Bexley men find new lease of life in their sheds

PUBLISHED: 12:06 21 August 2013 | UPDATED: 12:06 21 August 2013

Men in Sheds project manager Sylvia Sime with Chris Russell

Men in Sheds project manager Sylvia Sime with Chris Russell

After retirement, men can often feel isolated and lonely as the structure of the life they knew disappears.

Now a project in Bexley is recognising a need for support in this area and is encouraging men to meet up with others in the same situation to do something practical or share ideas.

The Men in Sheds scheme, run by Age UK, runs at the Love Lane allotments in Bexley on Mondays and Tuesdays, with three days of workshops each week from Wednesdays to Fridays.

Participants learn how to make seed trays, trugs (traditional baskets for garden produce) and boxes from whatever recycled material there is available.

As well as using existing skills, learning new ones and putting the world to rights over a cup of tea, the scheme’s paramount aim is to offer friendship, fun and a reason to get out of the house.

Ray Sparkes, 56, is now retired and became a member of the project in April. He said: “I wanted to get involved in allotments for some time, but a whole plot would have been too much work for one person. Through this project, more people can be involved, which makes it more viable and it is very sociable.”

The free club, which focuses on men’s welfare, was launched at the end of last December and now has 17 keen regulars. Project co-ordinator Sylvia Sime says the target for membership is 50 and she is keen to spread the word that Men in Sheds exists.

She decided to join the team after working in the health and social-care sector for 25 years.

“This project is very close to my heart,” she says. “My dad suffered from cancer and I wished there was something like this around for him during that time. This is very important for the local community, as often people can feel isolated. This helps people to be socially active and involved.”

Sylvia says older women can be better catered for with community clubs and organisations and that there is a real need for projects such as Men in Sheds. She added: “I must be the luckiest woman in Bexley, working with and being surrounded by lots of men.”

The neighbouring Bromley and Greenwich branch of Men in Sheds recently came close to taking the top spot at this year’s National Lottery Awards, taking third place in the Best Voluntary/Charity category.

Maureen Falloon, director of Age UK Bromley & Greenwich, said: “We see, every day, the benefits that coming to the shed gives to its members – a sense of purpose and friendship are key, but it can also help them cope with major life changes such as retirement, ageing and bereavement.

“Hopefully, the publicity we have received from the National Lottery Awards will encourage other men living in Bromley or Greenwich to join our sheds and men elsewhere to consider opportunities in their own local areas and give them the confidence to try something new.”

Men in Sheds is recruiting new members. If you would like to join the club, phone 020 8294 3017 or visit for more information.

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