Stay Safe and Active

What’s happening at ActivLives…..

Although many of our services are still closed due to the 3rd lockdown we are still working very hard to keep people active and connected across Ipswich and East Suffolk.  

 So, what’s occurring!!!!

The ActivOut and About Project, led by Mike McCarthy, has been helping people improve their physical and mental health by organising one to one walks with people who live on their own, are vulnerable or just need some social contact.

The walk may just be around the streets or in a park or green space, or even down to the local shop to help to build confidenceand connect people who have been isolating for so long. In between walks Mike keeps in contact with members by phone, to check that they are OK and have an friendly and uplifting chat.

What our members say:

“I am feeling so much fitter as a result of these (exercise) sessions, I really enjoy the challenge”

“I have been stuck in the house for so long, these walks are great”

“I am seeing places that I have never been to before, and I have lived for over 40 years!”

“It was a god send yesterday when you called about today’s walk. I was having a bad day, it was so lovely to hear from you and to look forward to this morning’s walk.”

We had just re-started some of our Step by Step (falls prevention) Programme and ActivSteps sessions in Ipswich, Felixstowe, Woodbridge and Leiston, when we had to close them all again.  However, that didn’t stop us, and we now provide Better Balance sessions through live zoom streaming on a Monday, Tuesday and Thursday morning. If you would like to join one of the sessions with our OTAGO Instructors Del Keeble and Jo Powley contact Clare Macdonald at the main office on 01473 345350 for more information. We aim to restart face to face sessions, as soon as we are able.



It is very important that through the lockdowns or if you are shielding that you try and keep active. If you are not into live zooming, then why not visit our Activ@Home page on our website where you can find seated exercise videos with Jo.

Please visit: You will also find quizzes, singing videos and lots more….

 Our Carers Elderflower Hub and our ActivSingers community singing groups remain closed, but Gina Cristallino is still keeping in contact with members and volunteers through regular welfare calls, WhatsApp groups, quiz nights, zoom singing sessions, seated dance videos, sing-a-long videos and socials.Gina has also produced a second CD and song book for those members who cannot access the internet or have a mobile device.

What our members say:

“Apart from exercising muscles I obviously don’t use enough, I feel I am benefiting from the classes

especially as my balance is improving. Also, it gives you a discipline to do these beneficial exercises

and the social interaction is good in spite of me being the only bloke.”

“I feel better after doing the class, but I miss being with the others.” 

Makes us feel good even though, I fancy a rest in the middle and there isn’t one.  I DO NOT LIKE LOCKDOWN.” 

What our members say:

“It was so good to sing again with everyone on zoom yesterday and to hear your lovely voice.

It reminded me how much singing lifts the spirit. Thank you for organising and I look forward to singing again soon.”

“My colleagues at the foodbank know when I’ve had a singing session because I am humming behind my mask as I go around.”

“As a sufferer of depression, I find the singing extremely uplifting and always feel better afterwards.

Gina is a perfect teacher with her balance of fun and musical knowledge.”

“This group keeps me nice and calm and I enjoy the company all round”

Unfortunately, our two lunch clubs at St Mary at Stoke Church & the Ipswich International Church remain closed,

but we are keeping in touch with members and volunteers. Hopefully, they will re-open again later in the year.

Friday Friends

Our Friday Friends Hub is still closed, but Alison Pearson is still supporting Carers and cared for living with Dementia and volunteers through Befriending / Welfare calls, and helping with shopping and organising food parcel delivery and medication collection, as and when required. These calls are helping to reduce anxiety, loneliness and social isolation and signposting people to key health / social care services needed through the lockdown.

What our members say:

“I love this group it keeps me sane”

“Missing you all and I can’t wait until we meet up again”

“Zoom is lovely, I can see everyone and feel really great after a session”

“It’s great to talk daily on WhatsApp”

The ActivGardens Team 

Susannah Robirosa, Beverly Baker, Lesley Hartley and our dedicated key volunteers are helping to maintain our two community Garden sites in Ipswich – The People’s Community Garden and Chantry Walled Garden through the lockdown.

ActivSheds and ‘Grow Your Community’ in Sudbury’s park are currently closed, but will re-open as soon as they can. Staff and volunteers are keeping on top of essential gardening tasks that need doing all year round and looking after our community apiary to keep our lovely bees fed and healthy ready for the Spring.  Some of our LIFT trainees and placements have been able to return to continue to attend their training programmes, which is great news. 

ActivGardens is currently working on a really exciting part of the Bridging the Gap Project in partnership with NSFT, the Woodlands Unit and the Recovery College to develop a new ‘Connecting with Nature’ Webinar, which should be available and on-line in March / April.

We wouldn’t have been able to continue without the help of local and national funders and we can’t thank you enough for your help and support through these challenging times and also for the generous donations from families and the general public to help support our services.  And of course, I can’t forget the staff and key volunteers who have done an amazing job to keep things running, supporting one another and keep in contact with our members. If you would like to know more about our activities and how to become a member, please contact us on 01473 345350

Julie Stokes CEO

A Warm Welcome 

Prior to this lockdown I was able to visit some Better Balance sessions that we have running in Rushmere, St Mary at Stoke, Walton, Woodbridge and Leiston so it has been great to see some of the falls prevention sessions in action.  I also spent time at our ActivSteps session at Castle Hill as well as spending time at the peoples community garden and also the Elderflower carers group, which has helped me see some of the other wonderful things that ActivLives offer.

Currently we are offering our Better Balance falls prevention sessions through Zoom on a Monday, Tuesday and Thursday morning with our instructors Del and Jo.  These are a great way to help people maintain their physical activity and fitness during lockdown whilst also keeping connected to each other.


For people that are not on the internet and would like to keep in touch we are offering some regular welfare calls which are always well received and is a benefit to both.   For those people that had not been outside recently, we have been able to offer 1:1 walks which has helped improve their confidence in their outdoor mobility as well as their fitness.

If anyone would like to join in a zoom session or feels the need for a supported 1:1 walk than do get in touch with either Del or myself on 01473 345350 and we will be happy to help.

  • A Sad Goodbye

I’ve worked at ActivLives for 8 years (which is over 1/4 of my life) and I honestly couldn’t have imagined spending it anywhere else!
I started here as a temporary position helping log attendance forms – but I was given the chance to put my love of design to work. I then became the ‘Head of Media’ (a self-appointed title!), making everything from posters to films, as well as taking photos and managing the website – but I was also regularly challenged.
I helped run the annual Big Garden Party for 6 years straight.
I put together hundreds of Winter Warmer Kits in a cupboard as part of a 2 year project.
And I also came up with the Adopt-A-Bee fundraising project randomly at 2am one summers night!

And now, 8 years later, I’m saying my goodbyes and moving into a new chapter of my life as the Media & Design Manager at Kevin Mayhew Publishers.

It’s very bittersweet, because I can’t wait to start my new job, but I’ll also never forget the amazing people I’ve worked with. Anyone who has been any part of ActivLives – whether as staff, volunteer, or member – you’ll know how much hard work the staff put into running the hubs, tending to the gardens, leading the choirs, and helping members – and I’ve been lucky enough to see it all from behind the curtains, and see how much joy is shared between everyone, and how much good this little charity has brought to the world. And it’s been an amazing experience that I’ll never forget!

Delicious Butternut Squash Soup Recipe 

  • 1 butternut squash sliced in half
  • 1 vegetable or chicken stock pot with ½ pint of boiling water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 slice white bread cubed
  • A sprig of rosemary finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Cream or crème frais to garnish



Place the 2 halves of butternut squash on a baking tray.  Spoon over the olive oil and crushed garlic.  Place in a hot oven (180 C) and roast until soft – about 30 minutes.

Boil a kettle, pour ½ pint of water into a jug with the stock pot.

Place the oil in a frying pan with the rosemary; when the oil is hot add the white bread cubes, turn until brown and crispy.

Use a spoon to remove the soft flesh from the cooled squash and put into a blender with the stock.  Whiz until smooth.

Pour into a bowl, garnish with a spoonful of cream or crème fraiche, add the herby croutons and serve

Recipe by Bev


Turn over a new leaf …..

Grow Your Future at our community garden!

If you are looking for a new direction in 2021 – 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 and employment.

The 12-week scheme will include garden maintenance, horticulture and environmental conservation, with a chance to get involved in specialist activities such as woodworking or bee-keeping.


Grow Your Future is for anyone aged 16+ who is unemployed or economically inactive, and encourages people who face barriers to work – such as a disability, health condition, or caring responsibilities.

  • Sign up deadline: By Friday 26 February 2021 – please make an appointment to look around and sign up asap
  • When? You can opt to train on Mondays OR Your start date will be Monday 1 March or Friday 5 March, depending on which day you would like to attend.
  • Where? The People’s Community Garden, Maidenhall Allotments, Halifax Road, Ipswich IP2 8RE. Access is via pedestrian gate on laneway between Maidenhall Allotments and Bourne Vale Social Club, between Halifax and Wherstead roads.
  • Getting there – Various buses stop nearby – ask for Swansea Road or Montgomery Road stop. Or get off at Maidenhall Green, from where we are a short walk away. There is ample parking at the CRESS Pavilion on Halifax Road.

The programme is funded by the European Social Fund and the Education & Skills funding Agency, and administered by LIFT Community Grants ‘Local Investment in Learning Paths to Work’.


If you would like to find out more, or to book an appointment, please contact Susannah on 07530 407302 or email call ActivLives office on 01473 345350.

Grow Your Future – ActivLives

ActivGardens – Home | Facebook

Brighten up your mum’s special day with a spring display from The Chantry Walled Garden

We have wonderful pots and bulbs guaranteed to put a smile on the face of your mum when they bloom.

The tulip, narcissus, hyacinth, Allium and grape hyacinth bulbs were kindly supplied by Thompson & Morgan – just across the park from us- in support of our charity. After flowering, the bulbs can be planted out in your garden for you to enjoy.

If you would like to order a pot, they cost £5, please get in touch with Susannah on 07530 407302 on Tuesdays or Thursdays or email

We can leave your order by our gate at an allotted time for you to safely collect

Community garden has goodies galore

We still have honey in stock and our production line of jams and pickles continues.

Meanwhile, there are greens a-plenty to help boost our immune systems.

Arrange to pick up a homemade/grown package by emailing

Hygiene Certificate for Wayne

Our key volunteer Wayne has completed his hygiene certificate; we take hygiene very seriously at the Cress Pavilion where we make our preserves and bottle up our honey.  He joins Beverly, James and Pat who already hold the certificate

Buy a bird box for the nesting season from our great ActivSheds project

Get ready for the bird nesting season by purchasing one of our many different designs made by our ActivShedders – we have boxes especially made for wrens, robins, tits and sparrow terraces for these very sociable birds.

How about a bird-feeder or bird table to encourage birds to your garden and help them through these cold winter months? It’s amazing how many different species you’ll see if you put out food regularly.

Thanks to Thompson and Morgan

Our local horticultural supplier in Ipswich has donated a huge range of seeds and spring bulbs to ActivGardens.

These will come in handy as gardening season kicks off, while helping raise money for our charity.

Learners and trainees are gaining valuable skills, learning how to plant and sow.

They have given a lift to staff and volunteers as we plant them out in our borders and wait for a wonderful display in Spring!

Thanks so much T&M for supporting us!

We’ll be back together again soon
By Project Officer Beverly Baker

Back together soon……

The community garden is quiet, but it won’t be long until we will all be back together again. Thanks to those who are supporting us and we are missing all those who are waiting to come back.

The Grow Your Future trainees on Mondays continue to attend to learn new horticultural, woodland and cooking skills.  In January the trainees planted new strawberry plants to enable us to make jam in the Summer, they took perennial kale cuttings and planted up the hardwood cuttings taken last year.

In the coming weeks we plan to make some flat breads on an open fire, take new hardwood cuttings to create new forsythia and dogwood plants for next year, take succulent cuttings to create new plants and many more exciting activities. 

The Wednesday placements recycled a Christmas tree into bird feeders, using drills and saws.  They also planted out bulbs in the border potted up lots of mini daffodils and Hyacinths in pots so we can use these when we put together planting arrangements and have some early indoor ones too.  The placements also planted out some pea plants.

 Local garden centre offers support in Sudbury

Family-run Perrywoods Garden Centre is supporting our projects in Sudbury while promoting the benefits of gardening at their Sudbury store.

They plan to put up photos of the volunteers around the store with their personal reasons for volunteering –  keeping fit, beating loneliness, making new friends and supporting the community.  We think that this is a brilliant idea.

Meanwhile, our wonderful Sudbury volunteers have got itchy fingers, as they are not allowed to work in Belle Vue Park during lockdown. But they continue to keep in touch and support each other.

Beverly is regularly contacting them by email, text and telephone.

Volunteers carry on gardening at Chantry

A small team of volunteers are keeping things going at Chantry Walled Garden. We are preparing for Spring – brushing down benches, sorting seeds, planning borders, moving shrubs and taking cuttings.

We hope to grow bedding for Ipswich parks and green spaces from seed this year, as Ipswich Borough Council moves to bee and butterfly friendly schemes and more sustainable planting.

Behind the scenes, working at home, volunteers are preparing information for our plant catalogue and heritage vegetables.

We’re looking forward to welcoming more volunteers just as soon as we can.

  • Quote from Fay, Chantry Walled Garden volunteer:

“I’m so grateful for this place. I would have gone mad without it. I don’t know what I would have done. I’ve met lots of people – lots of children, and lots of dogs!

“It’s made a big difference to my life. When I come to the garden, the first thing I do is I walk all around, see all the flowers, and it gives me a lift.”


As Challenging as the last year has been, our groups at the Cress Pavillion have remained very active. Armed with disinfectant, hand gel and visors, our members have continued to unite, supporting each other through these uncertain times.  Our Elderflower Hub, Nightingale Group and ActivSingers met up every two weeks from September 2020. With the odd gap here and there we have managed to keep active with our chair based exercise sessions and various activities including seasonal quizzes, performances from Gina and our lovely guest Alex Bass with his amazing nature slide shows.

We managed to get each together before Christmas and have a festive activity together, including some very creative festive jumpers! It was not our usual Christmas party however we made the best of the time we had together.

Zooming into 2021…


We have certainly missed our Choirs over the last year, however that has not stopped us! From March 2020 our choirs have stayed in contact by attending our Zoom sessions. It took a while to get most people connected , however with a few teething problems here and there we have finally managed to run successful Zoom sessions on a fortnightly basis. 

Choir leader Gina Cristallino has made two new songbooks over the last year which have been sent out to all the members. These are used in every Zoom sessions, so we are all singing from the same hymn sheet so to speak. It’s also a great chance to have a catch up with eachother and have a giggle , its just nice to be part of something.

zoom picture 2020


Donna with ping pong ball

 Inclusive Boccia and Badminton 

Well, what a year 2020 has been! Although for much of the year sport has had to be put on hold as a result of Covid-19, some of our ActivLives groups have been able to continue to play sport in a Covid-19 compliant manner.

Despite the many restrictions that have been placed upon participating in sport and physical activity in recent months, ‘disability sport’ has had an exemption from these at various times throughout the year. Because of this, two sports that we have managed to continue with have been boccia and badminton.

“During the summer months we were able to play boccia and badminton outdoors in local parks in Ipswich, which was a great way of us getting our ‘Inclusive groups’ back to playing after the first lockdown ended in July”, said Mike McCarthy. “During the autumn we were able to play both sports indoors, apart from during the second lockdown period in November. Obviously, we had to ensure that we were meeting all of the UK Government Covid-19 Guidelines, as well as those of Boccia England and Badminton England.


The response of the players, and their families, over the last few months has been absolutely brilliant. Everyone has adapted to the restrictions and guidelines that we have had to put into place in order to return to play safely – the positive attitude to returning from players, families and volunteers, has been great to see”.

 Who knows what 2021 will bring? Whatever happens next, we do know that we have a lot of very committed participants who hope to get back to playing ‘inclusive sport’.

The Suffolk team did the county proud by winning a number of medals including two Golds won by Donna Wyatt and Harry Creasey, who both topped their respective divisions.

The team completed a great day by taking part in the Team Relay event, a competition that puts all of the competitors into mixed teams across all of the abilities and groups represented on the day.

If you would like to get involved with Inclusive Special Olympics Badminton in Suffolk (the group is based in Ipswich), please contact Mike McCarthy at or call on 01473 345350.