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Tuesday, 18 December 2018
SONNING Common Green Gym has been recognised for inspiring other environmental and health groups around the country, writes Harry Borg.
Members of the health initiative were presented with the Conservation Volunteers' Special Award at a ceremony staged by the charity at the Barbican in London.
The Green Gym meets twice a week for outdoor practical activities such as planting trees, sowing meadowsm, laying hedges and establishing wildlife ponds.
It was established in 1998 by Dr William Bird, who was then a GP at Sonning Common heath centre, to benefit patients by encouraging outdoor exercise.
He enlisted the help of the Conservation Volunteers, which paid for the equipment needed.
The concept went national and there are now 130 Green Gym groups across the country.
Darren York, chief executive of the Conservation Volunteers, said: “We’re passionate about creating healthier and happier communities for everyone and Green Gym is a wonderful example of this.
“We are grateful to the team in Sonning Common for starting something very special that has made a real difference to people’s lives right across the UK.”
John Hasler, who chairs Sonning Common Green Gym, said: “People who work with us regularly improve their physical fitness, helping to prevent decline as they get older. It helps to relieve tension and stress, toughens up muscles and gives people the chance to learn new skills.”
Robert Watson is a founder member who still attends the work sessions at nature reserves, woodlands and wetlands in South Oxfordshire.
He said: “My main interest is in doing proper nature conservation with a really friendly group. Keeping fit is a bonus!”
Fellow volunteer Julia Booker said: “We really do feel it makes us both physically and mentally fitter being outside in such wonderful green spaces.
“We’ve really got the word out about the Green Gyms now and have a lot of people coming to join us every week. My daughter has even signed up to her local Green Gym in Chingford.”
Dr Bird said: “There’s no hierarchy here — be it your background, your skills, your mental health.
“Everybody can get on and come together with a common purpose — improving their wellbeing and that of the community.”
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