Wednesday, 30 December 2015

New Trees - Woodland Wednesdays at Highbury

Highbury Park and neighbours - wooded
Wooded Highbury

The term 'replete' has recently been used in reference to the wildlife provision at Highbury, and whilst the park can boast a healthy list of trees and bird life and perhaps reasonable opportunity for invertebrates, there is certainly room for enhancement and improvement in this regard.

The park is jealously viewed and guarded by its regular visitors and protest quickly develops as changes occur - for example recently planted hedges were met with anxiety and vandalism, new desire lines are seen as trespass and the recently announced proposal to improve the tarmac surfacing for cyclists was greeted with the following-
Politics aside, if that's possible, an overview of the wooded fabric of the park would probably indicate a net loss of timber over the past 5 years due to ageing, and the need to 'make safe' trees within 'red zones', i.e. tree next to main paths, car parks, roads, play areas. This is irrefutable practice and dialogue between Tree Officers, Rangers and 'Friends' is ongoing. 

Sometimes trees are 'topped' or pollarded to prolong the life of the tree, such as this Oak near Shutlock Lane - 
In terms of treatment each tree is regarded according to its own circumstances .

Some of the oldest trees in Britain have been pollarded.
New trees have been introduced in recent years, either as single standard specimens to replace 'Estate' trees, or en bloc to enhance the woodland diversity, hazel whips in newly coppiced areas for example. Also one hundred 'Millennium Oaks' were planted in 2000, and new hedgerows (around six hundred whips) added in 2015.

As trees are lost each year the replacement process is ongoing and therefore a plan to ensure annual replenishment is required, identifying areas for replanting is part of the consultation.

From 'Woods in Winter' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

From 'Woods in Winter' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Alas! how changed from the fair scene,
When birds sang out their mellow lay,
And winds were soft, and woods were green,
And the song ceased not with the day! 
But still wild music is abroad,
Pale, desert woods! within your crowd;
And gathering winds, in hoarse accord,
Amid the vocal reeds pipe loud. 
Chill airs and wintry winds! my ear
Has grown familiar with your song;
I hear it in the opening year,
I listen, and it cheers me long.

To learn more about identifying trees in winter follow the link below to the Woodland Trust website

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Mistletoe in the Rea Valley

From Kings Heath Park
Throughout the Rea Valley, Mistletoe can be seen at Kings Heath Park (Lime on Vicarage Road), Highbury Park (Poplar), Moor Green Lane (Robinia), near Holders Pavilion (Rowan) and within the grounds of St Edwards RC School at Greenlands Road (Poplar TBC), Selly Park; a Willow host on the banks of the Rea collapsed a couple of years ago, the cluster disappeared within days.

However the Flora for Birmingham and the Black Country,  suggests that "Atmospheric pollution possibly contributes to the scarcity of this species in B&BC....", although the plant is possibly under recorded, Mistletoe seems to be increasingly present throughout the Rea Valley,  the tree lined corridor may filter air pollution more effectively.  - this sprig was taken from a broken cluster at Kings Heath Park

1900 postcard
This cluster is on a Robinia at Moor Green Lane
Richard Mabey's Flora Britannica informs us that Mistletoe is one of the "last surviving remnants of plant magic" and there is a sense of titilation at this time of year whence a sprig of this plant is presented.

Its botanical name Viscum album suggests 'sticky and white' in reference to the berries.

The Mistletoe's rather odd winter-flourishing appearance is most noticeable when the tree leaves are absent, and although considered partly parasitic (hemiparasitic) on its host, the process of photosynthesis continues whilst the tree is dormant.

Structure and form (Wiki)
A festive occasion under the Mistletoe (Wiki)
There are a variety of host trees including Lime, Apple, Poplar and Rowan in our region, but up to 200 species have been reported (source unknown). The rarer oak mistletoe was greatly venerated by the ancient Celts and Germans and used as a ceremonial plant by early Europeans. The Greeks and earlier peoples thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs.
outside the Mac at Cannon Hill

Friday, 18 December 2015

Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and Black Country

Birmingham &Black Country Wildlife Trust 'Wildlife Focus'

"Fungi grow on rotting matter, providing a complex system of nutrients for healthy woods" (Fungi images by Terry Quinn)
Improved plantations

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Buzzards and Ravens, Trees and Stories

A Raven and Buzzard were spotted at Highbury Park on 16th December and both birds are regularly seen within the Rea Valley
A rare sighting
Mixed flocks of Tits and large gatherings of roosting Magpies are noticeable at this time of year as well as small flocks of Ringed Necked Parakeets. However the most noticeable birds at Highbury are the Carrion Crows together with lesser numbers of Jackdaws. The Corvid depicted above has not yet been spotted 

Story trees

Ludwig Munthe

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Highbury Woodland Wednesday December 16 2016

Highbury 16/12/2016
Alf Dimmock

Facebook activity
6 hrs ·
In the woods today at Highbury — in Birmingham, United Kingdom.
Tag PhotoEdit
David Ps How's the treetop walkway going?

Activity on Facebook
Like · Reply · 5 hrs
David Ps By the way, Highbury Orchard Community aim to do a bit more tree planting there tomorrow afternoon (1-3) for our Stick Around scheme, and on Sunday afternoon we're having a late afternoon cake & mulled juice celebration of the arriving solstice. Anyone wanting to join in can follow us on here, or get in touch by other means. Including just showing up!

Like · Reply · 2 · 5 hrs · Edited
Liz Wright 4PM for cake and juice. 1PM for work if you fancy it.
Yolanda Ru replied · 3 Replies · 4 hrs
another fair coppice

6 hrs ·
Another fair coppice — in Birmingham, United Kingdom.
Tag PhotoEdit
David Ps I see a whippet running to catch a hare, except the hare is riding the dog's back.
David Ps replied · 2 Replies · 4 hrs
David Ps Or isit the tortoise riding the hare's back?
Terry Quinn I would definitely read the label of your next bottle mate! lol4 hrs
David Ps 5.2% No lie. Or are you thinking of the homemade hooch? Fermented hazel sap.
wink emoticon3 hrs
Terry Quinn Now that's what I call Hooch!
David Ps Better if not too many people know about that recipe...
Terry Quinn Yep! keep 'em on the Silver Birch juice!
smile emoticon
Like · Reply · 3 hrs
David Ps Did Alf tell you I spotted a buzzard flying through the orchard today?
Like · Reply · 1 ·3 hrs
Terry Quinn David Ps Yes David, and we also spotted a Raven! So it would seem that the balance has been brought back!

Monday, 14 December 2015

A seasonal touch - Thomas Hardy; Under The Greenwood Tree

"To dwellers in a wood almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature. At the passing of the breeze the fir-trees sob and moan no less distinctly than they rock; the holly whistles as it battles with itself; the ash hisses amid its quiverings; the beech rustles while its flat boughs rise and fall. And winter, which modifies the note of such trees as shed their leaves, does not destroy its individuality"

Under the Greenwood Tree: A Rural Painting of the Dutch School is a novel by Thomas Hardy,[1] published anonymously in 1872.

Below is an excerpt from an online Guardian article - 'Why we should celebrate winter woodland – not just the Christmas tree' -


The wind makes music in the woods, but the tune changes with the seasons. This week, I have been listening intently to the wind stripping the last leaves off the trees in Court Wood. In Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders, Giles Winterborne could distinguish different species of tree at a distance, simply from “the quality of the wind’s murmur through a bough”. It is a lovely thought – that a man’s intimacy with these living things can be so sensuous. It speaks of a former epoch, when the forest figured primarily in the lives of the majority of European people, a time when our relationship with trees was at a more sensitive pitch.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Rea Valley Active Parks Woodland Wednesdays 2016

Scots Pine at Highbury Park

Throughout 2016 Woodland Wednesdays will continue with a variety of activities designed to promote an understanding and enjoyment of the wooded areas at Highbury, Holders, Cannon Hill Park and elsewhere across the Rea Valley.
Robin by Terry Quinn
Rea Valley Woodland Wednesdays will aim to attract people from all age groups and is made possible through a partnership between -

  • Birmingham Parks and Nature Conservation
  • Active Parks Birmingham
  • Park Lives Birmingham
  • Birmingham Open Space Forum
  • Birmingham Parks' 'Friends' groups
January 13th - March 9th 2016 Programme  - 9 sessions

all meetings 10.30 at Highbury Park (car park off Shutlock Lane)

Activities - 
Yorkshire billhook
  1. Tree planting
  2. Tree pruning
  3. Coppicing
  4. Tree identification including Conifers
  5. Coppice crafts (hazel splitting and wattle fencing)
  6. Management Planning
  7. Surveying (winter birds)
  8. Herbaceous plant identification
  9. Woodland interpretation
24 inch Bowsaw

For those attending Woodland Wednesday sessions they can expect to engage in a broad range of topics that will help them enjoy both local and distant woodlands, and also benefit from meeting qualified enthusiasts both amateur and professional.

The Rangers have a wealth of contacts from many environmental organisations as well as many 'Friends' from local parks.

We will continue to enhance and expand the wooded areas of the Rea Valley through planting new areas and managing existing ones.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Highbury Park

Another annual coup almost complete for the year at Highbury, replanting and the introduction of woodland flora required to add finishing touches for 2015.

Although not a NIA project (see below) The management of woodland at Highbury, Holders and elsewhere conforms to best practice and the strategies deployed by DEFRA
NIA screenshot from Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust website

Expanding the woodland at Highbury Park

Using timbers from the nearby coppice, a line of brash is laid outside the existing wooded area to demarcate the intended woodland expansion. Hazel will be introduced initially and scrub should then develop as grass cutting here ceases.
Coppice stool - almost ground level finish to aid regrowth from the roots

Monday, 7 December 2015

Friends of the Fields

The 'Friends of Holders and Pebble Mill Fields' hold monthly workdays in and around the woods and enjoy activity sessions throughout the year.

Workdays are held on the first Sunday of each month and there is always a warm and friendly welcome from the regulars.

For more details of the 'Friends' check out the link below, although the web page needs updating.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Oaks and hedgerows

New Hedgerows at Highbury

The wooded fabric of the Rea Valley was once again enhanced THANKS  to the support of 'Forest School Birmingham', 'Trees For Cities' and our WOODLAND WEDNESDAY VOLUNTEERS, on this occasion at Highbury Park, with the planting of 600 hedgerow trees/shrubs including HAWTHORN, HAZEL, APPLE, ROWAN, GUELDER ROSE, DOG ROSE, FIELD MAPLE, ELM and ALDER BUCKTHORN.

Check out to see more about the 10,000,000 trees project and to whom we owe gratitude for establishing this project.

The Highbury planting followed consultation between the Rangers and the 'Working Party' to establish the lines on which the new hedges should follow.

The 1904 OS map of the park shows old hedge lines within the grounds of Highbury, although many had been 'grubbed' out during the Chamberlain landscaping era.
Highbury Park - ORDNANCE SURVEY 2nd edition 25" MAP, 1904

Four lines were proposed, two to the south of the long pool and two to the north. One of the factors was the 'Great Oak' to the north. This two, once three limbed specimen is under scrutiny from Tree Officers to ensure prolonged life for this important veteran. Popular opinion is against pollarding the tree, so other means of keeping the majority of people at bay was considered. Hence - hedgerow, scrub development and a dead hedging combo was decided.

The Great Oak (circa 1700) is highlighted on the map above with the hedgerow to the west. These were then chosen to 1. reinstate a former hedge and 2. protect the Great Oak.

Mary and Ben from Forest Schools Birmingham reinstating an old hedge

Oaks along the old hedge line at Highbury