Shade of the Canopy

Tree Talk: CRS

Ian ‘Mac’ McDermott will give a tree talk to Calthorpe Residents Society (CRS), in an upcoming closed event on 29th November, focusing on residential properties.

“Mac The Tree” is a well known ‘Brummie’ tree expert with an extensive, highly trained background in arboriculture. With an overall theme of tree management, Mac will address the practical issues of tree selection. This will include domestic pruning, property obligations, legal aspects, and watching local building developments.

Two men talking, trees behind them, tree talk, holding mugs

The Calthorpe Estate is complex with many TPO trees. It is a major conservation area, boasting significant green infrastructure, and the Edgbaston brand.

The Calthorpe Residents Society (‘The Society’), formed in 1971, serves for public benefit of those living on the Calthorpe Estate. The Society’s objectives are as follows:

Securing the preservation of features of beauty, history and character in the area.

Encouraging public interest, and promoting high standards of planning and architecture.

Promoting social interaction between residents and organisations, enhancing the quality of community life.

BTP has similar objectives, as we would like to improve the perception of and protect existing trees, raising awareness of green spaces. This also includes planting further trees to increase canopy cover, as a primary UFMP objective. Working with similar organisations like our own can only build stronger foundations for the residents of the city.

We look forward to establishing a new relationship, and the tree talk will provide The Society with better knowledge and understanding on how to achieve their objectives concerning tree management.

Calthorpe Residents Society logo - tree talk with BTP and CRS

UFMP Sets High Standard for European Cities

The Urban & Community Forestry Society (UCFS) published an article regarding the Urban Forest Master Plan (UFMP), and we are incredibly proud to be mentioned. It highlights the work BTP and BCC have been doing for the Urban Forest Master Plan. Many thanks to Michelle Sutton for writing this City Trees article, and for Ian McDermott’s mention.

urban forest master plan (ufmp) sets a high standard for european cities

Click here to find out more about the Urban Forest Master Plan (UFMP).

As many of our TreePeople will know, our goal is to increase canopy cover in the many wards of Birmingham. This crucial element is incorporated into the Master Plan because of the many benefits trees bring to our urban environment.

urban forest master plan sets a high standard for european cities - next page

An Urban Forest Master Plan is a strategic document that states the intentions for the green space and natural capital of the city. A long-term approach with an action-based strategy. It focuses on how the city will develop and manage its urban forest in the years to come. The plan defines the aspirations of the council, its urban forest managers, and key stakeholders.

The plan is based around key performance indicators. Each with specific actions, targets, and milestones to measure progress. It brings existing policies and frameworks together, offering a comprehensive guide to urban forest practices. It can help build a greener, healthier urban forest.

BTP and our partners are targeting priority wards in Birmingham with low tree equity, to increase canopy cover for the many benefits it can bring those areas.

Tree Walk with Katy & Nechells POD

Katy Hawkins of BTP helped the Nechells POD on a Tree Walk on 2nd November. The walk consisted of families and many children learning about local trees. Katy ran through some species and how to identify them, as well as an after-walk crafting session with the leaves they found. Despite the blustery and rainy weather it was a fantastic turnout, and those who attended enjoyed themselves whilst learning new things about trees.

There will be another Tree Walk on Tuesday 7th November with Katy and the Keoweyn Education and Community Centre, identifying trees and how to use leaves to makes teas. (CANCELLED)

We want to extend our thanks to the POD for the event, and Lee Marsham the local Nechells Labour Councillor for attending. Well done to Katy for leading the walk and activities, teaching the younger generation the magic of green spaces.

Photos provided by Nechells POD and Lee Marsham.

Forest Information Billboard 3/2023

UNECE/FAO Forest Information Billboard 3/2023 is out, and BTP made the cut!

UNECE/FAO Forest Information Billboard 3/2023, page 9, containing BTP's TreePlotter engagement entry

As part of the recently published Urban Forest Master Plan, BTP have turned their attention to their tree planting strategy. This is a key priority for the UFMP and the upcoming planting season. Tree equity has been propelled to the forefront of our tree planting efforts, targeting priority wards with high deprivation and low canopy cover. To help engage the residents and ensure the successful establishment of trees, TreePlotter has been employed to easily record and alter the propositioned locations. Once the maps are finalised, more will be added in the future.

For those who want to get involved, see the proposed planting sites here.

The purpose of the Forest Information Billboard is to gather news from the forest
sector in one place: from forest reporting, new publications, and upcoming events.
The contribution to the Billboard is voluntary.

Interim Results: Street Tree Survey


The interim results for the street tree survey were presented during the September 16th free online training session. The recorded session is now available as a video here. For those who missed it, or those who would like a refresher.

The general overview of this survey is to asses the crown dieback, overall condition, and potential damage of street trees, old and newly planted. This will determine we can proceed with planting new species suitable for the warming climate. We will do this by increasing canopy cover in priority wards around Birmingham, and improving the upkeep of our street trees. Based on an American model, TreePlotter analysis is used to record the findings.

A row trees, tree banner, interim results of street trees banner, cartoon trees

Interim Results

Our interim results, despite 69.5% of the surveyed trees being in good condition, were 7.4% poor and 2.5% dead. Additionally, only 18.2% were fair. This means there will be many solutions to raise the percentage of good and fair condition trees. Most of the trees have date and time reference for planting; we can track the timing of the damage.

Noticeably, forest trees like beeches are favoured, and trees from predominantly the rose family, like cherries. The problem is, these are susceptible to bacterial canker. Additionally, liquidambars appear frequently, although not native, and are thriving on our roads due to heat islands.

Root problems, loose trees, soil size, staking, vandalism, species selection, and low to no mulching (87.7%!) are all contributing factors to the failure of the trees in certain locations. Our model is based on a US study, finding that most of the trees died in poorer areas of the cities.

That’s why BTP are working on ‘red wards‘ or priority wards. These are areas that suffer from low income, and therefore low tree equity.

Additional Information

Training sessions take place online, on the third Saturday of the month from 10am-12pm. Reminders circulate by using the mailing list for volunteers.
To join or try one of our regular free training sessions, please contact us or email us at: [email protected]

Report broken trees to Kier, or vandalised trees to the Council or local police.

Green Spaces & Green Prescriptions: BOSF Conference 2023

We gathered once again to talk about green spaces last Saturday 7th October. Birmingham TreePeople (BTP) attended the Annual Birmingham Open Spaces Forum (BOSF) Conference. It was held at the Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), amongst many other Friends and environmental groups. The aim of the yearly gatherings is to update and thank the various volunteer groups, for their committed work throughout Birmingham. It also spreads awareness of the importance of nature and green spaces, sharing ideas between partners.

After a short introduction by Emma Woolf, introducing us to BOSF Trustees, Councillor Majid Mahmood gave his speech. The Cabinet Member for the Environment thanked the devoted non-profits for the 24,000 days of volunteering provided to the city. This is no mere feat, he explained, as these days equal over a million pounds of investment. Investment that goes back into green spaces and urban forests.

Darren Share, attending his last conference as BCC Head of Parks, followed Councillor Mahmood’s talk. He pushed the importance of links to nature and green spaces. BTP helped the city gain the status of Tree City of the World back in 2019. That’s one reason why Share could comfortably state that Birmingham is ahead of other UK cities. He stated he has travelled extensively around the UK, but nowhere has the volunteering network that this metropolis has. Raising the profile of our work can only help us create and preserve more green space.

The Greater Good of Green Spaces

Individual members of groups within the audience had the chance to participate in a question-and-answer session, with Councillor Mahmood and Share. The former was enlightening, informing us the Council would like this to be “the city of a thousand parks”. Thus, improving the mental health and well-being of local residents.

Councillor Majid Mahmoodand Darren Share, during the BOSF Conference 2023, highlighting the importance of green spaces during questions and answers

Alternatively, the unfortunate austerity bought about by budget cuts impacted on Birmingham’s 631 parks (two of these the largest in the country) in different ways. Some worse than others, and those smaller parks need some extra help – especially with fly-tipping.

A keen spectator asked:
“How can what we are doing be seen in a wider context of benefitting the city?”
Share rightly pointed out that research gathered from the work we do speaks for itself, as well as informing the Council. Mahmood highlighted the clear link between mental and physical health and open spaces. If dialogue can be created between the groups, the city, and public health – with social or ‘green’ prescribing starting to take off – a connection between us and nature can be further established. This will build upon the current projects and achievements of the passionate volunteers.

“Parks play a wider role than just being fun.”

– Councillor Majid Mahmood

Jeevan Jones, of the Save Birmingham campaign, gave a presentation highlighting their intentions of registering assets of community value. This will help communities protect and provide green spaces, or other environmental features and buildings, for the years to come. They will do this by finding out what the residents care about around their wards, to register assets – through consultation with Commissioners if possible – of community value. BOSF have recently joined the Save Birmingham campaign.

Save Birmingham, at the BOSF Conference 2023 - everyone holding up the save birmingham leaflets for a photo
Save Birmingham at the BOSF Conference 2023. Everyone holding up the leaflets for a photo with Jeevan. Click here to see their version of the photo on Instagram!

The Friends of the Parks’ Tree Trails, with BTP: Green Spaces & Green Prescriptions Part 1

After the ‘Just A Minute’ updates with representatives of each group, Ian (Mac) McDermott opened the Tree Trails presentation with the usual injection of humour. He delved into the background of BTP: our status as Tree City, being the largest volunteer network in the country, having a primary hand in the Urban Forest Master Plan, and a Call-To-Action for volunteers for the Street Tree Survey and our upcoming Nechells and Newtown tree planting.

Mac also added onto the health and social aspect of the Tree Trails. He proclaimed the evident nature of the walks being inherently healthy for the mind and body, making the Friends’ trails perfect for green prescriptions. The more trees the walk has, the more steps per trail or from tree to tree, the inclusion of hills and gradients… They all contribute towards this concept. With this in mind, Mac, also a representative of the Friends of Brunswick Park, mentioned their new Tree Trail ‘The Newbs’, focusing on newly planted trees.

Deanne Brettle, BTP Trustee and BIFoR Project Manager, explained the ease of mapping the trees for each trail using TreePlotter. The software ensures that users will need a mobile and internet connection, but digitising the walks guarantees more information. This includes images of different seasons.

Dee Brettle from BTP giving her presentation of tree trails and the importance of this green space.

Split Sessions:
Bird Walk & Social Prescribing

Green Spaces and Green Prescriptions Part 2

After a second round of ‘Just A Minute’, and a fruitful networking lunch with trail enquiries, the tree congregation parted into two halves. Natalie of RSPB, gave a riveting walk and talk about the local birds around Cannon Hill Park. Meanwhile, Emma directed an indoor session probing into more health and social prescribing.

It was noted that our environmental groups have been green prescribing before it was even ‘a thing’. Despite the struggles with approaching social prescribing, it’s certainly the way forward. Pond dipping, bird walks, wood walks, tree trails, planting, surveying; any and all of these outdoor activities can contribute positively towards mental health and well-being. It can even function as preventative, it tackles anxiety, it improves mindfulness and connection.

Mac (BTP), Jill (FoBP), Helen (BOSF), and Becky (BOSF) enjoying the Bird Walk, by Natalie (RSPB).
Mac (BTP), Jill (FoBP), Helen (BOSF), and Becky (BOSF) enjoying the Bird Walk by Natalie (RSPB).

BTP intend to develop this idea of green prescriptions further, using the knowledge gained from the conference. We will do this by emphasising the extensive effort of the Friends’ and their Tree Trails. Developing these walks and providing them online would be a skilled and straightforward way to access them.

Final Words

Big thanks to Mary and Emma of BOSF, who hosted the conference confidently despite absences, making sure the groups know the BOSF Coffee Afternoon will take place on 7th November in Eco Building. As it creeps closer to Christmas, the BOSF Christmas Event will be at the Council House on December 12th. Thank you to all the inspiring volunteers and charities who continue to make Birmingham a better place.

Groups in attendance were The Friends of Cannon Hill, Handsworth, Ley Hill, Selly Oak, Swanshurst Parks and Bartley Reservoir, as well as Ampersand Project, Birmingham and Solihul Mental Health Trust, Fields Millenium Trust, Hill Hook Nature Reserve, Moseley in Bloom, Northfield Environmental Forum, RSPB, Save Birmingham, Seedcorn Fund, Springfield Project, Warm Earth.

Apologies if your group has been missed; this is not intentional. Please contact us to add a group name if you’d like to be credited.

Has the Sycamore Gap felling inspired others to do the same?

By now the tragic news of the mindless felling at Sycamore Gap has circulated far and wide. Various media outlets have released regular updates on the ancient vandalism, and the attempts to replant a future sapling. However, closer to home, there has been a similar incident.

Sycamore Gap: Vandalism

A felled street tree in Wednesbury - inspired by Sycamore Gap

Granted its not a historical landmark, but the destruction of a local street tree in Wednesbury, along Woden Road South, has been reported. The Cockspur Thorn, still a relatively young tree, was quite obviously, and purposely, chopped in half. The top half containing the fruitful canopy was left to fall and wither. Another tree of the same kind, further down the road, has been pushed over along with its supporting stake. It is not currently known if the second tree is a part of the same sabotage.

This incident took place roughly around the same time as the sycamore gap tree was publicised to have been secretly felled. One could surmise that the occurrences are related, and the defacement stated by the media has moved other vandals to do the same in their own community. We remain hopeful in the belief that residents of Wednesbury and wider populations can come together, to overcome these individual actions. Yet, this is not the first – nor the last – time street trees have been vandalised.

Street trees can help us

Our Street Tree Survey is still ongoing, but interim data has concluded that many of these trees die due to outside interference. Street trees are a vital cog in the urban clockwork, but receive little to no attention. They are even forcibly removed. Without the urban forest, heat islands will rise alongside pollution, and the landscape aesthetics will dwindle, biodiversity suffering with it.

The intent behind the felling of this street tree cannot be truly determined, only theorised. We hope that our dedicated urban forest volunteers, and the citizens of all neighbourhoods, can champion and protect our trees. For the good of the planet, and to honour our place on it.

Trees a Crowd: “56(ish) Trees”

“The Trees a Crowd podcast is a series of informal conversations with artists, scientists and enthusiasts; a mutual celebration of the beauty of the environment and the way it inspires them as human beings.”

Trees a Crowd podcast - banner screenshot from the website
Images taken from 56 trees

“Hosted by artist, actor and ambassador to both the Wildlife Trusts and the Woodland Trust, David Oakes, each episode explores how the countryside has inspired their careers as they reflect on how growing up within the natural world became working for the natural world.”

“Growing up in the New Forest and the Purbeck Jurassic Coast, David Oakes launched this podcast as a passion project to explore his lifelong fascination with the wild people and the wildlife that makes our planet its home.” – About Trees a Crowd

This particular podcast, entitled 56(ish) Trees, “[uproots] the secrets and stories beneath the 56(ish) Native Trees of the British Isles”, and makes up the third series. Click on the button link below to listen:

Big Green Sunday

The Big Green Weekender, where we attended Big Green Sunday, was a hit! The Midlands Arts Centre, situated next to Cannon Hill Park in Moseley, held a family-orientated event that celebrated innovation towards our shared future on this planet, supporting climate action, sustainability, and all things green.

Simon Needle on the BTP stand at Big Green Sunday in the MAC.

BTP had our stand in a busy hub on Big Green Sunday, in conjunction with BOSF, to promote tree planting, surveying, learning and collaboration. Many interested community members visited the stand throughout the day, conversing with fervour with the Trustees and Communications Officer, and several of our dedicated volunteers came to help us – thank you Val, Karen, and Rachel.

Volunteers Val and Karen who came to help us for big green sunday at the mac

We had many interesting conversations about Street Trees, Tree Trails, tree planting, species, and much more.

BOSF and BTP's stands getting busier at big green sunday at the mac.

Other devoted groups in attendance were Compost Culture, Birmingham Connected, Plastic Free Moseley & Kings Heath, amongst many others, and for this Family Day there were a multitude of activities and workshops throughout the day.

Thank you to the MAC for hosting the event and extending an invite, our Trustees who set up and looked after the stand, Deb from BOSF, our volunteers, and the wonderful community we spoke to. Hopefully we may see some as volunteers in the near future!

The BTP stand getting busier.

Planting Sites: TreePlotter

These are the proposed planting sites that BTP are undertaking during the upcoming planting season:

Once the locations are finalised, more plots will be added in the near future.

As part of our tree planting strategy, we are targeting several priority wards to increase the canopy cover and green-space. Using TreePlotter, we can accurately plot the trees proposed for those areas, as well as alter the data over time.

Planting sites on TreePlotter

If you have anything to contribute, or just keen to get involved in the tree planting and species, please contact us.