Green Gym Volunteers Revive Ratty’s Refuge at Museum

Ratty’s Refuge at the River & Rowing Museum got a much-needed revival recently thanks to a group of local volunteers from the Sonning Common Green Gym.

In just a few short hours, the team transformed the garden from its overgrown and bramble-ridden state and all on one of the hottest days of the year.

The closure of the Museum during the pandemic meant that garden was left untended to, coupled with storms over the Spring months which wreaked havoc, with trees falling in the Museum’s grounds.

The garden was originally designed to celebrate the 100th birthday of Kenneth Grahame’s book, ‘The Wind in the Willows’ and its much-loved character, Ratty, the water vole. Ratty’s Refuge – found at the rear of the Museum – also won a medal at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2008.

The Green Gym is a local community volunteer group, which offers a great way for people to be active and stay fit both physically and mentally, by undertaking various tasks and projects to help the community and the environment. The Green Gym offers people a means of learning new skills and meeting like-minded people.

The Sonning Common Green Gym got involved through Museum Trustee Moira Logie, who was charged with putting together a plan to improve the external space and enhance the experience for the Museum’s visitors.

The designers Angela Potter and Ann Robinson, from English Eden when it was installed the garden in 2008, will work with the museum to re-imagine the Ratty’s Refuge to ensure it is revived fully so that the garden can be experienced by all visitors in the future. The first stage is to start removing the invasive plants that have taken over to reveal what may have survived in the Spring next year.

Work has already started with some tree and external boundary improvement plus engagement and planning with Network Rail and the Town Council. The approach has been to remove the most invasive species, then develop our spaces to be wildlife friendly and more publicly accessible.

This work to the external parts of the Museum will give it a new lease of life and give visitors a fully immersive experience, whether that’s the exhibits indoors or the garden outdoors.

River & Rowing Museum Trustee, Moira Logie said, “We were delighted to have the Sonning Common Green Gym join us in transforming Ratty’s Refuge. The group worked hard to clear the huge amount of brambles and invaders! It is planned that the Sonning Common Green Gym will come back again in the new year and continue to support our work.”

Sonning Common Green Gym Chairman, Peter Keel said, “We are delighted to be helping the River & Rowing Museum clear and reinstate Ratty’s Refuge to its former glory. Meeting twice a week, we undertake conservation work at a wide variety of sites in the local area and new volunteers are always welcome.”

If you are interested in finding out more and getting involved with the Sonning Common Green Gym, head to https://sonningcommon.tcv.org.uk/