Martineau Gardens are a green delight in Birmingham
Jul 30 2010 By Sophie Cross
Sophie Cross finds a green oasis hidden deep in the heart of Birmingham.
With its wildflower meadows, orchard and woodland, the peaceful surroundings of Martineau Gardens are easily one of Birmingham’s best-kept secrets.
Nestled just two miles away from the city centre, Edgbaston’s hidden green oasis is teeming with wildlife and much-loved by those in the know.
Now the 2.5-acre attraction has been recognised as one of the best community-run green spaces in the country as it has won a prestigious Green Pennant Award. And Caroline Hutton, director of Martineau Gardens, agrees that community was at the heart of everything about the tranquil environment.
“For years we have been talking about how we wanted to be a good place for wildlife and for people to visit – somewhere which is educational, therapeutic and beautiful,” she says. “Going for the Green Pennant was about taking some stock of what we had managed to make this as a place. Now we want to keep the feel of it as a secret garden, but to invite more people to discover it.”
Boasting trees and shrubs from all over the world, Martineau Gardens’ variety of organically maintained land is deemed a site of local importance for nature conservation (SLINC).
Its orchard alone has more than 30 different varieties of fruit tree – from apple, damson and pear to fig, cherry and mulberry – and these, coupled with the many goodies grown in the vegetable plot, are used to make delicious chutneys and jams which can then be bought by visitors. The gardens also host courses in beekeeping, herbal medicine and clay and lime rendering for those looking to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.
“We’ve just had an earth oven built as part of an upcoming course,” addesCaroline. “On top there’s a dome made of clay dug out from the gardens, mixed with straw and sand. When that’s dried we hope to be able to bake bread and roast vegetables grown in the garden. There’s something about making food when you’ve built the fire that’s magical.”
As a community garden, its volunteers include local residents, children and people with mental health issues or learning difficulties, who all get stuck in as equals.
Caroline adds: “This award is a tribute to the dedication of our volunteers who work hard to keep the gardens a beautiful and tranquil spot for Birmingham people to come and relax in.”
Green Pennant Awards form part of the Green Flag Award scheme, managed by a consortium of Keep Britain Tidy, BTCV and GreenSpace.
Green spaces are judged against criteria including how welcoming, safe, clean and sustainable they are.
Conservation, heritage and how much the local community gets involved were also factors that bagged Martineau Gardens the status.
This year a record 1,200 Green Flags and Green Pennants were handed out across the UK, many of which are green spaces managed by community or voluntary groups. The Green Flag Award Scheme’s vision is that by 2020, 50 per cent of the green spaces in England and Wales will be of Green Flag standard.
Paul Todd, who manages the scheme, said: “As the recession bites and people look closer to home to enjoy the outdoors, the provision of high-quality, free open spaces is particularly important.”
Martineau Gardens, 27 Priory Road, Edgbaston, is free to the public and open from Monday to Saturday, 10am-4pm. For more information about the gardens or courses see
* www.martineau-gardens.org.uk or call 0121 440 7430