Founder says eco hub has 'become my extended family, my sanctuary'

Steph at a Willow weaving workshop at The Hive with the Coddiwomplers in October 2020

Steph at a willow weaving workshop at The Hive with the Coddiwomplers in October 2020 - Credit: Steph Holland

A nature enthusiast from Bury St Edmunds had a long-held dream of a safe, child-friendly space where people could come together.

Steph Holland, mum to Amelia, nine, captured this in a drawing when she was aged about 13/14 and more than 20 years later she has founded The Hive, a family-centred eco hub based just outside her town.

Steph redid her original drawing of the hub in the summer of 2019

Steph redid her original drawing of the hub in the summer of 2019 (this isn't the original). The original was more of a café aimed at mums - child-friendly, comfy, safe space - Credit: Steph Holland

Steph, 36, who is a Forest School practitioner and music teacher, said the environment became more of a passion later in life the more she did outdoors with Amelia as she was growing up.

People may recognise Steph, who has a degree in music, as being behind the St Edmundsbaby organisation for parents and she also runs the West Suffolk Home Education Hub.

As she had lots of roles connected to children and nature, Steph decided to bring the threads together at one site, and luckily land became available for lease at Bradfield St George.

Steph and Amelia planting one of the 200 saplings from The Woodland Trust at The Hive, November 2020

Steph and Amelia planting one of the 200 saplings from The Woodland Trust at The Hive, November 2020 - Credit: Steph Holland


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The Hive's base there has woodland and wildflowers, and over the last year the team have built a log cabin, planted 200 saplings and added a pond.

Activities there have been on hold due to Covid, but the site will reopen on April 12 and The Hive is looking forward to welcoming back its community groups, such as one for toddlers.

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Others that will be taking place include an environmental education group and wellbeing sessions.

Steph said: "The Hive has become a wonderful community space in its first year. 

"Everyone we have met and worked with has brought joy and happiness to the site, and watching our youngest members thriving in what has been an extremely difficult year has been so rewarding. 

"I enjoy connecting people and sharing my passion for the environment and for our community, so this has been the perfect way for me to be able to do this.

Steph Holland at the official launch of The Hive, at Bradfield St George, in September 2019

Steph Holland at the official launch of The Hive, at Bradfield St George, in September 2019 - Credit: Steph Holland

"The Hive has become my extended family, my sanctuary and my motivation to play an active role in my community.

"I could not be prouder of my incredible team who have supported me in creating this wonderful network, and who continue to help me to realise my dream of providing a safe space for families to connect with nature, share skills and knowledge and improve their wellbeing." 

The free online Hive eco festival is happening on Sunday, March 28

The free online Hive eco festival is happening on Sunday, March 28 - Credit: Steph Holland

Ahead of the site reopening, a free online eco festival is taking place on Sunday, March 28, with speakers on a range of topics including climate, waste, food and water.

Steph said: "It's about what we can do to achieve a sustainable future in Suffolk and to engage people to empower them so they know who to contact if they are concerned about what is going on.

"A lot of people have contacted us to say 'what can we recycle'?'"

She said the festival would give people the chance to find out what work is going on behind the scenes, for example at council level.

Steph Holland and Claire Unwin in front of the newly built log cabin at The Hive, October 2020

Steph Holland and Claire Unwin in front of the newly-built log cabin at The Hive, October 2020 - Credit: Steph Holland

She added: "I think people are definitely putting the environment higher up on their list [of priorities]. We did a residents' survey and nearly 70% said trees, wildlife, clean air, water and food were their top priority."

West Suffolk Hive CIC (Community Interest Company), which Steph founded in September 2019, has 18 trustees and three directors.

Its tag line is 'connection, community and the environment'.

Growing vegetables in the community garden space at The Hive, August 2020

Growing vegetables in our community garden space at The Hive, August 2020 - Credit: Steph Holland

Steph, who is also involved with the River Lark Catchment Partnership, added: "It links back to the environment and connecting people to the environment and each other."

The Hive's first major event was the Green Fair it held in January 2020 and the next one is planned for Sunday, July 4, at the Apex.

For more information about The Hive and to register for the eco festival visit the website.

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