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Last Updated: Friday, 29 October, 2004, 05:46 GMT 06:46 UK
Working out in the Green Gym
By Alison Freeman
BBC News Online, London

Warming up at the Green Gym
After the warm up gym members are instructed how to use tools
Running on a treadmill in a hot sweaty room in the name of exercise may not be everybody's idea of fun.

So a project which gets people outdoors to keep fit as well as carrying out work which benefits the community is attracting attention.

The Green Gym, run by environmental group British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV), takes on projects in green spaces that its members can get stuck in to.

And it is not just volunteers who join. Doctors and other organisations refer people to the gym to help improve their health, lose weight or to recuperate.

One successful Green Gym is run in partnership with the council in the London Borough of Lewisham.

And as well as building up a base of about 25 people who attend the weekly sessions, it helped the council to scoop the bronze award in the Britain in Bloom competition last month.

Mark Beech, 44, used to run his own business repairing and spraying commercial vehicles but suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2001.

Mark Beech
Mark Beech was sent to the green gym to build up his stamina
Rehab UK, an organisation which helps people with brain injuries get back into the work place, recommended the Green Gym, which takes place in the borough every week.

He said: "They recommended I join the gym as a stamina builder and to test out my physical capabilities.

"I'm aiming to get back into full-time work. I'd like a job greenkeeping or in sports turf maintenance."

'Conservation and exercise'

Helen Stanforth, 58, from Beckenham, south-east London, saw a feature in a magazine about Green Gym and decided it was the ideal way to keep fit.

"I was looking for something to do involving conservation and exercise," she said.

"I'd given up the day job - I used to do the commute to London everyday - and was looking for something to do outdoors.

Helen Stanforth
Helen Stanforth wants to keep active after giving up work
"We work from 11am until 2pm, which suits me as a whole day might be too much.

"I'm 58, but I certainly don't feel it, I feel about 30!"

And the exercise aspect of the sessions is taken seriously with Paul Jennings, who runs the group, ensuring everyone warms up before getting down to work.

He also gives instructions on how to use equipment to ensure no-one injures themselves.

The group then sets about their task for the day - clearing a pathway in Beckenham Place Park.

Lewisham Council is keen to show that winning the Britain in Bloom award does not just mean that the area puts on a good display of hanging baskets and herbaceous boarders.

Another example of involving the community in the way their environment looks, is an unusual garden at the borough's reuse and recycle centre in New Cross.

Recycle Garden

The Recycle Garden began to take shape when staff there started cultivating a patch of grass near the entrance and livened it up with items that people had brought to the centre to throw away.

The idea proved popular with people living in the borough so a small gardening company, Blossom, which specialises in community projects, was brought in by the council to develop it further.

Materials were taken from rubbish brought to the site and each section of the garden had a theme to show which goods can be recycled.

Sarah Walsh, of Blossom, told BBC News Online: "We had such a good response from locals. We had residents visiting the centre specifically to look at the garden. It was great."

A spokesman for Lewisham Council said: "They've done a fantastic job and we've had some really nice comments from residents.

"We are trying to make it more accessible and hopefully it will encourage people to bring their rubbish already sorted so it can be recycled."




SEE ALSO:
Recycle Garden in pictures
29 Oct 04  |  In Pictures
Do we need to take more exercise?
04 May 04  |  Politics
Drinks cans turned into trees
19 Dec 03  |  Oxfordshire


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