ActivLives recognises World Mental Health Day on the 10th October 2020

ActivLives recognises World Mental Health Day on the 10th October 2020

Mental Health is everyone’s business, especially now. Having good mental health, emotional health and well-being is as important as having good physical health.

 We are all affected differently and our mental health can change as circumstances change or as things happen through the different stages of life.

ActivLives provides a wide range of activities in Ipswich, Sudbury, Stowmarket and East Suffolk to help and support people with mental health problems and people living with Dementia and their Carers.

We are currently working in partnership with the Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust – Recovery College and the Woodlands Unit at Ipswich Hospital on the successful ‘Bridging the Gap’ Project, funded by Ipswich & East Suffolk CCG/ Suffolk Community Foundation.

The project introduces service users, their carers and families and staff to community services that can support people after discharge. We can help people reconnect with their communities, enable people to learn new skills, support people to be kind to themselves and manage their mental health better, meet and make new friends, build their confidence and help people cope with and manage change, anxiety and uncertainty.

Two strands of ActivLives are involved with the project ActivSports and ActivGardens. The gardens are a great way for people to connect with nature, conservation and the environment, learn new skills, build confidence and meet and make new friends.


Enjoy a lovely relaxing tour with Lesley at the People’s Community Garden, located at IBC Maidenhall Allotments in Ipswich. Meet some of our staff and volunteers who help nurture and maintain the gardens and grow fresh produce and plants for the local community. For more information contact our main office on 01473 345350.

ActivLives is now gradually and safely re-opening our activity sessions, where we can. We are following strict hygiene and Government Guidelines and providing Covid-secure environments for people to re-connect with friends and their weekly activities.

ActivLives Newsletter – October 2020

ActivLives Newsletter – October 2020

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.

        Message from ActivLives – 02.10.20

        Message from ActivLives – 02.10.20

        On Monday 23rd March 2020, due to the Covid-19 virus and Government lockdown ActivLives had to close all of our activity sessions, the Sudbury project and limit access to our two community gardens in Ipswich. The office closed at Brightspace and staff worked remotely, attended the gardens and two staff were furloughed for 2 months.


        What we achieved through lockdown?

        • We contacted 300 of our more vulnerable members and volunteers through regular befriending and welfare calls.
        • We developed Activ@Home on our website/Facebook page with exercise videos, weekly quizzes, singing videos and launched our ‘That Reminds Me’ reminiscence, arts and photography project.
        • We set up WhatsApp groups, so that our members could keep in touch with each other.
        • We held regular zoom social and ActivSinging sessions and organised singing sessions outdoors in people’s gardens and in parks.
        • Our two Community Gardens the People’s Community Garden at Maidenhall and Chantry Walled Garden at Chantry Park were closed to the general public, but were maintained by a skeleton team of staff and dedicated volunteers who followed strict social distancing and hygiene guidelines.
        • We received thousands of plugs / plants for the IBC parks and our plant sales, which were nurtured by a small team of dedicated volunteers.
        • We set up our plant on-line sales and delivery service to enable people to access plants during lockdown and to link with people in the community.
        • A dedicated team of volunteers looked after our Bee Hives to ensure our bees survived through lockdown.
        • We were able to continue providing healthy fresh produce and flowers for the local community at the People’s Community Garden, to help people through lockdown and keeping in touch with the community.
        • The Staff and Trustees met regularly via Zoom sessions and this will continue for the foreseeable future.
        • We continued to work on the Bridging the Gap project funded by Ipswich & East Suffolk CCG / Suffolk Community Foundation in partnership with NSFT / Willows Unit and the Recovery College holding regular zoom meetings and working on learning plans for Inclusive sport and Connecting with Nature.
        • For those people who didn’t have access to the internet we printed hard copy exercise sheets, quiz booklets, produced a CD and hard copy songbooks which were distributed to members to try and keep them connected.
        • We would like to thank all our funders for being very supportive and understanding through this very difficult time particularly the National Lottery, Suffolk Community Foundation, County, Borough, District & Town Councils and Councillors.


        Where we are now?

        • We are monitoring the Covid-19 situation and Government announcements very closely and following strict guidance on hygiene / cleaning, social distancing and the wearing of face masks.
        • We have been working closely with venues on risk assessments to ensure that our members, volunteers and staff are safe and to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
        • We have been working on our re-start plan to gradually re-introduce some activity sessions again to help our members improve their physical and mental health and build their confidence, after many of them have had to shield during lockdown.
        • The ActivOut and About Project has been operating since July and has focussed on offering Covid-19 compliant outdoor exercise opportunities including chair-based exercise in people’s gardens, walks in local green spaces and badminton and boccia in the park. We are very grateful to Active Suffolk and Sport England for their support for this initiative.
        • Inclusive Badminton, Boccia and Badminton sessions are planning to re-start in October / November 20. We are taking a gradual approach to re-opening these sessions, taking into account the myriad of Covid-19 regulations from the venues, sports governing bodies, Sport England and the DCMS.
        • We have re-started some of our Step by Step falls prevention and ActivSteps sessions in Ipswich and Felixstowe, with others planned to open in October if we can. A new member of staff has been recruited to develop the Step by Step Falls Prevention projected, funded by Ipswich & East Suffolk CCG and she will be joining us in November.
        • The People’s Community Garden, Chantry Walled Garden and the Sudbury Project have welcomed back existing volunteers and new volunteers to all the different projects currently underway at ActivGardens and Chantry Walled Garden is now open to the general public on Thursdays from 10am – 3pm.
        • ActivSheds has re-opened on Fridays with a limited number of volunteers at each session and a new specialist session has opened on Thursdays for people with a disability or people living with Dementia and their Carers, which can offer more 1-1 support.
        • The Elderflower Carers Hub has re-started at the CRESS Pavilion off Halifax Road with a new rota in place for members and volunteers, so that members, volunteers and staff can have an enjoyable session, whilst being socially distanced and keep people safe in the venue.
        • WhatsApp groups, Zoom social and singing sessions will continue so that we can keep in touch with members across Ipswich and East Suffolk.
        • We are continuing to develop the Bridging the Gap Project in partnership with NSFT / Willows Unit and the Recovery College and have through September been able to go back on the wards with table top gardening. Hopefully, our Boccia sessions will be able to re-start again soon.
        • The Friday Friends Hub at Whitehouse and funded by the North West Ipswich Big Local Trust will hopefully re-start in October / November time. It will be a slightly shorter session with a rota in place for members, Carers and volunteers. We are currently working with the Church to ensure it is a Covid-secure venue and session. The Friday Friends zoom social sessions will continue to ensure we support our members living with Dementia and their carers.
        • With the current Government announcements our two lunch clubs at St Mary at Stoke Church & the Ipswich International Church may not open until next year. However, we will be monitoring the guidance carefully and if we can open sooner we certainly will.
        • Our Befriending / Welfare calls will also continue with our most vulnerable members to help reduce their anxiety, loneliness and social isolation caused by the lockdown.

         We are taking things very slowly to ensure the safety of our staff, volunteers and members. We will continue to open sessions where and when we can and keep in touch with our members to make sure they are OK and inform them of any developments with our activity and social programme.

        A big thank you to all our funders and the amazing donations we have received to help the organisation through these unprecedented times and to the staff and volunteers who have gone that extra mile to support our services and each other during lockdown. If you require any further information, please contact us on 01473 345350.

        – Julie Stokes CEO

        Outdoor, socially distanced ActivSingers sessions was a great hit!

        Outdoor, socially distanced ActivSingers sessions was a great hit!

        Some of our ActivSingers got together at The People’s Community Garden last week to enjoy a socially distanced sing-along in the beautiful setting of our garden!

        We ensured all of our members stuck to the current government socially distance rules for the whole session, but that didn’t stop the fun as members stood up at their chairs and had a boogie while singing some of their favourite tunes – see them singing and dancing to ‘Jambo Bwana’ among some beautiful plants in the video below:

        We’re hoping to start up some of our sessions soon, starting with existing members. If you’re one of our members who regularly attend our sessions, we’ll be in touch soon!​

        Message from ActivLives – 19/05/2020

        Message from ActivLives – 19/05/2020

        The UK Government have recently published their Covid-19 Recovery Strategy, which includes a provisional timetable for changes to the restrictions that we are all experiencing.

        You may be wondering what these changes have meant for our services and activities at ActivLives?

        The changes that were implemented from 13th May (Step One), have made very little difference to what ActivLives are able to provide on a face to face basis. Although individually, we are now able to leave our home to exercise more often, drive further and even play some sports (such as golf), none of this changes are what ActivLives are able to provide in terms of projects and groups at this moment in time. This is due to the continued implementation of the social distancing rules and the restrictions on permitted social contact.

        ActivGardens continue to be closed to the public, although a small team of staff and brilliant volunteers are still working to carry out essential work. We have however, taken this opportunity to launch our new on-line plant and produce sales with ‘ActivGardens Online’

        All other ActivLives projects continue to be suspended until further notice; these include all of our lunch clubs, exercise classes, inclusive sports groups and singing projects.

        The next round of proposed changes (Step Two), are due to be implemented on the 1st June, these are also unlikely to change anything that we at ActivLives, are able to provide in terms of face to face services.

        We are continuing to develop our on-line services including seated exercise routines, quizzes, a reminiscing project and sing-along sessions, which can all be found on our website at

        Be assured that we do plan to return to full operation, just as soon as we are permitted and of course, when it is safe to do so!    

        We will be working on our own ‘road map’ of how we can re-introduce sessions, in a safe and phased approach, when it is safe for us to do so. So please be patient and keep safe – We will meet again!


        ActivLives Trustees

        Julie Stokes – ActivLives CEO


        Celebrate VE Day by singing along with Gina!

        Celebrate VE Day by singing along with Gina!

        As a special celebration for VE Day and the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, Gina has recorded some superb songs that I’m sure many of you remember singing along to!

        Here’s ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’

        And the second track from Gina is the classic combination of ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’ & ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’

        We hope you all have an enjoyable VE Day Bank Holiday.

        Stay safe!