Higher Ground Allendale is a social enterprise using gardening to increase wellbeing. Our workshops help people to learn new skills in a supportive environment. We aim to improve mental health and to support social inclusion by promoting meaningful activity, peer support and exercise through gardening in a safe and positive environment.
Wellbeing means different things to different people. For some it’s mood related; for others it is physical. It is a state beyond the absence of illness. The OED defines wellbeing as “the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy”.
Cultivating the land, learning new skills and spending time with like-minded people can massively increase wellbeing.
For centuries, humans have used activity as a tool to improve mental health. Gardening is widely recognised within a mass of clinical evidence as being extremely beneficial for issues such as anxiety and depression, and for more complex conditions.
We provide a supportive, encouraging space for people to positively influence their own mental health.
Whilst we recognise that solo gardening can be nice, we also realise that many people benefit immensely from the feeling of connection, belonging, team-working and camaraderie that our sessions offer. Our crew of supportive and helpful staff will enable you to safely gain a positive social experience.
Isolation can be a particular issue in rural areas. We aim to challenge this.
Through gardening activities, a positive social environment and skills-based workshops, we aim to help develop the resilience and inner resources of individuals to enable them to effectively deal with the difficulties that life sometimes presents.
Higher Ground Allendale supports people to make positive changes in an organic, person-centred way.
Watch this space for more beautiful pictures. See the site develop as the seasons change...
The Medway Building
We've converted a drab old temporary classroom into a comfortable space with open plan areas for group activities, niches for private conversations and a comfy zone to chill out in when it's raining. We also offer a small library, kitchen facilities and a warm welcome. On Thursdays between 10 and 12 we have our Coffee Den, a drop-in for coffee and a chat which is open to anyone.
Mental health support
Working with the land and engaging with the natural environment have many benefits to mental and physical health.
We grow and sell our own produce, so if you register as part of the Higher Ground project, you will be part of the small and friendly team that maintains and tends to this produce, as well as the wider ornamental and community garden.
To join the project, you will need to have spoken to a healthcare professional about your mental health, who may refer or signpost you to the service. Your membership will include:
* Three-hour sessions with a qualified horticulturist (currently on Fridays or Saturdays) in the project garden and use of equipment
* Use of the building, the common room and its facilities, and refreshments during the course of the session
* 1-1 time with a careers counsellor
* Each registered individual will have the opportunity to complete personal development goals, and build confidence and self-esteem through internal workshops
What we require is that you:
* Commit to being part of a team in a productive environment
* Work safely and responsibly and treat all other site users with respect
Session costs vary; please contact us for more details. Your first session will be free.
We will be provide a weekly drop in service for coffee and a chat on Thursdays 10am-12pm, everyone is welcome.
We run public courses and workshops throughout the year...
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Or come and help out on site
We have a lovely - and expanding - team of fun, energetic and friendly volunteers. If you're interested in joining us to help build an oasis of calm in Allendale, please get in touch via our contact form. You don't need green fingers; just a willingness to be part of something worthwhile.
We'll provide tools, tea and know-how. Be part of a growing (geddit?) team.
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Gillian Mathews - Chair
Gill is a senior manager in NHS Improvement, the NHS Provider trust regulator. Previously, she worked in NHS Cumbria, working across the system to develop integrated ways of working, service improvement, and strategy and business planning. Gill joined the NHS in 2000, as Practice Manager for the Haltwhistle and Allendale general practices. Before moving to the northeast, she was a self-employed business consultant for 15 years, focusing on business development and organisational change. Gill is married and has lived in Allenheads since 2007.
Georgie Cruddas - Vice Chair
Georgie was born and raised in rural Northumberland, and lives just outside Allendale. After gaining an Honours Degree in Psychology and further qualifications in Counselling and Post-Adoption Counselling, Georgie worked in Primary and Secondary Care in Greater Manchester, and as a Rape Counsellor for Northumbria Police. She went on to set up a Domestic Abuse Charity in Hexham, which she ran for eleven years. Georgie is particularly interested in different routes to recovery for people with mental health difficulties. Some of her clients were asylum seekers who found solace in a community garden, and she is keen that other sufferers benefit from the exercise, social interaction and confidence building that Higher Ground Allendale will offer.
Jane Pryde - Project Manager
Jane moved to Allendale as a teenager and studied Psychology and Anthropology at Durham University. She completed a PgDip in Careers Guidance and Counselling, whilst working as a volunteer youth worker with underprivileged teenage girls at the Citadel in Edinburgh. She went on to case-manage adult male offenders from Saughton prison during their transition back into the community, education, training and employment. Throughout her life, Jane has always found a way to use her passion for art and craft. Her skills and experience lend themselves perfectly to Higher Ground Allendale, and to increasing wellbeing, confidence and motivation through teaching new skills and enabling like-minded people to socialise in a beautiful space.
Sam Coulson - Garden Manager
Sam grew up in Wooler and began gardening professionally in 2002, gaining an RHS General Certificate in Horticulture in 2004. He also completed an MA in Journalism at Sunderland University. After nine years of self-employment, he joined the team at Lilburn Tower, working under Head Gardener, David Sinclair, one of the most knowledgeable and respected gardeners in the country. Sam is now Head Gardener at Carntyne Residential Care Home in Hexham. Having experienced mental illness, Sam strongly believes in the benefits to mental health and wellbeing that gardening can bring about. His experience, knowledge, vision and passion for a beautiful therapeutic garden is essential to the success of this project.
Lisa Powell - Mental Health Advisor
Lisa is an experienced Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist and Occupational Therapist, and has worked in NHS and private mental health settings. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Occupational Therapy and a PgDip in Advanced CBT. After spending five years providing occupational therapy in Cumbria, Lisa moved to Early Intervention in Psychosis, providing CBT and care co-ordination to young adults. In 2009, Lisa became a Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist and runs a private practice for private and corporate clients. She is a preferred provider for Rehabworks and an approved therapist for Anxiety UK. Lisa has personal experience of anxiety, depression and ME/CFS, and lives with her partner and two children in Northumberland.
Andrew Fletcher - Director
Andrew has been a writer, musician, researcher, barman and gardener, and was a director of the Newcastle Community Green Festival. His experience led to a heightened interest in the connections between creativity and mental health, and he is now a Research Associate at Durham University, working on projects around philosophy, social policy and mental health. Andrew has a track record in fundraising and is keen to put his creative and academic skills to use with Higher Ground Allendale. He has a cat and a dog and a wife.
Carey Stuart - Finance Director
Carey grew up in Allendale and has deep roots in the village, with the majority of her close family living in and around Allendale. Carey is a huge supporter of community life in the area, having roles on the village preschool Board of Trustees and the committee for the Allendale May Fair. Carey works a Chartered Accountant in Newcastle, so lends her financial experience to the Higher Ground Board. Having seen at close hand the impact mental illness can have on individuals and those around them, Carey is extremely passionate about the role that gardening and outdoor therapy has in treatment for those suffering.
Craig Atkinson - Volunteers Director
Craig has lived in Allendale since early 2016, after moving to Northumberland from London. He is a teacher by profession and taught in primary schools for over 20 years. He now works as a supply teacher and for the children’s charity, Action for Children, where his role involves advocacy and social media promotion. Craig has been involved in volunteering for most of his adult life and actively volunteers for several local groups, including the Deneholme Woods Volunteers and the West Northumberland Food Bank. He also coordinates the volunteers at the Allen Valleys Folk Festival.