Volunteer Stories: Chief Scout Matt

Discovering urban parks and finding outdoor gyms

We spoke with our volunteer Matt, who told us about his experience of scouting and logging outdoor gyms in his local area.

“It was the awkward time of year between Christmas and New Year” Matt said, “made even weirder as it was 2020 and we were in another lockdown. I got a message from Move the Masses HQ to ask if I could go and try to identify any outdoor gyms in the Bristol area. Having admired the ethos of Move the Masses from afar, this seemed like a challenge which could be fun… I immediately decided I wanted to find them all!”


Matt went on to say that he started by going on the internet to try and work out how difficult this challenge would be.

“It really brought home the need for the Move Map as I found lots of sources of different information, from outdoor gym manufacturers pages, to spurious rumours on Reddit pages, and even searched on Google street view to try and confirm the rumours. Then of course, I had to work out where in the park the gym actually was!


Matt was especially grateful and wanted to give a shout out to South Gloucestershire council, who publish all the assets in each of their parks, which made his task a lot easier! He then plotted the rough locations on a map and created a few routes to get “eyes on” the targets. 


Matt is a keen runner and usually runs on roads or trails. He told us that he wouldn’t normally visit a lot of the urban parks in the city and found this challenge a great opportunity to discover and explore the parks in a different light, connect the city in a different way.


He was surprised to find a lot of the larger parks in Bristol didn’t have an outdoor gym facility, it was often the smaller community parks and greens where he found them. 


The other thing Matt found most amusing was the reaction from other park users as he ran into a park towards the equipment, pulled out his phone, took some pictures and then ran away again. He told us he did get some odd looks! This was especially true on Portishead Esplanade as he weaved around the cars with their occupants looking out to sea (well, the Bristol Channel) to get the best picture, in landscape of course, as instructed.

“I always enjoyed that little buzz of excitement of firstly finding the park and then spotting the gym equipment, especially seeing the bright green of a TOGC [The Great Outdoor Gym Company] outdoor gym from across the park. There did feel something of the treasure hunter about it, from identifying the possibility of it on the internet, to then finding it in real life was a little victory each time.


Matt jumping over a log
The Flag Pole Climb Challenge

Matt told us that his favourite find was the ‘flag pole climb’ in King George V park (we have shown this as a Workout Challenge on the Move Map!). He can’t wait to go back and have a go at trying to climb it. His least favourite “find” was when a friend told him they had possibly found a piece of equipment from the Reddit page rumour and showed him a picture, “it was clearly a bike rack.”


Matt told us about the next thing he wants to scout for us too. He has started a new training plan and needs to find a ‘set of stairs that will take two minutes to run up.’ Matt is now on a mission to identify all the significant flights of steps in Bristol, and plans to keep us in the loop with how many steps each one has and how steep they all are… we can’t wait!

“Overall this has highlighted to me how vital it is to have a authoritative and comprehensive online resource showing where free outdoor gyms are, and hopefully inspiring more people to use them and to stay active and healthy and I am proud I have played my part.


Matt is currently the ‘Chief Scout’ as he’s submitted more sites than any other volunteer. If you want to join our crew of scouts and start logging outdoor gyms or trim trails whilst exploring your local area, head to the Submit Site form and get started! Check out our video below for a quick guide to submitting sites.


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