Sunday, April 21, 2013

Green Gym 15th Anniversary, Withymead Nature Reserve, 20th April 2013

This was a rather unique occasion for us.  In a break to our usual programme, we joined up with members from some of the other Oxfordshire Green Gyms - Sonning Common, Bicester and Wallingford in a session to mark the 15th anniversary of the Green Gym movement which originated in the county.  Indeed, Sonning Common was the first of the groups to be formed.  There was a large turn-out of around 30 or so volunteers on what was a wonderfully bright and sunny spring morning.

The location was the Withymead Nature Reserve, situated between South Stoke and Goring-on-Thames and set beside the Thames itself - a regular work site of both the Sonning Common and Wallingford groups.  We assembled in the car park and after making our introductions with some familiar faces and plenty of new people, the session was begun by a quick talk by Julia Booker from Sonning Common (one of the organisers of the gathering) followed by some warm-up exercises.  We were then introduced to Dr William Bird, who founded the Green Gym and also the Withymead wardens, Keith and Dot who gave a brief outline of the morning's tasks as well as some information on the history and background of the nature reserve.

We split into a number of different groups with a number of tasks ranging from digging out an old slipway, path-laying and painting a hut.  The idea was to mix up the teams with members from each of the different Green Gyms so that we would get a good chance to socialise.

At the 11am tea-break a number of cakes appeared - baked by members of the different groups, including a 15th anniversary cake and hot drinks were provided.  A quick photo-session followed before Dr Bird gave an interesting talk on the history of the Green Gym and how he came up with the idea, as well as his vision for the future of the movement.  

Before re-commencing our work after the break, there was an opportunity to take a guided tour of the reserve with warden, Keith.  The site was originally a boatyard and is situated next to the Thames.  It has a variety of different habitats including a water meadow, reed beds and woodland areas and therefore supports a wide range of often rare flora and fauna.  We saw evidence of some of the hard work done by the other Green Gyms including an impressive boardwalk that had been constructed and a pair of bird hides.  

Following our tour, the hard graft continued up until 12:30pm, at which point we downed-tools and joined back together for a picnic lunch.  It was a great end to a lovely session.  Let us hope that the Green Gym continues for another successful 15 years and well beyond!
-Andrew


Julia Booker from Sonning Common Green Gym starts the session

the warm-up!

group photo with the anniversary cake!

the cake!

Dr Bird and Julia cut the cake

digging out the slipway

a tour of the Withymead reserve

water meadow

across the bridge

Withymead site warden, Keith Tomey

the northern area of the site with the train line in the background

checking for grass snakes and slow-worms under the cover

the woodland area 


nesting box


back to work, digging out the slipway

Victor and Ursula paint the hut

more painting activity at the back of the hut

picnic lunch


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