Newcastle’s Best Group/Community Allotment Plot

Photograph of the N-Gage Community at their community allotment plot at St Anthonys Allotment site in Newcastle.

After being named winner of the Best Group or Community Plot at the 2023 Newcastle Allotment and Garden Show, we caught up with N-Gage to get an insight into the what goes into making an award-winning plot and community garden.

N-Gage is part of New Beginnings North East Ltd, who provide support to adults with learning disabilities to live in their own homes and participate in the community. Their aim is to enable people with learning disabilities to live full and purposeful lives in their community and develop a range of activities including leisure interests, friendships and relationships, spirituality and education. 

The N-Gage Community Sensory Garden at their St. Anthony’s allotment plot boasts a beautiful archway trellis, a flower telephone, a wishing well, a bamboo xylophone, gigantic kerplunk, a solar powered water fountain and a variety of sensory plants such as the wonderfully soft Lambs Ear and dusty white Angel Wing. This diverse and sensory approach to allotment planting sits at the heart of this colourful and community focused plot winner from last year’s Newcastle Allotment and Garden Show Plot Competition.

We got in touch with the team behind it to find out some more about what makes their plot such a loved space in their community…

How did the N-Gage allotment plot come about?

The N-Gage and New Beginnings Community Allotment was envisioned as a communal space where neurodiverse individuals could reconnect with nature, nurture growth, and foster a sense of community. It emerged from a collective desire to create a green refuge in the urban landscape, offering a hands-on approach to mental and physical well-being through gardening.

What do you grow?

Our allotment boasts a diverse range of crops, from seasonal vegetables and fruits to herbs and ornamental plants. We aim for variety to inspire the senses and learn about different plant species, their needs, and their uses.

What is a sensory garden? And what are some of the key features of the sensory garden at the N-Gage community allotment plot? ?

A sensory garden is designed to stimulate the senses, incorporating elements that appeal to sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. Our sensory garden features aromatic herbs, textured foliage, vibrant flowers, edible plants, and gentle soundscapes created by the bamboo xylophone and solar-powered water fountain, making it an inclusive and therapeutic space. Watch our sensory garden ideas video below… 

What are some of the benefits being involved in the allotment provides to those N-Gage support?

Working on the allotment offers numerous benefits, including improved mental health, physical exercise, a sense of accomplishment, and the fostering of social connections. It’s a therapeutic escape that encourages mindfulness and provides a tangible connection to the cycle of life and growth.

What are some of the skills people have developed?

Participants have developed a wide range of skills, from practical gardening techniques and environmental stewardship to softer skills like teamwork, patience, responsibility, and gigantic bubble making. The allotment serves as an outdoor learning experience where activities are hands-on and deeply rewarding.

How does the wider community benefit from the work the N-Gage community does on your allotment?

The wider community benefits through the beautification of shared spaces, access to fresh produce, and the strengthening of community bonds. Our initiatives also raise awareness about sustainable living and inspire others to consider greener, more mindful ways of living.

What are some of the regular gardening groups, workshops and social events you host at the plot?

Regular events at the allotment include gardening workshops, themed planting days, giant bubble therapy sessions, and a variety of enjoyable social events. While these activities are primarily designed for neurodiverse people living in supported accommodation, we’ve also collaborated with Nudge Education, offering them two plots. This partnership enables the children they support to engage with and benefit from the allotment.

What did it mean to be named ‘Best Group/Community Plot’ at the Newcastle Allotment and Garden Show 2023?

Being named the winner was a profound honour, symbolising the hard work, dedication, and love poured into the allotment by everyone involved. It reinforced our belief in the project’s value to neurodiverse individuals and the local community.

Do you have any exciting plans for the plot this year?

For 2024, we’re planning to expand our educational outreach, build a wildlife garden, introduce more biodiversity initiatives, and enhance our sensory garden. We’re also exploring partnerships with local community groups to broaden our impact.

We also heard from some of the N-Gage Community Plot participants about why they love getting stuck in on the allotment…

Sid: “I love growing fruit and vegetables in my plot and occasionally, I prepare delicious cakes using produce I’ve grown.”

Debbie: “I like sitting in the summer house, so I can work on my drawings, and also enjoy creating giant bubbles on the patio with Mark.”

To find out more about New Beginnings North East, visit: