On a hilly suburb in Sheffield, the SAGE Greenfingers allotment is nestled within the City Council’s Grimesthorpe site.

Every day, staff and members meet to plan the day, garden, share food and talk about their lives. Around 11am, people begin to arrive and share a hot drink whilst deciding what jobs need to be done on the three allotment sites. Some members will volunteer to do physical work, like digging, harvesting and planting, whilst others may choose to help cook lunch or simply enjoy the surroundings. Groups include the same people every week, so each member feels comfortable. After assigning jobs for the morning, members disperse across the site and get on with their chosen work. Some members enjoy tending the same jobs every week, whilst others prefer to try their hand at something new each week. After a couple of hours of work, the group gathers to share experiences over a homemade lunch.

SAGE is a mental health charity that supports adults via creative alternative therapies. This includes gardening, craft and singing workshops. The team consists of former social workers, community development workers and international development staff. Their knowledge and expertise combines to support members who experience a range of mental health issues, such as PTSD, depression and anxiety.

Most important for our members is the encouragement to be outdoors and enjoy the allotment. The site offers an oasis outside their everyday experience, providing focus and the opportunity to see their hard work flourish. Important to the operation is the charity’s ability to support members for extended periods of time. Some people have attended SAGE for many years, with some going on to have their own allotments whilst continuing to attend. Members can self-refer, be referred by someone else, or contact their GP for more information.

More recently, we ran a beginners course called Step Out To Gardening. This free ten-week course was open to anyone with an interest in gardening. For many it was a first step towards being able to develop their own garden or join other community gardening groups.

Our groups meet throughout the year and we also run trips for our members. This year we returned to Cleethorpes and enjoyed fish and chips, beach walks and a quiz on the coach home. Other Sheffield outings have included a trip to Forge Dam, a bowls trip and visits to other allotment sites. At Christmas, we will look forward to enjoying a lunch with all members and volunteers.

For those unable to garden or more interested in the arts, SAGE also hosts a women-only singing group who meet weekly to sing together in The Welcome Centre in Burngreave.

If you are interested in any of the above activities, either as a participant or as a volunteer, please get in touch. We are always looking for new members and volunteers and hope to spread the word about the work we do. Having recently appointed a Fundraising Manager, we are running a range of events and sponsored activities. If you have any ideas or creativity to share, please get in touch.

ruby[at]sagesheffield[dot]org[dot]uk

Ruby Munson-Hirst