In light of the UK lockdown, we unfortunately won’t be bringing our usual bright and colourful newsletter to you this quarter.
However, here’s an electronic version with the added benefit of bigger photos!


Updates from the People’s Community Garden – Beverly

We have been very busy keeping our gardens going right through lockdown and now gradually reopening our services and projects. 

We continued to grow vegetables to support our local community and other charities with a reduced team of four key volunteers and a member of staff, joined by other regular volunteers and Grow Your Future learners as time progressed. We planted every bed at the garden to ensure plenty of crops throughout summer, autumn and into winter.  

During lockdown, we encouraged local children to create pictures for us in return for a sunflower plant. The pictures have been displayed on our blackboards for everyone to see.  We created a lockdown cress-growing activity for children missing school, and met families who were pleased to find fresh vegetables grown locally. They continue to return weekly to buy our delicious produce.

The Bee Team have continued to inspect the hives and keep the bees happy. Project Officer Beverly and Grow Your Future learners have joined sessions to learn how to care for their needs.  Others have booked viewing sessions to learn what it takes to set up in beekeeping. Our bees have provided us with around 90 jars of honey this season, which flies out the door!

This year has been particularly difficult with regards to the heat and the bug population.  We have discovered new ways to treat our crops suffering from black fly and aphid invasions: we sprayed them with washing up liquid and water, that didn’t work. We sprayed them with vinegar and water – that worked! We placed foil at the base and rubbed the stems with orange peel – for good measure.

Our key volunteers and staff have found the garden and allotment to be a sanctuary during the crisis.  We are now managing a new normal, with strict measures on social distancing, hand-washing, and wiping surfaces and tools.  Our volunteers are glad to be socialising again after long periods of isolation, and our projects are reopening bit by bit. 

Meanwhile in Sudbury…

During lockdown, our wonderful Sudbury volunteers have kept in touch with each other to provide practical and emotional support. 

Bev kept in touch with volunteers regularly by telephone and asked them to share photographs of their own gardens during lockdown.   

We started back on the 2nd July with a socially distanced cuppa before getting to work sprucing up the borders with new perennials, provided by Sudbury in Bloom, and Geranium cared for at Chantry Walled Garden.

    Thank you to ActivGardens key workers during lockdown and into the new normal

    People’s Community Garden volunteers and Grow Your Future learners kept the gardens and allotments tidy and well stocked with vegetable plants and flowers in preparation for a return to the new normal.

    Our beekeepers continued to work with the bees on a weekly basis – with new recruit, Grow Your Future learner James – to keep the bees healthy and produce our delicious honey.

    A special thanks to our amazing mentor Barry, who has many decades of experience and has been endlessly kind in providing equipment and live queens.

    At Chantry Walled Garden, the lockdown team potted up thousands of plants for Ipswich parks and green spaces, to keep everyone’s spirits up, while helping make up orders for our new online plant sales venture.

    Sudbury Belle Vue Park volunteers looked after each other by keeping in touch to reduce the feeling of isolation. Volunteer Julia visited others and brought shopping for them.  From June, the volunteers tended the gardens independently, using  their own tools.

    All about James – Grow Your Future learner, beekeeper, chef, volunteer

    James joined us as a Grow Your Future learner in February – with a keen interest in nature conservation and wildlife.  He soon volunteered to support the beekeepers. He has grown in confidence every week to the extent he can check through a hive himself – quite a task with thousands of bees buzzing about.

    • He has completed his Level 2 Food Safety and Hygiene for and assists in our CRESS kitchen, helping to process honey and make preserves using our fruit and vegetables.
    • He is now a regular volunteer as we support him to find employment.

    Patients Bloom on Mental Health Wards

    ActivLives project with patients Woodlands mental health unit at Ipswich Hospital had to be put on hold during lockdown.

    We spent the next few weeks making films so people on the wards could enjoy a virtual tour of the gardens and beekeeping project.

    But in September, following strict Covid-19 protocol, ‘Bridging the Gap’ Project Officer Lesley went back to visit older people in the Woodlands wards to engage them in therapeutic gardening activities to promote mental and physical well-being through doing something active, positive and creative in a small group.

    Participants have planted perennials, decorated pots and made therapeutic floating flower bowls.

    Participants have said:

    • “It’s fun. It’s being with people and having a laugh.”
    • “The leaf activity helped me concentrate.”
    • “The floating flower bowl helps me get up in the morning because I want to see them outside.”

    Lesley says: “It promotes conversation, and aids in balance and dexterity, for example, scooping compost into a pot.”

    “The courtyard where we do our activities was very dull. But we have planted it full of colour, and there are edible herbs in the raised bed.”

    “Some people have just enjoyed having flowers beside them.”

    Staff have benefited from the sessions too – finding it easier to assess patients when they are involved in something active.

      Chantry Walled Garden knock-down Plant Sale!

      As Autumn sets in, and the soil becomes more workable, it’s time to stock up your borders.

      We still have lots of lovely good-sized perennials priced at £3 each or less.

      Soon our glasshouses will be blooming with winter-flowering pansies, viola, primrose and Polyanthus in all colours for your pots, planters and borders.

      Take a look at our online catalogue and please put in your order.

      Alternatively, come and share the wonderful uplifting sight and scent and pick your own plants. Bedding will be available mid-October onwards.

      We are open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am until 2pm. Please note – our usual access is under repair. Please call Susannah on 07530 407302 on Tuesdays and Thursdays for directions or to place an order for pick-up. ActivLives office: 01473 345350

      How about an ActivSheds bird table or hedgehog home to help wildlife through the winter?

      Our merry band of shedders have been busy making all sorts of wooden items for wildlife.

      ActivSheds offer not just standard bird boxes – we have sparrow terraces to encourage these cheeky chappies (in sad decline) to our gardens and green spaces, alongside bat boxes, bird feeders and bird tables.

      Our hedgehog homes provide a cosy hibernation shelter for our prickly friends, and we make tortoise homes to order too! We have made a cat cottage and a mini Suffolk barn, and we have some restored some chicken coops for sale too.

      For your home, garden or workshop, we sell garden trugs and planters, obelisks to support plants, tool holders so you can keep everything nice and tidy, bread boards lovingly decorated.

      We also renovate garden furniture and have a beautiful bench for sale.

        Please get in touch to find out more. We can make up orders as per your specifications. By buying from us, you will be supporting our projects to help people learn skills, boost their health and stay connected in these very challenging times.

        • We now run sessions on Thursday mornings 9.30am to 12 for men who need a level of support to join in.
        • Women’s sessions and mixed gender sessions run on Thursday afternoons 1pm to 3.30pm.
        • To find out more or book a session, please contact Susannah on 07530 407302 or call ActivLives on 01473 345350

        Sign up to the next ‘Grow Your Future’ programme NOW!

        If you are looking for a new direction – how about taking part in a FREE outdoor-based learning programme at ActivGardens? ‘Grow Your Future’ will enable you to learn new skills and gain confidence on your way to further opportunities.

        More info can be found here:

        ActivGardens plans for safe Christmas Market

        Christmas is not cancelled at ActivGardens! We are bringing our wonderful array of produce, crafts and gifts to you – but this year at the community garden so we can keep safe in the open air.

        The event will be held on Friday 4th December, from 10am to 1pm at our lovely site on Maidenhall Allotments.

        Owing to Covid-19 restrictions, we will need to limit numbers of people on site, and manage the site safely, so please be patient if you have to wait for admission at the garden gate (on the laneway between Halifax and Wherstead roads). Alternatively, please get in touch to book a slot – especially if you are coming in a bubble/ group (of no more than six people please).

        Come along to pick up some freshly harvested winter produce or lovely own-grown plants. Make up a hamper of delicious garden-made jams, chutneys and pickles. Choose a wooden gift from ActivSheds. There will be Christmas wreaths, crafts and much more to browse – all made by our volunteers and learners.

        We will also be serving seasonal refreshments so you can enjoy a socially distanced chat with your friends and get to know other people in the community.

        • Please park at the CRESS Pavilion, Halifax Road, Ipswich IP2 8RE or on surrounding roads.
        • For information and bookings, please get in touch with Susannah on 07530 407302 or call ActivLives on 01473 345350.


        Still keeping active through lockdown

        As with every other area of life, our Inclusive Sport programme at ActivLives has obviously been heavily affected by Covid-19, all of our regular sports groups having been suspended since mid-March.

        Despite this we have been able to support a number of our participants and members to get back to physical (and social) activity over the summer period with the Activ Out & About Project. This programme, which started in July, has focussed upon offering Covid-19 compliant outdoor exercise opportunities including chair-based exercise in the garden, walks in local green spaces and parks and outdoor badminton and boccia. We are very grateful to Active Suffolk and Sport England for their support for this initiative.

        We are planning for a phased return to our indoor sports sessions over the autumn. We are taking a gradual approach to this in full compliance with the range of Covid-19 regulations from venues, sports governing bodies, Sport England and the UK Government. Badminton and Boccia are likely to be the first of our regular activities to return indoors.

        Please do keep a check on our website for updates regarding returning activities. If you would like any more information regarding our inclusive sports programme, please contact Mike on 07531 236442 or email at


        Step by Step Better Balance sessions start to re-open after 6 month lockdown.

        On 8 September ActivLives welcomed back members to the Rushmere Better Balance session at the Rushemere Village Hall in Ipswich. Sessions are Covid secure with 2 meter spaced chairs, lots of hand sanitizing, face masks and social distancing safety measures in place. Everybody looked different with their face masks on and it was a lot quieter than usual, until they took them off to exercise.

        Members stated that it was difficult to exercise through lockdown and so hadn’t really done much since March, so the session was a gentle introduction to the weekly Better Balance exercise. 

        Del Keeble, Step by Step OTAGO Co-ordinator said “Exercises that were easy a few months ago were suddenly more difficult.  Members were saying that they were using muscles that they hadn’t used in six months. However, as the class progressed everyone started to feel better and by the end had smiles on their faces. Many commented it was nice to see the group again and that they would have an afternoon kip”

        Members said that they felt safe with the “new” layout and all the safety measures in place and were looking forward to gradually regaining their fitness over the coming months.

        To be even safer, ActivLives decided to split the Rushmere session in two to enable members to have even more space between each other.

        Other Better Balance and ActivSteps sessions have opened as well, at Walton in Felixstowe and ActivSteps, which was previously held in Whitehouse has now moved to a new venue Castle Hill Community Centre.

        Although the focus, at the moment, is re-engaging current members and volunteers, if anyone is interested in joining an ActivLives activity or wants to volunteer with the organisation, please let us know. We can take your details and keep you posted when places become available, as the sessions re-open.

        Please call 01473 345350 for more information or visit our website to see all the activities we provide.