How Local Action is Global Action with Birmingham’s Wildheart TreeSisters Grove

Photo credit : Hanna Clara Borrowman

November 13th, 2020

In February 2020, Birmingham's Wildheart Grove inspired 52 women, men and children from different ethinic backgrounds to come together to plant trees on behalf of their local community, TreeSisters and the planet. The Wildheart Grove has previously held events to raise funds for global reforestation, but this time they turned their attention closer to home in a journey to demonstrate how local action is also global action in their community.

Photo credit : Hanna Clara Borrowman

The dream was to create the ‘Ogham Wood’, a physical grove of native and locally sourced trees that have historic and cultural significance in the UK. The Ogham is an ancient alphabet, tree catalogue and means of divination used throughout the ancient British Isles from as early as the 5th Century. One hundred saplings of birch, willow, rowan, elder, alder, holly, oak, ash, hawthorn, hazel, apple, blackthorn, etc were to be planted alongside one transplanted yew tree. The one hundred trees were obtained for free from Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust.

The Grove was relatively new and had only started six months before the event meeting monthly to share and support each other and Treesisters. The Grove collectively wanted to plant trees locally and together they worked to make it happen. Grove Tender, Clare-Marie Chapman, instigated the process by approaching the City Council Parks department in Birmingham and worked with Park Ranger Jan Tomlinson. This collaborative approach ensured that the planting was done in a legal and responsible way. The City Council helped them identify land suitable for reforestation, ensuring the correct permission for planting was obtained. 

The planting plans were registered so that the City’s Parks contractors and Rangers recognised the planting and didn’t remove the saplings or mow them down. In addition, Jan Tomlinson’s experience in working with the urban environment was invaluable and brought significant planting advice and equipment to the task.

The day began with an opening circle where Clare-Marie introduced TreeSisters, the trees and the Ogham. She talked about why they were planting them and thanked the City Ranger and Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust for the trees. 

As a Forest school trained leader, Clare-Marie was able to provide a safe container for children of all ages to actively participate, use all the tools and experience Nature first hand. Clare-Marie also did a risk assessment and was the first aider for the event.

For Clare-Marie one of the highlights of the event was “One child cried and wanted to go home because she’d seen a worm (3 years old). Together with my youngest child and the mother of the upset child, we held and talked about the worm and their amazing capabilities for nourishing the soil. The child had a life changing experience, held the worm and has become an avid gardener at home.” 

Grove members provided refreshments of cake and flapjacks - essential for good morale and to encourage people to come out no matter what the weather during an English February!  The day ended with hot soup and a closing circle of thanks, prayers and good intentions for the trees.

Photo credit : Hanna Clara Borrowman

All attendees were invited to help care for the trees and visit them with their families, as well as providing some basic tree care guidelines. An agreement was made to have ‘maintenance gatherings’ to water the trees if needed (the land has a stream running through it) and weed around the trees to help promote healthy growth. The relationship with the City Park councillor was also essential to ongoing tree care and ensuring that maintenance contractors were aware of the small saplings.

So many more people turned up than was expected and with such enthusiasm to help that Clare-Marie realised that next time they could plant twice as many trees!!

Photo credit : Hanna Clara Borrowman

If you would like to join a local Grove, or find out more about creating your own, please click here.

If the story of the Wildheart Grove has inspired you to take action right now, you can fund the planting of trees by donating to TreeSisters here



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