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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

Spring to Life client recovery outcomes

October 14th, 2018

In the last few months Spring to Life has seen some positive results reflected in our ‘Move to Recovery’ figures. Much of this has been from the stirling work carried out by our counsellors in different parts of the city. The table below describes the ‘Move to Recovery’ rate for both people over 25 years of age – through the IAPT scheme (Improving Access to psychological Therapies), and for those aged between 18 and 25 – Forward Thinking Birmingham.

The government’s defined ‘Move to Recovery’, assesses improvements in mental health well-being in the community. These are percentages of clients we supported that have “recovered” from significant psychological distress. This means that, based on standardised outcome assessment, our clients’ distress (depression and anxiety) ratings had reduced from “mild/moderate/severe” to “normal” range.

Our IAPT and FTB work has been done through a contract with the Living Well Consortium, which we are part of. It has enabled Spring to Life to make many new links with services and community projects all over the city.

If you are interested in finding out about our counselling service contact us on 07856277028 or email info@springtolife.org.


Creative and Mindfulness programme at Cars Area

October 14th, 2018

We have recently received funding from Cars Area Together (Big Local) to run a ten week well-being programme in the Cars Area, Smithswood.

Starting on the 17th of October we will run sessions at Auckland Hall (community centre). Wednesdays between 1:30 and 2:30pm will be mindfulness, and Saturdays 10:30 to 11:30 will be a mix of creative therapies.

Check out our literature below for more information of exact sessions and times and other details.

For more information contact ann@springtolife.org or call 07856277028

Spring to Life allotment 2018

October 14th, 2018

This growing season has been a busy one for our allotmenteers. With funding initally from Tesco Bags of Help, then from Heart of England Community Foundation (Harry Payne fund and Birmingham and Black Country Communities fund), we ran regular workdays at the allotment and grew a wide range of vegetables and fruits.

Our members initally took part in constructing a wooden gazebo with David Papadopoulos, our skilled and dependable Spring to Life ‘handy-man’ (also main coordinator at Highbury Orchard Community). This provided much needed shelter for the very unseasonably hot days we had during our english summer, and for the seasonably rainy days too.

Apart from our usual volunteers and participants, we made links with a large hostel housing newly arrived asylum seekers and refugees. Twice a week we took people from there to the allotment. Some people had only just been in the country for a few days or weeks, and the trips to the allotment provided a much needed relief in a quiet space in nature. Over the spring and summer we took over  100 people to the site.

People were able to take back with them harvested produce as well as positive feelings of well-being having had time to socialise, eat, have fun, get their hands in the soil, and experience peace in nature.

Aside from the allotment, participants also had the chance to visit a care farm, connect with animals and get creative with music.








Spring to Life allotment receives further funding

July 9th, 2018
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Two of our regular allotment participants having just harvested some soft fruit

We were very pleased to find out last month that Heart of England Community Foundation has approved applications for two grants to support our work at the allotment. In addition to our current Tesco Bags of Help grant, these two extra grants – Harry Payne and Birmingham and Black Countries Community Fund, will help us run two gardening sessions a week. The grants will go towards further coordination of the sessions, tools, food, and travel expenses.

Mondays will be aimed at refugees and asylum seekers. Thursdays will be for people with mental health problems.

This year we have been cultivating a range of vegetables and fruits, and have already begun harvesting some produce.

Contact us if you wish to attend.






The Unremembered Wreath Challenge at Sycamore Court

June 10th, 2018

The Sycamore Court Art for Wellbeing Group met together for three two hour ‘Unremembered Wreath’ sessions with Spring to Life artist Gillian Lever. The Art for Wellbeing group at Sycamore Court established by Sarah Blackstock (Witton Lodge Community Association Health and Wellbeing Manager www.wittonlodge.org.uk) aims to minimise the impact of a range of health issues for participating Sycamore Court residents and a number of other local people.

The first of the three ‘Unremembered Wreath’ sessions included conversation, research and the sharing of fascinating family stories about the men and women from the many lands across the Commonwealth who contributed to the war effort as workers one hundred years ago.

Many of these men and women died without recognition. The Big Ideas Company (www.big-ideas.org) provided some interesting resources for this first session and group members also fed into it with information about family members whose contributions weren’t acknowledged. The Big Ideas Company is an agency which develops and delivers projects for public participation. They specialise in projects which bring groups together and create new experiences and relationships.

As well as talking and researching the group were keen to pitch in straight away with practical ideas and as part of the first session they made ‘mini wreaths’ and then sketched out ideas for the bigger wreaths that they wanted to create for the challenge. All the group members were very committed to the project and came up with some striking and creative ideas. The second and third sessions were action packed with all group members focusing in on the task in hand but also feeling energised by the team effort and banter. Experimenting with art materials can often enable people to find new ways to express themselves and to tell their stories. This was certainly the case with ‘The Unremembered Wreath Challenge’. The group was so enthusiastic about the project that they decided to continue meeting by themselves and they have designed and produced three wreaths which they are hoping will be selected for a National ‘Unremembered Wreath Challenge’ event organised by The Big Ideas Company.

The event exhibiting their wreaths and those made by a number of other groups from around the country took place on the 17th of May at the National Army Museum in London. During the event there were performances and speeches by artists and performers from Commonwealth countries where some of the unremembered veterans came from.

Freedom to Create

June 9th, 2018

Spring to Life is co-ordinating a ‘Freedom to Live’ therapeutic activities programme with Freedom From Torture, West Midlands in 2018. The programme started off with an ‘Art for Wellbeing Calligraphy Workshop’ at Lightwoods House, Bearwood.

The session lasted for two hours and twelve or so participants took part (including two or three interpreters and the Freedom from Torture therapist Isabel). The session was held in a warm, light airy room. Being focused around a big central table, the session had something of the atmosphere of a shared meal enabling people to sit quietly focusing on their creative work or to join in with the various conversations that were sparked by the activity.

All the calligraphy ‘pieces’ were completely personal and unique and helped to generate stories and conversations very naturally. Even when verbal language ‘barriers’ exist communication through ‘making’ can be profound. During the morning people experimented with different calligraphy styles writing family names and inspirational texts in several different languages.

Participation in shared creative activities can be a valuable stepping stone towards building confidence and friendships. Whilst it is perfectly acceptable to work on artwork in silence, meaningful dialogue can start to gently unfold in the group too. Part way through the morning we enjoyed sharing refreshments from the Lightwoods House Café and then the group were keen to return to their calligraphic pieces. A gentle creative buzz continued right up until the time came for us to pack away for lunch.

Gillian Lever. March 2018

Spring gardening at St Eugenes

June 8th, 2018

For the fourth year running Spring to Life has helped the residents at St Eugenes plant up the 16 hanging baskets in their wonderful oasis atrium in Digbeth. Keen residents helped to fill and plant the baskets and look after them on a daily basis. By July they provide a colourful space for the residents and visitors to enjoy. A resident of St Eugenes said “Taking care of the plants isn’t a bother and gives a lot of pleasure”.

Fruit and Nut Village launch

June 5th, 2018

Spring to Life’s Food Forest Brum project has partnered up with Lets Grow Together to create a new initiative entitled ‘Fruit and Nut Village’. The idea is to create small networks (“villages”) of food growing sites at specific localities that will cultivate tree and other perennial food crops – primarily fruits and nuts. The first ‘village’ will be in Stirchley, South Birmingham.

The first stage of this Stirchley-based initiative will have a strong heritage focus. We are therefore being supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund (https://www.hlf.org.uk). The two year fund will help bring people together in Stirchley and surrounding areas to explore and cultivate a range of heritage varieties of fruit and nut trees, as well as species of edibles trees with historical relevance to the region. We will be growing varieties that have links with Stirchley, Birmingham or Worcestershire (as historically this is what Stirchley was part of).

The village itself will comprise a collection of growing sites which use a range of cultivation methods and approaches. Eventually, as the different sites develop, we will organise walking and cycling tours around the various projects for the public. The methods and approaches to be used include: standard orchards, forest gardens, nut groves, trained fruit trees (e.g. espaliers), and edible hedges. Within this village model there will also be at least one mother garden, which can help propagate and develop plant stock for the other sites.

We have chosen to start the first Fruit and Nut Village in Stirchley, since there are already a number of existing projects and sites that have developed tree crop cultivation. Stirchley itself is also an increasingly vibrant area with many active groups and a strong interest in local history.

Let’s Grow Together (http://letsgrowtogether.org.uk/) is a Birmingham-based organisation that carries out environmental and food growing projects in schools and communities. They have recently been involved with the Urban Orchard Project which helped to create ten community orchards across the city. We are very pleased to be working with them.







New Well-Being Programme for Women at BJC

April 4th, 2018

From March to June 2018, Spring to Life is piloting a new well-being programme for a women’s group at the Birmingham Jesus Centre in Highgate, a newly launched centre run by the Jesus Army Charitable Trust, aiming to offer friendship and help to all in the community of Birmingham.

The programme consists of Dance and Movement for Well-being workshops jointly facilitated by a Dance Therapist (Amelia Sommers) and Education Movement Therapist (Liz Wright); as well as Art for Well-being workshops, jointly facilitated by a Art Therapist (Gillian Lever) and a Clinical Psychologist (Wai-Ling Bickerton). With the varied innovative joint sessions by practitioner of different therapeutic focuses, the programme aims to enrich member’s experience and enable holistic development of self and social confidence, and a sense of improved well-being.

In addition, our team of practitioners will also support a community engagement day (Fun Day) taking place on the 2 nd April 2018, with Spring to Life’s Drumming workshop (led by Calvert), Poetry workshop (led by Kurly) and Body Awareness workshop (led by Roland), to offer the local community a great day of fun, friendship and learning about ways to enhance their well-being.

We will gather feedback from the centre coordinator and those who come to our workshops on their experience of our programme, so we can develop it further in the future.


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