Balsall Heath: new gardening project to bring back nature

Press release
Friends of the Earth and The Co-operative Bank have joined forces to breathe life back into 1,000 nature-deprived spaces across the country, including in Balsall Heath in Birmingham
  Published:  23 Nov 2023    |      3 minute read


  • A new ‘Postcode Gardener’ will work with Fruit & Nut Village and the local community to green the area and create new spaces to grow food and share gardening skills

Balsall Heath in Birmingham is set to gain a new ‘Postcode Gardener’ who will work with local people to encourage nature back into the area and support both wildlife and communities to thrive.

Sally Jones, who lives in Balsall Heath, has recently been appointed to the role as part of a nationwide scheme being rolled out by Friends of the Earth and The Co-operative Bank, which seeks to rejuvenate 1,000 neglected spaces across the country and bring communities with little access to nature closer to the health and wellbeing benefits it can provide.

Ms Jones will support the work of local charity, Fruit & Nut Village, which already manages more than 45 growing spaces across three Birmingham neighbourhoods, including Balsall Heath. Where Fruit & Nut Village typically cultivates orchards and forest gardens, it’s hoped the new Postcode Gardener will help to breathe life back into smaller, more easily accessible patches of land, including path edges, street corners and tree pits.

Sally Jones, Postcode Gardener for Balsall Heath, said:

“I love living in Balsall Heath and I’m really excited to get stuck in and work with people locally to make it a more beautiful place to be. I hope the Postcode Gardener scheme will help to empower people in the local community to take ownership of their green spaces and come together to care for them.”

Much of Fruit & Nut Village’s work focuses on growing food and planting fruit trees, bushes and herbs. By bringing in a new gardener, it’s hoped they will be able to make the most of the significant interest they get from volunteers to help with projects. The new Postcode Gardener will be tasked with harnessing this enthusiasm and keeping people engaged through small but meaningful gardening activities, teaching them about edible plants and sharing gardening knowledge.

Research from Friends of the Earth shows that one in five people in England live in nature-deprived areas, including a staggering 1.5 million children under the age of 12. Moreover, people of colour are disproportionately affected by nature loss, and are nearly three times more likely to live in areas with limited access to green or wild spaces. Balsall Heath was identified as an area where the community would greatly benefit from greening activities.

By reclaiming and nurturing public areas for community growing, it’s hoped the new Postcode Gardener can help to unlock the many advantages of greener neighbourhoods. Not only do they support wildlife to flourish and thrive - providing more habitats for animals and attracting much-needed pollinators into urban areas - they also help to improve mental health and wellbeing, reduce air pollution and protect communities from the impacts of climate change.

By building Fruit & Nut Village’s capacity to expand their existing work, the new Postcode Gardener will play a vital role in bringing more local people together and fostering a sense of community.

Catherine Douglas, chief people & sustainability officer at The Co-operative Bank, said:

“We’re thrilled to be working with Friends of the Earth, taking positive steps to reverse the decline in biodiversity in communities across the UK.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the community in Balsall Heath benefit from the Postcode Gardener scheme. We hope it will create meaningful, lasting change in their community.”  

Rianna Gargiulo, Postcode Gardener programme lead at Friends of the Earth, said:

“It’s really exciting to be embedding a new Postcode Gardener in Balsall Heath – and someone who is already living in the area and familiar with the needs of the community.

“We’re thrilled to see our pioneering Postcode Gardeners programme expanding to new locations around the country with support from The Co-operative Bank, and to Balsall Heath with our local delivery partners Fruit & Nut Village. Bit by bit, we hope to rejuvenate 1,000 depleted spaces nationwide, reconnecting communities with nature and each other.

“Making Balsall Heath a little greener brings us one step closer to building the healthier, happier and more harmonious world we know to be possible.”



1. Friends of the Earth announced its new partnership with The Co-operative Bank in June. Together, they are embarking on a mission to rejuvenate 1,000 nature-deprived spaces across the country. To learn more please visit: Friends of the Earth and The Co-operative Bank join forces | June 2023

2. Friends of the Earth first launched its Postcode Gardener programme in 2018, embedding gardeners in two locations – Hackney in London and Bideford in Devon. Following the success of these pilot projects, Friends of the Earth and The Co-operative Bank are working together to roll out Postcode Gardeners at a number of new locations.

3. To read more about the Postcode Gardeners scheme, please visit: Planting more Postcode Gardeners to create greener streets