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.
Mental health support
Working with the land and engaging with the natural environment has many benefits to mental and physical health. If you feel that joining us would help you or someone you know, please get in touch or drop by to have a look round.
If you register as part of Higher Ground Allendale, you will be part of the small and friendly team that looks after our 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
We also provide a weekly drop-in service for coffee and a chat on Thursdays 10am-12pm. Everyone is welcome.
2023 is our fifth 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 £12 and will differ each week depending on what is ready to harvest. Availability is limited so please order in advance, by email: email@example.com or on Facebook Messenger.
Produce changes weekly 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!
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 10:30 and 12:30 we have our Coffee Den, a drop-in for coffee and a chat which is open to anyone.
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.