I recently talked to Elaine Brown who is Chair of Bromley Green Gym and she told me very enthusiastically what it’s all about!
How did Green Gym come about & whose idea was it?
Green Gyms are the idea of a GP who is the vice president of The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV). In the mid 90s Dr William Bird started promoting healthy walks as an alternative to medication for depression. BTCV, which was set up in 1959, are committed to nature conservation and they use volunteers to develop their work in encouraging biodiversity in open spaces. London and the South East have the widest distribution of Green Gyms.
The Gyms support a wide range of ages, background, ethnicity, ability and experience. At Bromley our youngest volunteer is 3 and the oldest would prefer to keep his age quiet! Amongst our complement are pre-school children, students, unemployed people, part time workers, retired people, those who consider themselves physically and/or mentally challenged, and those who attend on their days off work. A number have little previous experience, while others bring a wealth of knowledge and ideas
Bromley Green Gym started in May 2013 and we became an independent group on 22nd May 2015.
What does a typical session at Green Gym entail?
Typically, we set out the tools to be used in the session before volunteers arrive, we begin with exercises to loosen and relax stiff muscles in preparation for the work, and an explanation of how to carry and safely use the tools being used. Tasks are explained and areas of work chosen. New volunteers are linked to more experienced leaders and volunteers. A short break for tea and bananas midway through then a return to tasks.
Our staples are weeding one area or other, digging with trowel, fork or spade, watering newly planted items and ensuring more established plants don’t dry out. The site always needs a tidy up so litter picking is a weekly task. Projects such as insect habitats, raised beds, leaf mould pens. seating areas, compost bins and our pergolas require design, sourcing materials, measuring, digging, sawing, nailing, mixing post crete, painting, and working as a team. Some of volunteers work on more than one site and step in to assist other Gyms.
Green Gyms offer exercise, teamwork, transferable social skills, computer skills, plant and insect identification, increased biodiversity awareness, practical skills and a sense of achievement!
What is Bromley Green Gym most proud of?
The most striking feature of Bromley’s Green Gym is its 2×5 metre insect hotel which took eight months to complete! We are very proud of it but we also have several other features to be pleased with. Our two pergolas draw the eye towards the mulberry tree at the centre of the Green, six new benches have been put into immediate public use, bird boxes to encourage nesting birds, and our two sets of raised beds. Recently new insect hotels have been received warmly by the local branch of a national chain store and are to be exhibited there.
One member of the public recently said that they thought College Slip was very peaceful when the flowers were blooming!
Where do you get your funding from?
As an independent group we are entirely reliant on raising our own funds and so far we have gained donations from The Chestnut Fund, Waitrose in Bromley and Beckenham, Big Local, Sainsbury’s and also from private sector volunteer days.