Spring to Life serves people who want to grow in emotional well-being

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Mother Garden plant swap event

May 29th, 2019

Fruit and Nut Village Stirchley first year overview

May 25th, 2019

We have completed the first year of Fruit and Nut Village Stirchley. It has been a very busy one with great achievments, lessons learnt, and exciting new possiblities for growth. Here is photographic review of the year:

Last summer we held a stall at the Stirchley Funday to promote the project. We also had tasting opportunities of different heritage varieties of apples.


Our first major workday of the season was planting the first few trees in the nut grove at Hazewell park. Here we planted walnuts, and a sweet chestnut. We also carried out work developing the Kingdom Forest Garden. A total of around 70 people attended the session.
Visiting fruit and nut farmer Billy Auger – from Augernik Fruit Farm – to get advise and a generous donation of different fruit and nut trees. Of particular interest were some damascene trees (mother of the modern damson and plum), and some interesting varieties of cobnuts and filbers (‘Cosford’ and ‘Enoa’). You can meet him, and buy his own produce at Moseley Farmers market.
All tooled up and ready to go with our tree planting days.
Planting workday at Stirchley Park. Here we joined forces with the Friends of Stirchley Park to plant an orchard of very old varieties of fruit trees dating back to the 1600’s and beyond. This included a Medlar, Damascene, Old Greengage and some of the oldest varieties of apples in Britain such as the ‘Summer Pearmain’ and ‘Joanetting’.
On Christmas day a group of local people came out for an hour or so to plant an apple tree variety called the ‘Christmas Pearmain’. This was the first tree to be planted at the Ten Acres mixed orchard site.
In January we held a Wassail, an old medieval tradition of blessing the trees with singing, noise and cider in order to ensure a good harvest the following season. Over 60 people turned up to join the procession touring through different orchards within the village.
Our longest running site project is the Kingdom Forest Garden. This was initially planted about 8 years ago as an orchard by the park ranger and the Friends of Hazelwell Park. It has since developed as a forest garden (AKA a food forest), with different layers of perennial edible plants including fruit trees, soft fruit bushes, herbs, and groundcover edible plants.
An unexpected project added to Fruit and Nut Village has been the discovery and work on the ‘Lost orchard’. This is a damson orchard that was planted over 30 years ago in the Ten Acres site in Stirchley. Over the last six months we have been working with the park rangers to restore it, starting by clearing the brambles around the site. In this photo our volunteers reached the orchard after having cleared through about ten metres of brambles to get to it. This site is a valuable addition to the heritage value of Fruit and Nut Village Stirchley.
Setting up and planting a cordon of apple trees at Umberslade nursery. We planted 20 Worcestershire heritage trees. Two of each variety, mostly apples and one pear.
Planting workday at Ten Acres. The community helped plant a mixed orchard of 13 trees wich included apples, pears, plums, wild service tree and a sweet chestnut.


In collaboration with the Friends of Pebble Mill Paying Fields we planted the first layer of the The Pebble Mill Forest Garden. We had around 60 people turn up to take part. There were people from the local neighbourhood who got stuck in as well as our regular volunteers. In addition to this the Welcome Walk group (Kings Heath Action for Refugees) joined us and brought with them a group of newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers staying at a nearby hostel. Everyone worked together to plant 14 different fruit trees.
At Pebble Mill Forest Garden we planted a range of fruit trees, many of them being heritage and local. The local area around Pebble Mill has a link to the Pitmaston family heritage. Therefore we planted three pitmaston varieties: Pitmaston Russet apple, Pitmaston Pineapple apple, and a pear variety called Pitmaston Duchess.
Pictured here is Wade Muggleton, an expert in orchard growing and local heritage varieties of apples. He has a wealth of knowledge with a particular interest in Worcerstershire varieties. Late winter we paid him a visit, saw his impressive orchard, learnt a lot and came back with a large volume of scion wood of heritage varieties for grafting – Thank so much Wade!
An element of the Fruit and Nut Village model is for each village to have at least one ‘mother garden’ site. This has the purpose of growing and propagating plants to populate the rest of the village, and to grow on young saplings and newly grafted fruit trees until they are large enough to be planted out in their permanent public site. For Fruit and Nut Village Stirchley, this mother garden is Umberslade nursery. Here we have a range of young hazels, cobnuts, and filbert varieties, as well as damascenes and elders given to us. We also have grafted trees growing until they are of good size to be planted out.
A Umberslade nursery we have also carried the two bench grafting workshops.
At Umberslade Nursery we have also adopted a previously planted orchard next to the cordons, which we are now also looking after.
At different sites around the village we have carried field grafting – also know as ‘guerilla grafting’. This entails grafting fruit scion wood onto existing trees, in order to convert the original tree into a tree giving a different desired fruit. This could be pear scion wood onto hawthorn, or apple of a chosen variety onto a crab apple tree.
Success! This is a successfully grafted pear onto a Hawthorn tree, done with members of Friends of Stirchley Park. We now a have Hawthorn tree growing Marquise pear. In the following years we will be grafting other varieties of pear onto this ‘pearthorn’ tree. It is also posible to graft medlar onto hawthorn. So watch this space…





During the last year we have built an active community of people taking part and willing to help transform Stirchley into a community of permanent edible public spaces. We have been working to build communities around each of the sites that have been developed. Over the year people have learnt many new skills, learnt about the local fruit heritage, built up a valuable community around them, and have helped secure a supply of food for people in the future. Now feel free to join us during our next stage of our adventure…























Freedom to Create textiles workshop

March 24th, 2019

Spring to Life has re-commenced it’s well-being programme with Freedom from Torture titled ‘Freedom to Create’, starting with a a textiles workshop. There will be five textiles sessions creating work to celebrate Freedom From Torture West Midland’s 10th Anniversary.

For the first session participants were engaged and produced very sensitive work. They painted and printed fabric that will be used to create textile pieces in future sessions.


Reading for Well-being @ Cars Area

March 18th, 2019

Join us over three weeks of Reading for Well-being at Auckland Hall.

Starting this Thursday.

Fruit tree Grafting days with Fruit and Nut Village

March 18th, 2019

Join us at the ‘village’ to learn how to graft fruit trees. If you have have done it before, come along to help us create new tree stock of heritage varieties for our communities.

City Centre Art for Wellbeing Group with Younger Adults

February 7th, 2019


During the Autumn of 2018 Gillian Lever (Art for Wellbeing Practitioner) and Wai-Ling Bickerton (Chartered and Health Professional Council registered Clinical Psychologist) co-facilitated a series of ‘Art for Wellbeing’ group sessions for Younger  Adults at Birmingham Jesus Centre, 66 Gooch Street North, Highgate B5 6QU.

The session model was built on the Spring to Life pilot project which took place at BJC from April to June 2018 which included a community engagement day and an ‘Art for Wellbeing’ group for Women and Children.

Our vision was to offer structured group support with collaborative intervention by an Art for Wellbeing practitioner and Clinical Psychologist. The aims of the group were to improve psychological wellbeing, to increase individual group member’s social confidence and to enable verbal and non-verbal self-expression through participation in creative activities and conversation in a safe and therapeutic environment. The group facilitated individuals with diverse social and cultural backgrounds, and with different languages, to share and enjoy a time of creativity, reflection and mindful actions, even when many of them were going through highly challenging times in their lives. Within a few sessions, we witnessed the development of increased confidence expressed through their artwork, and their interactions with the group.

We were encouraged by the overwhelming positive feedback, and have learnt valuable insights into the needs and presentation of the clientele served by the BJC. We aim to run more sessions for Younger Adults in 2019. (The Young Adults we were worked with were18-25 years old, registered with a Birmingham GP and eligible for Forward Thinking Birmingham low intensity psychological therapy service, based on the initial screening assessment). Gillian Lever and Wai-Ling Bickerton January 2019.



Comedy Fundraiser for Spring to Life

January 28th, 2019

First season at Cars area

December 22nd, 2018

Funded by Cars Area Together we delivered our first well-being programme at Auckland Hall, Cars Area, located in Smithswood. On Wednesday afternoons we ran regular mindfulness sessions, while on Saturday mornings we ran a mix of Creative therapies. This included Art, African drumming, Reading for Well-being, Dance and Movement therapy, as well as a session on Stress and anxiety management – leading up to Christmas!

The process of promoting  the programme in the local community has in itself proved highly beneficial, as we created good connections with people and groups in the area.

Here are a few comments by people who took part in the programme:

“In such a short period of time, I have found myself able to recognize the healing value and benefits of connection, especially with like-minded people. For the 1st time in years, I can see a positive future for myself, full of possibilities”.

“I have learnt a lot from each session facilitator and have enjoyed all my interactions with them, and have learned a lot about myself. I have also made contacts with other attendees outside of the sessions, which is great!”.

From a regular participant of our mindfulness sessions: “Make some time for you, this will be an hour well spent. You can leave calm, relaxed and refreshed – all you need to do is sit and breathe”.

We are very pleased to announced that due to the reception to this initial programme, our funding has been extended for the new year next September 2019. Because of the lower attendance on the Saturday sessions, both Mindfulness and the Creative therapies will be on weekdays. On the next stage of the Creative therapies programme, each month will be dedicated to a single therapy running over a few weeks. Details of these to be confirmed.



Networking in Birmingham

December 21st, 2018

Aside from our well-being work, Spring to Life has been busy over the last few months building its network and making links with a range of organisations doing great work in the West Midlands. As part of this we have attended different networking events where we have exhibited our services and built new connections.

On the 10th of October (World Mental Health Day) Spring to Life attended the “Being Well Works Well” Conference organised by Common Unity. It’s aims were to “provide networking opportunities locally, regionally and nationally in respect of the well-being agenda, highlight upstream services being delivered currently under The Connecting Community Networks programme, present new and innovative approaches that seek to ensure early engagement with wellbeing support opportunities and actively promote the opportunity for improved well-being in a range of arenas”.

On the 12th of October we were invited to attend the launch of a major Social Prescribing initiative by the Witton Lodge Community Association. This provided insight into the immense possibilities of this growing trend in social prescribing. Spring to Life has previously provided well-being programmes at Witton Lodge Community Association, and is part of its vast network of groups and people doing work in the local community. Social prescribing is the practice of GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals, of referring people with physical or mental health needs to projects and activities out in the community. This may include activities such as gardening, cooking, sports or arts.

In November we attended the the iSE (Institute of Social Enterprise) launch of ‘Birmingham Social Enterprise City’ event. This was held on the 15th of November in order to coincide with national social enterprise day. Birmingham has the largest number of social enterprises in the UK outside of London, and is now officially a Social Enterprise City, being part of a national network of cities.

Finally, in November members of Food Forest Brum/Fruit and Nut Village Stirchley attended a mini-conference at Birmingham City University (BCU) concerning the vision to create the West-Midlands National park. This is a pioneering vision held and developed by Kathryn Moore, professor at BCU in Landscape Design to develop West-Midlands including its urban areas into a national park, connecting parks, allotments, other green spaces as well as the general urban environment into a National park.  As part of this there would also be the involvement of local groups and communities working on themes such as mental well-being to be part of the network that support this vision. Check out Kathryn Moore’s article about the idea: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/jun/20/welcome-to-brumbria-should-the-west-midlands-become-a-national-park.

A common theme running through these events seemed to be on exploring how we connect the individual to their wider community. The growth of the social prescribing approach, illustrates the  increasing awareness of the value that being part of our community and environment  has on our psycho-emotional health – and which in turn has a positive impact on their community and environment. Its been inspiring too see recently, even in just Birmingham alone, the number of people and groups with this goal in mind.

Fruit and Nut Village Stirchley – December Bulletin

December 17th, 2018

Fruit & Nut Village Stirchley

Bulletin – December 2018


We really kicked the project and the winter work season off well on 17th November. With over 70 people attending and work happening across several different sites at Hazelwell Park the day was busy and productive. We need to thank our caterers, The Real Junk Food Project, for coping so well with the high turnout – we’d originally told them that we expected 25 people and there were nearly three times as many! During the day we developed new growing areas in “The Kingdom Forest Garden” and mulched existing ones. There were some new plants introduced to the site and some path creation work. The nut grove planting began and we even managed to prepare some planting sites to extend “The Plymouth Run” which had had a great crop of plums earlier this year.

We were awarded £500 by Love Brum at the end of November. Thank you to all those who watched our promotional video, commented and voted for us. We plan to use this money to maintain the health of trees during the winter to set them up for a fruitful harvest in 2019 and beyond.

Billy Auger at Augernik Farm supported our work by supplying us with some heritage trees from his collection out in Shropshire. These were collected in early December and some are now already planted. The remainder will be planted over the coming months or grown-on for future use across the area in coming winters. We are very grateful to Billy for his support.

Fruit trees are often supplied “bare-rooted” when they are dormant and we are now part-way through the delivery of this year’s trees for “The Village”. We are particularly excited about the coming arrival of a local apple variety, thought to originate within the conurbation or possibly within Birmingham!

On 12th December we worked alongside The Friends of Stirchley Park and others to set up “The New Old Orchard”. A strange name?! Maybe not – the trees are young and newly-planted but the varieties selected are very old…in some cases perhaps 1000 years or more! Now, that’s heritage!

We’re planting a Christmas Tree! Well, it’s an apple tree, but we will be doing it on Christmas day and it’s a “Christmas” variety. We’d love you to join us on the day for half an hour.



Get Involved

We can use regular or occasional volunteers for all sorts of winter tasks. When trees are delivered bare-rooted we have to “heel” these in – it is a simple task but it takes time and care. Such jobs as these are great to fill a few hours and to get out on a winter day.

Advertised below are the events we will be running over the next month or so. Don’t forget to write them into your diary or calendar!

If you don’t want to come to an event before having met us then do feel free to message us on Facebook, on Twitter or by email or text. If you like we can speak on the phone before an event and give you more information about the day. The Wassail will be a light-hearted event offering a great chance to meet up with like-minded local people and enjoy a winter afternoon together. Details are below.



Partner Profile: Augernik Farm

Augernik Farm is a small family farm growing soft fruits, top fruits and nuts organically. The farm is run by Billy Auger and sells produce as pick-your-own, ready picked and also at farmers’ markets across the Midlands.

Billy has been a familiar face at Moseley Farmers’ Markets for years. He has a great deal of experience in growing heritage varieties of a wide-range of fruits and nuts. We are very proud that he is supporting our work at “Fruit & Nut Village”.



Fruit Corner: Christmas Pearmain

This Victorian apple is very seldom eaten now. Despite it’s sweet, juicy and crisp flavour it has been largely forgotten except by enthusiasts. The fruits are fairly small but the trees do crop well to make up for this. Now is a great time to celebrate the tree though, since it was first listed in 1893 and it has just celebrated its 125th year! A claim that no person can make.

At this time of year the tree’s fruit are best eaten from storage, ripening very late in the year. This must surely be why the apple was named after this season.

Let’s celebrate the Christmas Pearmain this Christmas!

Incidentally, the Christmas Pearmain is not the only apple named after this time of year.

Caring For YOUR Orchard

If you aren’t busy preparing for Christmas, or making the most of this season to have a rest, then now is a good time to prune apple and pear trees. If you haven’t learned how to do this from a book, or on a training course, or from an experienced, knowledgeable orchardist, then leave the secateurs to one side and take some time to learn the basics.

Sticking to some basic rules with fruit tree pruning will prevent blunders and disease build up in the tree.

Many people prune fruit trees to “tidy them up” or to give them a “haircut”. These approaches do not give good results. Apples and pears benefit from their framework being developed and from the remaining wood being thinned to allow good air-flow. We can help you to develop these skills on one of our pruning days. Please do join us!



Upcoming Events

23rd December 2018 – Hazelwell Park Work Day

A general care day for the trees and bushes in the park

10am – 1pm – Hazelwell Park

25th December 2018 (Christmas Day!) – Christmas Tree Planting

We are planting a heritage tree on Christmas Day with mulled cider and mince pies!

11am – 11.30am – Ten Acres – Near River Brook Drive next to the River Rea cycle path

13th January 2019 – Wassail

A fun, afternoon/evening meet-up for any age. Bring whistles, shakers, pans to hit, any noise makers. We will process along part of the River Rea cycle way between “The Lost Orchard” and the Hazelwell Park Forest Garden. Afterwards we will wind down in the local pub with mulled cider

4.30pm – 6pm – meet on Dads Lane between the chip shop and the River Rea cycle path

19th January 2019 – Winter Pruning Day

It may be cold, wet and dreary in January, but the trees NEED us. We will be carrying out winter pruning on apple and pear trees in the area. Tools provided and no skills needed – you will be taught how to prune.

10am – 3pm – Hazelwell Park

23rd January 2019 – Trained Fruit Post Erection

Join us to dig out the holes and erect the posts for a new trained cordon fruit area. We will plant the trees here on a later occasion. Please BOOK on for this by emailing or texting us. Tools provided.

10am – 3pm – Umberslade Nurseries, Umberslade Road

26th January – Mixed Orchard Planting Day

Please join us to plant this significant local orchard close to the River Rea path. Tools provided.

10am – 3pm – Ten Acres – Near River Brook Drive next to the River Rea cycle path

28th January 2019 – Winter Pruning Day

It may be cold, wet and dreary in January, but the trees NEED us. We will be carrying out winter pruning on apple and pear trees in the area. Tools provided and no skills needed – you will be taught how to prune.

10am – 3pm – Site To Be Confirmed (possibly Hazelwell Park)

3rd February 2019 – Forest Garden Planting Day

A brand new Forest Garden for the area! – why not get involved in planting it? Tools and food provided.

10am – 3pm – Pebble Mill Playing Fields, between Kitchener Road and First Avenue



Fruit & Nut Village Stirchley is supported by the National Lottery through the

Heritage Lottery Fund

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