For 20 years, the Isle of Wight's countryside has benefitted from the efforts of a band of
hardy volunteers - the Isle of Wight Green Gym (IWGG).

Guided by the seasons their work, members use only hand tools.

To celebrate their anniversary, they helped to control invasive Himalayan balsam along the banks of the River Medina, a project run by Natural Enterprise.

IWGG chairman, Mark Russell, called it a scheme well worth their support.

Isle of Wight County Press: Isle of Wight Green Gym volunteers.Isle of Wight Green Gym volunteers. (Image: IWGG.)From a base at Newclose Cricket Ground, they pulled plants in their hundreds, as they have on several occasions this summer.

Himaylan balsam is known to swamp native wildflowers and is also potentially disastrous for species such as the Water Vole, say experts.

With volunteer help, the plant is being removed progressively from source to river mouth along the East Yar and the Medina.

As well as the weed, the milestone involved lots of celebratory cake and memories of the past two decades - some members have been taking part almost weekly, since 2003.

During the Covid-19 restrictions, the group kept in touch on Zoom.

Isle of Wight County Press: Newclose Cricket Ground, where they were based.Newclose Cricket Ground, where they were based. (Image: IWCP.)IWGG’s committee members oversee the group and have paid tribute to the hundreds of volunteers who have attended.

Mark said: "20 years is a long time but, when reflecting upon our involvement in parish council, charity, church, school and IW Council projects over the years, I can see the real benefits we’ve brought to the Island’s countryside and for those using it.

"Such a lot of volunteering goes on here on the Island, and with new projects and sites this helps keep the sessions fresh and fulfilling, and we can see real results.”

Boosting wildlife conservation, ensuring countryside access and visits to more than 185 different sites have been among the achievements.

Treasurer Bob Owens said: “We would like to thank all of the organisations who have supported us. Long may that continue."