Special Guest takeover piece: ‘Grow with Joe’ Community Garden


The development of the Green Heart has allowed space for a Community Garden in the centre of the University campus. Currently under construction, the ‘Grow with Joe’ garden promises to be an inclusive space for relaxation, exercise and education. Part funded by the Alumni Impact Fund and Willmott Dixon, the area should be finished and planted up in time for the Green Heart Festival on the 8th June 2019.

The plans for the garden include 4 raised beds for allotment style veg plots, as well as rich flowering species for pollinators. Another feature is the heritage apple espalier, which will be planted with local Worcestershire apple varieties such as ‘William Crump’, ‘Pershore Yellow’ and ‘Pitmaston Pine Apple’.


The aim of the all organic project is to encourage students and members of the community to become interested in local food production, in a relaxed and friendly environment. Production of this type not only cuts down on the plastic packaging, air miles and pesticides involved with big agriculture, but also encourages people to eat healthy, fresh fruit and vegetables for free!

The site will be looked after by the Birmingham University Conservation Volunteers, with regular events to keep the garden maintained and productive. The plot is up by the North Gate, close to the pedestrian crossing on Pritchatts Road.

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Keep your eyes peeled for progress over the coming weeks!

Anyone interested in getting involved can email: bucv@guild.bham.ac.uk , or see the Conservation Volunteers Facebook group for details of events: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bucv.guild/

Blog post credit to: Lawrence Weston- Co-chair of conservation volunteers at University of Birmingham

Hedgehog Awareness week at UoB

The Greenheart was built with the protection of animals, such as hedgehogs, as one of the top priorities. It is a hedgehog sanctuary and supports a number of other animals such as bats and swallows.

Swift tower

Today is the final day of hedgehog awareness week, and we wanted to share with you some of the best ways to help hedgehogs in your everyday life. In recent years there has been a decline in the number of hedgehogs in rural and urban areas, so we want to do everything we can to change that.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) helps care for sick and injured hedgehogs and rehabilitated them into the wild. They have some great ideas on how to help hedgehogs, so if you want to know more, check out their website here.

If you want to help more hedgehogs – and you have a garden – one way is to offer them food. The best food to offer them is dog or cat food that is meaty, or complete cat biscuits. You should not let them drink anything other than water.

If you see a hedgehog out in the daylight, have a closer look. Hedgehogs are naturally nocturnal, and often when healthy do not come out at night. If you see a hedgehog looking like it is sunbathing, the BHPS advises that the hedgehog is in need of urgent help. To help the hedgehog, pick it up (while wearing gloves) and put it into a high sided box with a blanket at the bottom and keep it warm. You can feed it, too. Call 01584 890 801 if you ever see a hedgehog that you think might be in need of help.

There are other simple ways to help hedgehogs too, such as putting gaps in your fences (about the size of a CD case) to let the hedgehog pass through easily and covering any deep holes that might be in the garden. If you’re ever mowing the grass, always check that there are no hedgehogs before you begin.

Additionally, you can build a hedgehog home in your garden. This is especially good for spaces that do not have a lot of greenery. There are instructions here. Overbury, the construction company working on the Medical School right now have done exactly that, and have installed a hedgehog home on the site!

Image: Overbury Twitter


The Conservation Society have also been doing a lot for this week. You might have seen them around campus raising money for hedgehogs with their bake sales. Their hedgehog cupcakes are adorable!

Image: University of Birmingham Conservation Society Twitter.


Have you noticed a new feature on the Green Heart?


Swift tower

If you have visited the Green Heart recently you may have noticed a tall structure on the Green Heart towards the Pritchatts road entrance. This structure is a nesting chamber, designed to help small swifts and bats providing them with nesting opportunities.

The swift nesting chambers are fitted with cameras and will be monitored by the university. The design is for contemporary tree-hole nesting for swifts with eight nesting compartments and two bat chambers.

The idea is based on the fact that Swifts tend to nest in holes in ancient trees. With this sort of nest habitat becoming much rarer, and nesting places in eaves and gable gaps being eliminated from modern and refurbished buildings, we have worked on a concept to bring back a form of tree-hole nesting for Swifts.

The design was developed by habi-sabi (our wildlife product arm) from an original concept by Swift Conservation, supported and funded by the RSPB. Habi-Sabi are an award-winning, architect designed collection of beautiful homes for wildlife.

Habi-sabi is inspired by the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which finds beauty in nature, simplicity and humble materials. Wabi-sabi is an ancient way of understanding and living that encourages treading very lightly on the planet. The habi-sabi team has been working with wildlife experts, including Swift Conservation, the London Zoological Society (ZSL) and the RSPB, to provide support for vulnerable urban wildlife populations, primarily in the UK, though it’s uniquely designed nest boxes have been installed in Brazil, the United States, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The Green Heart is proud to be a part of creating the new swift nest places needed every year to keep the declining U.K population of birds stable.

Sustainability and the Greenheart

Tomorrow marks the end of the Guild’s Go Green Week which has really helped emphasise the importance of sustainability in the world. The Greenheart was developed with sustainability in mind, and we would like to share with you the ways in which the Greenheart can help you live a lifestyle that is friendlier to the environment.

The Lighting

Picture by @RichardsLabUOB

The lighting arrangements that keep the campus bright, beautiful and safe at night have been developed by lighting experts to minimise light pollution and energy waste. The lighting zones allow us to have as much control as possible on what is being lit up and when, allowing you to see and be safe but not in a wasteful way.

The Pavegen

Picture by @unibirmingham

We are the first university in the world to install a Pavegen – a pavement that generates electricity – into our campus. If you’ve seen phone chargers around the Greenheart, know that all the electricity used for them is off-grid; it’s all generated by the Pavegen!


Picture by @UoBsocialpolicy

A number of features of the Greenheart have actually been reused and upcycled from earlier projects on campus. The Crests are the most famous example. Previously mounted onto the Old Library that the Greenheart replaced were carved masterfully, and we knew they had to be kept. They were restored and repainted, along with a number of flagstones from the Old Library and reused, as good as new for the Greenheart.

The Wildlife

The Greenheart has been designed to be as friendly as possible for anyone that uses it. That includes people and wildlife. We have planted over 160 new trees across the span of the 12 acres, along with nesting sites and a range of wildflowers and native plants. If you’re wondering where they are, they haven’t grown yet! The Greenheart Festival is being held in the summer to allow us to celebrate the Greenheart properly when it is fully complete, when all of its plants have sprung, and the wildlife is able to enjoy it too.

The New Pavegen section of the Green Heart bridge. What is it for?

As most of you who have visited the new Green Heart by now, will notice, a specially designed paving area has been created on the Green Heart bridge near Muirhead tower. Lots of people have asked what it’s for, so this blog explains all…

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As you walk across the Pavegen system, the weight from your footsteps compresses electromagnetic generators below, producing 2 to 4 joules of off-grid electrical energy per step.

Each footstep generates between 2 to 4 joules of off-grid electricity, or up 7 watts of continuous power per person as they walk across a Pavegen walkway.

What does this mean in reality?

  • 144 steps = 1 metre of a Nissan Leaf
  • 1 x step = 1 x 3 watt LED light bulb for 1 second
  • 1 step = 6 seconds’ talk-time on an iPhone 8

So where does the power go? This power generated will power the USB ports throughout the Green Heart which are located on the majority of the benches throughout the space. Pavegen anticipate that based on the length of the walkway and an expected daily footfall of 4,000 people, that the paving will generate 17 watt-hours per day. This is sufficient power to charge up to three smartphones per day.

Another note worth mentioning is that the power generated from the paving can store energy for when there is no footfall. This means that if you are charging or powering a laptop/phone the power will not suddenly stop if there are no pedestrians on that specific area.

This Pavegen system offers an eco-friendly solution to our ever-growing need for electronic devices and is an exciting new feature on the Green Heart. If you haven’t already, come and take a closer look and generate some power of your own.

What are the different plants used in the Green Heart and why have we used them?

The plants selected in the Green heart have been specifically designed and chosen by the Landscape designer Chris Churchman. They represent two principle themes throughout the Green Heart landscape. The first relates to diversity and climate change resilience and the second concerns the promotion of native fauna and flora. These might seem like opposed philosophies but the designer felt that the Green Heart project is big enough and ambitious enough to support both in a meaningful way.

For the main University Square, there is more focus on the celebration of diversity and experimentation. Each tree is different and each has visually striking characteristics. The Cedar of Lebanon, Tulip tree and Silver Leaved Lime are all classic parkland feature trees from the Victorian era when newly discovered species were arriving in the U.K. The handkerchief tree is a nod to Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson, arguably the U-K’s pre-eminent plant hunter who discovered this tree on one of his expeditions after training at the Birmingham Botanical gardens.

The planting for the rain gardens feature two main different types of grasses. Carex testacea and Seslaria autumnals interspersed with two evergreens, Bergenia overture and Iris Foetidisima. These plants will reach their climax in the autumn and early winter when the Iris will support clusters of red berries and the leaves of the Bergenia will turn bright red. The selection of plants that exhibit orange or red foliage will complement the facades of law and the building within Chancellor’s Court.

The main lawns are mass planted with Daffodil. The use of Narcissus Ferbruary Gold and Hawera, both early flowering varieties, will welcome in the start of the Spring Term. The use of aquilegia and Allium in the rain gardens will add a wow factor to the beds in the summer term.

For the Library Square section of the Green Heart and the amphitheater there are more native based plants. The three rows of trees in the rain gardens are Crataegus crus galli or more informally known as Christ’s Crown of Thorns. A fun fact for you is that these trees will never grow any higher than seven metres but they will spread to form three clouds of foliage. The selection of low canopy was critical in maintaining the view from North Gate to Old Joe to maintain the original landscape plans. In May they will be a mass of white blossom, however look out for one particular tree which is an unintended freak. Having both white and red flowers might be symbolic of Christ’s blood.

In addition, the trees on the two flanks of the Amphitheatre are mostly natives, Field Maple, Oak, Bird Cherry, Mountain Ash, Walnut, Crab Apple, Beech, Chestnut and Lime. However, there are a few none-natives including Giant Fir and Hemlock. In addition there are ten rare trees which are being planted as a means of increasing climate change resilience.

Walnut tree

The plantings in the three rows of rain gardens are low maintenance herbaceous. They are gold’s and blues with a few hot spots of red. Species include Nepeta, Iris, Saunguisorba and Geranium. In the summer and autumn these beds will be a froth of colour. As with the beds in University Square the plantings are enriched with aquilegia and with Allium; Purple Sensation and Summer Drummer. The beds are planted with the first flowering daffodil, Narcissus ‘Rijinvelds Early Sensation’ which means that the beds should be in flower from late January.

The mounds either side of the Amphitheatre and the areas to the rear of the lodges are sown with wild flower seed which will come in to bloom in May-June.

Lastly, the slopes between the café and Muirhead will support native ivy and honeysuckle, both species that attract bees and bats. Nesting boxes will be set into the climber screen to allow birds to make the most of the insects and invertebrates that the plantings will support.



Our Five Favourite Hidden Gems on Campus

Have you ever wondered what might be hiding on the Edgbaston campus of the university? It’s awful when you know that there must be some interesting events happening but you’re just not sure when or where they are. Luckily we’re here to provide you with a neat little overview of our five favourite spots on campus and our favourite upcoming event for them. Read on to find out what’ll keep you busy this Christmas.


Lapworth Museum

R4 on Campus Map,

Monday – Friday: 10am – 5pm

Saturday and Sunday: 12 noon – 5pm

Free Entry


Our Geology museum in the heart of campus is one of the oldest specialised museums in the UK with some of the UK’s most outstanding collections of geology. If you want to see fossils that are 420 million years old, then this is the place for you.

Best Upcoming Event: Rock Choir

Lapworth Museum, Sunday 9th December 2:30 – 3:00pm –  free entry

Lapworth Museum is welcoming the UK’s largest contemporary choir – Rock Choir – into the museum to sing some fun, festive music, with festive refreshments provided! The Rock Choir is a group of fun, friendship and community spirit, combining a love of music with an active and social community. Pop down if you’re feeling like an uplifting, warming afternoon of entertainment!

Find out more about the event here

Find out more about the Rock Choir here



The Bramall

R12 on Campus Map


The Bramall’s main auditorium seats 450 people, providing a very intimate space for audience and performer. The acoustics of the hall are world-class, being designed by the same team who were involved in developing the acoustics for the Royal Opera House Muscat. They have so many events it was hard for us to just pick one, so you should really check out their website and see what your favourite is.

Best Upcoming Event: Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra Concert

The Bramall, Sunday 16th December 3:00pmtickets from £6 to £16

With music from Tchaikovsky, Khatchaturian and Shostakovich, the Philharmonic Orchestra is providing us with a very Russian, very historical set that we’re super excited to hear! While Tchaikovsky’s work reflects upon a Russian triumph over Napoleon, Shostakovich’s commemorates the early stages of the Russian Revolution. This is a powerful, historical and thought-provoking set of music.

Find out more about the event here

Find out more about the Philharmonic Orchestra here



The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

R14 on Campus Map

Monday to Friday: 10am – 5pm

Saturday & Sunday:11am – 5pm

Free Entry


The Barber Institute was founded ‘for the Study and encouragement of art and music’ by Lady Barber in 1932. They continue to live up to her vision today, and we think they’re doing a very good job of it. With many events that are open to all it makes Fine Art – a notoriously exclusive form – available to all. With regular gallery tours, events for children, workshops, talks and drawing sessions, the Barber has created an inclusive space for everyone in the community that’s interested in art.

Best Upcoming Event: Sunday Gallery Tours

The Barber, every second and fourth Sunday of the month 2:30pm – free entry

If you want to find out more about the collections in the Barber, then this is the event for you. Maybe you’re confused about where to start with Fine Art, or you have some specific questions, whatever your thoughts these tours will answer all the questions you have and more. Have an hour being taken around the gallery with experts, their wealth of knowledge at your disposal. Each tour starts at 14:30 and the meeting place is below the portrait of Lady Barber in the foyer.

Find out more about the event here



Winterbourne House and Gardens

58 Edgbaston Park Rd, Birmingham B15 2RT

November-March 10.30am – 4pm Daily

£6 Entry


If the built-up city centre is getting you down then maybe a quick escape to Winterbourne Garden is exactly what you need. This quaint Edwardian house tucked away with a 7-achre botanical garden is a little oasis of green in the centre of built-up-Birmingham. Escape into history and into nature with a relaxing day in the gardens.

Best Upcoming Event: Christmas Private Dining in the Old Kitchen

Winterbourne House, 12:00 – 2:00pm – Festive Afternoon Tea £17.95 p.p., Christmas Lunch £19.95 p.p.

The Old Kitchen in the Edwardian House at Winterbourne is open for you and whoever you wish to bring to lunch. The room will be covered with traditional Christmas decorations, and you’ll have the choice of either a wintery Afternoon Tea, or a full Christmas Lunch. There is nowhere cosier to have a Christmas meal this season. Make sure you book soon though, because we all know everyone’s pining for that lunch as close to Christmas as you can get it!

Find out more about the event here



The Greenheart

Though it’s not quite ready yet, of course we think that one of our favourite (upcoming) hidden gems on campus is of course the Greenheart. It’s a space that will be open to all, for relaxing, studying, picnicking, light jogs – whatever you see fit.

Best Upcoming Event: The Greenheart Festival

June 2019 – May 2020

For nearly a whole year we will be celebrating the opening of the Greenheart with a festival full of events so that there will be something for everyone. We want everyone to be involved, staff, students, partners and the local community, because the Greenheart really is for everyone.

Celebrations start on the weekend of the 7th June 2019, so mark it down in your calendars! All activities will be free and open to all, with a prom, performances, activities and demonstrations to name only a few. We can’t wait!

Find out more about the event here

The Green Heart Festival- We want to hear from you!


Green heart Festival

What is happening?

As many of you may notice, the Green Heart area on campus is near to completion. To celebrate this next year we will be holding a year-long festival starting from June 2019-May 2020.

The Green heart Festival will be split into four themes, aligned with the seasons:

  • Summer 2019       June, July, August                                 Celebration
  • Autumn 2019        September, October, November       Change
  • Winter 2019/20    December, January, February           Illumination
  • Spring 2020           March, April, May                                Hope

Celebrations will be kick-started with the launch weekend from 7th to 9th June 2019, with free activities, open to all. There will be a prom, performances, activities demonstrations and much more.

Why are we doing this?

We want to celebrate this new space in the form of an ambitious year-long festival which will involve students, staff, partners and the local community. With a strong link to the University’s research and education, the Festival will develop a creative and innovative experience to develop a legacy that will live beyond 2020.

The 12 acres of parkland will be a communal space for all members of the community to enjoy and will provide a unique space for entertainment, socialising and study.

How do I get involved?

We want students, academic research groups, staff and partners from across the University to put forward their proposals to deliver an event as part of this festival. It might be a one-off event, or a series.

Your bid will need to demonstrate:

  • A connection to the chosen theme; celebration, change, illumination or hope
  • How the event will be delivered in the Green Heart
  • What the objectives are
  • Who the audience is
  • How funding, if appropriate, will be sourced.

What you choose is up to you, it can be anything from a wildlife walk to a totally immersive experience. The more imaginative and creative, the better!

Tell us all the information of your event and we will work with you to make it happen as part of the Green Heart Festival. You can do this by completing the form on the intranet

How do I find out more?

You can find out more about the Green heart project through our website here: www.birmingham.ac.uk/greenheart

Or on the Intranet through searching ‘Green Heart Festival’

We also have twitter page: @uobgreenheart


Got an idea you would like to run by us first? Drop us an email at: greenheart@contacts.bham.ac.uk


World Mental Health Day 2018

Wednesday 10th October was World Mental Health Day 2018, an important date that helps raise awareness and reduce stigma for the vast amount of people that struggle with mental health issues. This can boost the confidence of those struggling and allow them to access the knowledge they need to know in order to get the help they need in a non-judgmental environment.

Professional help for those struggling with mental health issues can be a vital part of recovery. Additionally, studies are finding more lifestyle habits that tend to help or hinder someone struggling with mental illness in a more passive way. One example of this is the positive impact that green spaces can have on a person’s mental health.

With the Green Heart coming to completion in early 2019, soon the campus will have a vast, widely accessible green-space. The results of research suggest that spaces like these have a positive effect on the mental health of those living and working locally to it. These benefits include reduced stress, apathy depression and anger, which in the longer term leads to less depression and anxiety and greater well-being. Green spaces also have a therapeutic benefit to mental health, enhancing self-esteem, self-image and self-confidence.

Even just the presence of green spaces has shown a positive effect on people’s mental health. This is a real benefit of the Green Heart. It is an easy-to-access study space due to the WiFi coverage where finding a seat isn’t a problem, and even when choosing to study in the Library, Murihead Tower or Arts building, the Green Heart will still be visible to many students. Because the Green Heart will be a convenient place to be, and a central point of campus, being at the heart of campus it is almost unavoidable when travelling through the university. All frequenters of the Edgbaston campus will experience a positive effect on their mental health because of this.

If you are feeling you are suffering with mental health problems, there are plenty of methods of getting the help you need from the University. There is a Mental Health and Wellbeing drop in service from Mon-Fri in the Aston Webb, or for more personalised help please complete their online self-referral form. You can always talk to your GP about mental health too.

For urgent help, the Samaritans helpline is available 24/7 – call 116 123.

Welcome back to the Green Heart for another academic year!

As many of you know we had a gloriously hot summer which was wonderful, but here at Green Heart we had a real struggle on our hands to keep the newly planted trees alive! As a result, we had a constant rotation of watering carried out by three members of our team, each tree receiving a good 25 minute soaking both into the root and top of the soil. This was six days a week for over 12 weeks. Fortunately, all of the trees have survived and the brown canopies are at last starting to disappear.

Here’s what was happening over the summer:

  1. The café and its embankments were 90% completed and clad. This has formed the link from the North of the site to our new bridge. Works are now ongoing to handrails and final walkway finishes.
  2. We have started to install additional Wi-Fi and information totems which will enhance the experience and use of Green Heart for the students. This will mean that students can study freely on the Green Heart as Wi-Fi will be easy and accessible for all.
  3. In addition to this, off-site we have been working hard to acquire the planting for the autumn. Specialist plants have been sourced from Europe and are currently in greenhouses either in Holland or South Wales.
  4. We have repaved the area outside Muirhead Tower and Arts, bringing it together with the Green Heart.
  5. The rill water feature next to the new Teaching and Learning building site has all been cast and the infrastructure of the pump room constructed. Once completed it will provide a link between the new building and Green Heart. https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/university/building/teaching-and-learning-building.aspx

Now term has started, the amphitheatre has been carved in its raw state which can be viewed from Muirhead Tower. This shows how the site will be shaped to accommodate the exciting live shows on library square when the lawn is completed!

Here from Green Heart, we hope you have had a lovely summer and we hope you stay tuned for more exciting updates this upcoming year!