Retiring Greenlight Trust CEO Ashley Seaborne praises ‘outstanding’ staff

Ashley Seaborne

Ashley Seaborne - Credit: Archant

The outgoing boss of one of Suffolk’s leading nature-based charities, the Greenlight Trust, has reflected on his time with the organisation and its current state as he leaves for retirement.

From left, the new Greenlight Trust CEO Tom Brown with Phil Champion of drug and alcohol support ch

From left, the new Greenlight Trust CEO Tom Brown with Phil Champion of drug and alcohol support charity Turning Point - Credit: Gregg Brown

Ashley Seaborne stepped down on Friday after seven years at the trust, the last five of these as CEO, during which time the body has evolved significantly, navigating the challenging conditions faced by the charitable sector, whilst continuing to grow as an organisation.

He will be replaced by Tom Brown, who was formerly the trust’s Greener Lives director and will now lead the next stage of the development of the charity, which has headquarters in Lawshall near Bury St Edmunds.

Mr Seaborne said his tenure has “brought direction to the trust’s work” which involves “engaging people in the community who have social and personal difficulties preventing them from fully contributing to society”.

This may be because of mental health problems, addiction, learning difficulties or through being long-termed unemployed and having lost self-esteem.

By working with them in woodland and other natural environments, he said, these people have had the “time and focus to rebuild their lives.”

“We use the tranquility in the natural environment to give them some direction, to give them time to talk to others and to engage them in tasks that help them realise they have a role to play.

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“It helps them build self-belief and confidence in themselves, so they can take control.”

This focus on the natural environment led the trust to review its aims and purpose with the Charity Commission in 2014 with a new mission statement “bringing people and nature together”.

Other notable achievements during Mr Seaborne’s time include the purchase of Frithy Wood at Lawshall with the help of money from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the signing of a 20-year lease with Suffolk County Council to use Castan Wood in Martlesham to expand its good work into east Suffolk.

Mr Seaborne continued: “Whilst we have developed this reputation for working with challenging groups in society, the charity has also been able to mature, and bring in more trustees with financial and environmental expertise, and health and well-being experience, which has helped to make the organisation more sustainable.”

Today, he said, the trust has a turnover in the region of £600,000 and works with up to 100 young people on a daily basis.

The trust has doubled its number of staff to 20 during Mr Seaborne’s time - the team often working in partnership with other charities such as drug and alcohol support services Open Road and Turning Point and alternative education provider Lapwing.

“I look at the quality and skills of the staff we have, and in the sector it’s second to none,” Mr Seaborne said.

“Our people have to have a broad environmental knowledge to a high level but must also be able to empathise with those who are disadvantaged, to help them to gain confidence. They need to be positive to help them pull themselves out of hard times.

“The feedback I’ve had from partnership organisations has been outstanding and moving.”