Modernising our governance structure October 21, 2020

This year’s AGM will be held on Saturday 24th October 2020, and in line with government guidelines the number of attendees must be restricted. The Annual Report and accounts will be published on our website on Monday 26th October here, alternatively we would be happy to send copies by email or post for those that would require them. 

The original governance documents from 2001 have served Martineau Gardens well, but with the onset of the challenges posed by Covid-19 and the Companies Act legislation, the Trustees have looked closely at how we can continue to provide organisational oversight whilst preparing the charity for the future. Clearly communications must be maintained in these uncertain times when in-person meetings may not always be safe or practicable. For many, Zoom and Teams meetings have become the norm, but digital meetings are not prescribed and accommodated under our existing Articles of Association and should be. It was therefore decided by the Trustees that we should modernise and attempt to future-proof our governance documents, to incorporate digital communications as allowed for under the 2006 Companies Act and the Charities Act 2011.

As part of this wide ranging review Trustees have also addressed the need to restructure the membership. This will acknowledge and retain, as Honorary Members, individuals who have guided the organisation over a long period of time, showing dedication and excellent service to achieving our charitable objectives. Existing Friends of Martineau Gardens and current volunteers will, of course, be eligible to apply for affiliate Membership, and in doing so continue to influence decision-making and the future direction of the charity. The Trustee/Directors will be given adequate authorities to continue to manage and guide the charity into the now uncertain future.

We look forward to the time when we can safely welcome everyone back to Martineau Gardens. In the interim, we are thankful for the community backing that has enabled us to continue our work in support of our volunteers.  

Peter Townley awarded MBE October 21, 2020

Peter Townley, Trustee for Martineau Gardens

Following swiftly after Martineau Gardens received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, Her Majesty the Queen has awarded our Trustee Peter Townley an MBE for outstanding service to people with disability and the general community of the West Midlands. Peter was appointed to our Board of Trustees in October 2019, following eight months of contributions to Trustees meetings.

For more than 38 years, he has worked in a voluntary capacity, as a Trustee and Director, supporting several physical and mental disability charities across the West Midlands.

Gill Milburn, CEO Martineau Gardens said: “We were so pleased when Peter decided to support Martineau Gardens by becoming a Trustee, bringing his wealth of knowledge and experience to support us. It has been a pleasure to witness his dedication to our community cause and to now see him recognised by The Queen for his efforts.”

The appointment is effective immediately with the formal investiture ceremony by Her Majesty set to follow in the Spring (Covid 19 permitting).

Gardening together – a lifeline October 16, 2020

The Covid-19 crisis has challenged us all in ways beyond what we could have imagined. For people with existing mental health conditions, many are experiencing greater depths of social isolation than before. Gill Milburn, CEO for Martineau Gardens said: “For some volunteers on the therapeutic horticulture project, gardening together, week in, week out can be a lifeline that gives purpose to one’s life and provides the support they need to stay healthy.” When lockdown began, the future of the project was challenged as government guidelines meant that the volunteers were unable to attend the gardens for five weeks. Seven months later, we are still weathering the storm but as reported previously, we received funding from the Heart of England Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Resilience Fund enabling the therapeutic horticulture project to continue. This has been further strengthened by a grant award from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund. Some of our more vulnerable volunteers have not yet been able to return and so we stay in touch with them to keep them connected with the Gardens.

Wildlife News October 15, 2020

Our wildlife volunteers have been busy — not only have they weeded the pond, but their regular wildlife surveys have identified our 400th species of moth, and two new fungi.

Pond story

Moth story

Fungi story

Green Flag Award October 14, 2020

Congratulations are in order, for all our volunteers. Once again, for the eleventh consecutive year, Martineau Gardens has been awarded a Community Green Flag Award.

The Green Flag Award scheme, managed by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy under licence from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, recognises and rewards well-managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for their management across the United Kingdom and around the world.

Martineau Gardens is one of more than 2,000 sites across the country to collect the award for 2020.

Tim Bruton, Trustee for Martineau Gardens, said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive a Green Flag Award for the eleventh year running. 2020 has been a year of challenges for us all. Lockdown restrictions at the start of the gardening year made the future uncertain – but once restrictions eased, we were overwhelmed with the support of our volunteers who have worked hard ever since then to care for this precious green community space. This award is a tribute to their dedication and hard work.”   

Commenting on Martineau Gardens’ success, Keep Britain Tidy Chief Executive Allison Ogden-Newton OBE said: “This year, more than ever, our parks and green spaces have been a lifeline and we know that millions of people have used them to relax, meet friends, exercise or simply escape for a short time.”

Thanks to the grants from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund and the Heart of England Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Resilience Fund, Martineau Gardens has been able to restart the Therapeutic Horticulture project which supports people from across Birmingham, in managing their mental health to improve wellbeing through the practice of gardening. Referred to as ‘volunteers’, many of the participants are vulnerable, social isolated and living with long-term mental health issues.

When lockdown began, government guidelines meant that the volunteers were unable to attend the gardens. For many, their regular visits to the gardens had become a ‘lifeline’ which provided the mental support they needed to keep healthy. The funding has meant that protective equipment has been bought and additional Therapeutic Horticulture staff have been employed to ensure volunteers are gardening safely in socially distanced pairs.   

Fungi forays October 12, 2020

October is an ideal month for fungi forays: a chance to walk around your local green wooded space, looking for mushrooms and toadstools- on the forest floor or on trees. Here at Martineau Gardens, our volunteer wildlife recorders, Andrew and Brian, have been identifying the different species of fungi at Martineau Gardens for nearly 20 years. Nearly 50 species have been identified since records began – here’s a selection of old and new sightings all seen at the Gardens.

Good for wellbeing

The majority of fungi are beneficial to the environment, returning dead material to the soil in a form in which it can be reused and helping plants absorb water and nutrients not to mention the joy they can bring on an afternoon autumnal walk. Here’s Ali McKernan (The FUNgi Guy) with five reasons why fungi forays are good for wellbeing.

With this in mind, we’re inviting you to share your fungi photographs with Martineau Gardens via twitter, facebook and instagram – use the hashtag #MartineauFungiForays

There are lots of resources online to help you identify the fungus you find – this downloadable identification chart from the British Mycological Society will get you off to a good start.

Note: whilst the majority of fungi are not harmful, some species are extremely poisonous. Never eat any fungi you find unless you are 100% certain about their identity. Enjoy their fleeting beauty in situ where you find them and share your photos on social media #MartineauFungiForays

World Mental Health Day 2020 October 7, 2020

The Covid-19 crisis has challenged us all in ways beyond what we could have imagined – and for people with existing mental health conditions, many are experiencing greater depths of social isolation than before.

This Saturday 10 October 2020 is #WorldMentalHealthDay – an opportunity for us all to check in on our own mental health. At Martineau Gardens we support people with mental health issues through therapeutic horticulture.

Gill Milburn, CEO for Martineau Gardens said: “For some volunteers on the therapeutic horticulture project, gardening together, week in, week out can be a lifeline that gives purpose to one’s life and provides the mental support they needed to keep healthy.”

But when lockdown began, the future of the project was challenged, government guidelines meant that the volunteers were unable to attend the gardens. The temporary closure of our gates meant we also lost a vital income stream that events and public visits generated.

Our thanks to

Seven months later, we are still weathering the storm but are able to report that the therapeutic horticulture project has been able to continue. We are grateful to have been awarded significant grants from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund and the Heart of England Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Resilience Fund. The funding has meant that protective equipment has been bought and additional therapeutic horticulture staff have been employed to ensure volunteers are gardening safely in socially distanced pairs. 

We are also appreciative of the long-term support of our corporate partners:

Jo Malone London    Nicholls Brimble Bhol Solicitors   Co-op


If you’re going through a tough time, there is 24 hour help available, from the Samaritans:

Telephone: 116 123 (24 hours a day, free to call)

The Samaritans provide confidential, non-judgemental emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those that could lead to suicide. You can phone, email, write a letter or in most cases talk to someone face to face.

Thank you for … voting for us! October 7, 2020

We’re delighted to announce that we have been awarded £5k in the Persimmon Homes’ Building Futures – whilst we didn’t win the top prize, we are overwhelmed with all the support shown by you, our supporters, regularly voting on-line for Martineau Gardens and sharing the initiative with friends and colleagues.

Our plans

With our new Persimmon windfall, we plan to redevelop the play area, updating and repairing the Pirate Shipwreck area to enhance the natural play experience. We’ll restore the popular Wheelhouse, improve the sandpit and furnish with eco-friendly play equipment – the refurbishment will be in keeping with our commitment to consider the environment and wildlife in all we do. The winter months are an ideal time to begin this work.

However, this is only the start of the redevelopment. The grassed surface area of the play area will always be problematic – bare and bald in summer and muddy and frequently awash in winter. There is a seam of clay and rubble below the surface, left over from the days when this was the recreation area for the trainee teachers attending the Martineau Teaching Centre, (see Our History: the current play area housed a tennis court and our pavilion was its sports pavilion). To ensure our redevelopment is sustainable, we need more funds to invest in proper drainage.

Share your views

You can help us with our plans by filling out our survey on-line here:

Connecting Birmingham children and nature … our future

The pandemic has reduced many aspects of our lives –  here at Martineau Gardens we’re striving to help children reconnect to the natural world. Over lockdown and the subsequent months, we’ve been delivering on-line events and activities to help families get close to the nature on their doorstep, as part of their daily exercise. As we look with hope to the future, we are gradually returning visitor to the Gardens after our temporary closure (see Mondays at Martineau), and with the reopening of schools we’re looking forward to welcoming school visits back.

Education at Martineau Gardens

Environmental education has always been important at Martineau Gardens. Hundreds of school children have made visits to Martineau Gardens – our education officer delivers taught sessions which encourage children to explore diverse habitats and hunt for invertebrates; learn about the natural world and wildlife; discover where food comes from (and how good it tastes) in the vegetable plots and orchard; understand the important role of bees and butterflies in pollination and generally have fun while learning. Primary school children on educational visits have enjoyed playing in our shipwreck play area during their lunch break.

Family activities

Martineau Gardens is a safe and an inclusive space that offers play without cost, within an area of extreme economic disparity. We all know you’re never too young to benefit from time spent outside – our play area at Martineau Gardens has been a well-used, much loved area providing opportunity for children to engage their imagination and improve their wellbeing at the same time. Using the natural landscape and features of the Gardens in play, whether it’s hide and seek, sandpit constructions, picnics or pirate fun – families connect with nature and each other. Our family activities during the school holidays feature environmental play and crafts, introducing them to the wonder of outdoor adventure. We look forward to the time when we can welcome back our family visitors.

About the prize

Persimmon Homes, with the support of Team GB, gave away over £1 million in 2020 to help projects for young people aged under 18 across England, Wales and Scotland. Martineau Gardens was one of the 87 finalists to win £5,000 – thank you to everyone who voted for us.

Moths – our 400th species is identified October 5, 2020

Part of our work in looking after the wildlife Martineau Gardens is to record what species visit this urban oasis. Wildlife Volunteers Andrew Curran and Brian Perry are responsible for most of our wildlife records and for many years they have carried out weekly moth trappings. They were delighted to report recently, that the 400th moth species to visit Martineau Gardens has now been recorded – it’s quite breathtaking as Andrew Curran’s image below, shows: the Ruby Tiger Moth.

Ruby Tiger Moth at Martineau Gardens – photo credit: A Curran

Our moth trap is a light-box contained within wood – it’s put out in the evening, under the Pavilion canopy –  the light attracts the moths and some fly in. The box is filled with cardboard egg boxes providing dark nooks and crannies where moths can hide. The moths settle. The next morning, our wildlife surveyors inspect the egg trays, record what has been found and the moths are then released unharmed. Thanks to their diligence, the Gardens now have an impressive list of different moths species identified.

Find out more about Moths at Martineau Gardens here.

Pond news September 30, 2020

Our wildlife pond is home to a wide variety of life from beetles and pondsnails, to dragonflies and damselflies. Amphibians that are regulalry seen include frogs, toads and smooth newts.  Once a year, our wildlife volunteers ‘weed the pond’, removing all the excess vegetation that has grown up. Water lily, yellow iris, water mint and greater spearwort (a large buttercup) are thinned out. Pictured here, Brian and Andrew at work – the vegetation gets left beside the pond to let any aquatic insects return.

Our thanks to Andrew and Brian who undertake this conservation task every year
for the Gardens