For the Love of Reptiles

Hello there!
My name is Megan, and I work for Birmingham City Council as a member of the ranger team. From as far back as I can remember, nature and wildlife have always been a part of my life. I have been incredibly fortunate to have grown up amongst an array of animals in my family home which of course, fuelled my love of all creatures great and small.
However, there’s one group of animals in particular that have a big place in my heart….REPTILES! My dad’s love of herpetology meant that as a child I shared my home with lots of snakes, lizards and even tortoises! Fast forward to today and very little has changed. I now have my own delightful menagerie of animals, of which the majority are reptiles that I rescued or adopted.

Before joining the ranger team, I would visit schools and hospices -such as Acorns- to educate children and offer sensory sessions with my reptiles. For such fascinating, beautiful creatures, they suffer an awful lot of demonisation from society. I want to change this narrative and open people’s eyes to the wonder world of reptiles.

When it comes to conservation, they may not be at the top of everyone’s list to save over a cute, cuddly polar bear, but they play an invaluable role within their ecosystems and I’d like nothing more than to see them back on the map. Few people are aware that we have our very own handful of reptile species in the UK, and it’s not surprising as to why. As a result of habitat destruction through change in land use, and human disturbance, our native reptiles are a rare sight to see. With little consideration given to their conservation requirements in previous years, their numbers are increasingly declining. Furthermore, human actions are also implicating the individuals we do have hidden away in their fragmented pockets of habitat. Individuals are decreasing in size and thus in females are resulting in smaller clutch sizes. Not what we need for an already suffering population.
Our native reptiles may be few and far between but I’m not giving up hope of reinstating our scaly friends to their former glory. A huge dream of mine is to one day run a conservation project for the Grass snake (Natrix natrix). In my spare time I have been studying previous papers and books written by fellow enthusiasts of this stunning species. Until that time comes, I am incredibly excited to have joined the reptile conservation project taking place at Dawberry Fields to create habitats that will enable slow worms and the common lizard to thrive.

I will be documenting the experience over on my blog (! We have a little hurdle to overcome, which is funding. We are aiming to raise £2,000 for the project to begin, so any donations would be hugely appreciated. If you would like to donate please click the link:

Let’s get OUR reptiles back on the map!

The story of Lohri

Below is a story of Lohri which takes place on 13th of January each year. It’s celebrated in North India called Punjab and people from village get together for the dark cold day in January.

Dulla Bhatti, like Robin Hood, robbed the rich and gave to the poor. The people of the area loved and respected him. He once rescued a girl from kidnappers and adopted her as his daughter. His people would remember their hero every year on Lohri. Groups of children moved from door to door, singing the Dulla Bhatti folk-song: “Dulla Bhatti ho! Dulle ne dhi viyahi ho! Ser shakar pai ho!” (Dulla gave his daughter a kilo of sugar as a marriage gift).

Lohri is essentially a festival dedicated to fire and the sun god. It is the time when the sun transits the zodiac sign Makar (Capricorn), and moves towards the north. In astrological terms, this is referred to as the sun becoming Uttarayan. The new configuration lessens the ferocity of winter, and brings warmth to earth. It is to ward off the bitter chill of the month of January that people light bonfires, dance around it in a mood of bonhomie and celebrate Lohri.

Fire is associated with concepts of life and health. Fire, like water, is a symbol of transformation and regeneration. It is the representative of the sun, and is thus related, on the one hand with rays of light, and on the other with gold. It is capable of stimulating the growth of cornfields and the well being of man and animals. It is the imitative magic purporting to assure the supply of light and heat. It is also an image of energy and spiritual strength. That is why the Lohri fire gets sanctified and is venerated like a deity. On this occasion, people offer peanuts, popcorn and sweets made of til- chirva, gajak and revri – to propitiate fire as a symbol of the sun god.


For the planet we need more parks.

We really like this very honest Earth Story from Nathan.

My name is Nathan and I want to tell you why I like parks.  I’m 13 and starting to be interested in the climate change emergency.  I think older generations have let us down, although I don’t think many people would have known what a mess we would get into, and my generation will change it.

My first memories of parks are from going to Sandwell Valley Park Farm on a Sunday with my mum and dad from when I was about three.  This farm is part of Sandwell Valley Country Park which is a huge area of green surrounded by houses, the River Tame and the M5.  We used to go and see the animals, and even saw a baby calf being born one morning which made my mum cry, and then I would have a farmers lunch box in the little café.

I’ve also spent time over at Bartley Green reservoir with my uncle, and you get a good view of Birmingham from there.  Plus, we’ve visited lots of other parks like the big one in Sutton, Brueton Park near my nans and Kingsbury Water park is good as they have boats racing on the lakes.  They are all different but give us lots of space and fresh air. 

I think that parks are really important, as you can breathe fresh air and exercise.  Some people have never been to a park, and don’t know how good they are, or how much there is to do.  If all families and people were like this, we wouldn’t have parks anymore.  We go for walks all the time, and my mum and dad are always saying hello to people they don’t even know.  The more people that use parks and talk about them, the faster the messages spread which makes everyone want to go.  Only the good ones though, no-one wants to go to the ones with broken goal posts and old playgrounds.

Parks also break up all the buildings.  Birmingham would be boring if it was all houses, flats, factories and offices, we have lots of green and it makes the everything looks nicer and the trees put more oxygen into the air which is good.

I would like there to be more parks in the future.  They don’t have to be big, little parks near where people live, are good as well.  They need to be fun though.  Some parks are all flower beds, and that’s no good for children, make them interesting.  Parks need to be for everyone so keep the flower beds for some old people to look at and have adventure trails where you can get muddy for little children.

For the planet we need more parks.

Time for a come back

Hi, I am Councillor Waseem Zaffar, Birmingham’s Cabinet member for Transport Environment and also Councillor for Lozells. 

Well my first memory of green space is playing cricket for the school cricket team whilst at Heathfield primary school, an amazing school where I’m currently the Chair of Governors.  We played in a school cricket match at Wood Lane playing fields not too far from here. 

I can still picture myself hitting my first ever boundary, the first of many I must say, via a pull shot off the middle of the bat. A memory that stays with me today and a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life. 

In fact much of my association with green space has been about cricket, as I went on to play for a number of cricket clubs for many years.  It is something I clearly missed having not played for three or four years now.  I think it’s time for a come-back!  

Green spaces are absolutely vital not just for our physical wellbeing but also for our mental wellbeing. We saw the appreciation for Green Space grow substantially during the pandemic and I hope moving forward we will Value, Protect, Preserve and Enjoy our green spaces across the City.

For many, particularly in Inner City Neighbourhoods Green Space is so limited and I’m particularly excited by the work the Future Park Accelerator is doing to ensure that these green spaces however big or small are utilised by all in the community and no one is left behind. 

Please help us plan for the future of our parks and green spaces by sharing your Earth Story too.

Thank you very much

Butterflies, ladybirds and bees

My name is Samantha, and I am 39 years old. I have lived in Birmingham all my life and have always lived near to a park or green open space. I grew up in a time before mobile phones and modern technology, and so spent many hours of my childhood playing in the parks in and around the West Midlands.

In 2007 I was hospitalised and spent many months confined to a hospital bed. With the aid of a Wheelchair and Elbow Crutches I re-learned how to walk and once again was able to enjoy Birmingham’s green open spaces.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic struck I formed a Walking Group with some of my neighbours and enjoyed visiting parks and nature trails. I found the regular activity of walking not only supported my physical rehabilitation but also improved my mental wellbeing.

Since the outbreak and subsequent ‘lock-downs’, sadly our Walking Group came to an end. I instead looked for new green spaces within my immediate environment. That being my garden where I feed the many birds that visit – from small Bluetits and Long-Tailed Tits, a Robin, a family of Blackbirds, Magpies and Wood Pigeons to migrating Redwings who live up in the trees, and the Swifts, Bats and formation of Canada Geese who fly overhead.

I also enjoyed walks around the local playing field during the summer lockdown of 2020, the air felt cleaner and fresher – most likely because the reduced number of cars on the surrounding roads. And I saw many more butterflies, ladybirds and bees fluttering around than usual. A neighbour shared with me, how on one winter’s evening, she saw fox cubs on the field playing in the snow.

I do however have one regret, and that is that human-hands would stop blighting this special green space with fly-tipped rubbish, spent fireworks, empty beer bottles, cigarette ends, and discarded face masks.

I hope that in sharing my earth story, better plans can be made in the future for our parks and green spaces. Please help us plan the future of our parks and green spaces by sharing your earth story.

Samantha Vaughan MA (Art Health & Wellbeing) BA (Fine Art)

IIHHT (Aromatherapy, IHM)

Perry Barr HLB – Chair

Next Generation of Birmingham Stewards

Hello, I’m Councillor John Cotton I’m Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety and Equalities.

I was born and brought up in Birmingham, so I suppose my first memory of a green space goes back to those early days growing up in the north of the city. With these amazing spaces on my doorstep, places like Perry Barr Park, Perry Hall Park and Red House Park.

So, my earliest memories are of hanging out with my mates in those parks, you know, building dens playing games just tremendously happy memories that have lived with me to this day.

And it does make me reflect on just how fortunate we are in Birmingham to have so many green spaces. Whether is parks, whether it’s recreation grounds whether it’s bits of woodland in neighbourhoods right across our city they are a real asset, I think, to our communities.

And when we think about what that means for cohesion and tackling inequalities in our city those green assets are absolutely vital. These are the places where communities come together, where we share in activities, where we build friendships, where we build those relationships that are so important to building a cohesive city like Birmingham.

And certainly, what we’ve seen over the last year having gone through this terrible covid pandemic the vital importance of those green spaces to helping people tackle those issues of isolation, getting some respite from what’s been a really difficult period for us all. We’ve seen at first-hand how important those spaces are and how valued they are by people right across our city.

My hope is that we continue to cherish those spaces and that we work together as a community as a council to make those spaces even better and even more valued and more enjoyed by many more people across our city. And that I really hope will be our legacy for the next generation of Birmingham young people who will take on stewardship of those parks and those green spaces.

So that’s why we want you to help us to plan the future of our parks and our green spaces in this city and you can start today by sharing your Earth Story too.

Earth Stories – Handsworth Park

Councillor Paulette Hamilton shares her earth story memory of Handsworth Park and her request for you to help shape the future of Birmingham’s parks and open spaces.

My name is Paulette Hamilton, I’m the cabinet member for adult social care and health and public health in Birmingham.

Let me start by saying I’m a wife, I’m a mother, I’m a grandmother, I’m a carer and I’m daughter. I have a long history in this city, in fact I was born in this city, I grew up in this city, in an area called Handsworth and throughout my life I have visited many of the parks and open spaces in this city.

As a child when I was growing up my mother had five children and we had a very small garden in our house but it was our delight each week to go to the local park which was a park called Handsworth Park. We absolutely loved it and it was an area we enjoyed going to every week for exercise with my mother and with our older brothers and sisters and my younger brothers and sisters.

During this time we had some really really fantastic days where literally sometimes all we did was sit down in the park by the bandstand or go by the boats and just sit down and enjoy life and just looking around the world and, in fact, when I got married I actually took my pictures by the weeping willows at that very same park. So you can see I have got a long history.

For me when I go into a park and I’m in the open spaces I actually feel relaxed, it really helps my mental health, it helps me to think and it just helps me to see what we can do going forward, not just for me myself and my family but in the roles that I do what we do going forward in the community.

The reason I’m speaking to you today is because we are doing this new consultation about parks and I really do want you to join in. I want you to get involved, I want you to join in, I want you to help us shape the future of our city and our city parks and open spaces. Because without you we are going to be unable to take this forward in the way we want to. So please, get involved, help us shape the future of our parks in Birmingham.

We make memories in parks

If you read about Birmingham, the facts you’ll soon come across will almost definitely be:

  1. Youngest city in Europe
  2. More miles of canals than Venice
  3. More Michelin star restaurants than anywhere else in the UK (outside of London)
  4. One of the UK’s greenest cities

When I moved to Birmingham about 8 years ago, I saw 1, 2 and 3 immediately. It took me longer to see the truth in 4 but when I did, I fell completely in love with the city’s parks. 

When I finally found them, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t discovered places like New Hall Valley Country Park and Perry Hall Park sooner. Now, I’m on a mission to visit all of the great parks in the city (as I write this, I’m up to number 43!) and share my journey so that others might find some new favourite green spaces too.

I’m enjoying experiencing each park differently. An early morning walk in Sutton Park (with my dog and a cup of tea) is a simple, glorious pleasure. I blame Sutton Park for my slow progress on visiting other parks, I keep finding myself back there exploring a new route or photographing a new view. It’s an incredible community asset and one I now treasure.

Parks definitely aren’t just for walking though- my first trip to Moseley Park and Pool was for an outdoor yoga class, it was a lovely warm day and the experience gave me a completely restorative feeling. Grove Park became a favourite picnic spot last summer, we’d stock up on delicious nibbles from Laghi’s Deli and spent the afternoon chatting, eating and watching the world go by. New Hall Valley Park was the first place I ran after recovering from knee surgery, I can still remember the ache and the sense of achievement. One thing is for sure, we make memories in parks.

The various restrictions put in place during 2020 have certainly amplified my love of green spaces. Despite the trauma we’ve all been through, last year is still full of happy memories of walking with friends and family. You’d normally have found us nattering over a cocktail or two in a Jewellery Quarter bar, but last year we walked & talked our way around Shire Country Park, socially distanced and with takeaway coffees from Sarehole Mill in hand.

Spending more time outdoors in the city’s parks has even inspired me to bring a little more nature into my own home. I’ve been a house-plant addict for a year or so but now I’m growing herbs too and I find myself browsing the internet for allotment plots if left to my own devices for too long. 

We should count ourselves lucky. This city is full of special green spaces; full of people enjoying them, finding their own inspiration and making their own memories. The diversity of parks in Birmingham is incredible – we’re spoilt with charming local nature reserves, one of the largest urban parks in Europe, plenty of lovely neighbourhood parks & playgrounds and even magical woodland that inspired a world renowned author. 

Follow my journey around the city’s parks over on Instagram, you never know, you might find a new favourite of your own to explore:

Alex Nicholson-Evans

Earth Stories

Once upon a time in a land far, far away….

That might be how we think stories should start but I much prefer the ones that start “You’ll never guess what happen yesterday on the allotment” or “When we arrived in the UK last year, we couldn’t believe how green it was” Because although there are some amazing and exciting stories told of going on bear hunts, tigers who came to tea or unrequited love. It is the stories that people tell each other every day that I miss. I miss hearing the chit chat and the natter apart from when a colleague phones to tell me about what happened to her today at Dawberry Fields Park “The couple who always walk round together, they waved to me today, it was lovely they recognised me” When we were out in parks all the time we got to hear everyone’s stories, now – not so much.

Oh, and there are amazing story tellers everywhere and not just in parks. You see stories know no boundaries, they flow from one person to another with no care of who is telling the story and who is listening. And if language becomes a barrier then pictures, gestures, dance, and music can fill the gaps and jump the barriers. Stories will not be contained they find a way to break through, to be seen and be heard. They can bubble out with excitement or pour out with sadness sinking to the floor with sorrow, but they will not stay untold.

Of all these common stories, this chit chat and natter, I love the ones about the earth. When you read the word earth what did you think of, the ground beneath our feet or the planet we live on? Strangely they are the same thing really. When we stand in a park the grass, the soil beneath and the rock beneath that is the planet we live on. We do not need to connect to the earth and to nature we are connected to it. We eat food, breath air, drink water and stand on our planet everyday we are totally dependent on it, most days we just don’t think about it that way.

I have hundreds of stories I could tell you, about crazy animal encounters, amazing weather phenomenon, wonders of nature, people who have shown me and taught me about the natural world and dangerous and dramatic journeys to far away lands. But I would like to hear your stories. Because my role in the Future Parks Accelerator Project in Birmingham which we call Naturally Birmingham, is to find out about you, who are you, what do you like, what don’t you like, what are your fears and hopes. What are you doing, what do wish you could do? I don’t want to present you with a form to complete, no one wants to complete a form. I wish we could just sit down with a cup of tea, or coffee or whatever you would prefer to drink, to chat about flowers and the weather and whatever it is you want to talk about, whatever story you want to tell.

The FPA project is making plans for Birmingham’s parks green spaces and the environment we live in. We want you to help us find out what those plans should include by telling us your stories. We also want to show people who make the decisions about parks, green spaces and our environment how important those green spaces are to everyone, all cultures, all ages, every single person in Birmingham, over a million people everyone of us as we arrive and as we leave we are connected to the earth and totally dependant on it. What does it mean to you? Why do you want to protect it? Do you run, walk or read in a park? Do your children play in a park, or perhaps they don’t have a park to play in? Do you meet a friend in a park, walk with your dog, ride your bike? Clear your head, fill up your senses, take a breath?

We really need your stories because this year, 2021, it’s all about you. Every story is important, and we want to hear them to help us see what we can’t see and hear what we can’t hear. Without you telling us we won’t know. We want to publish your stories as Blogs or Vlogs, so you could write them or video them. We want to record them as pod casts and host digital storytelling sessions for you to share your stories with each other. We want to gather pictures (after all a picture paint a thousand words), music, songs, dance, poetry. We just want you to change our point of view, enrich how we currently see green spaces, we need the story of parks in Birmingham to be diverse and different, it should have equity, empathy and harmony and that is hard for us to achieve without being able to weave all your stories in to the fabric that will make it.

So in a very practical way you can share your stories by sending them to us at you can let us know you want to share your story and we can help you capture it, you can share via social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at Naturallybirmi1 or you will be able to join one of our online story telling sessions that will be advertised soon. We would love you to send us a blog that we can post on our Naturally Birmingham website, but you don’t need to be a blogger or a writer to share your story. Most of our recently publish blogs have been written by people who have never written a blog before. So please let us know if you want to share there will be more details coming soon and throughout January about how you can get involved.

Deborah Needle – Community Facilitator, Naturally Birmingham FPA Project