Suffolk ‘park-and-ride wood’ work changes routes of lives

Participant Michaela Cable does some woodwork with the Green Light Trust in Castan Wood, Martlesham.

Participant Michaela Cable does some woodwork with the Green Light Trust in Castan Wood, Martlesham. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Green Light Trust Martlesham project helps people who have ‘stalled’ in life - and helps nature too.

Time for a break during Green Light Trust's work at Castan Wood, Martlesham. Picture: SARAH LUCY BR

Time for a break during Green Light Trust's work at Castan Wood, Martlesham. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

At the Martlesham park-and-ride centre, and along the nearby main roads, thousands of journeys are undertaken every day.

Numerous bus passengers who gather at the site, and A12 motorists who pass it by, probably do not give an adjacent wood a glance. Most are probably oblivious to it.

But within the 25-acre wood, unseen by the travelling public, are people who are on their own journeys. They are journeys of paramount importance. They are journeys that lead from often dark and always difficult places to lives that are less challenging and more fulfilling.

As Green Light Trust’s Greener Lives programme director Tom Brown put it: “These are people who have stalled in life and we are helping them on the road to finding their way again.”

Green Light Trust work under way at Castan Wood, Martlesham. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Green Light Trust work under way at Castan Wood, Martlesham. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant


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The trust has taken on a 20-year lease of the wood from Suffolk County Council and, under its Greener Lives initiative, is giving a wide range of people the chance to overcome their difficulties with the help of nature’s restorative power. The trust is guiding them in a range of woodland management practices that increase the woodland’s biodiversity - and give participants a wide range of personal benefits.

“The trust works with marginalised and disadvantaged adults and young people facing various challenges including mental health issues, recovery from substance misuse, special educational needs, limited academic attainment and those not in education, employment or training,” said Mr Brown. “We engage with those facing challenges, using the natural environment as a medium to facilitate the development of confidence and self-esteem, through conservation and related activities. Working in a woodland environment, the trust supports the development of social and practical skills leading in a manner that supports each of the five ways to wellbeing - we utilise the intrinsic benefits of being active, socially engaged, learning about and being in nature and feeling as though one is contributing to something.

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“We are trying to take people from whatever difficult position they may be in to a point in their life where they are confident enough to take their next steps,” said Mr Brown

Funding for the trust’s Greener Lives Programme comes mainly from the Big Lottery, the European Social Fund and Suffolk County Council through its Educational Skills Funding Agency. The trust also works with participants who are self-funded through their disability budgets.

Green Light Trust programme participant Morgan Kendall undertakes some woodwork at Castan Wood. Pi

Green Light Trust programme participant Morgan Kendall undertakes some woodwork at Castan Wood. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

At Martlesham, the trust has named the site Castan Wood - a reference to the scientific name of sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) which is a prominent tree species found there.

Jack Pynn, the trust’s woodlands and educational manager for central Suffolk, said the wood had “fallen into neglect” and had been “under-managed” but, with sensitive conservation work its “great biodiversity potential” could be realised. “We are in the process of establishing a management plan for the wood which will govern our activity and will increase biodiversity by creating different light levels within the site and a mosaic of age structures.

“We will bring in coppice rotation and planting that will future-proof the woodland to build in resilience against diseases. We already have acute oak decline in the wood and if one of the disease threats proves terminal we can increase the resilience of the wood by having a wider range of tree species,” said Mr Pynn.

“The people who come out to us benefit so much on a personal level from their experience. People from Ipswich, for example, may have barely ever been in the countryside but they find it incredibly liberating. After the initial period of breaking the ice they find their anxiety levels drop and they are more at ease.”

Jack Pynn, the Green Light Trust's Castan Wood manager, in the woodland. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Jack Pynn, the Green Light Trust's Castan Wood manager, in the woodland. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

As well as practical conservation work, participants are helped to learn woodworking skills, often making furniture and craft items, and some undertake conservation award scheme work.

“Apart from all the other personal benefits we are making the participants more employable, with new skills and an appreciation of what a physical day’s work is like, or perhaps sparking an interest that they may never had before,” said Mr Pynn.

Suffolk County Council’s head of skills Andrea Wood said the authority valued the work the trust carried out as part of the council’s adult community learning offer.

She added: “We see the benefits this work brings to the individuals they work with, many of whom are furthest from the employment market, as well as anecdotal evidence for reducing the burden on statutory services. I know that our property team, having supported the trust to take on management of the wood, are also pleased to see this county asset now delivering a social return.”

Green Light Trust officers Tom Brown, left, and Jack Pynn in the woodland at Martlesham. Picture: S

Green Light Trust officers Tom Brown, left, and Jack Pynn in the woodland at Martlesham. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

One participant, 21-year-old Abbie Smith, of Ipswich, is in no doubt about the programme’s benefits. She has found immense personal value in her work at Castan Wood.

“I suffer really badly with my mental health and it is so therapeutic here,” she said. She had learned “so much” about nature and woodland management.

“The work has improved my stamina and my breathing - I feel a lot more calm now. It helps me to communicate - we do solo things but we also do a lot of things as a team and it has definitely helped my confidence. It’s helping me feel ready to get back into working because here it’s been working to set shifts, working together with people and teaching me communication skills.

“The trust staff are so understanding too. They help with the practical stuff but they also help with the emotional stuff too. It’s also great fun. We have so many laughs together here - in fact I sometimes stay an hour late because I don’t want to leave.”

More information about the Green Light Trust can be found on its website at www.greenlighttrust.org/

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