustrate BTP's BBC WM radio appearance, with two urban forest volunteers with speech bubbles

We have been invited by Natalie Graham at BBC Radio WM (95.6FM 11C DAB) to talk about the ongoing West Midlands Combined Authority citizen science iTree Eco survey, that we are undertaking alongside Treeconomics, Barton Hyett Associates Ltd and Forest Research, in order to assess and address Birmingham’s local needs for trees.

Please tune in this evening at 7:35pm to listen to Ian McDermott talk about all things iTree with Natalie, spreading awareness of our collaborative project, and hopefully bringing communities together, to achieve a greener city with better canopy cover.

West Midlands commissions large-scale study of its tree population

What are we doing?

Citizen science groups and volunteers, engaged through local urban forest volunteer schemes, will play a significant role in a new study of the West Midlands urban forest. The study, commissioned by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), will investigate and record the composition, condition, ecosystem services, replacement value, and many other characteristics of the urban forest. The surveying is due to start in early July, and once complete will be the largest of its kind within the UK.

Who is doing it?

The study will be managed in partnership, by Birmingham TreePeople, Treeconomics, Barton Hyett Associates, and Forest Research, who were commissioned by WMCA. It will involve an assessment of over 1,000 sample plots across Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry. These plots will fall on both public and private land, providing a comprehensive picture of the area’s urban forest. This study has been made possible through funding received from the Emergency Tree Fund (ETF), administered by The Woodland Trust, and support’s the WMCA’s ambition to expand the woodland cover of the region, to tackle both the climate and ecological emergencies.

How will we do it?

The information gained during the study will be processed using i-Tree Eco, a software application that quantifies the structure and environmental effects of urban trees, and calculates their value to society. i-Tree Eco has already been used in many tree studies across the UK. The study will produce a detailed report of the WMCA’s urban forest, which covers a significant geographical area. The data will be used to enhance and inform tree management decisions and ambitions identified in Birmingham’s Urban Forest Master Plan, produced in 2021. It will also focus efforts associated with the 5-year plan for tackling carbon emissions and the Natural Environment Plan.

Why are we doing it?

Having the data will enable local initiatives, such as tree planting programmes, to be coordinated and prioritised according to local requirements, considering environmental and social factors like air pollution, public health and well-being. The study will complement the i-Tree survey, that took place in 2022 in the Black Country.

The final report, due to be completed in December 2023, will provide the necessary information to underpin the decisions made by urban forest managers, to improve their trees’ resilience and diversity. It will also address potential threats from a changing climate, and risks associated with pests and diseases. The study will help ensure that long-term strategic management is an integral part of urban forest management and will enable bench-marking with similar urban forest initiatives across the world to take place.

Additional Information

About Us

Birmingham TreePeople is an Urban Forest Volunteer led charity, that comprises of leading individuals within the local sector, with the intention of planting, protecting and promoting trees and the urban forest in and around Birmingham. For more information, please visit the following website:

About Treeconomics

Treeconomics is a UK-based consultancy that works internationally with community groups, research organisations, public bodies, municipalities, and private business to complete projects that highlight the value of trees.

About WMCA

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is a group of local authorities, set up in 2016, that together can make decisions pertaining to their individual regions. Its aim is to make the West Midlands a happy, healthy place to live.

About iTree

i-Tree is a software suite developed collaboratively by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, the Davey Tree Expert Company, the International Society of Arboriculture, the Society of Municipal Arborists, the Arbor Day Foundation, and Casey Trees – collectively known as the i-Tree Cooperative.

Contact Us

Contact: Charlotte McDermott, Communications Officer, Birmingham TreePeople, 07305302835, [email protected]

iTree Eco: first practical training session

To kick-start the July white rabbit, the iTree Eco survey that Birmingham TreePeople are undertaking (in conjunction with Treeconomics, Barton Hyett Associates Ltd and Forest Research), had its first surveying training session with the volunteers at Winterbourne House and Gardens. Over one hundred people have signed up to be a part of this nationwide survey, that will be the largest of its kind when it is completed in December.

Mac delivering iTree training

One of Birmingham TreePeople’s trustees, trainer and lecturer Ian McDermott delivered the practical seminar on how to sample the plots correctly and accurately within the survey. There are 450 sample plots in Birmingham that the citizen science lead project will be taking data from, for us to find out exactly where we need to work in terms of priority. Ben from Treeconomics, who are leading the survey, assisted Ian during the seminar to help the volunteers measure and record the data.

The session was a resounding success with the expert-lead teams and the enthusiastic volunteers – this imperative and important survey, using the iTree Eco software, will change and innovate the way councils and organisations are able to work with trees to increase canopy cover, reduce urban heating, help storm-water drainage, improve air quality, and more crucial factors. This is just another step on the path to making Birmingham greener and reduce the carbon footprint. We look forward to the next one!

Let’s talk about trees: How did it go?

This is the first time that BTP have attempted a community engagement outreach like this event, a year after we organised a fruit orchard planting in the same location; we were welcome back to Birmingham Central Mosque, on Monday 26th June, with open and hospitable arms. This Mosque was opened in the 1970’s, and Birmingham’s street tree planting programme is the oldest in the UK, dating back to the 1870’s; we want to bridge cultures and build relations, spanning decades… so let’s talk about trees.

After the initial setup, the day kicked off immediately with the arrival of Ivy House School pupils and staff, creating the vibrant and intrigued atmosphere that we surely hoped for. Some of our BTP Trustees and Staff – Simon, Deb, Mac, Justine, Julianne, Steve and Katy – worked hard to give the community precious knowledge about trees, leading to several interests in volunteering with us in the near future.

Mac and Justine gave a joint introduction and throughout the day gave interesting talks; Steve gave a talk on wood rings and tree dating, and there was much interest in the displays (especially the cones!) in the community meeting room. It was an overall thrilling and busy experience, and many people learned facts about trees that they didn’t know the day before. You learn something new every day – why shouldn’t it be about trees?

Many thanks to the staff from the Mosque who made us feel at home, and we want to humbly thank every individual who visited; the community, the National Trust attendees, Cllr Sam Forsyth (Quinton), and Helen Harvey from BOSF.

Photographs provided by Justine Marklew and Ian McDermott with permission from Birmingham Central Mosque.

Mapping the tree trails is a walk in the park

Tonia Clark and Deanne Brettle – with a little help from Ian McDermott – have been working on mapping the friends of the parks’ Handsworth Park tree trail, to add another tree trail to list of plotted areas and sites across the city, using TreePlotter.

Trees can change rather quickly; they can be eaten by pests, they can die from various diseases, they can be moved to a new location or an old tree can be taken down. That’s why the TreePlotter software comes in handy, by recording and altering the data with ease of access, to keep our records of trees updated.

BTP want to make sure the trails are inclusive of the many varieties of native and rare trees within the parks, so that ‘Pokémon Go for trees’ is as fun (and accurate) as it can be for friends, family and especially children.