Green Gym celebrates tenth anniversary

Green Gym tenth anniversary celebration.

An update from Sara Messenger of Bradley Stoke’s Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group.

The wet weather has continued to cause issues on the reserve, although, ironically, it has yet to fill our ‘new’ pond in Bowsland Meadow and, at the other end of the reserve, much of the bottom of the lake is visible. When you can see a seagull standing in the middle of the lake, you know it’s time to consider having it de-silted again. Or maybe we just have a seagull with very, very long legs!

Swans and cygnets

Despite all of the problems we had last month, our swans Bradley and Brooke managed to hatch two cygnets and they have continued to thrive, so we are hoping that for the first time we will be able to get them ringed. This isn’t something we could do by ourselves, as we don’t have the equipment or the experience, but we are hoping that Ed Drewitt will take a short break from being a naturalist, broadcaster, tour guide, wildlife detective and author of ‘Urban Peregrines’ to show us how it’s done. We have had to remove the ramp we made for the cygnets to climb back up from the weir, as some thought it ‘fun’ to throw it in the water on a daily basis, but we have cut back the vegetation so that they can now walk up the bank instead.

Our workdays are always the first Saturday of the month, starting at 10am behind the leisure centre. No previous experience is necessary, but please wear suitable clothing and bring your own lunch, although we provide the essential tea and biscuits!

Green Gym anniversary

Our ‘Green Gym’ has turned ten years old and we celebrated in style at the home of the TBNCG’s chair David Baker and his wife Hilary. Although we had a few showers, we had a hugely enjoyable afternoon and were delighted that Jenny Darwin, who founded the group with BTCV (British Trust of Conservation Volunteers), came along to join us. Green Gym was a concept developed by Oxford GP Dr William Bird, who thought that people would benefit both mentally and physically by getting some exercise while taking part in worthwhile tasks. The first Green Gym started in 1997 and within ten years there were 55 projects running with an estimated 6,000 people taking part.

Our Green Gym has 19 members and, although not everyone can make it every week, we have achieved an enormous amount of work. In 2015, we volunteered over 1,858 hours (valued at £25,896) which was more than the Saturday group, not that I’m counting of course! But it’s not bad for a group whose average age is 58, compared to TBNCG’s 49. In 2008, BTCV were no longer able to support us with Jenny, their paid support leader, so Quentin Nichols, David Baker and myself took on the role of joint volunteer leaders and we have gone from strength to strength ever since. We run entirely unsupported financially, although our members are at least insured as, at no extra cost to them, we piggy back onto the main group’s insurance. Green Gym, unlike the Saturday group, is not limited to just working on the reserve, and so far this year we’ve also helped out Winterbourne Conservation Group and Bradley Stoke in Bloom, spent some time at Parkway North and also cleared and replanted the pond in Dewfalls Drive.

We are a very sociable group, who enjoy each other’s company while doing something useful. You don’t have to be young, or physically fit, as the premise of Green Gym is that you do what you can and then stop for tea! If you would like to come and join us, we meet behind the leisure centre every Thursday 10am to 1pm. Whether it’s just for the chance to get out of the house for a while, or to make new friends, to complete a few hours volunteering before you head off to university or you have an avid interest in wildlife or conservation, you would be most welcome to come and join us.

For further information, visit our website (, like us on Facebook (, email or phone 07497 006676.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 edition of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine, delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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