There are lots of reasons to be optimistic over city’s ecology in 2010, finds Jo Ind.
The past year has been one of turmoil and recession in the economy but in the arguably more important area of the ecology of Birmingham it has been all green shoots and maturing forests.
There is every reason to be optimistic about 2010 as far as the city’s green spaces are concerned.
With otters returning to Birmingham and wild orchids growing on a number of sites, 2009 was the year in which the city was ranked fourth in a national league table for wildlife and natural environments. In the first ever national survey of its kind, 98 per cent of Birmingham City Council controlled Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation were judged to be in favourable management.
Projects like the management of hay meadows to encourage the return of wildflowers and the return of otters to Kingfisher County Park were deemed to be highly successful.
In another boost to ecological self-esteem, 2009 was the year Sutton Park received a grant of almost £1million in recognition of its status as one of the UK’s most significant parks. Work will begin next year restoring the heathland and improving the woodland and there will be money available for better signs and displays.
Similarly good things could be on the agenda for Highbury Park in Kings Heath. Birmingham City Council is to put in a Heritage Lottery Big for it to be restored to its former horticultural glory.
Pam Smith, botanical heritage expert, says: “Highbury Park should be the jewel in the crown in terms of the city’s horticultural history. It should have the biggest orchid collection in the world.”
And as far as open spaces generally were concerned, Emma Woolf, chair of Birmingham Open Spaces Forum, was feeling optimistic. “It was a very good year for us,” she says.
In the spring, for the first time, the Open Spaces Forum, which represents people who use the city’s parks, had their say in which contractors were appointed by the city to look after them.
“It’s the first time this has happened in the country, I would guess,” says Emma. “We had a role in shaping how the new contract looked and met the potential contractors. It was the start of a three way relationship with the contractors, the council and those who use the services all working together.” This new arrangement is already bearing fruit and should bear more.
The coming year is also expected to be one in which the city’s flower beds come up roses as the Forum has just has a grant of £10,000 to help support community groups plant roses in empty flower beds.
It’s also the tenth anniversary of the year in which trees were planted across the city to mark the start of the turn of the Millennium. These woods are now maturing are due to have more trees planted in them in 2010.
Meanwhile Pam has been helping nine community groups put together bids for Big Lottery Funding to improve their green spaces and should be seeing those come to fruition in the coming year.
“There’s a lot happening,” says Pam. “It’s just a case of everyone thinking along the same lines and not letting frustration slow things down. The potential is massive.”