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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Climate Camp goes to COP15 in Copenhagen December 2009, Part 2

Bike Bloc, NTAC Hit the Production demo, No Borders, Klimaforum and general life as an activist in Copenhagen

Written by Amelia Gregory

My muscles are aching as I type, purchase pills my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  Because I have spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches at a Green Gym session!

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, nurse an initiative run by BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) in Camden.  Funded by NHS Camden , discount the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly.  I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  This, coupled with seeing my reflection everywhere I turn under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped nonchalantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one and also works closely with the mental health charity Mind), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups tend to number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so easily removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again, and making sure that ‘caring about the environment’ is not just a middle class fad.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

STOP PRESS! Ducks ignore Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.
My muscles are aching as I type, there my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, viagra approved admittedly, pharmacy fitness…

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) in Camden.  Funded by NHS Camden , the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly.  I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  This, coupled with seeing my reflection everywhere I turn under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped nonchalantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one and also works closely with the mental health charity Mind), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups tend to number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so easily removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again, and making sure that ‘caring about the environment’ is not just a middle class fad.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

STOP PRESS! Ducks ignore Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.
My muscles are aching as I type, treat my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, cialis 40mg admittedly, fitness…

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) in Camden.  Funded by NHS Camden , the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly.  I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  This, coupled with seeing my reflection everywhere I turn under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped nonchalantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one and also works closely with the mental health charity Mind), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups tend to number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so easily removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again, and making sure that ‘caring about the environment’ is not just a middle class fad.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

STOP PRESS! Ducks ignore Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.
My muscles are aching as I type, viagra my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, approved admittedly, pharmacy fitness…

hedge stage 1[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers).  Funded by NHS Camden, the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly. 

I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  Likewise, seeing my reflection in the mirror-covered walls everywhere I turn, under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.Green Gym area

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped insouciantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so  removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

Ducks recklessly ignoring Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.

My muscles are aching as I type, unhealthy my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, here admittedly, check fitness…

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) in Camden.  Funded by NHS Camden , the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly.  I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  This, coupled with seeing my reflection everywhere I turn under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped insouciantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one and also works closely with the mental health charity Mind), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups tend to number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so  removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

Ducks recklessly ignoring Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.

My muscles are aching as I type, capsule my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, admittedly, fitness…

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) in Camden.  Funded by NHS Camden , the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly.  I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  This, coupled with seeing my reflection everywhere I turn under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped insouciantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one and also works closely with the mental health charity Mind), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups tend to number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so  removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

Ducks recklessly ignoring Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.

My muscles are aching as I type, tadalafil my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, admittedly, fitness…

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) in Camden.  Funded by NHS Camden , the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly. 

I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  This, coupled with seeing my reflection everywhere I turn under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped insouciantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one and also works closely with the mental health charity Mind), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups tend to number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so  removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

Ducks recklessly ignoring Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.

My muscles are aching as I type, this web my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, buy more about admittedly, fitness…

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) in Camden.  Funded by NHS Camden , the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly. 

I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  This, coupled with seeing my reflection everywhere I turn under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped insouciantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one and also works closely with the mental health charity Mind), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups tend to number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so  removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

Ducks recklessly ignoring Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.

My muscles are aching as I type, unhealthy my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, recipe admittedly, fitness…

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers).  Funded by NHS Camden, the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly. 

I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  Likewise, seeing my reflection in the mirror-covered walls everywhere I turn, under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped insouciantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups tend to number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so  removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

Ducks recklessly ignoring Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.

My muscles are aching as I type, diagnosis my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, website like this admittedly, price fitness…

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) in Camden.  Funded by NHS Camden , the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly. 

I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  Likewise, seeing my reflection in the mirror-covered walls everywhere I turn, under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped insouciantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one and also works closely with the mental health charity Mind), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups tend to number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so  removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

Ducks recklessly ignoring Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.

My muscles are aching as I type, buy more about my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, drugs admittedly, fitness…

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) in Camden.  Funded by NHS Camden , the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly. 

I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  Likewise, seeing my reflection in the mirror-covered walls everywhere I turn, under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped insouciantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one and also works closely with the mental health charity Mind), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups tend to number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so  removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

Ducks recklessly ignoring Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.

My muscles are aching as I type, store my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, shop admittedly, fitness…

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) in Camden.  Funded by NHS Camden, the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly. 

I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  Likewise, seeing my reflection in the mirror-covered walls everywhere I turn, under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped insouciantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one and also works closely with the mental health charity Mind), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups tend to number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so  removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

Ducks recklessly ignoring Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.

My muscles are aching as I type, information pills my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, admittedly, fitness…

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) in Camden.  Funded by NHS Camden, the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly. 

I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  Likewise, seeing my reflection in the mirror-covered walls everywhere I turn, under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped insouciantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one and also works closely with the mental health charity Mind), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups tend to number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so  removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

Ducks recklessly ignoring Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.

My muscles are aching as I type, pharmacy my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, no rx admittedly, symptoms fitness…

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers).  Funded by NHS Camden, the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly. 

I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  Likewise, seeing my reflection in the mirror-covered walls everywhere I turn, under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped insouciantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one and also works closely with the mental health charity Mind), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups tend to number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so  removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

Ducks recklessly ignoring Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.

My muscles are aching as I type, illness my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, stomach admittedly, fitness…

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers).  Funded by NHS Camden, the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly. 

I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  Likewise, seeing my reflection in the mirror-covered walls everywhere I turn, under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped insouciantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one and also works closely with the mental health charity Mind), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups tend to number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so  removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

Ducks recklessly ignoring Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.

My muscles are aching as I type, erectile my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, order admittedly, viagra buy fitness…

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers).  Funded by NHS Camden, the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly. 

I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  Likewise, seeing my reflection in the mirror-covered walls everywhere I turn, under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped insouciantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups tend to number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so  removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

Ducks recklessly ignoring Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.

My muscles are aching as I type, site my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, information pills admittedly, fitness…

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers).  Funded by NHS Camden, the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly. 

I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  Likewise, seeing my reflection in the mirror-covered walls everywhere I turn, under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped insouciantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so  removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

Ducks recklessly ignoring Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.

My muscles are aching as I type, view my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, pilule admittedly, erectile fitness…

Green Gym area

[All photos by Zofia Walczak]
Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers).  Funded by NHS Camden, the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly. 

I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  Likewise, seeing my reflection in the mirror-covered walls everywhere I turn, under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

hedge stage 1

So here I was, on my way to Baker Street, battling severe delays on the circle line, and modelling some of the least fashionable garments in my wardrobe.  I was wearing a pair of old, black hi-top trainers (NB these were my dad’s old pair from his engineering work, not of the retro ilk).  I had baggy woollen long-johns underneath some rather tired looking tracksuit bottoms tucked into long green and red thick woollen socks, about 3 jumpers, big fat bright green men’s fleece gloves, an old bright pink scarf, and a men’s waterproof jacket.  Chris, the organizer, had warned me to dress warm and prepare to get muddy.  For a second, as I stood on the packed London tube, it struck me that I might bump into an ex in this less-than-attractive get-up, but I soon felt liberated, and everyone else started to seem over-dressed!trees and sky

Today’s green gym session was in a blissfully serene, snowy, slushy, empty Regent’s Park.  It’s incredible how the grey, heavy sky which is a permanent backdrop to the London skyline actually looks so beautiful and poetic in a wide open space, a background for the silhouettes of huge old oak trees and their twisted branches. 

Super-keen, but with no idea of what I was letting myself in for, I skipped insouciantly into The Hub, a cafe/sports area in Regent’s Park, where I was greeted by the smiling faces of the group I’d be working with.  There were a few more newbies so I wasn’t on my own, but mainly people who had already been to a few sessions.  After quickly filling us in on what we might expect they praised us for being hardcore enough to have our first green gym session in the current muddy and cold conditions.  Apparently it’s all much easier and more pleasant in summer…

After a brief introduction we wandered to the site that Green Gym participants will work on in the next few weeks.  It was so easy to talk to everyone, and it was such a mixed group.  There were people who had been referred by the NHS (the scheme is a physical and mental well-being initiative as much as a ‘green’ one), editors and anthropologists who had been made redundant, new graduates and people on volunteering schemes…in all we were about 16 or 17 people, though I’m told groups number between 20 and 30 in spring and summer.

clearing

We started off with a warm-up, and then Chris from BTCV explained the tools we’d be using and went through health and safety…basically, the saws and shears used for cutting up big boughs and clearing huge twisted areas of extra-thick bramble are not to be chucked and swung around carelessly if you want to come out intact!

Laurent, who had done the warm-up, showed us around the area, and explained more or less what our aims were.  The area had once been a meadow, but was now covered in thick, intricately interwoven ivy, bramble and deadwood. Ivy is a great habitat on trees, Chris explained, but on the ground it acts as a thick barrier preventing birds from finding food.  One of the key aims of BTCV is to enhance biodiversity, which the UN has decided to dedicate this year to (see International Year of Biodiversity).  We would also be clearing and thinning-out the south-facing side of the space, allowing trees and plants to receive more sunlight rather than it being blocked out by dead branches.  The best branches would be used to start making a deadwood hedge.

sawing

So we got to work, with smaller groups working in different sections.  I worked with Catherine, a nutrition graduate who was taking up volunteering after finding it impossible to find work.  It was also her first session, so we stumbled along and asked lots of questions together.  With over-enthusiastic use of the huge shears, we quickly cleared a very messy area of the woodland, forming a huge pile of dead branches, bramble, weeds and ivy.  Any doubt that an indoor gym session would have actually been a better workout soon disappeared; there is not a single muscle in my arms or back that escaped un-used!  

Whenever we found a thicker, straight and strong branch, we would cut it to size (about 5 feet) to make stakes for the hedge.  The stakes needed to be sharpened at one end and hammered into the earth, and then long bendy branches would be weaved around the stakes.

weaving

The session was split into two, with a tea and biscuits break in the middle.  The hard work meant a re-fuel was definitely on order, and we got to mingle and chat again.  We got back to work, sawed and sheared and chatted some more, and when 2 o’clock came around most people didn’t want to stop.  This kind of work can be so refreshingly addictive if your workout ‘routine’ is usually a mind-numbingly repetitive set of excercises you have stuck to on and off for seven years.

I initially planned today to be a one-off trial, but it would be ideal to continue.  The sessions will be held in the same place for the next few weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-2.  Some people come to every session and some come along sporadically; there’s no pressure to commit but people seem to keep returning.  To sign up for a session you can go to BTCV’s website, send them an email, and they’ll reply with all the joining info. The Green Gym certainly beats running around in circles in my small local park, but the disadvantage is that you can only really take part if you don’t work 9-5 full-time. 

I spoke to Chris after the session, and he told me some more about what BTCV is up to this year.  Green Gyms are soon to start in four other boroughs, and Camden Council is also funding a BTCV Carbon Army project to plant orchards in council estates.  To be selected for the scheme, residents of the estates had to express and prove an interest, since they will be planting the fruit and berry trees themselves with guidance from BTCV, starting their own vegetable patches, and later taking care of them.  It is a way to get people working together as much as an environmental and local food initiative.  We are so  removed from most food production now that this will be a great way to start democratising the process again.  Having grown up on an inner city estate myself I can definitely appreciate the scheme and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  

duck_ice

Ducks recklessly ignoring Police 'Do not cross' signs

I’ll be going along to the setting-up of one of these orchards in the coming weeks, so will write up about the experience.  For now though, I really really need to go and stretch some more.  I have a slight fear I won’t be able to move when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning… but at least I’ll have spent the day breathing fresh air and surrounded by green leaves rather than grey concrete…bliss.


Copenhagen-COP15-Dec-09-15122009997

more about Helvetica, approved sans-serif; font-size: 12px;”>Scouting the Bella Centre with my Bike Bloc affinity group

medicine Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;”>Most of my week in Copenhagen is a bit of a blur – there were actions nearly every day, some of which I made it to and some of which I managed to completely miss; easily done in a new city we were learning our way around by bike. Voldparken was quite far out in the suburbs and on the second day I made it a priority to get hold of a bike, this done by scouting around for clearly abandoned ones in the many many bike stands next to housing estates and shopping precincts. We were assured that it is perfectly acceptable behaviour to liberate bikes which have obviously not been used recently (flat tires a dead giveaway) and are not locked up, but just to be sure I made sure to return mine to the place where I found it at the end of the week, in a significantly better condition than when I found it. (Boy did those flat as pancakes tires take awhile to sort out! Apparently the tires had telltale snakebite punctures, which are caused when a bike’s wheels go flat whilst it is standing in the same place for awhile, so called because there is one either side where it has rested against the metal wheel rim.)

Copenhagen-COP15-16122009-Dec-09-360Snowy bikes outside the Klimaforum.

Copenhagen-COP15-16122009-Dec-09-364Cycling home in the snow.

But back up a step. The day we arrived in Copenhagen saw a huge march, drawing upwards of 100,000 protestors (if the figures are to be believed), a massive amount in a place like Denmark. Unfortunately we were just a bit too late to join in, but we soon heard about the arrest of 900 odd “black block” protestors, who were forced to sit in rows on the ground for many hours in hideously cold conditions, treated not better than animals, a sign of the human rights abuse that was to be used over and over by the merciless Danish constabulary. One friend of mine regaled me with the tale of how he and a few others I know had managed to break through a hedge into a square, where they knocked on the door of a Danish house and their “saviour” allowed them indoors to hide whilst the police literally arrested anyone moving in the vicinity, FOR PRECISELY NOTHING. This was a bit of a theme throughout the week. In fact the general policy seemed to be to detain as many people as possible as often as possible. On my first day in Copenhagen I very narrowly avoided this very fate when I attended the Hit the Production demonstration, organised by the explicitly anti-capitalist group Never Trust A Cop, or NTAC.

Copenhagen-COP15-13122009-Dec-09-707Hit the Production arrives at the first crossroads at the Triangle.

Copenhagen-COP15-13122009-Dec-09-127Spunk Bar, Copenhagen. Sorry, nothing to do with anything. Just thought I’d lighten the mood a bit.

Copenhagen-COP15-13122009-Dec-09-699Hit the Production demo organised by NTAC

Together with my ex Dave – who rocked up in Copenhagen and decided to spend the week hanging out with me – and a few of my roomies, we pootled down to an area known as the Triangle, arriving just as critical mass was reached in the middle of a crossroads. Led by masked up activists bearing a huge yellow banner, a large amount of people had gathered to march down to the harbour, seen as a central beacon of the current capitalist system. The police were immediately there, huge steel boots stomping over anything in their way (including my wee tootsies). They all spoke in English, and in one amusing incident a huge riot cop togged up in full riot regalia took a wee megaphone to his mouth and told the activists that “you must take your masks off or you will be arrested. In this country it is illegal to wear masks.” Needless to say he was ignored. The march progressed down the street to the chant of “anti, anti, anti-capitalista” – a theme of the many protests we attended was that people seemed much less afraid (than they are here) of explicitly drawing attention to the system that is causing climate change – until we reached another crossroads. Whereupon the atmosphere started to get a little more tense, and with my well-honed kettling radar twitching I started to take a little more care with where I stood, out front, juggling my iphone for twitter and my big camera for pics.

Copenhagen-COP15-13122009-Dec-09-785A vicious Alsation that seemed to like the look of my bum.

Copenhagen-COP15-13122009-Dec-09-787Riot Police clamber onto the sound system and beat everyone in the vicinity.

But not enough. As the activists on the sound system worriedly told the increasingly aggravated police to take a chill pill I realised that I was being barked at by a particularly nasty looking, slavering Alsation. Suddenly the police started dragging people from the float and battoning anyone in their way – in front of me someone was practically thrashed to pieces. I was probably standing a bit too close as this video shows.

When I turned to leave I realised that the police were closing in behind me and that Dave was frantically beckoning to me from just over a low wall. Quickly, before there was a chance to stop me, I vaulted (yeah, get me, olympic athlete NOT) over a low hedge and hopped down to join him, from where we raced across a moat into the Kastellet park, which is formed in a pentagram shape around a central fortification. On a raised hillock we peered through the trees and fretted about our roomies who had disappeared from sight. Video here.

Copenhagen-COP15-13122009-Dec-09-794Our view from a hillock in the Kastellet.

Over the incessant barking of dogs, sirens and the pssssst of tear gas it seemed apparent that the police had arrested everyone in the kettle. So a close call. Fortunately I thought to check my twitter feed and was able to ascertain that the others had also managed to escape and were okay. But it wasn’t over yet, just as I decided to log an ipadio audio blog a coterie of huge Danish coppers (I have to mention how huge they were every time I talk about them because it made such an impression on me) HUGE they were, suddenly came lumbering in our direction. You’ve never seen me (try) to run so fast. Hear it here, cos I pegged it whilst logging an audio blog and didn’t have time to turn it off.

Copenhagen-COP15-14122009-Dec-09-893Bike Bloc workshop at the Candy Factory in Copenhagen.

That was all a bit exhausting… so… back to the bikes. Once we’d located our targets we wheeled them down the hill to the Candy Factory, where the Bike Bloc (otherwise known as Put the Fun Between Your Legs) had set up a huge workshop for mending and adapting bikes. There are two mini vids here and here. After a bitterly cold afternoon spent trying to sort out my numerous punctures with the help of Dave (I have no clue how to do these things – I’m wubbish) we finally got the bikes roadworthy. The Candy Factory was a hive of activity, with many of the people who had been up in Bristol for the week long workshop as part of C: Words at the Arnolfini organising the building of some fabulous specimens, including Double Trouble, pictured below, which was most unfortunately removed in a police raid just before our main action. Dangerous weapon, this ridiculous looking beast. Luckily most people opted to stay closer to the ground on a more traditional style of bike. It was a good place to eat, staffed as it was by a brilliant vegan cook who has fed us many times before, and as darkness set upon us early in the evening supper was served by candlelight – they have a much more relaxed attitude to open flames in Scandinavia.

Copenhagen-COP15-14122009-Dec-09-154

Double Trouble outside the Candy Factory, Copenhagen.

Copenhagen-COP15-14122009-Dec-09-826Checking a wheel.

Copenhagen-COP15-14122009-Dec-09-841Sorting out a bike at the Candy Factory.

Copenhagen-COP15-14122009-Dec-09-866Dinner is served at the Candy Factory.

Copenhagen-COP15-14122009-Dec-09-863Dinner at the Candy Factory.

Copenhagen-COP15-14122009-Dec-09-909

The next few days were a blur and there were various actions that we didn’t make, including the No Borders (No Climate Refugees) demo – where one of the ridiculous giant greenwash balloons they seem so keen on in Copenhagen was released and rolled down the streets and the Via Campesina farmers’ action. I didn’t attend as many planning meetings as I would have liked, simply because the activist locations were so spread out it was quite hard to get between places. Often we were just too cold and tired. We visited Rag only twice for meetings with the Bike Bloc (actually called Ragnhildgade, but we Brits just couldn’t seem to get our heads around the longer Danish names). This old industrial complex was the main hub of activity for the Climate Justice Action group, an umbrella organisation for international mobilisations which Climate Camp was officially part of (with many Climate Campers being heavily involved themselves). Lots of people worked incredibly hard for over a year to ensure the best possible demonstrations at the Cop15.

Copenhagen-COP15-15122009-Dec-09-219Hanging out at Ragnhildgade during the Cop15.

Copenhagen-COP15-15122009-Dec-09-225Vegan dinner is served at Ragnhildgade.

Instead we found ourselves spending a lot of time at the centrally located Klimaforum, (which was surreally located in a sports hall, so we passed over the indoor swimming pool between lectures) mainly because it was so bitterly cold and there at least we could warm up and get a cup of tea and a sandwich that didn’t cost a small fortune. I had initially been quite scathing about this ‘alternative summit’ but there were many interesting talks to attend by luminaries such as Monbiot, who vociferously called for Direct Action before listing a host of targets.

Copenhagen-COP15-Dec-09-17122009609The main hall at Klimaforum.

I was quite surprised though, by the strength of certain lobbies, including those in favour of Geo-Engineering as a solution – many of whom had gone to great pains to produce glossy literature and even hang huge banners from centrally located buildings. And in one talk I was somewhat flummoxed by the ignorance of so many people who seemed convinced by the promise of CCS (carbon capture and storage).

Copenhagen-COP15-Dec-09-15122009011Bike Bloc training at Ragnhildgade.

Copenhagen-COP15-Dec-09-15122009017Oh my gawd it’s so cold how long do we have to stand out here for?

Copenhagen-COP15-Dec-09-15122009027Bike Bloc meeting at Rag.

Looking back, I was very glad to have an impromptu buddy to hang out with, as Climate Camp itself did not have much of a formalised presence in the city and despite the solidarity I felt at the Voldparken school and when around my fellow activists we all individually had to fend very much for ourselves – getting involved in whatever way suited us. Dave and I fell into a routine of attending morning meetings at the school, filching a bit of skipped breakfast and then heading into town on our bikes, which periodically fell apart and needed fixing, most notably late at night on the day before the main mass action after a long scouting mission out to the Bella Centre in the snow (video here). I half wheeled, half rode my bike as far as the Candy Factory, where we luckily found some people doing some last minute fiddling around with the ‘sound swarm’ and managed to fix it with some judicious use of a spanner. I suspect something became misaligned whilst we were doing affinity action training (video here and here) with the Bike Bloc at Rag, this done in hideously cold, wet and unpleasant conditions.

Copenhagen-COP15-14122009-Dec-09-914A little something for the sound swarm.

Read about my experiences on the main Reclaim the Power Climate Justice Action day on the 16th December in my next blog.

The first instalment can be read here, featuring the coach trip to Copenhagen and more about the Voldparken School where we stayed.

You can read another good blog by a British activist here.

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One Response to “Climate Camp goes to COP15 in Copenhagen December 2009, Part 2”

  1. Hi Amelia,

    As a native Copenhagener it is really interesting to see Copenhagen and some of the climate action through a strangers eyes. You all made it a huge experience, with your input. Some of it is on my blog on Copenhagen, and I think you may know these guys:

    http://classiccopenhagen.blogspot.com/2009/12/one-car-less.html

    If not, you must get acquainted.

    Hi from Sandra

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