Category Archives: 2012 Ride for Research

Many hands make light work of tree planting at Nelson Primary

Birmingham Ride for Research 2012

Following on from the success of our 2012 Ride for Research event in Reading City, the second ride in 2012 was held in Birmingham. Organiser Russell Ball tells the story.

The rock of this ride was Pete Wharton who organised a picturesque thirty-five mile route through the leafy suburbs of Walsall and the famous ‘venetian’ canal system that threads its way through the heartland of Birmingham.

As usual, the ride risk assessment (RA) was carried out the day before. Pete, Mick Boddy and I left the Walsall Parks Depot – the start and finish point – to assess the complete route and record any potential ‘ride hazards’. Both Pete and Mick are sportive cyclists and ride bikes weighing in at least twenty grams! A cracking pace was set as we whizzed round the route and at times I struggled to keep up. However, a small victory was mine, as nearing the ride’s end along a muddy rutted canal tow-path, they both fell off their thin tyred road bikes with Pete almost taking a canal dive! Settling into my bed later that night, my legs throbbed and ached. Roll on the next day I thought, the riders are in for a scenic – yet challenging – West Midlands tour, albeit at a more sedate pace!

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All photos – credit Mick Boddy

Ride day was dry but a swirling gusty wind had stirred to test everyone’s pedal power. Thankfully, much-needed fuel was laid on by Lesley Adams in the form of scrummy fresh homemade ciabatta rolls and cinnamon buns. After the RA briefing and a few cups of tea, the fourteen strong RfR team set-off (including a group of three from Team Amey): bedecked in bright yellow RfR t-shirts. The first school, Whetstone Field Primary, was just around the corner and on arrival we ambled over to the planting site. We waited in anticipation to see the pupil’s expectant faces. Minutes later we were not to be disappointed as twenty-plus smiling children filed out and gathered round the prostrate Judas tree that was lying adjacent to its planting pit. Many riders were taken aback by the range of poems that had been produced for our visit. My unenviable job was to spark-up debate about the value of trees. Having now done a few rides, it’s hard to judge how this will turn out. But one thing’s for sure, school kids are now well-informed about such things and as Moray Simpson later added, this is very refreshing for ‘public-bashed stressed-out’ council tree officers. One pupil even knew where Anglesey was (Moray’s ‘home-town’) and duly received a prized RfR yellow t-shirt. After a lively debate it was tree planting time. A flash of hands went up as pupils waited in line for their turn with a spade. We just stood back to see the back-filling done in minutes! After some joyful photos in beaming Walsall sunshine we departed for Maney Hill Primary School.

If you can imagine a mini leafy San Francisco with countless undulating roads, you’ve got it about right. This quiet scenic route tested the pedal power of many riders. But the real crunch-factor was the gusting wind that had whipped-up. At some points, it was necessary to cycle hard even downhill just to maintain a pedestrian pace! Consequently, the yellow ‘t-shirted’ string of riders opened up. So as not to lose anyone, however, the front leading-pack would always wait: never far away.

On arrival at Maney Hill Primary School, we were ushered into the staff-room for a welcome cup of tea and a respite from the wind. Lively banter between riders about their various cycling abilities sparked-up and filled the room. Bon ami was in no short supply. Even discussion about the future 2013 RfR ride in Ireland was high on the ‘agenda’. Once again, this time around a field maple, we waited for a small group of eco-project students who had recently installed a wildlife pond. As before, the pupil Q&A session centred on tree benefits and I asked Tom Wilson (Barcham Trees) to estimate how high the tree would be in twenty years, when the pupils had produced children of their own. An estimation was made with a stinger missile retort from one pupil who piped-up “I’m not going to have children”! Bang. This floored me. As Lesley later explained, such subjects should be approached ‘with caution’. Even at 50 years old, for me every day is still a school day. This time back-filling spades were not immediately to hand so what did the pupils do? Backfill by hand! The glee of handling soil and getting grubby hands was clear for all to see. In a youngster’s modern-day 99% germ-free Dettol world this is something to be valued! A quick fire RfR yellow t-shirt prize went to the pupil who’d remembered the tree species we had just planted.

Hunger stirred and we left the school to pupil’s cheers, destined for lunch at the Birmingham Botanic Gardens. En-route was a jewel! Sutton park, allegedly, the largest gated park in the UK. Once in the park, the topography levelled out and trees flanking the route provided an effective wind-break. After a few miles we left the park, rode alongside a large Slimbridge-like wildfowl filled boating-lake and headed for the Birmingham canals. This winding network, probably also unique in the UK, provided an obvious flat route for riders, punctuated with numerous bridges that posed sharp pace draining inclines and declines. Sitting on a bike, the low overhead bridges provided a challenge for some, notably the 6.2ft. high plus frame of Gareth Hare. Now riding in single file, the industrial heartland of Birmingham, mixed with new swanky flatted developments, could be appreciated either side of the canal: that with the returning gusty winds had rippling surface waves.

Finishing this canal stretch, we emerged up on street-side now a little shaken due to the tow-path cobble stones. Within a few miles we reached the Botanic Gardens for a well-earned packed-lunch and brief tour from Simon Gulliver (Curator). Refreshed and recharged, we mounted bikes again for a brief ride to the third and final school: Nelson Primary to plant a Red oak. Just a small school group again, but how they nearly blew me over with their resounding “Good afternoon and how are you?” welcome. The tree benefit Q&As went well but I fell at the final hurdle when a pupil responded that strawberries grow on trees. Arbutus flashed into my head, wires got crossed and I nodded in agreement… well I’ll be more prepared for that answer next time! Many young arms then assisted Keith Burgess to guide the oak into it’s hole and with a flurry of hands, the pit was backfilled to finish the job. This time the yellow RfR t-shirt was awarded to a chirpy young chap who’d had his birthday just days before.

Job done, with all three school trees planted, we headed back to base. To avoid the previous undulating backstreets, we rode along some busy Birmingham roads. What a contrast to the quiet canal towpaths we’d just ridden and that probably had never been fully experienced by the Brummies we were cycling past. We did have, however, a final stretch of quiet canal to ride before emerging a few miles later at the Longhorn Pub for a pint before the final hike back to base

For me, the ride met all expectations. As usual the school kids were the stars of the ride and let’s hope the planted trees live on as a lasting legacy of our pedalling-power efforts. Well done Riders one and all!!      

Many thanks again to Pete for a cracking route and for also organising the school tree planting ably assisted by Ian McDermott who took care of the Walsall tree planting. Mick Boddy’s ride organising efforts are also very much appreciated. Also thanks to Amey who took care of the tree planting in Birmingham. Special thanks to Acorn and Capita Symonds for respectively sponsoring the lunch and ride insurance. Thanks to Birmingham Botanic Gardens for being our lunch hosts. As for all events, our thanks to tree sponsors Barcham Trees.

Riders: Lesley Adams (Symbiosis), Mark Ashman (Tree Contractor), Russell Ball (Arbol EuroConsulting), Mick Boddy (Symbiosis), Keith Burgess (Amey), Gareth Hare (Lichfield Council), Jonathan Mills (Capita Symonds), Mark Postlethwaite (Amey), Ian McDermott (Walsall Council), Moray Simpson (Wrexham Council), Ellen Tune (Amey), Peter Wharton (Wharton Arboriculture) Tom Wilson (Barcham Trees) and Richard Wood (Birmingham City Council).

Russell Ball


Funding provided for Trees in the Townscape

Many will be aware of the landmark document produced by the Trees & Design Action Group (TDAG)  TREES IN THE TOWNSCAPE – A GUIDE FOR DECISION MAKERS.

Martin Kelly, TDAG Chair

Thanks to the success of the Reading Ride Fund4Trees has been able to provide much-needed funding to support a second printing of this important document. Martin Kelly, Chair of TDAG, wrote the following to Fund4Trees in thanks:

Trees in the Townscape was launched at a well-attended event at the Royal Geographical Society in June 2012. At the time our sponsorship budget limited the print version to a relatively small number of copies and it was intended that the document would then only be available as a free download on the TDAG website. Trees in the Townscape has had a very positive reception and further endorsements have been received since its launch. The printed document, in particular, has proved to be useful in promoting the 12 principles espoused and there has been a demand for further copies to be printed for wider dissemination to relevant decision makers, especially council leaders, CEOs and heads of planning. TDAG West Midlands and TDAG South-West are also planning launches for Trees in the Townscape for which the printed document will be a central feature.

As always, the TDAG membership responded very positively to a request for funds for the second print-run and TDAG was especially appreciative of the financial contribution made by the pro-active Fund4Trees with its Reading Ride for Research event in September as Trees in the Townscape provides a useful link across departments, sectors and professions to further the case for urban trees and also the case for urban tree research as part of the wider urban agenda. TDAG has a research working party and this will be contributing to analysing existing research on urban trees that is still relevant, research currently being undertaken and gaps in research to better inform the wider research agenda and also provide valuable guidance for the 2014 Urban Tree Research Conference to be chaired by Dr Mark Johnston and hosted by the ICF.

Chair Trees and Design Action Group

An online version is available for download from the TDAG website

Ride for Research arrives in Reading

By Russell Ball, Ride Leader.

Ride date: 2nd September 2012

In comparison to the inaugural ride in 2011 – when 22 riders took part – this was set to be a smaller and less hectic event being held on a Sunday, while no schools were open, instead coinciding with the Arboricultural Association’s national conference Field Day. The route was designed to be a circular tour around Reading city, avoiding the busy congested centre and taking in the quieter suburbs, and of course, the River Thames.

Russell Ball
Russell Ball providing the riders’ briefing

I awoke early on the morning of the ride to persistent misting rain: the kind that soaks through to the skin! Not good for any rider’s spirit. But as I rode to Reading University (the start & finish point) I was confident that we’d have a full-house and that again the ride would succeed in its quest to meet and greet: and plant trees! True to form all eleven riders* showed with an array of racing, mountain and hybrid bikes. After a round of introductions (from some who’d done the inaugural ride), handing out the yellow Ride for Research (RfR) t-shirts and a route briefing, we set-off to a planting date in Prospect Park with the Mayor of Reading, Jenny Rynn, who turned out to have a keen interest in Acute Oak Decline! A London Plane was duly planted. The image of Robin Helllier clutching Madam Mayor’s handbag while she tended a silver spade will stay with me for a long time!

The first tree to be planted in Reading
Riders approach the first tree to be planted in Prospect Park, Reading
Robin Hellier holding Madam Mayor's handbag while she planted a tree
Robin Hellier holding Madam Mayor’s handbag while she planted a tree

With no sign of the rain clearing, we headed off to Arthur Newbery Park where a lime tree was planted. We were greeted by a solitary Tree Warden, who was keen to talk about the very active Tree Warden Scheme that had been set up in the City only the year previous. By this time the rain had cleared and our ‘tree-gang’ of riders was installing trees with great proficiency! With stakes and ties all in place, we rode across the park and down a steep grassy hill. At the bottom, Robin stole the show again by pulling up to a halt but failing to get his feet out the pedal toe clamps and slowly pitching sideways: flat onto the floor. The tiny knee graze seemed worthy of the hearty laughter it generated.

Mayor of Reading Jenny Rynn planting the first tree of the day with the riders
Mayor of Reading Jenny Rynn planting the first tree of the day with the riders

The city is furnished with ample cycle lanes. One of these took us to the site where the Reading Festival had recently been held, and the Thames path with lush river-side gardens and flocks of brilliant white swans. Once over Caversham bridge, we entered the picturesque Christchurch Gardens for the third and final public park tree planting (this time, a copper beech) but not before a cuppa from the Wellington tea barge. By this time a small group of Tree Wardens joined us to talk about the ride, and tree research, after which we assembled around the beech for its group installation.

Riders' tea break at Christchurch Meadows
Riders’ tea break at Christchurch Meadows

The next leg followed the Thames path once again, this time under Reading bridge, and across a narrow weir. Despite many candid calls to Gabriel Hemery (our tour photographer) to wade out into the raging white water to get better shots, he sensibly declined! And rightly so! On we pressed through the suburbs of the city for a fine barbeque at the Bartletts lab and field trial station. After a tasty and well-earned lunch, Ian Barrow (Bartletts UK Manager) welcomed us and explained the research set-up. This was ably followed by Dr Glynn Percival and an extensive tour of the P&D plots: rows of trees subjected to an array of parasitic and pathogenic nasties, the trees then being brought back from the brink using state-of-the-art treatments (or at least, this is the aim). This is pioneering research aimed at helping to save our urban tree stocks of tomorrow!

Dr Glynn Percival, Barlett Tree Research Laboratory, addresses riders
Dr Glynn Percival, Barlett Tree Research Laboratory, talks to riders about cutting-edge research to ensure tree health into the future

Back in the lab Jon Banks, a fellow rider and Bartlett research technician, showed us their new dissecting stereo microscope that can provide magnifications of up to 100x¹º for examining anything from fungal spores to hairs on an aphid’s leg! We were treated to Jon’s skill of peeling back an epidermal leaf layer under high magnification using forceps to expose a hidden leaf miner. A high resolution photograph was then taken of said leaf miner’s mandibles that have true alien architecture. No wonder leaves stand little chance! A call from Rupert Taylor (Deputy Grounds Manager) at Reading University heralded our departure to meet up with the delegates attending the Arboricultural Association’s Field Day.

Ride for Research 2012 Reading City riders with some AA members at the end of the event
Ride for Research 2012 Reading City riders with some AA members at the end of the event

So the last few miles were ground out with the ride’s end in sight. To this point the ride had gone smoothly. However, with literally a few hundred metres to go, at an increasingly slow speed, Tim Moya misjudged a kerb, caught his bike and landed in a heap. Assisted to his feet he was fine, only to see Ian Haynes loose his bike chain… but we made it to the final AA Field Day tree planting, this time an Atlantic cedar!

I’ll leave the last words to Tim Moya:

“Speaking on behalf of the older and less athletic element (me) – I loved it”.

Many thanks to our Fund4Trees founding sponsors: Arbol EuroConsulting; ArborTrack; Brian G. Crane & Associates; Glendale; Institute of Chartered Foresters; TreeLife; UKI ISA Chapter; Symbiosis and the Sylva Foundation. Also to the RfR t-shirt and insurance sponsors Tree Surveys and Patrick Stileman Ltd. Special thanks to Dave Booth at Reading Council for sorting the route and making sure the tree planting went smoothly, and to Barchams for the trees.

Russell Ball, Ride Leader

Next ride October 16th in Birmingham. Register here

*The Riders

Jon Banks (Bartlett Tree Experts), Mick Boddy (Symbiosis Consulting Ltd.), David Dearsly (Tim Moya & Associates), Martin Gammie (South Oxfordshire & Vale of White Horse DC), Ian Haynes (Glendale Countryside), Robin Hellier (Epping Forest District Council), Gabriel Hemery (Sylva Foundation), Tim Moya (Tim Moya & Associates), Patrick Stileman (Patrick Stileman Ltd.) and Peter Wharton (Wharton Arboriculture Ltd.). Three Riders had deferred to the 16th October Birmingham ride. AA Conference Field Day delegates and RfR Riders planting the RfR cedar in the grounds of Reading University.

Click here for more photos

Photos of the Reading Ride for Research 2012

The Reading leg of Ride for Research 2012 was a great success. A full write up will be posted here very soon.

Meanwhile a flickr group has been set up for riders to share photos of the day. To upload photos please use this link (you will need to create a free Yahoo ID).

Well done to every rider and thanks to all our sponsors.

Birmingham RfR open to applicants

Applications are still open for riders wishing to take part in the 2012 Ride for Research in Birmingham on October 16th.

The ride is open to anyone working as a professional in forestry or arboriculture. If you don’t want to ride yourself but would like to volunteer to support the 2012 Ride for Research, please let us know how you would like to help.

To apply contact Russell Ball using the form below.