Birder's Paradise: A Tree Guide for Hanley Park

At the very end of October, Birder's Paradise revisited Hanley Park to present the work which came from our initial visits. A Tree Guide For Hanley Park was inspired by our time there and talking to park visitors and the staff who maintain the urban greenspace.

Looking at the survey with Tom Pine- park liason officer
We were given access to the recent tree survey that was carried out to look at the species and condition of the trees in the park, some of the species were described as "eccentric" because of where and why they were planted- these were just that little bit out of place and very different to the original Thomas Moreton planting scheme. Find out more about the research we did on Anna's blog
One of the 'eccentrics' labelled as unkown, we shared the image on Facebook
and a friend who is a tree surgeon correctly identified it as "Brewer's Spruce: picea Breweriana"
a rare native of western USA

We spent a good few hours looking round the park at all the species identified on the survey and developed the idea of a tour for people to use to explore the park. We selected trees of different species and then gave them an alternative "Birder's" name based on what either the name of the appearance of the tree suggested to us, we then tagged the trees in the park with professionally produced arboricultural engraved tags, giving the latin, common, and Birder's name for the tree. The Guide is available either as A4 printed leaflet; from staff in the park, or you can download a printable/browsable version here

The tree guide is only a small representation of all the different species in Hanley Park and we would say that it is well worth an explore of the whole site.

Birder's Paradise is a project by artists Anna Francis and Andrew Branscombe, to explore and celebrate urban nature commissioned by Appetite Stoke:

Appetite is part of the Creative People and Places programme and is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.  
Appetite is led by the New Vic Theatre in partnership with B Arts, Brighter Futures, Partners in Creative Learning and Staffordshire University. Appetite is also supported by Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Birder's Paradise: Caravan Update

It has been quite a while since I began work on the Mobile Lab, and truth be told for a few months little happened with the carvan.

However over the last couple of weeks some major progress has been made.

I completed stripping out the interior of the caravan, of all the unnecessary items- which included the shower and toilet unit, which turns out was completely rotten anyway.

Two weeks ago I traced back the source of the damp walls to some badly deteriorated panel seal on the outside. The repairs entailed digging out as best as possible the old flexible putty, and replacing with new flexible sealant. While doing this I found that the seal where the old TV aerial was fixed was also rotten and this was another thing to be removed. The van is now with any luck rain proof.

The next stage was to sort out the painting of the exterior in the customised camouflage paint job. To do this we commissioned spray specialists Malarky and Goldpeg to design and produce the work. I removed the windows of the van, most of them will be replaced with slit panels for bird watching and they would have only got in the way of the paintwork.

Following an afternoons hard graft the paintwork was complete and personally I think all caravans should sport similar paint jobs. The last remaining part of the painting will be to add the Birder's Paradise logo to the van walls.

While the painting was happening I got on with beginning the refit of the interior, the floor which was previously covered with slightly grubby brown carpet, is now a hardwearing OSB board. The walls which weren't going to be changed much originally are now going to be covered in ply which will be functional for activities, and provide reinforcement in areas where the original wall panels have literally disintegrated from the effects of damp.
That's it for now, the next stages will be to construct the window panels, re commission the electrical and gas connections then add the book shelves, feeders and other items which will make it into a functioning bird hide and activity space. Oh and repair the two jack legs which will keep the van steady when its on site.

Mobile Lab Developments

Work has begun on developing the caravan in order to turn it into the mobile lab for the birder's paradise project.

So far the process has been relatively easy the interior equipment, a lot of which was defunct has been removed and the seat beds have been stripped out to create a wide open space at the front of the van. I have also begun removing the carpet, which as well as showing it's age was also impractical for the expected muddy boots that will end up tramping across the floor.
Water Heater, Gas Heater, and Fridge Removed
Removal of the seats/bed and carpet
Interior work in progress

Removing some of the stuff from the van has shown up a few other problems that will need remedying before the van can be used.
Several of the exterior seals have been leaking for some time causing the wall panelling to rot slightly, these will be reinforced with a new ply lining, which will also give a more shed like feel to the inside. Removing the carpets has given access to the tops of the stabiliser jacks two of which need repairing which I can now do. The exterior seals will be repaired now in readiness for a new paint job.

Shiny new cans of spray
 Getting on the roof of the van revealed several decades worth of moss, lichen and algae- as much as I like moss and lichens, it would have made the paint job a bit dodgy so this has been cleaned and degreased. 

We will be working with two other artists "Malarky and Goldpeg" to paint the external walls of the van using a custom colour chart, to produce a camouflage pattern based on the colours found in a lot of the sites we will be visiting. Last week we took delivery of the shiny new Montana spray cans and will be looking forward to seeing the results in the new year.

We also have a new logo which will adorn the van eventually.

That is about it for he moment, new developments will take place over christmas and early next year, so here's a few more internal shots of creative destruction.

Birder's Paradise: Mobile Lab: First Day

Today I have embarked on a new project with Anna Francis under the title of "Birder's Paradise", the first part of this project is to develop a mobile lab/birdhide. The project is funded through Appetite's Kitchen programme,

So to start off we have acquired a 1986 Swift Corniche touring caravan, which over the winter will become a fully functioning mobile space for experiments, observations and engagements.

Currently the caravan is fully furnished; with a lot of stuff that doesn't work. Fridge, Heater, Shower, Toilet. Therefore all of this is going to get stripped out.

 In place of the usual caravan interior we will install all the things we will need to carryout the project on the move. A library of reference books, observation windows for using binoculars, moveable seating to create a more flexible space, generator power, and wifi connectivity.

Our hope is to be able to tour to various sites around stoke-on-trent and gather information about, habitats, users of particular spaces, opinions and ideas. At the same time we will also be making artistic responses to the sites we select.
Plans for the caravan conversion

An example of one type of site we will be visiting

The majority of the materials will be reclaimed 
The initial work will take place at the historic Spode factory site in Stoke Town, and may be a possible site for a test run in the new year. As well as being an excellent working space for this type of project, there is a host of materials that could be used to help with the conversion.