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Green Gyms: a boost for people and planet

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Our One Lockleaze development funds The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) to run a local ‘Green Gym’ in the community.

TCV’s Green Gyms are free outdoor volunteering sessions, run by trained specialists, that transform local green spaces. It encourages people to get outdoors, get active, meet local people, learn a new skill and make a difference to the community too.

Ecologist Sonia Parsons leads the Lockleaze group and, to mark World Conservation Day, we asked her why this work is so crucial – for people and planet.

Why is it so important to care for our green spaces? 

Pollinating insects are sadly in decline. In the past 50 years, we’ve lost around half of the recorded bee, butterfly and moth populations. Improving the spaces we have creates a more biodiverse habitat for pollinating insects which encourages other species too.

Not everyone has access to a garden, so publicly accessible green spaces are important for our wellbeing. Evidence shows that being connected to nature encourages people to make positive changes for the environment too.

Do you have a favourite Lockleaze project?

As a group we’ve already planted more than 439 trees and 274 native wildflower bulbs across 10 Lockleaze sites. My favourite project is the nature space we’ve created at Lockleaze Sports Centre. We’ve transformed an unused area into a haven for nature and developed a food growing space for the community too. We’ve planted orchard trees, filled raised beds, created a patch of wildflower meadow and added in native shrubs. It’s amazing to see the difference that the volunteers have made over the past year.

How does the Green Gym benefit volunteers?

Exercise and being outdoors can have huge benefits for our mental health and wellbeing. The Green Gym combines both, with the added benefits of socialising and making a positive impact in the community.

We welcome those struggling with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, who may find volunteering in nature helps them feel more positive. TCV has worked with the University of Westminster and other researchers over many years to verify the health outcomes for volunteers taking part in Green Gyms across the country. These studies found a 33% improvement to physical health, 22% improvement to life satisfaction and 26% reduction in anxiety for volunteers.

Are there any simple ways to improve our own green spaces?

Even if you have a small green space there are steps you can take for nature.

  • Leave an area un-mown even just a small strip at the back of your garden. Long grass is vital shelter for insects, and you’ll be surprised how many return to an area left alone.
  • Sowing wildflowers creates a stunning display and benefits insects. If you have a particularly grassy area, it is best to turf the ground first to take off the top layer of grass and expose the bare soil. Simply sprinkle wildflower seed over this area in spring or autumn. If you just have a windowsill, you can do the same in pots.
  • A pond is a fantastic way to create space for frogs, toads and newts, as well as a place for thirsty hedgehogs, other mammals and birds to drink. This could be a plastic container dug into ground level. If it has a steep drop, just remember to add something as a slope so animals can climb out!
  • Put up a bird box, hedgehog house or bird feeder. If you have pets, make sure these are in safe locations.

Fancy taking part in the Green Gym? You can email Sonia at:


Published On: 26 July 2023

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© Copyright 2023 | Goram Homes Limited – A Bristol City Council owned company.
All Rights Reserved | Registered in England and Wales No.11597204.