From gentle weeding and pruning to digging and construction, a group of dedicated Penge volunteers do working out differently. Every week they meet at a public park to work up a sweat while improving the facilities for all to enjoy. Hatty Collier reports.

Penge Green Gym are a community group who sweat it out every Wednesday by looking after the suburb's once neglected Winsford Gardens.

Over the last three years, around 15 to 20 volunteers have worked to transform the gardens into a wildlife haven.

Each session, lasting from 11am to 2pm, starts with a warm-up and ends with a cool down led by one of the volunteers.

The gym offers activities to suit all fitness levels, ranging from gentle weeding and pruning, right through to more energetic tasks like digging and construction.

A new children’s play area and a ring of wooden seating has also been built.

Chair of the Penge Green Gym Community Group and Friends of Winsford Gardens, Brenda Little, told News Shopper the gym brings together people from all walks of life.

She said: "Some people are retired. Some people are unemployed. We also get people referred to us through the social care services.

"We have got some people who come and never stop working. We ask them to dig a hole and they will dig it even deeper."

News Shopper:

Ms Little, of Marlow Road in Penge, said the group also welcomes people who may be feeling down or lonely.

She said: "Some volunteers, when they first start to come along they might be quite depressed or they may have lost their job.

"If they have been down, they gradually come out of themselves. You don’t push them but they will eventually become more confident. "I like to think that the people who come and work with us, they really flourish after a while. It’s lovely to see."

The gym was founded by The Conservation Volunteers in partnership with Intu Bromley and Bromley Council in May 2011.

But Penge Green Gym has been independent since April last year and relies on securing funds from external sources and fund-raising events to support its work.

Ms Little, who worked as a researcher in higher education before retiring, added: "The only down side is we get quite a bit of vandalism.

"It can be a bit dispiriting when things we have planted just disappear.

"We are quite keen to get more local people involved because we feel that they are the eyes and ears of what goes on in the park."

News Shopper:

New volunteers are always welcome and those wanting to take part are encouraged to wear strong old shoes or boots.

The sessions are open to everyone regardless of experience, ability or fitness.

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