Nature’s Cradle

A poem from: Dr Ana-Maria Mircea who is working with our team

In this space, this quiet place, I can hear my inner peace

Every step I take into her embrace I can feel the dirt and rocks, shuffle and crack beneath my feet as the breeze caresses my cheek

This green panorama now envelops me, it’s all I can see

My grey thoughts like grey clouds begin to dissipate in her presence

Majestic in her manifestation

This kingdom of earth, green and sky welcomes me

Here, I can just be.

Short Stories

Following a “Storytelling for Communication and Engagement” session I did last year, I received some really interesting feedback around story writing and story telling in general. But also around how simply talking (sharing our day to day stories) can be so beneficial to our mental health. Another theme was how inspirational green spaces can be for both creating stories but also as places to share stories.

This week (31st Jan 2022 to 5th February 2022) we will be sharing some of the Earth Stories we received last year. These stories have actually help shape our City of Nature Plan by providing an insight into people’s relationship with nature and green spaces.

Stories are very powerful and are often used to share important messages, but they can also just be for our entertainment, capturing our imaginations and creating a whole host of thoughts and mini stories fluttering off through our minds like butterflies we may disturb running through a wildflower meadow on a summer day……

Some are bright and cheery and keep nothing hidden – happy to share everything with all those willing to read them and others well, might have more of a twist of the unexpected.

I really like very short stories that stay with you for a thousand times as long as it takes to read them.

Here is a short story from Jeannette, she entered it into a competition – it didn’t win but it got a special mention, so I thought it deserved a special mention here as well.

The Kept Promise

Jack heaved a sigh of relief; the deed was done.  He could go back to his normal life and not look back.  Did she really think he would not keep his promise, or forget what he had pledged?  Forget the pain – the hours waiting, hoping.  But now it was over – a new life beckoned and he wondered what lay ahead.   Tomorrow he would walk the dog and pass by.  And Sally would know that her grave was marked properly and that her Jack had kept his promise.  Be it that only he and the dog actually knew where it was.

Thank you to Jeannette for sharing her short story competition entry and I hope she is still writing and sharing her stories.

Debbie – FPA Community Facilitator

Birmingham’s Greenground Map

We are please to be able to introduce you to a map with a difference – Birmingham’s Greenground map, and to try it out we asked one of our team to see what she thought of it. Hayat has joined us as a Kick Start placement – and she is doing a great job sharing information about parks and green spaces from her own point of view. Here is her Blog:

Hi, I’m Hayat the communications support officer for the Future Parks Accelerator Project. On 7th January I tested out the Greenground map for Birmingham.

The green ground map is the first official map in Birmingham to map the entire city not with streets, areas and postcodes but with parks, canals, waterways, nature reserves and walkways. It was designed by Helen Ilus.

Initially, the plan was to visit 6 parks, but one wasn’t open (Soho House & Garden). In the end I visited 5 parks: Burbury Park, Georges Park, Yellow Park, Philips Street Park and Mansfield Green. I’m very lucky to live in such a close proximity to so many parks. I used the GG map to plan my journey and google maps to reach the parks.

The green ground map is very useful it even has the distance between parks in miles, so you know if it’s within walking distance. It has symbols of the things available in the parks I presume to be perfect when planning a trip with others so you can see that there are activities for everyone to enjoy. The colours of the lines indicate what the route is, for example, orange is for the city centre cultural route.

I decided to rank the parks that I had visited based on their facilities and size. Georges Park came first place as It had a skate park and a 1-mile path marker, it was a decent size too will definitely be visiting it more often 9/10. Second place was Mansfield Green because it had its own outdoor gym and I thought that was useful it had a 50m walking path too and there was a small play area for children. 7/10. Would I visit again? Maybe if it was summer and I wanted to use the outdoor gym.  Yellow Park was my third favourite, it was one of my childhood parks it will always have a special place in my heart, and it has a zipwire so 6.5/10. Philips park and Burbury Park were both tied but Burbury Park wins because it has a basketball court.

Conclusively, the green ground map was efficient, convenient and simple to use. I hadn’t been aware of the number of parks just a short walk from my house. There are photos of all the parks I visited. Will definitely be using the green ground map again. A great and free way to have a fun day out with friends and family.

You can download a copy of the Greenground Map or request a paper version to be posted to you. Please visit our Greenground Map page:

Nature at its core

           Stories are shared in lots of different ways.

They can be read from a book or spoken, or shared through pictures and poems    

Here is Dr Hajra Shah’s story called “Nature at its core”      

Walking down the woods

Holding those tiny hands

Listening to singing birds

Running behind the butterflies

Jumping from that tree stump

I can see the spark in your little eyes

That speak thousand words

The words of hope for the future

Embracing the kindness of nature

Which I will return later

And those words I can hear louder

“Aww mommy nature at its core

It never makes me bore

Let’s go out and explore

Let’s make it safe and secure”

( Dr Hajra Shah, a doctor and a mother)

Dr Hajra Shah has been working with the FPA Naturally Birmingham Project finding out about the benefits nature can provide for our health and wellbeing. Training to be a GP requires her to experience all kinds of different aspects of medical work. It is good to know that your time with the Naturally Birmingham Project inspired such a lovely poem, thank you an good luck for the future as you continue your training.

Parks and Recreation

Humera Sultan – Naturally Birmingham Project Director reflects on the changes that have happen since the project began.

It’s been a long while since I wrote a blog for the Naturally Birmingham website. A lot has happened in the last 18 months. We’ve been living through a global pandemic, adjusting to working and schooling from home.

In all of that, nature has been my saviour. I’ve been learning how to grow with my little boy, Esa (not so little now since he started school). We’ve harvested peppers, chillies, courgettes and pumpkins – all have been delicious, but the journey to watch them go from seed to plant to fruit has been something else. What’s made it even more special is the memories I’ve made with Esa. I’ll never forget the awe on his face when the seed in the yoghurt pot actually started growing a stem. That’s priceless.

During that time, I also set up a Friends of Park group for my favourite local green space, Swanshurst Park. I had a week off from work, and no massive plans given we were in lockdown. My husband put together an email address and poster for me and I got some printed at a local shop. We put them up around the park the next day and handed out leaflets so people knew how to contact me.

Eleven months later, we’ve got £10,000 in funding, got some youth workers in the park, had 2 family fun days, put up nature trails, got extra bins, noticeboards, logs to stop people parking on the grass, a wildflower meadow, started taster sessions in forest school, and have a conservation group. I can’t be more proud of what the group has achieved – it just takes one person to make a leap and before you know it, you have made new friends all wanting to do the best for nature that I can.

In my day job as Director of Naturally Birmingham, things have moved on at a pace – we ran all our pilots, despite being locked down, collected over 150 earth stories from citizens of Birmingham, and we’ve put all our learning into a 25 year plan to create a City of Nature for Birmingham. Thank you top everyone who has helped shape the plan over the course of the project.

Oh and finally – during lockdown, I also got into the American TV series, “Parks and Recreation”, and my husband now calls me Leslie Knope. She’s a passionate woman trying her best every day to protect her local parks –that very much sums up my job, and I love it.

The Future Starts Today

Through the summer we asked people to give us their “Earth Stories”.

Earth Stories don’t need to be epic tales, simply a chance to understand how people connect with nature, hear their memories, find out their fears and hopes and to give us an insight into what people need and how important green spaces are for them. We wanted them to help shape how green spaces are built, managed, and used in the future.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who provided their earth stories and the groups that helped us gather them from their communities. It was wonderful to see the images, hear the recordings and read the “capture of conversations” on paper.

We are going to use the images and stories throughout our City of Nature Delivery Framework document to help make the invisible – visible. Too often in the past the thoughts, wants and needs of communities aren’t seen or heard. We wanted to put them right on the page with the plan so everyone can see them every time we refer to the document and be reminded what it’s all about. We want the future to be different in all the right ways.

During this important week, when not only in Birmingham are we planning a greener bolder future, but the same process is happening for the whole planet at COP26 we want to share some of the stories people shared with us throughout the summer.

It doesn’t take many words to paint a picture and the earth story below provides a brief glimpse into someone else’s life and tells a story that is repeated over and over again – when we have the time to become aware of what is around us, suddenly there are treasures we never knew where there.

I felt like I was in the Countryside

“My green space moment was when walking my dog In Highbury park during lockdown. I could see nothing but trees and grass, hear nothing but the birds and the sun was shining. I hadn’t realised how beautiful the park was (despite living close by). I felt like I was out in the countryside. 
I would like to see parks less manicured, with more meadow areas, orchards and wild play areas for children.”

Don’t Dis-ability Group

We are really pleased to have been working with a group of young people from The Birmingham Children’s Trust “Don’t Dis-ability Group” who have been telling us / showing us why green spaces are important to them.

David’s Garden

Here we find out about David’s garden project:

David’s advice to any young people who are thinking about getting involved with nature or gardening is: “Go ahead. It’s really calming and very educational”

Well done David.

Jessica’s story

Leon’s Story

Tia’s Picture

Jessica’s Picture

Bella’s Story

Thank you to all of the young people who have shared what being outside means to them: Growing potatoes, walking the dog, playing football, keeping calm and peaceful, being as loud as you want!

The Golden Tomato

And the Magic Kingdom

Sometimes the journey to a love of parks and green spaces doesn’t start with a park. In this moving and very honest Earth Story it starts on an allotment plot many years ago. Here Nick, project advisor takes us back to his first encounter with nature.

My earliest memories of playing at home were indoors or out in the yard at the back of our shop. We lived on the edge of Sheffield city centre, in a shop on a main road. My walk to nursery led you to a side road with a railway and a steel works at the end of it. So this was all very grey, gritty and urban.

At weekends we quiet often went to our grandparents, they lived at opposite ends of town, so it always involved a long bus ride and walk. I always looked forward to staying with my mum’s parents but really didn’t like going to my dad’s parents. They were really strict and there was nowhere to play. It also meant sleeping in their attic which was completely undecorated and unfurnished, so as a young child, was really scary!

My grandad on my father’s side was a steel worker, so he worked on Saturday mornings. We always waited for him to come home as we would all enjoy lunch together. I remember this one day I would have been about 4 years old, and it was sunny outside, but we hadn’t been allowed to play outside in the morning. So after lunch my grandad suggested taking me to his allotment. I suspect because I was becoming troublesome, whilst my sisters stayed back to do things with grandma.

It wasn’t a long walk from my grandads house but we first arrived at the park, so I thought he’d changed his mind. What I didn’t know was the allotments were hidden in the park. I had never been before, so didn’t know what to expect. We entered a gate into a magical kingdom! Where everything was taller than me, real Jack in the Beanstalks! Really tall! And giant rhubarb. I didn’t know what any of this was, until my Grandpa told me. It felt like being in a maze, with narrow paths, turning this way and that, with the sun beating down from above.

Then he said we had reached his garden. There was a wooden glasshouse. I had never seen one before. When he opened the door I all my senses were completely overwhelmed! The smell was fantastic. Wow! It was really warm in there. Everything was up on benches so towering over me below. All along the benches were huge pansies. The sort with the smiley faces! Such colours and sweet, sweet scents! I still love them to this day. Each one had a different face as big as mine, so I smiled back at all of them in turn.

Then my grandpa picked a golden tomato. It was warm and glowing like the sun, but slightly rough to touch. What do I do with this Grandpa I asked, just pop it in your mouth he said. It was so sweet and totally delicious! I started to cry! Whatever’s the matter he asked? I don’t want to go home, I said, I just want to stay here, forever!

I had found my paradise. At the age of 4. A garden. Pure and simple. I fell in love with plants and gardening from that day on. When my dad retired he took up gardening just like his father. He tried to grow exotic flowers and melons. This became a real bond between us. Which was a good thing it did.

As when I was 18 I found out why I’d had to go almost every weekend to my grandparents and I didn’t have any memories of my dad in those early years. He’d spent nearly 3 years in prison! So my mum went to visit most weekends. When I found out at 18 I was really shocked and couldn’t wait to leave home to go to university. It really caused a rift between us.

But instead of taking up my place at university in Birmingham I thought I would defer my place for a year. So wrote to the council asking for a job, in the parks service. After a year I had changed my mind about uni. I’m still here, now the advisor to the FPA. I did go to uni, 3 times in fact. So now I’m Green City Manager for Birmingham and a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham.

As the years passed my dad and I slowly connected again, through a love of gardening and nature. My dad passed away a few years ago now with cancer. But I was the closest relative so got to look after him. He ended up on a small ward in a cottage hospital where they said he was going to die. Before he passed he was able to tell me that the proudest day in his life had been at The Royal Horticultural Society in London, when their President had awarded me a Masters in Horticulture, their highest award. And embarrassingly the two available additional prizes and a travel bursary. I used the bursary to travel to Japan to do a study tour of all their historic and temple gardens.

That magical kingdom opened up to me by my grandfather when I was just 4 through a golden tomato changed my life. As it set off a quest in me to understand that magical kingdom, that is nature. I’ve spent my lifetime enjoying it, studying it and being in awe of it, as it defies science. I want that future to be a possibility for every city child. The work we are trying to do is to make that happen. Where Birmingham commits itself to a new future as a City of Nature. If you don’t believe me, watch this space. If you want to join in and support us, follow the links. If you have an ‘earth story’ you would like to share we’d love to hear it.

Stechford Recreation Ground (Yardley Fields)

The Naturally Birmingham Project works with communities and project partners to help “Bring Parks to Life”. We know that across the city Fair, Green, Healthy, Engaged and Valued green spaces are not yet available to all residents – we are working on that.

We call this “achieving environmental justice” and our aim is to achieve this for all residents. In some areas this could just be changing how a park is maintained, or putting in a noticeboard so groups and activities can be advertised. In some areas it may mean finding out how we can create more publicly accessible green space, and so we are developing a 25 year plan driven by an ambitious vision for a City of Nature.

At Stechford Recreation Ground known locally as Yardley Fields we are starting with a Community Conversation with local residents, to get the ideas flowing for this lovely open space. Is it well managed, does it need paths, or a sports pitch, more trees, bins, opportunities to volunteer or organised activities, perhaps more wildlife. We want you to tell us so we can work out what and how we can bring this park to life – with your help.

Community Conversation Stechford Recreation Ground – 11am – 1pm 31st June 2021

You can complete our survey here:

Find out more about the Children’s Pilot site for the project Dawberry Fields Park – to see what we achieved there: Children’s Pilot – Naturally Birmingham Future Parks Project

Dawberry Fields Park – Consultation and Engagement

This is third blog from Helen the BOSF Volunteer Coordinator working with the community Dawberry Fields Park as part of the Future Parks Accelerator Project.

So, Dawberry Fields is getting on the map at last. At 55 years old I’m tweeting, Instagram posting and sending messages and pictures out on Facebook. All trying to raise Dawberry Field’s and the sense of an ‘us’ profile a little, amongst other parks, groups and green activities in the area. All skills I previously didn’t really have. At time of writing (end of May), we’ve got 91 followers on Twitter and 80 on Instagram. Is this good? I’ve really
no idea, but I think from nothing at all, the fact that people are taking notice, has to be a positive step on our journey.

Time to become more visible in the park itself and attract more attention. The first of the three dates we had decided upon was now approaching and the thinking was – to cope with COVID restrictions of no more than 30 in a group outside – to have a drop by bunting session! This got laughed at in my team meeting, but I was determined that we needed to do something to engage local interest and make the park feel more of a community space. Also, to leave something behind in the park for people to see afterwards.

Of course, we all know that unfortunately there are some park users that appear in late evenings leaving behind graffiti and rubbish and they might take a shine to a string of pretty triangles blowing in the breeze – still, we decided not to let that put us off.
In addition to this, my forest school lady was keen to compliment the activity with stone painting and agreed to provide all the equipment to carry this out as an additional activity. Keeping the children, or adults occupied for a while would mean we could chat about the park and their interests and observations.

Prior to the approaching bunting day my colleague at Ward End Park, with the same volunteer coordinator role as me, popped over to see ‘my’ park. Whilst there, he helped me check my bright red coloured cord was long enough to stretch across the grey railings at the top of the field – to mount the bunting on. All good. I expected some comment or advice, but he kept quiet. Perhaps bemused by my plans. All the same, I was grateful of his

I was starting to feel that the group was coming together perhaps? I emailed round and tried to arrange a zoom meeting to discuss future plans on forming a group (as still not allowed for many to meet indoors). It was tricky, everyone had commitments. I ended up with only two attendees. A bit of a flop then. I felt deflated, I’d obviously got the vibe totally wrong. The following morning heralded emails of apology from 3 people who were so sorry to miss the meeting and wanted to be included. This buoyed me somewhat. The spark is lit…. it needs a lot of careful nurturing and not perhaps, the bull at a gate meeting approach! I think I knew that really. I should trust my gut feeling more.

The posters for the bunting day went up at the beginning of the second week of May, along with a nature poster about tree identification – keeping up the interest on the notice boards. We tweeted and were retweeted (yay!) and someone put us on the local next-door app to – which I had previously not considered. All praise to them for getting us noticed across wider Birmingham. Saturday May 29th approached…. And the weather was still rubbish….. what to do? Everyone expects May to be nice and sunny and warm, but the chance of rain was high. After a couple of calls to try and secure a Territorial Army tent, as they are based just up the road, (wouldn’t that have been fab?!), failed as they weren’t available; I found an old gazebo in my garage that would do the trick. Cut to the punchline, after a drizzly start the morning brightened and we ended up using the gazebo as a sun
shade! Bless our British weather, eh?

Prior to our big day (well, the anticipation felt big!), we had two further litter picks, one accompanied by our local Park Ranger. The Saturday attendance saw 15 pickers and we cleared one of the entrances as well as a section of the stream. Much laughter at a few ‘odd’ discoveries – I’m too polite to share with you here.

The Monday before the bunting day I was again chuffed to find that a small but keen couple of people were prepared to make the effort to come out and ‘make things nice’ (and safe), ready for the weekend. On the day, the three volunteers that agreed to support the event were organised and enthusiastic. We got set up and watched the drizzle turn to blue sky. I feel this event cemented the engagement and support of 4 individuals – one of whom wasn’t even there! She had to work and sent her husband to provide tables and help. I
see that as true commitment!

We think we had about 10 families visit during the 5 ish hours we were there. Some came back to do more. One family took bunting away and came back with it beautifully decorated an hour later (grandad and the dog needed to get home for a rest). We had a young couple, viewing houses to buy in the area, sit and paint stones whilst they took in the surroundings of what might become their local park! I reckon we sold them that house on the community spirit they felt that morning! Wish we could find out! I did get to consult more formally with 4 families and their interest and enthusiasm for the park and wanting to take part, was encouraging.

The bunting lasted a week before it was all pulled down. But, that’s not the end of the story at all – No! More bunting has been made and is planned to be made. Group members are rallying. They are buying and making pretty things to display in their park for all to see. They love the visible positivity in their park. The community feel is growing and we do have a group of interested, enthusiastic, wonderful people. We may not have formalised it yet, but the volunteering community is growing itself a ‘friends’ group’ – slowly.

Follow us on Facebook: @DawberryFields