Locals encouraged to improve their fitness by volunteering

nature's gym

Nature’s gym organisers Judith Simmons and Jessica Kyle and volunteer Jane Ferguson hard at work. Pic: Nature’s Gym

A Forest Hill park is to become the next focus of attention for Lewisham conservation volunteers Nature’s Gym.

The group has temporarily moved from Grove Park Nature Reserve in Baring Road, to Albion Millennium Green, in Forest Hill.

The move is a seasonal relocation. Later in the year, the group will return to Grove Park to clean the pond.

Nature’s Gym co-organiser Jess Kyle said: “Nature’s Gym isn’t a ‘real gym’.  The ‘gym’ part is the work out the volunteers get from doing nature conservation work.  Digging, cutting, raking etc. can be quite a tough work out.”

She added: “Some of the work we do is dependant on the seasons, for example no tree work during bird nesting season.  The work at Grove Park included working on the pond, and this should be done in the autumn.  We have planned a session there for later in the year.”

In Albion Millennium Green, volunteers will be cutting back overhanging vegetation from a footpath, finishing a bug hotel, weeding fruit trees and clearing bramble.

Nature’s Gym is run in partnership between Lewisham’s Council’s Nature Conservation officers and parks contractors Glendale Services.

Kyle said: “Currently a lot of our volunteers are retired. We do run sessions on a weekend once a month and we do tend to get younger people then.  Sometimes we get referrals from mental health organisations because being outside is great for your mental health.”

Volunteers are trained before sent out to work, such as how to correctly use tools and safety instructions. When volunteers are ready to begin working, groups or pairs are assigned to duties so that no one works alone.

She said: “We also make sure that there is a variety of tasks so that people can choose how much they can do.  If the work is too heavy or hard for them, we will try to find something else for them to do.”

For anyone interested in joining Nature’s Gym, simply email a completed registration form and signed volunteer code of conduct to Nature’s Gym.

At the beginning of July they will be taking part in the 3 Rivers Clean Up, with a lot of work clearing invasive species from the rivers. Towards the end of September they will be doing pond and woodland work.

Kyle said: “[Lewisham’s Nature Conservation] would not be what they are without the volunteers.  They do vital work that would not otherwise be done.”

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