Reducing the plastic in play May 24, 2021

For those of you who have been following the story regarding the renovation of our Shipwreck Play Area, you will remember how we have been focusing on a natural play experience, which will engage children’s imagination. With our commitment to wildlife and the environment we wanted to keep materials as green as possible, creating a green play space that reflects our values was important to us.

We were delighted when local business Envirotoy got in touch with a good deal around their plastic-free toys. They gave us a number of sets and we were so pleased with them that we bought additional sets for busy times.

Stuart Loach (Envirotoy) with the plastic-free toys by the newly created sandpit

Pictured here, Stuart Loach (Director, Envirotoy) personally delivering the plastic-free play sets. The wooden sand play sets are made from ‘planwood’ a type of moulded wood that uses left over sawdust and good for waterplay too.

Prior to the official launch, our volunteers gave the sandpit area a test run and of course, a cermonial sandcastles were made.

Members of the Garden Team give the buckets and spades a test run!

Stay in touch with our plans, by following the story on social media. You can find out more about Envirotoy here.



Good news for birdlovers and bees May 7, 2021

We’re delighted to have completed the repairs to our bird hide thanks to a Magic Little Grant of £500 and the hard work of our volunteers who did all the renovations. The grant also funded the planting of even more bee-friendly plants as part of our work in facilitating natural beekeeping methods.

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Our CEO, Gill Milburn, is retiring May 6, 2021

Gill at the helm of the recently restored wheelhouse

Our wonderful CEO Gill Milburn is retiring in September after three years of incredible service to Martineau Gardens. We will be writing more about all that Gill has achieved for Martineau Gardens soon, but wanted you to hear as soon as possible. Please give her a virtual three cheers and fist bump for leading us, the organisation, the staff and the volunteers with such diligence, kindness and strength, particularly through the pandemic. We feel very fortunate that Gill was at the helm during this time.

We are seeking an inspirational leader to join our small independent charity. The successful candidate will be someone who shares our vision and values, invites innovation and thrives on making a positive difference to the people and communities we serve.  Click here to access the application pack details.



Jobs: Chief Executive Officer April 27, 2021

Our CEO is retiring and we are seeking an inspirational leader to join our small independent charity. The successful candidate will be someone who shares our vision and values, invites innovation and thrives on making a positive difference to the people and communities we serve.  

Chief Executive Officer
Salary Scale: NJC 29 £32,910
Hours: 37.5
Location: Birmingham

Closing date: 27th May 2021
Interview date: Week commencing 9th June 2021

For more information, please download the application pack here:



We need you! Visitor Welcome Volunteers April 26, 2021

Kim, our Visitor Welcome Team member

· Do you love Martineau Gardens?

· Do you enjoy meeting people?

· Do you have a few hours to spare each week?

If the answer is  ‘Yes’, then join our Visitor Welcome Team.

To find out more you can read a description of the role here or pop into the Gardens during opening hours (Monday to Friday 10am until 4pm) and ask Kim to tell you about the role. If you’re keen, you can complete a form and make an appointment to meet with the CEO, Gill Milburn. Alternatively, send an email to [email protected] mentioning Visitor Welcome Team in the subject line.

The Visitor Welcome  Team meet, greet and  look after our visitors Mondays to Saturdays*, usually working 10am – 1pm or 1pm – 4pm Some like to do a full day. 

*Martineau Gardens is currently open Mondays to Fridays, 10am until 4pm. Roadmap permitting public opening times will be extended to include Saturdays, 10am until 4pm, from 22 May 2021



Outdoor theatre this summer April 17, 2021

If you’ve missed the theatre, then why not book a ticket to one of the two open air productions at Martineau Gardens this summer. Perfect for younger audiences, who would enjoy an informal, outdoor setting, from the comfort of their picnic rug, Little Red and the Big Bad Wolf takes place on  the Tai Chi Lawn, on Saturday 10 July, 11am with the Shipwreck Play Area open an hour earlier for BYO brunch and a play.  Then on Tuesday 17 August at 7pm, Folksy return with ‘The Tempest’, the Shipwreck deck will appropriately become the stage for the evening. Gather your friends, folding chairs and a picnic.  

Covid-secure: These are open air events, taking place after 21 June* (the time when it is anticipated that covid social restrictions will ease) our website has more details about what to expect. Advance ticket purchase is recommended to avoid disappointment for these popular shows. 

Click on the above links to read more and book!



Go Green for Outdoor Education April 12, 2021

We are delighted to hear that the Department for Education has given the green light for Educational Visits to resume from 12 April 2021.

Juliette Green, Martineau Gardens Environmental Education Officer said:

“Here at Martineau Gardens, we can’t wait to welcome back school children for Educational Visits. When pupils visit, much of their day is spent outside. Children need this outdoor provision more than ever right now – to be able to observe the natural world helps to improve wellbeing and concentration and after having been restricted for so long, we’re delighted to be able to resume our outdoor learning programme.”

She added, “The topics they study are varied, but a typical visit might include exploring the different habitats at Martineau Gardens to learn about food chains, they examine parts of plants and learn about conditions plants need to grow. Or they might take part in a minibeast safari, do some pond dipping and or even go on a ‘pirate adventure’ where they learn how to use maps and compasses and make a boat.   I can’t wait to get started again.”

School visits at Martineau Gardens resume from Tuesday 4 May 2021.

For more information, view our Schools area here  and to make a booking or an enquiry email [email protected]



Winter with the honeybees of Martineau Gardens March 8, 2021

Though winter is a time when much wildlife is hibernating or lying low, emerging for food then darting back to the safety of their abode, on a sunny day, you might notice a honeybee foraging for food. That got us thinking, what do beekeepers do over winter? We asked our volunteer beekeeper, Sam Walker, what are the main challanges are over the winter months.

What do beekeepers do over winter?

Sam explains: “Winter is less busy time, but it’s still an important time for beekeepers. Throughout the winter months, the hives must still be monitored but less invasively and less frequently, so as not to disturb the winter cluster. I’ve been visiting the hives at Martineau Gardens regularly over winter. I’m checking that the bees’ food stores are still accessible and topping them up, if needed. Honeybees prefer the the nest at a constant temperature, they achieve this by clustering together, just like King penguins huddling to keep warm!.”

Do bee’s hibernate?

A honeybee colony will hibernate but may fly if the weather is warm enough and there is food. By contrast with bumble bees and wasps, only the queen will hibernate – the workers (female) and drones (male) die out before the winter.

Is honey being produced over winter?

A honeybee colony may contain approximately 50,000 to 60,000 bees during the summer, but far fewer are needed over winter, this maybe reduced to around 10,000 bees over winter. This is the reason why honeybees store extra food. They need the extra stores to get them through the winter, so it’s important for beekeepers to ensure they have enough food. They don’t tend to make honey over winter in the UK as there isn’t the volume of plants they need to forage from to make honey.

Do honeybees forage over winter?

During mild winters the honeybees will actually use more food stores that they would in a very cold winter. If it is a mild day during the winter honeybees may be seen flying in the apiary for toilet breaks or to forage for nectar and pollen from the few winter flowering sources of food, such as ivy, gorse, hellebores, winter honeysuckle, winter heliotrope and winter jasmine and snowdrops. This website is a great and informative source of which wildflowers to expect each month. http://www.seasonalwildflowers.com

Why have you been moving slabs around in the aviary?

So along with checking food stores it’s good idea to check that hives have not fallen over in bad weather. And that no unwanted visitors have been visiting such as mice and woodpeckers. As food becomes more scarce for these animals they look for any opportunities!

Winter is also an excellent time to do any work in the apiary as there are less bees flying! I have been making a few improvements. I have lifted the hives a little more and on to longer hive stands to give me more room to work, placing slabs on the ground below the hives to try to reduce the moisture within the hives, and save my back a little. Sometimes swarms land under the hives and this will make it a lot easier to retrieve them.

In January, when Sam was re-organising the area, she moved a slab and found a neatly gathered store of cherry stones – all nibbled with a small hole – the store cupboard of a woodmouse.

honeybee photographed at Martineau Gardens in February, foraging amongst snowdrops

What are your plans for 2021 at Martineau Gardens?

The start of the year I’m checking and cleaning equipment, making repairs, and planning the coming beekeeping season based on records made from previous years. Making sure I have enough equipment and reading up on bees, there is an amazing amount of information. This winter I have been studying honeybee pests, diseases and poisonings, forming a zoom study group with other beekeepers from Birmingham Beekeepers Association. We have also started to look into honeybee Management and Behaviour which are all modules run by the British Beekeepers Association to improve the beekeepers skillset. I have also had a little go at making mead too! (A traditional alcoholic drink made by fermenting honey.)

The beekeeping season generally starts in April time but is temperature and frost dependent. Full inspections of the honeybee colonies will not take place until there has been no frosts and the daytime temperatures have reached 16ºc. There is a short period before the honeybees start to expand their nest in which you can prepare for the swarming season, and start to look for cues that the colony is about to swarm which is the natural way in which honeybees multiply to make new colonies.

Beekeeping classes

We’ve run beekeeping classes at Martineau Gardens for a number of years, sadly we had to cancel our classes planned for 2020, due to the pandemic, but we’re looking at how we can deliver these safely this year, and will be letting people know what’s possible. An area of beekeeping that is growing in interest is ‘Natural Beekeeping’ – looking after the interests of the bee population, not just keeping bees for honey. I’m attempting to combine some of these practices into my beekeeping husbandry techniques to try to have more of a Natural Beekeeping focus.

Introduction to Beekeeping at Martineau Gardens


World Book Day March 3, 2021

A World Book Day favourite – Stick Man and family

While we’re in lockdown, we’ve been misssing Stick Man fans, who regularly come to Martineau Gardens to follow our Stick Man activity trail. Our friends over at Social Farms and Gardens thought they’d bring outdoor adventure to you at home, whilst the trails (at various locations around the country) are not available.

In celebration of World Book Day, check out their special online activity videos featuring your favourite character on their  YouTube channel.

We hope to see you at Martineau Gardens soon – please keep an eye on our Covid-19 Statement here for announcements regarding re-opening in Spring 2021. We can’t wait to see you again!

And, meanwhile, watch our environmental educator, Juliette Green, making a Stick Man out of twigs and craft materials, in the woodland at Martineau Gardens, filmed on a sunny spring day in 2020:

If it feels a bit too cold to be looking for twigs for your Stick Man figure, then watch this film in which Juliette demonstrates a few indoor crafty alternatives to celebrate World Book Day 2021 (filmed in lockdown).



Good news – shelter from the storm March 1, 2021

Now the vaccine programme is well underway, we can’t wait to welcome back our volunteers as soon as lockdown provisions allow.

Therapeutic Horticulture Set to Continue

With Covid restrictions continuing into 2021 and in anticipation of frost, rain, or freezing fog, we have been considering our options for January and beyond. Gardening together on the Therapeutic Horticulture programme is a mainstay of many volunteers’ lives, and maintaining safe space indoors is key to facilitating winter work.

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