Finding a safe place to be over the last two years  has proved to be problematic for many of us.  What has the impact been on wellbeing? It is probably too early to assess on our young people – as their lives have become disrupted by protecting society from a virus that ironically rarely does the young much harm. 

At Green Light Trust, we have seen the consequences of this virus on all the 2,000 people we support each year but especially on children and young people who are continually being deprived of basic freedoms.  The childhood joy of running around the woods, paddling in a stream or a kick-a -bout around a field.  According to the ONS, 4 out of 5 children in the UK spend less time outside than prison inmates – the statistic makes for grim reading.  Hemmed in by risk assessments, our children are failing to learn how to manage risk and are not accessing natural green space to give their minds time to rest and recharge away from TikTok and UTube.  The pandemic added to their screen time with Zoom lessons (if they were lucky!).    I believe that our bees in Castan Woods are helping to change the narrative for the children and young people who we support. 

Two years ago Chris and Marian Stephens donated our first colonies and got this project off the ground and since then we have continued to receive invaluable advice provided  by  IESBKA(Ipswich & East Suffolk Beekeepers Association).  Finally this year, The Green Light Trust has managed to increase our colony to five hives following the donation from Thorne.  All our bees  produce wonderful honey from nature’s bounty including the carpet of bluebells which cover the floor of Castan woods in the spring through to the borage and wildflowers growing in the adjacent meadow.  Hidden away beside the Park & Ride at Martlesham, Ipswich - our secret paradise is a world away from the busy comings and goings of the commuters and shoppers rushing about their daily lives, parking their cars and hurrying into Ipswich. It is this oasis of peace, tranquillity, woodland nature and, of course, our flourishing bee colony which has gone some way to restoring the self-confidence and love of the natural world to the lives of the children and young people that we support each week.   

When our bees first came to the woods, our children and young people were more than a little apprehensive.  Bees sting, they are creatures to be wary of.   This added to their interest in a way.  There was an element of risk – would they be stung? Was the question going through their minds, but the young person who plucked up the courage to get dressed in the kit –not exactly cool for school- earnt more than a bit of kudos as he examined the hive up close. It was wonderful to see them learn, that trying something new, scary and unfamiliar could be so rewarding.  What seems to you and me perhaps a simple thing to do - approach the colony with its 60,000 flying residents - allowed a fear of the unknown to be overcome.  This built confidence and interest.  Each week, little by little, as the groups came into the woods, their knowledge of these amazing creatures grew as did both their fascination with nature and their confidence and self-belief.    It was a lesson learnt from the bees, but it would be far from the last lesson learnt.

We can learn so much from bees.  They spend their lives working together.  Some work so hard that it shortens their lives in order to preserve their community and their Queen. The bees flying in and out of their home might look disorganised and random but - as these young people learnt – each member of the colony has their part to play for the sake of the whole community. No member of the hive is left out: they genuinely are all in it together.  Bees seem to understand that everyone in society is important, that no one should be left out or miss the opportunity to be the best that they can bee.

Some of the children that we support felt unable to put on the all the bee keeping equipment but still wanted the opportunity to get close to our bee community.  Therefore, we decided to build “the safe place to bee”.   This was our new viewing gallery complete with roof and netting so we could observe the bees going about their busy day without having to get into all the apiary kit - which was off-putting for many of those we support.  We heard that a Covid testing centre was being decommissioned in Stowmarket and that building materials were going spare and possibly enroute to landfill – Nothing goes to waste at The Green Light Trust. We drove to Stowmarket and picked up the timber for the supports and the corrugated iron for the roof and we had most of the component parts to construct our safe place to be bee.   With an additional donation from the Orwell Rotary we were able to purchase the mesh and we were almost there.   

Out of the trauma of the Covid pandemic came our bee viewing gallery so our children and young people could really get up close and personal with the bees. A highlight for our groups is the visit to the safe place to bee each week. This leads to them being inspired about the natural environment they live in and about how important it is that we preserve it.  They are learning about nature and are establishing a love of the natural world which hopefully they will have for life.  Most importantly perhaps, they have learnt to value themselves and each other.  The children and young people we are supporting at Castan woods are finding ways to become the best they can be.  




Who is the Green Light Trust

We support over 2,000 disadvantaged and marginalised adults and children who are within the lowest 5% in terms of their wellbeing. We believe in ‘Green Care’, using the environment such as the beautiful woods at Castan to rebuild, reawaken & refocus individuals, help with mental and physical wellbeing, substance misuse, unemployment, learning disabilities, domestic or other abuse, supporting children & young people who are unable to engage with mainstream education, training, or    employment. Immersion in purposeful activities within the natural environment has a transformative effect and positive impact on mental health & wellbeing, increasing confidence, motivation, and building skills. All activities are designed to address what is missing in participants lives: social interaction, mental wellbeing, physical exercise, and healthy eating.  Ensuring that each participant has a minimum of fifty hours on the GLT programme ensures positive habits, resulting in an 80% recovery rate. Broken lives are transformed.