How 'Men in Sheds' groups across Cheshire are giving older men a new lease of life
FOR many people, growing older can often mean dialling back on social activities and spending more time at home. For some, this can lead to loneliness and social isolation, which is something that Age UK Cheshire is hoping to combat with its Men in Sheds groups. The sheds are located in Winsford, Hartford, Crewe, Chester and Ellesmere Port, and are places where men over 50 can come together to learn and share new skills.
They also offer the chance for those of an older generation to socialise and meet new friends. To discover more about what the sheds have to offer, we visited the Winsford workshop and met regular member Graham Hale, who has built a 5ft wooden truck and trailer from scratch. Graham, who suffered a stroke 11 years ago, joined the Winsford shed when it opened in April last year, and has been working on his latest project for over four months.
“I first found out about the sheds when reading about them in the Guardian,” said the 62-year-old. “I went to Men in Sheds Hartford first, where they had train sets, but it wasn’t quite my cup of tea. “I was there for two or three months, but I decided to try one of the other Men in Sheds projects before settling on the one here in Winsford.
“It was here that I saw the designs for the truck and trailer, and I thought ooh, I’d like to try and build that.” Graham with his wife Heather and ‘right-hand’ man Alan
The workshop at Winsford is kitted out with band saws, drills and planers, and all are accessible for those who have difficulties with walking or standing. Following his stroke, Graham lost the use of his right arm, but has been helped throughout the project by his literal ‘right-hand man’ Alan Heaslip. “The truck and trailer are made out of mahogany and oak, which have all been measured and cut to shape,” continued Graham, who formerly worked as a policeman in Warrington and Widnes.
“Everything has been translated from the designs to the floor, but I needed the help of my right-hand man Alan for some of the more physical parts. “We are more or less finished now, with just a few finishing touches left to do, and I’ve already started to make a working forklift truck for my next project.” One person who is proud of what Graham has been able to accomplish is centre coordinator Neil Corbin, and he praised the shed’s impact on members.
“Graham’s truck and trailer looks fantastic, and it’s a testament not only to his knowledge, but to his determination, because he’s been working on it for four months solid,” he said. “We’ve all given him a helping hand here and there as part of a team effort, but it’s mainly Graham’s work. “That’s what good about what we do here, and it epitomises what Winsford Men in Sheds is all about – sharing skills and knowledge.
Group member Glen Hatton in action “Although Graham doesn’t have the physicality to carry out every bit of the work, he’s got the knowledge and the idea, which has become reality through shared experiences.
“Both Graham and Alan have worked together as a team and it’s forged a nice friendship between them. “There’s a lot of camaraderie here at this shed, and possibly the most important thing is that people come along and have a laugh.” Graham, who lives nearby in Winsford, added: “I visit the shed here three and a half days a week, and the centre as a whole is very important to me,”
“It’s fantastic for me to get out and about and speak to people. “All of the sheds are unique with different rooms for arts and crafts, computing and woodwork, but everyone who comes through the door is made to feel welcome. “I’m looking forward to giving the truck and trailer to my grandchildren to enjoy once it’s finished.”
For more information about Men in Sheds and to find your nearest centre, visit meninsheds.org.uk.
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