HS2 Community Environment Fund logo

Amersham, Coleshill and the Chalfonts Green Gym
Awarded: £73,018

Region: Central

The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) is a national registered charity that helps local communities to discover, improve and enjoy their local green spaces.

This project worked across 16 sites to run a weekly roving Green Gym in the four parishes of Amersham, Coleshill, Chalfont St Peter and Chalfont St Giles. Green Gyms provide fun and free weekly outdoor sessions where volunteers are guided in practical conservation activities. The activities delivered through these Green Gym sessions included sapling planting and aftercare, pond improvements, wildflower sowing, path and waymarking improvements, litter picking, installing wildlife hibernaculum and woodland management to improve biodiversity. 114 volunteers have been involved in the sessions and the project has enabled them to learn new skills, be introduced to new local areas, meet new people, form social connections and improve their health and wellbeing. For the wider community, many of the tasks undertaken during the project have directly improved access to local green spaces or improved the local environment for people to enjoy.

Supporting people to get active in their local green spaces

The project has provided 85 opportunities for local people to come out and get active in their local green spaces. 87% of volunteers asked said they felt their health and wellbeing had improved due to the Green Gym, with the remainder saying they were already physically active beforehand and they didn’t feel health and wellbeing was what they primarily valued from the project.

Feelings of friendship and collaboration have also developed amongst the regular volunteers, with one saying, “The Chilterns Green Gym has introduced me to a whole new area of the country, created several new friendships and given me the privilege to work in some incredible woodlands. I’ll miss it!”

During the Green Gym sessions, each volunteer received training on tool use and practical land management activities, including the necessary safety information. Additionally, through the various tasks, volunteers have learnt practical conservation skills including coppicing, hedge laying, Austrian scything, removal of invasive plants, bulb planting, and hibernacula and stag beetle loggery construction. They have also gained an understanding of the management of a variety of habitats including woodlands, ponds, chalk streams, meadows and orchards and they have developed a variety of practical construction and access improvement skills including construction of post and wire fences, benches, steps, footpaths and boardwalks.

Benefits to biodiversity

The project has also provided a number of benefits to biodiversity and 2,530 square metres of habitat has been enhanced or maintained. This has been achieved through selective clearing and thinning of holly and other undergrowth in many of the woodland sites. This has allowed more light to reach the woodland floor, encouraging the regeneration of ground flora biodiversity. Habitat pile creation of the off-cuttings has ensured that habitats for small mammals and birds are kept and it also provides deadwood habitat for saproxylic insects. Homes have also been created for wildlife by building and installing bird boxes, hibernacula, stag beetle loggeries and insect hotels. They have also undertaken work to support native wildflower species and clear vegetation along the River Misbourne.

“We live in challenging times. The climate and ecological emergency grows ever more pressing and the Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on all our lives, exacerbating many pre-pandemic problems including poor mental health, social isolation and inequalities. The interrelated nature of these challenges means that they can’t – and shouldn’t – be tackled in isolation.

“TCV works to connect people and green spaces to create a thriving network that delivers lasting outcomes for both. Everyone deserves to have nature in their lives. We create safe, welcoming spaces for people who face barriers to accessing green space, especially those who could benefit most, and make our activities relevant and accessible for communities in which we work.

“Whilst this Green Gym project has come to an end, many of the volunteers continue to join other tasks in the area, and links have been created between communities. Access improvements (steps, fencing, ramps, boardwalks) enable a wider range of people to enjoy the natural world. Water course and pond clearance, invasive species removal, habitat improvements and coppicing will all improve the biodiversity at sites and enable native flora to flourish.”

The Conservation Volunteers