Higher Ground Allendale is a social enterprise that seeks to improve mental health and wellbeing through gardening. Our goal is to increase wellbeing and tackle social isolation by promoting meaningful activity, peer support and exercise in a safe, positive environment. We promote sustainability through cultivating and supplying locally grown organic produce, and our workshops help people learn new skills. We are based at the former Allendale First School, surrounded by stunning Northumbrian landscape.
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.
While 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 has many benefits to mental and physical health. If you feel like joining us would help you or someone you know, take a look at what we do, then drop by or get in touch to have a look round or come give it a try.
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 and be your mental health referee. 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:
* Provide us with a referee, This might be your GP or a Care Co-ordinator.
* Commit to being part of a team in a productive environment
* Work safely and responsibly and treat all other site users with respect
Please contact us for more details.
We also provide a weekly drop in service for coffee and a chat on Thursdays 10am-12pm, everyone is welcome.
2021 is our third growing year at Higher Ground. We will be selling organically grown produce throughout the season - from salad over Spring/Summer to root vegetables in Autumn. 6-piece boxes with herbs cost £10 and will differ each week depending on what is ready to harvest. Availability is limited so please order in advance, either by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook Messenger.
Things will be different this year because of the Coronavirus restrictions and reduced labour, so keep an eye on our blog to find out what is available and how you can receive your boxes.
We can't wait to see what this season brings and look forward to providing the community with tasty fresh veg!
Plugging the gaps
Spending time in nature brings a range of health and wellbeing benefits, and we are incredibly lucky to have beautiful open countryside and wildlife on our doorstep. Sadly, many plants and the animals that depend on them are in decline. We want to reverse this by enhancing existing habitats and joining them up with wildlife corridors, bringing nature into our communities. In our nursery, we grow native wildflowers and trees from locally collected seeds, which can then be planted out on verges, farmland, school grounds, community spaces and in gardens.
We run public courses and workshops throughout the year...
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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 was also Head Gardener at Carntyne Residential Care Home in Hexham for two years. 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.
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.
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.
Ginny Swaile - Director
Ginny has a BA (Hons) in marine biology from Newcastle University and has worked in the environmental public sector for 25 years, currently as a scientific adviser to Government on topics such as marine biodiversity recovery and climate change mitigation. She moved to Allendale in 2000 and lives on an increasingly wild smallholding outside the village with her husband, three children and a variety of animals. Ginny has been involved in village life through several roles and coaches gymnastics at the primary school. Her passion for rewilding and her personal experience of the connection between mental wellbeing and the outdoors brought her to Higher Ground, where she runs the wild plant nursery, bringing nature into our community.
Tracy Read - Chair
Tracy grew up in the Tyne Valley, and has travelled and lived in a number of countries. Returning in 2005, she has now planted her roots in the Northeast. After studying Fashion Design, Tracy went on to work on some of Europe’s largest construction projects. Here, she developed a passion for protecting the environment and went on to study Environmental Management. Working in Health and Safety and Environmental roles across various sectors has given Tracy a genuine understanding of the importance mental wellbeing, which can be improved through gardening and all things creative. Drawing on her longstanding enthusiasm for fundraising and social enterprise, Higher Ground is the place that brings all these things together.
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.
Craig Atkinson - Volunteer Adviser
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.
Higher Ground Allendale has been supported by volunteers right from the very start. Individuals and groups from a wide range of backgrounds and from across the community have lent us their time and skills. We are grateful to every single one of them. Here are a few...
I started coming to Higher Ground in the middle of 2020 as I was spending a lot more time in my own garden and running out of jobs to do! Six months later and I have a load of new friends and can’t wait for the restrictions to end, so we can all get together properly and start welcoming even more people into the huge potential of the project.
Not only have Jane and Sam helped me find balance in a difficult time, but my experiences at Higher Ground have also paved the way to me starting a gardening business and being in a position to provide opportunities to others in a similar situation.
Higher Ground has become an integral part of my life and I couldn’t imagine Fridays without it now – I’m getting much faster at weeding now too, since I do it every day at work! I absolutely love the social inclusion aspect and the chats with the other volunteers; I always learn something new every Friday and sometimes it’s even about gardening!
Andy, Jane’s Dad, has been volunteering with the project since day one. He’s been a huge support, coming along weekly, rain or shine, to mow the grass, edge the paths, strim the weeds and enjoy the craic.
Andy helped construct the poly tunnels, build the pond fence and the compost bays, lent his carpentry and general fix-it skills to the repair shop in February, and has offered advice on a huge range of topics. He even refereed the snail race at the summer fair.
When I think of Higher Ground the word that comes to mind is Transformation…
...from waste ground to oasis
...from observing to becoming involved
...from tentative snips to a passion for pruning
...from hands pulling up weeds to hands enjoying the feel of the rich black earth
...from clean to happily dirty
...from muddy feet to smart wood chip paths
...from willow twigs to creative pursuits
...from working alone to working together
...from strangers to friends
...from seed to vegetable box
...from bud to beautiful
...from hard work to standing back and admiring the fruits of your labour
...from limitations to capabilities
...from eggs to delightful ducks
...from paint to inspiration
...from Sam and Jane’s idea to a valuable community resource!
These are some of the transformations I’ve noticed as I’ve pottered happily at Higher Ground this year - and it’s good to be back after such a lengthy break!
Hi, I’m Henry.
I grew up in Allenheads and I’m a product designer by training. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Higher Ground since 2016.
Working in London at the time I wasn’t able to pitch in with a shovel, instead I helped by developing their logo and visual branding into something that represents the love and care they put into their work in our community. I still love to help out wherever I can, hopefully making things look good enough to tempt more people to get involved!
I recently moved back to the North East; pursuing a PhD in the School of Design at Northumbria University where my research is focused around the experience of people living with dementia. You can see some of the work I’ve done with Higher Ground and others here: www.henrycollingham.com