The Bromley Green Gym are now a fully constituted group, Ching Chua, secretary of the Bromley Green Gym, tells us of how the group Transformed College Green slip. Join them to celebrate their launch on the 22nd May, 2015.
It has been two years since The Conservation Volunteers started the Bromley Green Gym®. The Green Gym® is an initiative which aims to improve volunteers’ mental and physical health through practical conservation activities designed to maximise the positive benefits of working outdoors.
This volunteer-based group have been meeting every Friday (rain or shine or snow!) from 11am to 2pm at the College Green, Bromley since May 2013. The sessions are free and open to all volunteers regardless of sex, age, physical fitness or experience.
The Bromley Green Gym® have a range of volunteers including toddlers, students (16-18 year olds), older students of life (60 years and over), employed, unemployed, people with mental or physical health issues and the curious. For many of them, volunteering with the Bromley Green Gym® is their first taste of volunteering and practical environmental conservation.
The pride and joy of the College Green is the 18th century white mulberry tree, which was gifted to the town of Bromley. The flower bed around the mulberry tree was built by the Friends of Bromley Town Parks and Gardens in 2008. It has since been maintained by the Bromley Green Gym® volunteers.
In our first year, the Bromley Green Gym® was put into “construction gear”. The London Borough of Bromley acquired a shipping container, which was converted into a tool shed. Our volunteers designed the shelving and storage systems, and gave the container a lick of green paint. Other construction projects include compost bins, raised beds and ‘Bug-ingham Palace’ for the College Slip.
The volunteers are encouraged to be environment-conscious and understand how these constructions benefit the local wildlife. In addition, the volunteers learn new practical skills such as joinery, and develop wider transferable social skills including team working and problem solving.
Typical gardening activities were carried out over spring and summer. Bromley Green Gym® replanted the raised herb beds and maintained the various beds around the College Green.
During the autumn and winter, the volunteers planted hundreds of bulbs and woodland anemones along the College Slip. Bromley Green Gym® also created new hedgerows along the College Slip and the northern borders of College Green.
The Bromley Green Gym started their second year by completing a 7m long insect habitat wall. This is the largest of its kind in the area. It has taken the volunteers over 6 months to complete the insect wall, from building the frame to preparing the material – tightly wound corrugated cardboard, tree bark, pinecones, twigs, reeds and pre-drilled logs. The insect habitat wall provides shelter to many beneficial insects such as ladybirds, lace-wings and solitary bees.
The College Slip was a neglected path near the College Green. Our volunteers have worked tirelessly to restore this little country path to its former glory. The volunteers regularly litter pick and we have planted hundreds of woodland plants and bulbs to bring additional colour to this area.
In addition to the live hedges planted along the border, we created a ‘dead-wood’ hedge lining the length of the path. Dead-wood hedges is where large pieces of wood and sticks are left to decompose naturally whilst being pleasing to the eye. Dead-wood hedges are a fantastic wildlife habitat, providing a home for insects like woodlice, grubs and centipedes. These in turn attract small mammals like hedgehogs and insectivorous birds such as wrens and robins.
Volunteers enjoy working on this little path as it is frequently used by the local community, especially the residents of the adjacent Bromley College & Sheppard’s College. The residents greatly appreciate the efforts of the Bromley Green Gym and have given our volunteers tasty snacks and sometimes plants for the raised beds. For many of our volunteers, these kind gestures of appreciation from the local community are the main reason for being involved in the Bromley Green Gym.
Another large project that the Bromley Green Gym undertook was the building of two new timber pergolas. These lead park users towards our heritage mulberry tree in the middle of the College Green. The pergolas are 5.6m long and 2m tall. They will soon be covered with beautiful and fragrant climbers including jasmine, honeysuckle and clematis.
Our current project involves making new information boards to go around the College Green. These will inform park users what we have done and how these improvements are beneficial to the environment.
The Bromley Green Gym® has transformed the neglected College Green & Slip into a welcoming haven for the local community and wildlife. Over the course of 2 years, we had over 90 volunteers providing over 3000 volunteer hours. This is an amazing feat and we hope to continue our efforts for many years to come.