New year brings new projects

2018 has got off to an exciting start:

Friends of Bicester North

All smiles as a new project begins

On 6th February we celebrated a new birth – Friends of Bicester North – as 15 people from Bicester Green Gym, 2 from Wyevale Garden Centre and 3 from Burley, converged on the London-bound platform to start transforming the 90-metre long flower bed which had lain forgotten since its construction 2011. Admittedly many of the plants had continued to survive but were failing to thrive. The whole area was in need of some TLC so we started weeding! It will need further visits before the renewal begins. Wyevale will kindly donate their time and skills to landscape and re-plant the area. Bicester Green Gym will add extra labour and we hope that new people will want to come along and join us. The idea is that a new group will form, which will work to their own timetable, to keep the station looking good all year round. They will have their own tools and shed, water butt and composting bays provided by Wyevale, by permission of Chiltern Railways. We are hoping local arts or gardening groups may want to add decorative touches, perhaps in the form of sculpture, functional planters or bird feeders. We are inviting schools to design a logo for the new group which will be displayed on hi-vis jackets and new noticeboard. Chiltern Railways will offer the winning child’s family tickets for a day out on the train. The next weeding work party will be on Tuesday 6th March if anyone wants to be involved at this early stage.

Watlington Hill guide sign

With Dr. William Bird admiring the view

Slash and burn – scrub is cut and burned

Lunch, baked in the fire!

A couple of days later we were celebrating the 20th birthday of Sonning Common Green Gym, the first one to be established by Dr. William Bird and colleagues. The group marked this by inviting all the Oxfordshire Green Gyms, Reading GG and Newbury and Thatcham GG to join them in a great scrub bash on Watlington Hill on the morning of Thursday 8th February. This is a National Trust nature reserve with fantastic views over the Oxfordshire plain, and we were provided with plenty of work by Reserve warden Jerry Page, who was marking his own celebration in retiring from the job. There were bonfires with jacket potatoes baking in the ashes for lunch at the end of the session. Dr. William Bird, who started up the Green Gym idea, was at the session as well as the current leader of The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) who manage the setting up of new Green Gym groups. In fact the title “Green Gym” is now protected and shouldn’t be used for the outdoor exercise equipment often found in parks. All gave inspirational words of encouragement. Dr. Bird quoted “I used to have axes and loppers in my surgery alongside my medical equipment – all very disconcerting for any patients coming in for minor surgery”! At the end of the day we cut and burned a huge amount of scrub (for which the wild flowers will be grateful in the course of time), new friendships formed and no tools were lost! As usual with Green Gym the tea break and lunch were high points (literally), overlooking the views with the red kite birds flying overhead. In all, there were 49 people and 6 Green Gyms on the site. As someone said on the day, “Why lift weights you don’t need to lift at a conventional gym, when you can do something constructive and tangible using hand tools on a meaningful project with Green Gym?”

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