Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Volunteers receive award for conservation work

A VOLUNTEER group from Sonning Common has won an award.

A VOLUNTEER group from Sonning Common has won an award.

Sonning Common Green Gym was named the 2012 South-East winner in the community group category of the Green Heroes Awards run by the Conservation Volunteers.

The award was for its continuing success in attracting large numbers of volunteers to its twice-weekly work sessions at nature sites in the area.

The certificate was presented to the group at Aston Rowant Nature Reserve by Paul Forrest-Jameson, area officer for the Conservation Volunteers. Julia Booker, recruitment officer for the Green Gym, said she was “delighted” to earn recognition.

“There are a lot of conservation groups that get started and peter out but we’ve been going pretty well for 15 years now,” she said.

“We go out twice a week and the judges were impressed by that.”

Dr William Bird, who used to be based at Sonning Common Health Centre, set up the Green Gym in conjunction with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers in 1998. He wanted to use the natural environment to increase physical activity and wellbeing in patients.

It has been self-managing since its second year and there are now other green gyms across the country.

Ms Booker said: “We have about 40 volunteers and normally get 15 to 20 people turning out each time. Some people come on a Thursday, some on a Saturday and some do both.”

The group carries out projects such as hedge laying and planting, putting up fences and kissing gates, tree felling and planting. The volunteers work at sites across South Oxfordshire, including Aston Rowant Nature Reserve, Withymead Nature Reserve, Peppard Common, Sonning Common, Nettlebed Common and Temple Island Meadows.

Ms Booker said: “One of the reasons we’re successful is because we have a lot of different sites and a lot of different activities on them.

“The work keeps you fit, which is one of the aims. We tailor the tasks and make sure there’s enough for everyone to do.”

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