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Tuesday 22 July 2014

Great Yarmouth

Volunteeers at work

Welcome to the Great Yarmouth Green Gym.

Congratulations on the Great Yarmouth Green Gym community group who are now running their own activities completely independently of The Conservation Volunteers, altough they are still an affiliate member of our Community Network.

If you join the group, you will find that a friendly experienced leader provides all the training you need, you can work at your own pace, you can have a chat and a laugh while you work - and there is even a tea-break halfway through. There is a range of different activities, so you can start gently and build up to more challenging tasks if you wish. Anyone over 16 years old can join, whatever your capabilities. You do NOT have to be physically fit to join us! The activities are suitable for people with a range of disabilities and/or learning difficulties.

To get the programme of upcoming tasks, please contact Sue Holmes, Chair of GYGG independent community group. Call 01493 604 739 or 07900 654033 or e-mail:

Interested? here's what you need to know...

What you need: old outdoor working clothes suitable for the weather, and reasonably sturdy shoes or boots if you have them. We provide all the necessary tools and personal protective equipment. Either have lunch first or bring your own. Tea/coffee is provided.

You do not have to book, just turn up, although if you are coming for the first time please feel free to ring the group to confirm where your nearest collection point is. If you want to bring several people please let the group know beforehand.

Task days: On a Thursday the group works at Beacon Park in Gorleston. This is a huge ongoing project to turn a neglected belt of trees into a asset for the local community to enjoy. They will be thinning out the trees, cutting back scrub, building “minibeast hotels” and aiming to make a pathway around the entire area. There will also opportunities to learn more about wildlife and identify animals and plants. On Tuesdays the group sometimes go further afield, seeing a wide range of beautiful local sites on the coast and inland - sometimes working to improve the habitats for wildlife, other times just to visit and enjoy.

Contact Great Yarmouth Green Gym

If you have any questions or would like more details, please do contact:

Sue Holmes
Green Gym Co-ordinator
Shrublands Y&A Centre
Magdalen Way
NR31 7BP

MESH Office phone 01493 604 739
Mobile phone: 07900 654033 (please use the mobile number only on task days)

You can also see a bit more about what the group have been doing up to now below...

Mayor opens sculpture trail

Mayor and group

A Wild Boar has been released into the woods at Gorleston, but walkers need not be afraid, as it will be a sculpture staring down at them from the treetops, along with a heron, a butterfly, a frog, and several other wild beasts!

The Mayor of Yarmouth, Cllr John Burroughs, unveiled a range of animal-themed artworks at the new woodland walk through Beacon Park in Gorleston in June. Conservation Volunteers from Great Yarmouth Green Gym, many of whom have health problems restricting their mobility, have been working for 18 months to open out a path through a vast area of overgrown woodland, enabling local residents and office workers access to a brand new green space. Now they are adding their own sculptures, created with the help of artist Do Phillips, as part of a project run by Norfolk County Council’s Adult Education Service, Community Partnerships Team. “It has been great to support this exciting initiative and we look forward to developing the volunteers’ skills further in the coming year” commented Gilly Plumb the Community Development Worker for the East and North of the county.

Kestrel and mouse sculpture

“We were delighted to have the chance to add some creativity to our work here in the woods”, said The Conservation Volunteers’ Project Officer Mark Webster. “Now as well as seeing native species such as bluebells and robins, people will see a surprising range of other creatures hiding up in the treetops.”

“I hope that many more people will come here to enjoy trying to spot the sculptures hidden in the branches,” said His Worship The Mayor, Councillor John Burroughs, “The Woodland Walk at Beacon Park is such an excellent recreational resource for the people living and working in the area. It is quite obviously already a well used asset judging by the well trodden footpaths and will no doubt grow in popularity as the area develops in the future.”

Green Gym sessions run at least once a week, offering a sociable way to get fitter. Anyone over 16 can join in. The Project is a partnership between The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) Great Yarmouth Borough Council and GYB Services, with further funding from the Broads Authority.

Beacon Park site woodland walk wins community wildlife site of the year award

Sue, Mark and Phil collect the award

Beacon Park in Gorleston is now a welcoming green space for everyone, with a mile of woodland walks created. In partnership with site owners Great Yarmouth Borough Council and GYB Services, Green Gym Volunteers have been working hard each week since January 2012, coppicing and pollarding trees to let light in for wildflowers, as well as installing bird, bee and bat boxes – and putting in benches for people to sit and watch the wildlife.

Group on site

“Our judges were especially impressed by how the volunteer group reflects the local urban population, including many from the most deprived areas in Britain,” said Paul Holley from Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership. Over 180 people have so far participated in improving the site, with most of these never having done conservation work before. Many of the volunteers are unemployed, have long-term health problems, or are recovering from addiction.

A grant from the Broads Authority Sustainable Development Fund has enabled charity The Conservation Volunteers to keep a Project Officer in post until September 2013, but then the volunteer group will become fully independent, running everything themselves. “This is a great example of partnership working in action” said Councillor Valerie Pettit, Cabinet Member for the Environment at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, “and we look forward to continuing to work with the Great Yarmouth Green Gym as the Beacon Park site develops.”

The site is open at all reasonable times, with the woodland walks starting from the cycle path between Beaufort Road and Sidegate Road.

Mushrooms galore

basket of fungi

We were very lucky to have County Fungi Recorder Dr Tony Leech with us for a mushroom foray early in November at Beacon Park, and were very suprised at the results. Despite our woodland being a new site (only 16 years old, still very immature really!) and so lacking much dead wood for fungi to feast on, we still found around 30 species, including 3 which are relatively rare.

Many spcies had brilliant English names, including Girdled Knights, Deceivers, Fibrecaps, Sulphur Tufts, and Clustered Bonnets. There were also some large rings of Wood Blewits, which had all grown out from one central point years ago.

Saving the graves

Cutting back at St Nicholas Cemetery

Since October the Green Gym group, along with members of the Norwich Environmental action team, have been rescuing distressed Victorians in Yarmouth! Working in the heart of town at St Nicholas Cemetery for the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust, we have been uncovering superbly ornate monuments from decades of scrub growth. The photo shows the extent of growth - there are graves in there somewhere...

We have now uncovered dozens of historic graves, from a sea captain lost in the great storm of 1867, to the founder of the Hippodrome circus, and the vicar who also ran a book club at the Wrestlers' Arms. As a result, preservation work on the monuments themselves can now take place, saving them for the future, with some of our volunteers applying for training courses in recording and repairing the stonework.

Mayor opens new Woodland Walk

Mayor opens woodland

Thanks to funding from The Peoples Health Trust, which will help us to improve the health & wellbeing of people in Great Yarmouth, TCV have been working in partnership with Great Yarmouth Borough Council to open out a brand new green space on the Beacon Park estate in Gorleston.

The Mayor of Yarmouth, Cllr Colleen Walker, cut a ribbon to formally open the first part of a new woodland walk through Beacon Park in Gorleston in June 2012. Conservation Volunteers from Great Yarmouth Green Gym, many of whom have health problems restricting their mobility, have been working for 6 months to open out a path through a vast area of overgrown woodland, enabling local residents and office workers access to a brand new green space.

“When I first came here I could see it was a hidden gem, and a huge opportunity”, said Project Officer Mark Webster. “In the 16 years since this beautiful site was planted up with trees, it had become almost totally inaccessible, but we have been clearing branches to let light in, which will benefit wildflowers, butterflies and birdlife.”

The site consists of a ring of woodland, estimated at 5 miles long in total, meaning that there is plenty for the volunteers to carry on with! The new woodlands are accessible from the cycle path between Sidegate Lane and Beaufort Way in Beacon Park. “I am delighted to open this new green space for the people of the Borough," said Cllr Walker, “and I hope that everyone will come here to enjoy the chance to get some fresh air and see some wildlife. It offers such a wonderful recreational resource for the people living and working at Beacon Park and I am sure will prove to be an asset for all in the future.”

Minibeast Hunting

wasp spider

Gerry from Norfolk Wildlife Trust joined us for a session of minibeast hunting in August, and we made some surprising discoveries. In the fields around our woods we found a variety of creatures including froghoppers,rove beetles, grasshoppers, ground beetles, ladybirds, and the rather dramatic looking wasp spider (pictured). We can even tell male from female crickets now!

We also saw knopper galls on oak trees (the sign of a tiny parasitic wasp) and tar spot fungus on sycamore trees - a sign of good air quality.

Getting creative with willow

Beacon Park willow fencing

We really enjoyed a trip to Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Upton Broad nature reserve - and took away some souvenirs too! Flexible willow branches from the trees were pollarding (cutting back to allow regrowth) were put to good use in Beacon Park to make living sculptures - a bower (pictured), a gothic hedge, and an archway along the path. Thanks to Headway's wood wrokshop, we will also be using oak and ash trunks felled at Beacon Park to make benches for Bure Park in Yarmouth, and hazel from Beacon Park is also being fashioned into a grand entranceway.

The first nine months...a summary

Great Yarmouth and Gorleston seem to have really taken to the idea of a Green Gym - our regular sessions at Beacon Park are already attracting at least 20 volunteers each time, as a result of which we have already completed a circular walk near Beaufort Way, and also reached the end of Hobland woods. Several volunteers are now trained as leaders, and starting to take over running the sessions.

Tuesday sessions have included visists to Horsey Gap, Stokesby riverside, Burgh Castle Roman Fort and a super boat trip - courtesy of the RSPB - to their reserve at Breydon Water, where we saw this windmill (pictured) along with lots of birds including redshank, lapwing, avocet, oystercatcher - and a really great view of a pair of marsh harriers. We have also been working at a number of sites in the Broads, and did a history walk discovering many hidden features of Great Yarmouth's old town.