Grow and Eat

02/07/2020 at 5:03 pm | Posted in Food, Gardens, Water | Leave a comment
Tags: ,

I have been growing more fresh fruit and vegetables this year in my backyard farm in Balsall Heath. The yard is concrete, but composting all my garden and kitchen waste I have filled 20 re-used containers, as my “fields”.  Rain from the roof is diverted to a 750 litre water butt, to keep them moist.

The period of ‘virus lockdown’ has had many of us investing in growing more at home. For me that has meant using the principles of stacking and companion planting to be able to grow and eat the following; potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes, sunflowers, pak choi, cabbage, kale, watercress, broad beans, runner beans, mangetout peas, mint, thyme, sage, basil, raspberries, loganberries, strawberries and rhubarb. I have even had surplus plants and produce to give away.

Something fresh  to pick every day, as a result of my 10 minute gardening outside the back door. The front garden is down to flowering plants, to reward passers-by for walking instead of driving, and for the bees.

Thank you to all the gardeners for your efforts. Congratulations especially to ‘Moseley in Bloom’ for going online with their Open Gardens tour              John Newson


Plot holders dig deep

12/11/2018 at 2:41 pm | Posted in Gardens, Water | Leave a comment

Our nearest allotments garden site is behind Cannon Hill Park. Congratulations to the plot holders there for raising the money to sink a borehole this year, so as to access underground water. The storage tank (as pictured) is at a high point, so it will water the plots by gravity. Next summer, a huge amount of tap water will be saved in growing the fruit and veg. – and for many years to come. We all have to plan for longer droughts, due to climate change, and this is a great demonstration of planning ahead.



Too much summer

27/07/2018 at 9:58 am | Posted in Gardens, Green Spaces, Water | 1 Comment

People are asking if the drought of 7 weeks and the hot temperatures of 30 C (and more) have something to do with Climate Change. The Mediterranean-style summer in Balsall Heath has made the grass parched (see pic below) and even trees are starting to droop. The truth is that all weather is now in the context of a changed atmosphere and a warming world. This is not a theory, but a matter of measurement, so the Central England Temperature series shows  it getting warmer since the mid 20th century.

Balsall Heath is Our Planet wants the neighbourhood to adapt to the hotter summers which we must expect. BHIOP asked for and got 160 trees planted,  some now big enough to cast a useful shade, with another round of planting  expected in  the coming winter. You can propose new  trees on streets here

We are encouraging rain butts to be installed in community gardens to store water (when it falls), also talking to the Moseley Road Baths and the Old Print Works about using the rain from their roofs in the building, rather than sending it down the drains.

What ideas do people have for adapting to more frequent extreme weather ? Do let me know John Newson bhiop[at]



Let’s Enjoy our Front Gardens

05/05/2016 at 11:05 am | Posted in Gardens, Trees, Water, Wildlife | Leave a comment

In spring and summer the front gardens of Balsall Heath offer beautiful colour to our streets. So, a big thank you to all the gardeners. Sadly many houses have tarmacked or slabbed entirely, to park cars on. This adds to drainage problems because the drains cannot cope with sudden rain that no longer sinks into the ground. Without any shade the streets will get very hot, and we still remember the damage of the Birmingham Tornado which was triggered in July 2005 by the high temperatures.
Fortunately there are alternative surfaces that allow people to park their cars, but still have a surface that drains and also looks good. The Moseley Society website has provided some good advice
“The law now requires you to seek planning permission if you wish to lay impermeable driveways of more than five square metres that do not provide for the water to run to a permeable area. However you will not need planning permission if a new or replacement driveway of any size uses permeable (or porous) gravel, permeable concrete block paving or porous asphalt, or if the rainwater is directed to a lawn or border to drain naturally. The Government has produced an excellent Guide on the Permeable Surfacing of Front Gardens explaining how this can be done link here

Visit the Backyard Farm

06/07/2015 at 1:03 pm | Posted in Gardens, Recycling, Water | 1 Comment

This event is a chance to see my Backyard Farm, to learn about composting, rainwater harvesting, growing vegetables and fruit, all in a small space. I have composted all my kitchen and garden waste to make into nutritious compost that this year has grown beans, carrots, potatoes and tomatoes. It is easy to care for and easy to harvest from.
Saturday 11th July 2pm – 4pm
2pm-4pm at 32 Alder Road off Ladypool Rd Birmingham B12 8BS

Our Green Neighbourhood

15/04/2015 at 12:56 pm | Posted in Community energy, Cycling, Gardens, Home Energy saving, Recycling, Solar power, Trees, uncategorised, Walking, Water, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Good News! Funding has been granted by the Big Lottery’s Awards for All scheme to Balsall Heath Is Our Planet for its work in 2015. The aim is to support events and activities that give local people a chance to learn about all the good work and good projects which are showing the way to a more environmentally-friendly way of life for our neighbourhood. SEE, LEARN, GET INVOLVED

The programme is under deveopment, so watch this blogspace. Any suggestions or offers are very welcome
Contact me; John Newson, Development officer, Balsall Heath Is Our Planet 0121 647 1960 in office hours, or email bhiop[at]

House with no Fuel Bills

30/08/2012 at 11:12 am | Posted in Home Energy saving, Water | Leave a comment

 There will be a free open day at the Zero Carbon  House, designed by Balsall Heath architect John Christophers on Saturday 8th September.

This house stores its own heat and requires no outside fuel supply. It makes its own water, electricity and hot water. Everyone should have a look. One day all houses may be like this. There will be a chance to hear how the house has performed in two cold winters, and to talk about how to make your own house more energy efficient.

Details are at the superhome site

All are welcome. See you there

Swim Baths re-open – but at what cost?

18/04/2012 at 12:03 pm | Posted in Community energy, Water | Leave a comment

Hurrah for Moseley Road Swimming Baths , open for swimmers again in the heart of Balsall Heath.




It looks beautiful, but what a lot of hot water!  The site is a red blob on the new on line  national  Heat Map and the gas bill is really frightening. What can be done? The City Council has  prepared a Heritage Lottery application  to include replacing the boiler with a combined heat and power plant. This would make electricity and also waste heat – two fuels for the price of one.

Maybe we could reopen the water supply in the original borehole that goes down 750 feet into the rocks below and save on the water bill as well.

More details about these suggestions are at Friends of Moseley Road Baths website

The national Heat Map online tool

Energy Plan for our Neighbourhood

07/12/2011 at 4:33 pm | Posted in Community energy, Cycling, Gardens, Home Energy saving, Recycling, Solar power, Water | Leave a comment

The Energy Plan for Balsall Heath has been written. The main points are; firstly to make buildings more energy efficient. The second point is to get on with generating our own electricity from locally available sources. The third point is not using the private car so much.
Energy could also be saved by growing food, storing water and recycling wastes at neighbourhood scale.

The full version is 50 + pages, but a summary is available here.
For the full version ask me John Newson BHIOP[at]

Baths in the Future

28/07/2010 at 11:11 am | Posted in Water | Leave a comment

The glorious old swimming baths on Moseley Road has many friends. The Friends of Moseley Road Baths want to keep them in use for the future, while restoring the 100-year old architecture.
Balsall Heath Is Our Planet adds that there are great opportunities for 21st century technology to make the baths much more energy and water efficient, so keeping future running costs low and helping to justify the capital cost of their restoration.
A ‘Combined heat and power’ (CHP) plant would uses the waste heat from electricity generation – and public baths require hot water all year round. There is also a borehole under the baths that could be re-opened, so we won’t need to pay for drinking water from the mains to swim in.
For a paper on this request from John Newson
For Friends of Moseley Road Baths and photos see their website

Next Page »

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.