Get fit - by going green in Norwich

Kate ScotterPeople are being urged to get fit by going green and helping conservation projects in the Norwich area..Kate Scotter

With the arrival of spring, KATE SCOTTER takes a look at how people can enjoy the outdoors, improve a community and get fit at the same time.

People are being urged to get fit by going green and helping conservation projects in the area.

The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV), the conservation charity which runs Green Gyms and food growing projects groups across the region, is calling for more volunteers to join its 'carbon army'.

There is a long list of projects people can get involved with in the Norwich area, including conservation work at St Faith's Common, once an ancient heath-land site, and clearing invasive rhododendron at Norwich's Cottage Plantation near Blue Boar Lane.

Pam Cranston, who lives in the city, is one of 300,000 people who volunteer regularly with BTCV. She joined Norwich Green Gym in May last year after she had struggled to stay motivated at traditional gyms.

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The 34-year-old said: 'It's great because you feel healthier in yourself but also because you see a positive result in your surroundings. We've been managing a river and woodland and keeping an allotment.'

The Green Gym in Norwich was set up about two years ago and even though it lost its funding, people are still keeping it going.

Volunteers usually meet on Sunday, Mondays and Wednesday afternoons and they go through some warm up and cool down exercises before they get to work.

Mark Webster, project officer, said: 'The thing about our activities is that it's exercise without the lycra and you go out into green spaces in around the city, explore somewhere new, meet new people and have a laugh.

'When you go to traditional gyms, all you have to show for it is a sweaty t-shirt but at the end of a session of working on a conservation project, you can see what you have done - you're making a local green space better for the wildlife and for people to enjoy.'

Other projects in and around Norwich include black poplar conservation and allotment maintenance at Sycamore Crescent allotments, hedge laying in Bowthorpe and clearing an invasive plant at Lion Wood, near Pilling Park.

Volunteers have also been carrying out work to improve an area of Mousehold Heath and next month will be helping to build steps up to the heath at St James Mill.

About five to 15 volunteers tend to turn up to each of the sessions and there is usually a tea break.

Mr Webster added: 'The social aspect is at least as important as the physical side and it's great that people can get outdoors somewhere that's on their doorsteps.'

The Norwich project was recently recognised for the work that it does in the city at the Eco Awards, which are organised by Norwich City Council in partnership with the Evening News.

The BTCV Norwich Environment Action Team won the new Eco Commitment title which was added to celebrate ongoing environmental projects.

As well as the Norwich scheme, a North Norfolk Workout Project was recently launched and there is also a Green Gym in Thetford.

Sir David Attenborough, a vice president of the charity, said: 'Volunteering with BTCV brings together people from all walks of life and gives them a common purpose - to learn about, to understand and become part of the natural world.

'They volunteer not just because they want to bring about change to their local environment, but because it's fun - it gets you outdoors, it makes you fit and you're learning something new all the time. BTCV is working hard to make that happen.'

For full details about the BTCV volunteering opportunities in Norfolk, call 01603 767300, email or go to