The Richmond Tree of Life Mural
Next time you drive down the A4040 Soho Road towards Birmingham City Centre look out for a large circular mosaic on the left - before the junction with Hamstead Road. Designed by artist Catherine Ryle with children from local schools the mosaic features the wildlife of an oak tree and overlooks Richmond Nature Garden.
In the mid-1980s the Urban Wildlife Group (later to become the Wildlife Trust) designed a nature garden for the site formerly occupied by 97 and 99 Soho Hill. The garden consisted of a lawn with formal ornamental planting at the front with natural woodland planting beyond a bog garden with timber walkway and small shelter. For several years the site was maintained by local residents and well used by local people and schools. However, changing circumstances led to the garden being locked up and it became an overgrown ‘secret garden’ seldom visited for a decade.
The Wildlife Trust and Groundwork Birmingham joined forces with the local community to restore Richmond Nature Garden. The site was clearered and the Youth Offending Team in Hockley repainted the gates and wrought iron fencing. Following consultation with local schools and residents, a unique shelter, large enough for a class of children, was built of seasoned oak from sustainable sources. The back of the garden remains true to the original design, with most of the mature trees retained, the path restored and a new timber walkway and bog garden constructed. Responding to ideas from local school children the front is now a cultural or ‘World’ garden. Raised beds have been constructed and plants from different countries and continents have been planted, alongside herbs and medicinal plants.
An after-school club – ‘Ground Force Kids’ – supported by the University of the First Age (UFA) has recorded the changes. With artist Karen Osborne they created slabs decorated with animal tracks, within cobbled paving around the front of the garden. A Summer School supported by UFA involved another group of young people. With Karen they designed and made a mosaic floor for the new shelter. Inspired by the World Garden, they visited the Botanical Gardens to choose 12 flowers representing the different continents. The circle of flower mosaics surrounds an image of the world.
A key concern is the long-term sustainability of the garden. Regular events are planned, and local schools, community groups and residents are encouraged to use the garden. A management committee with representatives from the local community runs the project with continuing support from the Wildlife Trust (who lease the site).
Richmond Nature Garden is in Handsworth, Birmingham, near the Soho House Museum.
For further information or to arrange a visit please contact the head office in Birmingham. Visits by arrangement.
Richmond Nature Garden, 97 Soho Road, Handsworth, Birmingham
B19 1AT (nearest)
Grid refernce: SP053892