The Urban Forest Accelerator brings a quirky, sustainable touch

Birmingham ward, Hodge Hill, will have a tree planted transported via Treecycle

What is the Urban Forest Accelerator?

The Urban Forest Accelerator is a partnership project focusing on the urban forest. National Trust, Woodland Trust, and Community Forest Trust currently support a range of Councils and diverse communities with significant urban green estates, with high potential to increase trees and woods that enhance existing heritage and create new urban landscape with cultural value. The project is designed to respond to Council and communal needs, by improving urban green-space through the encouragement of tree planting, communications, and community engagement.

Birmingham TreePeople, alongside Birmingham City Council, have been the propagators of this programme within the City of Birmingham, using the city as a preliminary case study that coincides with the implementation of the Urban Forest Master Plan, another project focusing on the increase of ward-level canopy cover to improve the health and well-being of residents.

Community Focus

Due to the Urban Forest Accelerator’s focus on community and residential involvement, Heritage Fund provided the finances for the project, and for BTP to garner to employees to enact Communications and Engagement, something rare for a charity to obtain. BTP, with its humble origins in the Tree Warden Scheme by BCC in 2016, to achieving the city’s status as Tree City in 2019, completing this year’s iTree Eco survey in record time, the non-profit organisation that prioritises the urban forest has grown from strength to strength, establishing one the largest volunteer networks in the UK.

Since the posts have been filled for the Urban Forest Accelerator, work began diligently and delicately establishing bonds in priority wards with low canopy cover, working with friends and residential groups, officers, and green champions to bring the community together and raise the awareness and benefits of trees before the planting season. Leading us to diversely well-attended local tree walk events in partnership with groups such as Nechells POD, and Friends of Hodge Hill Common, the latter whom have been working with BTP to establish a ceremonial planting day for their new sweet gum (liquidambar) tree in Hodge Hill on the 2nd December.

Planting in Hodge Hill for the Urban Forest Accelerator

Hodge Hill planting flyer for the urban forest accelerator and tree week, 02/12/23

Coinciding perfectly with Tree Week, the tree planting celebrations won’t begin without the BTP Chair, Tonia Clark, riding the collectively nicknamed ‘Treecycle’ – a bicycle/basket transportation – from the tree’s storage location to the planting location, further lowering the tree’s carbon emissions through this method of transference. The myriad of benefits that just one tree can make will not only be celebrated with a tree-lowering ceremony, carrying over the theme of mindfulness and connection with nature from the Creative Tree Walk on 18th November, providing the residents with a form of social prescribing to improve mental and physical health, but also through the theme of sustainability with the use of the Treecycle, which all participants in the event are excited for its quirky and wholesome debut.

There will be many community-involved tree planting activities running from Tree Week through to January, and the Hodge Hill planting will take place at 14:30 until 15:30, where there will be the tree planting ceremony followed by refreshments for the residents and groups in attendance. Through these kinds of deeper bonds in the city ward’s, the trees that are planted will receive the love and care they have so-longed deserved, and through the Urban Forest Accelerator and UFMP programmes, Birmingham will continue to grow greener and sturdier, one ward at a time.

This project is part-funded by the Trees Call to Action Fund. The fund was developed by Defra, in partnership with the Forestry Commission, and is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The tree-planting was funded by BUPA, and is being delivered by One Tree Planted and Trees for Cities.