Category Archives: Trees

Greening Small Front Gardens

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The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has published a useful guide to greening small front gardens. A significant proportion of U.K. housing predates the arrival of the motor car; and estimates show that one-third of the 20.8m homes with front gardens have turned them into hard-standings, an area roughly equivalent to around 100 Hyde Parks.


The main cause for the increasing number is the significant rise in car ownership. The number of licensed vehicles in the U.K. in June 2019 was 38.7 million. Cars make up the majority of licensed vehicles. It is estimated that cars are on the move for just 4% of the time, otherwise being parked at home for 80% of the time and parked elsewhere for 16%. This is an enormous amount of metal sitting idly and occupying space most of the time!

The pictures show the RHS Guidance applied to a typical Sutton Coldfield Street; Highbridge Road in Wylde Green where tradional houses have had front drives paved with space for cars.

The findings also raise concerns about the potential effect the increased paving would have for floodwater run-off, making drains more likely to overflow. Reports on climate change adaptation have highlighted the increase in paved-over gardens as a danger during periods of flooding. Also paving over surfaces can intensify the urban heat island effect, potentially magnifying the effects of heatwaves in cities.

And front gardens are an incredibly valuable wildlife resource in any urban environment for example In leafy Sutton Coldfield gardens represent approximately 30% of land. So, the removal of each tree, hedge or square metre of lawn is a loss not only of the plants involved, but also for the wildlife that depends upon them for food and shelter. The U.K.’s gardens provide valuable habitat for a range of wild plants and animals including birds, mammals, amphibia and a huge variety of invertebrates.  And so the RHS guidance is timely . . especially here in the Royal Town, where late Victorian and Edwardian streets such as illustrated on Highbridge Road exude arts and craft character which greener planted front gardens can enhance. And at least for the moment pragmatically the guide doesn’t propose banishing the motor car; simply softening its impact on our environment.

Community Planning Initiatives / Langley Garden Suburb

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Langley Garden Suburb was an Eco Sutton Community Planning initiative for the Langley Sustainable Urban Extension to help make the new development greener and having a similar character to the Royal Town.

Langley SUE would be planned from the outset on garden suburb principles as a natural and green extension of existing local suburban and arts and craft forms.

The plan would be generated from what was appropriate and right for the locality rather than working backwards from artificially imposed targets for housing growth.

On this basis it should be much easier to get local support behind the approach.

Whilst the Community Development Trust (CDT) proposal also adds weight to this Community Planning narrative.

As can be seen by these images The Royal Town has at least if not more charm and character than the other cited Garden Suburbs – both existing and as proposed

The principle of development in the Green Belt has been legally determined but this does not mean that the targeted numbers and densities are appropriate or justifiable

The Royal Town should determine for itself the level and character of development that best suits the defining characteristics of the locality and seek to develop a Langley masterplan modelled on Garden Suburb characteristics

This will help better ensure the true development and integration of a sustainable community at Langley

Acorn Day happened this week

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The Eco Sutton project has taken off: working with Matthew Barker, the Park Ranger, we have collected acorns from sessile oaks and planted them with 2 schools – Maney Hill & Whitehouse Common Primaries.

Emily Norgrove has written an explanatory note about why we are planting this sort of oak tree:

“In preparation for our ‘Acorn Day’ with various primary schools in Sutton Coldfield this week, EcoSutton were treated to a very interesting talk with Matthew Barker, the ranger at Sutton Park, who told us all about the background to the restoration project in Sutton Park and about the different oaks that reside there.


Sutton Park has historically been a man made, working park; for example we encountered a saw pit where they used to cut the wood to be sent off for sale, and all of the pools in the park are also man made for various purposes. There has always been cattle grazing and coppicing was a common practice in the park.


In Holly Hurst, where the extensive work was carried out a few years ago, chopping out the holly and removing dead trees, this area is now rejuvenating nicely, with the appearance of more stoats and rare butterflies. However the oaks that are planted in that area are all English Oaks, which were planted around 200 years ago. They are in poor condition, partly because of the holly which was allowed to grow rampant, and partly because they are not the type of oak that would have been found in the area originally. Unfortunately the English oak is not suited to the sandy, free draining conditions that we have in this area. Sessile Oaks on the other hand, which are found mainly in the Gumslade area of the park up by Four Oaks Gate, are what would have been found originally, and are perfectly suited to the soil conditions in the park. The oaks have tended to hybridise over the years so it is hard to find a true Sessile Oak in the park,  but you can get close.


Hence Acorn Day! During this week, children from 3 Sutton Primary schools will be collecting and planting Sessile acorn oaks from the park, and looking after them for a few years before the best specimens can be selected and planted in the Holly Hurst area of the park. So their work this week will have an impact on the landscape and help towards the restoration of the park for hundreds of years to come!


Matthew also showed us some other types of Oaks; Turkey, American Red Oaks, and Pin Oaks. They all have slightly different leaves and characteristics. Because of the long, hot summer the Pin Oak which is near Wyndley Gate (the original gate to the park), should give us a fantastic show of red leaves this year; in a couple of weeks go straight ahead as you cross the ford, and the oak is labelled up on the right, whose leaves are more pointed than we would normally recognise as an oak.

An extremely interesting visit and great background to the environmental situation in Sutton Park”

On Friday we will be planting more acorns with Boldmere Infants School.

And here is a photo of one of the trees Matthew showed us.

A sessile oak from Sutton Park


Announcing ‘Acorn Day 2018’

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Eco Sutton has responded to the Sutton Park Rangers plea for more sessile oaks to be grown.

We have been contacting schools to see who would like to join in this project.

The first to respond was Boldmere Infants.  Come September they will walk down to the visitor centre; pick up acorns and then, back at school, will plant then in pots.  When the baby oak trees have grown to one metre tall they will be re-planted in the park to maintain the stock of hardwood trees.

Anyone who wants to join this project can email the John Heywood:

The project is open to everyone: schools scouts, cubs, individuals- in fact just anyone.

A leaf from the tree we will plant