Guardian angels DO exist – just ask Liz Judge from Thistles Market Garden, a day centre for adults with learning disabilities at Sutterton.

After years of fundraising and grant applications, Thistles purchased a new building which meant that the office, meeting and activity room, kitchen and toilets were all under one roof, which offered easy access for all their service users. The new building replaced a selection of old portable buildings which had come to the end of their useful life.

The idea of having a new building was exciting, but what would be the funding requirement to cover increasing energy costs over winter?

This is where Anna Wooster, of Greenio Ltd offered to help. Greenio is a renewable energy hub based in Evedon, near Sleaford, and they not only successfully provided the centre with central heating and hot water at no cost, but also the promise of minimal bills through the use of solar panels, an air source heat pump and LED lighting.

Anna used her industry know-how and contacts to gain a grant from the British Airways Carbon Fund provided through Pure Leapfrog, to pay the entire £35,186.90 cost of installing the energy-efficient technologies.
Thistles manager, Liz Judge, said: “We had this lovely new building, but I was concerned about our energy use through the winter. I thought we’d be running up our electricity bill by putting heaters on all over the place. Then Anna walked through the door.”

The air source heat pump is able to work 24-hours a day providing constant heat for radiators and domestic hot water. Solar panels on the roof provide the daytime power the system needs.
On Tuesday (23rd July) the new centre was officially opened by another Thistles’ guardian angel – George Scattergood and his wife Jessie, who own the land that Thistles occupies and generously lease it to Thistles for a peppercorn rent.

Liz said: “The new kitchen now allows our students to not only experience sowing seeds, growing plants and harvesting crops, but cooking and enjoying the fruits of their labour”.
Thistles provides daily purposeful activities in horticulture, in order to encourage skills and development and to promote social inclusion and self esteem. Students have a hand in running the market garden, gaining essential communication, numeracy and literacy skills.

Thistles was first established in 2002 under the umbrella of Lincolnshire County Council and Social Services.

It has been operating as an independent co-operative social enterprise since 2015. It is currently managed by  Liz supported by a dedicated team of staff and volunteers including members of the Management Committee. Thistles works in partnership with a number of agencies and is grateful for funding and practical support provided by a variety of individuals and organisations from the local community – including Lincolnshire Police.

Since its very beginnings, students from Thistles have been avid supporters of Boston in Bloom, turning out to work alongside in-bloom volunteers and Boston Borough Council grounds staff, with all parties benefiting from the off-site experiences.

You can follow activities at Thistles via their website at:

From right, George Scattergood and his wife Jessie, with Liz, cut the ribbon to officially declare the new building open. They are pictured with some of the students at the VIP open day.

Liz, centre, thanks Anna, left, and Perdy Humfrey, from Greenio, for their help. They are standing next to the air source heat pump which provides virtually free heating and hot water. Solar panels on the roof generate free electricity.