Bags for Life At Aldingbourne Trust

Aldingbourne Trust, the local award winning charity who support adults with Learning Disabilities and/or autism are delighted to be working with Cathy Tiley, who is the creator of the beautiful Bags for Life that the Country Centre are selling in their shop.

Cathy came back to the UK after 30 years abroad after her husband started a new job in London. She loves to sew and make things and describes herself as one of life’s “fidgeters” who needs to be doing something all the time. Her four children had all grown up and she needed something to occupy her time.

Her son and daughter were working part time at Edgcumbes Coffee Roasters & Tea Merchants and when Cathy dropped them off one day she noticed piles and piles of coffee sacks made out of hessian. She approached the Manager and asked if she could take some away. This was the time the 5p per bag levy had been introduced and Cathy soon realised that there was a gap in the market for sturdy and practical shopping bags – a new idea was formed to use the hessian sacks and turn them into bags. Cathy used to live in Africa and uses the African fabric she saw out there to line the bags which is amazing.

Cathy became involved with the Trust as her son Ed had started volunteering with the Trust in the Wood department. It wasn’t very long that the Trust realised what an asset Ed was and offered him an apprenticeship.

After seeing the difference in Ed, Cathy decided she wanted to get involved in the Trust. It is not just Ed that Cathy has the connection with the Trust – her brother used to be the Manager of the Country Centre, many years ago and her auntie who has down syndrome came to us for a period of time. So she has known about the work the Trust do for many years.

Hence the bags.. Cathy will be working in the Earthworks project at the Country Centre and between them all they will be printing and sewing on the logo’s onto the bags. Gill Nudds, the Project Lead in Earthworks said “this is such a fantastic opportunity for the people we are supporting in our department. It will be a completely new set of skills they will gain”. The wood team have also got involved, Brian Alden, the Project Lead was recently given an old leather sofa which Cathy has now stripped and is using the leather to make the handles for the bags.

Cathy will also be looking at providing short handled bags and children’s bags.

When we asked Cathy why she wanted to get involved with the Trust she said “we all have a connection to someone with a learning disability in some way and it is our responsibility to ensure they live a better and more meaningful life – which is exactly what the Trust do. The difference in Ed has been remarkable and he is in such a better place now which is fantastic. It is now my turn to give something back to the Trust”. For more information please visit


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