It seems only yesterday that I was sitting in my kitchen coming up with the idea of The Hive and producing a drawing that led to the formation of our Community Interest Company, but really it was this time last year. I could not be prouder of everything we have achieved in such a short space of time, none of which would have been possible without the unbelievable team around me.
I would like to apologise for the delay in getting this season’s newsletter out to you. The COVID-19 situation hit just as we had signed the lease for our new site, and I personally found the lockdown emotionally and mentally difficult. As a result, the concept of spending my three months at home being super productive and catching up on admin was a bit over ambitious. However, thanks to some truly incredible friends and family, I am now back up and running, and nearly fully functional again. As we tentatively peek out of lockdown and hope and pray that it does not return for a second wave, a whole host of wonderful things have been happening at The Hive.
Firstly, the site! Since our last newsletter, we have taken on the tenancy on a plot of land at Bradfield St George. The land is owned by the local Parochial Church Council (PCC), and has previously been leased by horticultural businesses, so it has a wide variety of trees and plants, and a rich and diverse assortment of birds and insects. The site is about three acres, and sits right on the edge of Bradfield, on the Rougham/Bury side. It is immediately adjacent to the Baptist Church cemetery and is surrounded on either side by agricultural fields. There were already three large polytunnels on the site, one of which had no cover, and the site had a well-established woodland zone, orchard and meadow. We had just started to prepare the polytunnels for growing fruit and vegetables when lockdown began. Fearing that the site would be unmanaged for the foreseeable future, we were delighted when two of our trustees, Emmie and Greg, volunteered to stay on the land to look after the plants and the site. It is no exaggeration to say that without them, it would have taken us about a year to have got to the stage it is at now. They are both gardeners and permaculture specialists, and they have regenerated the site and transformed it into a wildlife and gardening haven. I am beyond grateful to them for everything they have done, and now look forward to learning from them as we are allowed more people at the site.
Since restrictions began to lift, we have made a lot of progress in getting the site ready for use by the public. Two of the polytunnels are now fully functioning growing spaces, with tomatoes overflowing everywhere – these will be available at the end of the drive for a donation! The third polytunnel will be our community space, for people to eat lunch, have a cup of tea, read a book or just sit and chat. We are going to refloor this polytunnel and turn it into a beautiful space for everyone to enjoy. There will be a library of resources and books for people to use while at the site and, eventually, a little eco-friendly shop.
As well as the community space in the polytunnel, we have invested in a large log cabin to use as an outdoor classroom space. Our original idea of a yurt or bell tent did not seem sturdy enough to withstand the high winds we have experienced at the site. The cabin will be hireable by educational and wellbeing groups, and act as an indoor option when holding sessions at the site. The cabin is due to be built towards the end of the summer, and we will need some volunteers to help clear the base ready for it, and to construct the cabin when it arrives.
We have plans to make the boundaries more secure by adding fencing and natural hedging along the edges, especially near the road. We shall be applying for a tree pack to plant a variety of trees along the edge adjacent with the field, to protect the site from the wind, and from any agricultural spraying etc. We have made a connection with a local beekeeper, who is hoping to have a couple of hives at the site. Eventually, this will lead to some educational sessions for adults and children to learn about bees, and any surplus honey produced by the hives will be sold in our shop. We are negotiating with other businesses who may collaborate with us, including a potential refill station for the local community.
There are a few plans already for the day to day use of the site, and a weekly timetable is quickly forming. We have also made plans to offer various workshops at weekends, including First Aid, which will initially be in October. Tuesdays and Thursdays will be our community days, where our members will be welcome to come and use the site and take part in whatever activities are going on each week. We also hope to host seasonal family days, which would include crafts, gardening, storytelling, facepainting and other activities for families.
As well as the site, we have been developing our community network throughout the lockdown. Steph has completed an Eco Directory, which is available to view in full on the website, or to purchase in print for £3 www.westsuffolkhive.org.uk/ecodirectory . This contains information and resources for individuals, families, communities, businesses and councils in the region to enable them to reduce their carbon footprint and become more environmentally friendly. Over the last few weeks, The Hive has developed an Eco Forum in collaboration with various representatives from local organisations, businesses, West Suffolk Council and local residents who share our passion in making Bury a greener place to live. The Eco Forum is a place to share skills and expertise to bring about positive change in our community and to focus and act on local issues affecting the environment. You can find out more on the Eco Forum page or join the Eco Forum’s Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/hiveecoforum to get involved.
We have been successful in applying for funding from local councillors, and are hugely grateful to Cllrs Ingwall-King, Clarke, Chung, Warby, Everitt and Mildmay White for using their locality budgets to support us as we get started. We hope to be able to invite them to our postponed launch event as soon as restrictions allow us! We received a very generous £4,400 in total from these councillors. As well as money from funding, we have also received donations of £205 from our GoFundMe campaign, £200 from Sustainable Bury, £250 from ÄlskaECO CIC, £250 from Our Bury St Edmunds and £165 from members of the public at The Green Fair. Steph and Claire have also provided Director’s loans of £2,000 each to get us off the ground. We have started a membership scheme as well, and currently have two families signed up, as well as one business. To sign up as a member, visit www.westsuffolkhive.org.uk/support
Keep an eye on the website and our social media channels for updates about our progress and any events which we are hosting. We look forward to welcoming you and your family to the site soon.