Sign up now for our next course to Grow Your Future!

Sign up now for our next course to Grow Your Future!

If you are looking for a new direction now spring is springing – 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.

  • Where? The People’s Community Garden, Maidenhall Allotments, Halifax Road, Ipswich IP2 8RE
  • When? The first session will be Monday 4th May or Friday 15th May (Friday 8th May is a public holiday).
  • Why not come to look around on Wednesdays in March or April? Just let us know when you’d like to come and our friendly team will welcome you and show your round, and you can sign up in advance of the start date.

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, please contact Susannah on 07530 407302 or email or call ActivLives on 01473 345350.

Calling all nature-loving volunteers

Calling all nature-loving volunteers

ActivGardens are calling on those who love getting close to nature in the great outdoors to join us on a Monday afternoon for environmental conservation volunteering in our Wild Zone.

From April, when the bees start buzzing, you will also be able to get involved in bee-keeping sessions at our community apiary.

We need help with maintaining and developing our wildflower meadow, dead-hedging, wildlife habitat, and other areas.

You can enjoy spotting wildlife and birds from our bird hide and, on special occasions, enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation around the campfire.

  • Sessions will run Mondays 1.30 to 3.30pm (a little earlier in winter when the light is fading).

This opportunity if funded by the Postcode Local Trust – a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. It is part of our ‘Bee Amazed’ project which provides opportunities for people living in urban areas to get involved in beekeeping, learning about the environment, and taking part in conservation volunteering in their local area.


If you are interested in getting involved, please contact our Project Officer Bev Baker at ActivLives 01473 345350 or email

ActivLives hosts Wonderland-themed tea party

ActivLives hosts Wonderland-themed tea party

The quirky ‘Wonderland Tea Party’ was a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, with all the key characters getting involved – serving tea, selling plants and causing mischief.

It was just part of the 2018 Big Garden Party, run by ActivLives, which celebrated the 10th birthday of the People’s Community Garden at Maidenhall Allotments.

The bumper event was opened by the mayor of Ipswich, Jane Riley, and Ipswich Town legend and ActivLives’ patron Roger Osborne.

With stalls from numerous Suffolk-based organisations such as Ipswich Wildlife Group and Wildlife Gadgetman, to Suffolk Refugee Support and Suffolk Police and Fire Services, it was a lively collaboration of local groups and businesses.

While the Ipswich Wildlife Group were busy building bug boxes, the Wildlife Gadgetman showed off his photography hide, and the team at Suffolk Refugee Support cooked Syrian falafal for all to try.

Younger visitors were also spoilt for choice, with activities ranging from face-painting and hat-making to a carousel, drumming workshop and magic show.

The soundtrack to the day was provided by Saints Community Band, The Phil Jackson Rock ‘n’ Roll Band, and ActivLives’ very own Keep On Rockin’ singing group as well as a few local talents perfoming in the Welcome Area.

Sam Thurlow, from ActivLives, said: “With the theme of this years event being ‘Wonderland Tea Party’, visitors were promised ‘a day to join with all your favourite Wonderland characters for a cup of tea and some cake’ and they weren’t disappointed.

“There was a tea party with the Cheshire Cat serving drinks, Alice selling plants, the Mad Hatter causing mischief and the White Rabbit seemingly running around all day – all of which were ActivLives staff and volunteers who spent the past few months organising this brilliant event.

“We think this quote sums the day up nicely: ‘Absolutely brilliant…the best Garden Party yet…it’s so much fun!’ said one of the visitors as they walked through the site with a strawberry tart in their hand on their way to try their luck in the tombola.”

Danny’s buzzing to tell you about our bees! 🐝

Danny’s buzzing to tell you about our bees! 🐝

When I joined the ActivGardens Team in April little did I know that I would become a beekeeper as part of my role. What an amazing past six months it has been. To say that I have been totally inspired is an understatement. The fascination and feeling of responsibility towards our colonies is phenomenal and they have become a real part of my world.

I feel very privileged to be working alongside our bees and even more so that I am able to share our wonderful apiary with people from all walks of life from our local community and witness the benefits that it brings.


A huge thank you must go to my wonderful mentor Betsy Reid (I&ES BKA) whose passion for bees just shone through. Betsy’s calm nature, knowledge and delivery style has given me the confidence to really enjoy our bees and hopefully put them in good stead for the coming winter.

So the past six months, where do I start… A steep learning curve comes to mind. I vividly remember being extremely excited to be going to visit our bees for the first time back in April, donning the bee suit, armed with the


smoker, and feeling the bees knees (excuse the pun). I don’t quite know what I was expecting; however, once the lid was lifted and the bees took flight around us, I couldn’t believe the hum and the constant thoughts of whether the bees were flying past my visor, or were they inside. At the end of that session, I remember thinking, how on earth do you remember everything -the things you have to look out for, the things you have to do and record, planning for the next visit and how brave to be holding the frames.

As the weeks went by, it gradually became routine, although still as invigorating; I began to understand bee terminology/jargon and identify what it was I was looking for, it began to make sense, my confidence and knowledge grew, and my mentor never faulted.


It certainly wasn’t plain sailing as we had verroa, wax moth and a multiple swarming hive identified in my first visit followed by laying workers/drone-laying queen, which unfortunately had to come to a sorry end. I also remember the multiple stings I received whilst delivering a session at our Big Garden Party.

Highlights? There are lots: holding a frame covered in bees for the first time, spotting the elusive queen bee, harvesting and sampling the glorious honey, observing people’s reactions whilst offloading wonderful facts about our honey bees, seeing first-hand how our bees have built confidence in so many of our visitors and being successful in placing a queen cell into a nuclei, taking it home to my garden for 6 weeks and forming a new colony.

We have had schools, both primary and secondary, colleges, pupil referral units, prisoners, community groups, corporate groups, individuals from the community, as well as our regular volunteers, visit our apiary, amounting to in excess of 400 visits. Hopefully our apiary will go from strength to strength, and we have some great ideas to further develop our apiary as a ‘CommuniBee’ educational and wellbeing resource.

Other visitors have included David Barnes (DEFRA, National Bee Unit) in June , who reassured us that our bees were in good health and our housekeeping was in order; David also commented on our wonderful setting. Joyce Boorman (Director of Phoenix2 Network CIC) also recently visited us and I am very pleased to say that we now have a copy of the 2 BeePlus Resource CD 2017  that Joyce and her team developed, which we look forward to sharing with our next generation of young beekeepers.

Thanks must go to Betsy Reid and Chris Stevens for their very kind donations of two queen ready colonies to replenish our apiary, which I must say have settled in very well. Also thank you to I&ES BKA for their kind donation of sugar for our bees.

I am quite disappointed that our four hives need to settle down for the winter and that it won’t be quite so hands on (purely very selfish of me as our bees really deserve a rest). However, there is plenty to do behind the scenes, including creating a new shallow pond within the apiary, and work is already under way in creating a wonderful wild flower meadow bordered by a hedge adjacent to our apiary. We also hope to source/develop and share valuable resources for our visitors to engage and enjoy in the New Year, and I can’t wait to attend some local courses to increase my knowledge and hopefully squeeze in a visit to Buzzworks, Hitchin’s Bee Discovery Centre in Hertfordshire.

The future of our apiary is looking very promising and we are now planning our introductory course in Bee-Keeping, led by Betsy Reid, beginning in January. We are also very excited to have just launched our “ActivGardens CommuniBee Hive Sponsorship” aimed at involving local businesses and organisations.

I hope this has given you a brief overview of what our bees are doing for our community and that it is a hive of activity. If you would like further information or believe you could help us in any way, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Danny Thorrington
ActivGardens Coordinator

Give me a BUZZ:
07532 794173