Whitebeam Woods is an ancient woodland based in the heart of the residential area of Durrington, around a 5-minute walk away from the ‘Community Centre’ and ‘Tesco Extra’. It is a beautiful area with oaks, which are 100s of years old, teeming with wildlife from foxes, green woodpeckers, speckled Brown butterflies, Sweet Chestnuts, Whitebeams and marvellous Hazel coppices.
You can almost see the history of the land here, see the change from woodland to farmland and to modern residential woodland. However, it is still in need of care and attention from local volunteers, to prevent fly-tipping, graffiti and damage to this area.
This is where the heroes of Northbrook Green Gym come in. This group has been running for about a year now and it has come a long way since Graeme’s lonely walks through the woods. It is now a well-established group of 6-12 hardworking and wonderful characters, which have become their own friendship group.
Through conservation work amongst the spectacular woods of; bramble bashing, coppice tidying, seed sowing and pond cleaning, the group has worked together to make a difference in a safe environment. In doing so great friendships have been made, so much so that 2-3 of the members have developed their own project and began work down in Beach House park with ‘Creative Waves’ to maintain their greenery. Go back to the start of the year and some of the group were standoffish and unsure on what needed to be done.
Now all are fully engaged and are asking what we can do next within the woods as well as putting forward their own suggestions on what they would like to see changed in their local area, which with the help of TCV they will achieve. It is great to see this group becoming so close who all look after each other and feeling comfortable enough to share any problems with one another over tea and biscuits or whilst bashing scrub. They are all truly incredible individuals, each bringing their own joy, anecdotes and spins on what life has to offer. You never know what will be discussed day-to-day, we can be one moment speaking of day to day life or sharing recipes and the next we could all be discussing perplexing world issues.
Other then completely reforming the woodland I would like to congratulate the group on a wonderful year, they are beating all their targets and are all set to become self-sufficient soon. Every day is different and interesting to see the positive changes they are making in their own lives, all growing in confidence each session, and all bring a thirst for knowledge that challenges Graeme and me. This year they have successfully; rebuilt a seasonal pond, got on top snowberry regeneration, tidied up 40+ coppice stools, completed first aid training and have started to rebuild the demolished seed bank. Here is to another year of Northbrook Green Gym, I hope it is as good as the last and we wish to see many more new faces throughout 2019.
TCV Health and Wellbeing Project Officer