Colin (69 years)

"  I’ve been involved with the Shed for a year and a bit. Many years ago there was talk about starting a Shed and we all went over to Harpenden [to the Repair Shed] and it was brilliant – they made us very welcome. Everybody was enthusiastic and then Covid hit and everything stopped. Getting premises was the hardest thing. Finally Standalone Farm was offered but it needed a lot of work to get it sorted. I joined before Christmas before work had begun.

I was retired and wanted something to do to keep my brain working and it seemed ideal. I keep coming back because I enjoy it – the company, the work ethic – you’re not pressurised - that’s unusual these days. I enjoy it and would recommend any other men to ‘give it a whirl if there’s one near you’. I think you need to be of sound mind and reasonable health.  

At our stall at the Steam weekend, most of the people who showed interest were women saying things like ‘this is just what my dad needs’. We’re pretty full to capacity at the moment with just one session. The sooner we can clear the garage and get the stored tools in use, the better.  "

Simon (61 years)

" My wife had seen about Men’s Sheds on the internet - she obviously thought, as I was retiring she should find something for me to do! I then came to the Steam Fair [at Standalone Farm in June] and that was my first contact with members of the Letchworth Shed. I started coming about six weeks after that and have only missed one week since then.

For me, a Men’s Shed is a place (doesn’t actually have to be a shed) where you can have a cup of tea and a good chat. You can get involved in jobs – or not – that’s entirely up to you. Some people prefer to have a chat and watch others doing stuff, I like that flexibility. I enjoy the company – everyone’s friendly. I particularly like doing jobs for the farm – like refurbishing the litter bins - you feel you’re giving something back in return for the Shed space, and you’re helping the wider community. And people who have been here have noticed the upgraded bins – It’s nice that they noticed!

I do practical things at home. I don’t do things like making wooden toys, but it’s something I could get into here. I’ve noticed the hobby horse that Ray bought in – he’s talented. Looking ahead, I want to continue with jobs that support the farm and start making things with the tools we’ve got. "

Ian (80 years)

I heard about the Shed through one of my neighbours. It was about two years ago, just after my wife had died, Covid had just about finished. A Men’s Shed is mainly for men interested in practical things, who may be lonely and want to connect with other men.  It gives people something to do in their lives.

I come back each week because I’ve got friends here and that’s more important than anything else. I always say I could sit at home and be miserable or come here and make everyone else miserable! I help out at the Shuttleworth [Air Museum] as well. I’m practically minded and, when I was 20 I won an award for being the best apprentice in the country in sheet metal work. 

My experience has been in metalwork – I know we won’t be welding here, but I’d like to learn wood work, and get to use the lathe. I’ve done my own sewing and cooking since my wife died but I also do a lot of repairs at home – avoiding anything electrical. I’m keen to see if the Shed can help me add to what I know already. "

Jon (83 years)

" I’ve been involved with the Shed for three years. I met Astrid (the driving force behind the Shed at the start) through the Letchworth Arts and Leisure German Conversation Group. I’d heard about Men’s Sheds somewhere, but Astrid had local details.

 I’d describe a Men’s Shed as a place for men to get together. When you’re working you have a lot of contact with people but when you retire you’re suddenly cut off. A Shed brings people together for companionship. I’ve always love tinkering – small jobs around the house but less so now. I’ve had four potentially lethal illnesses, but I’ve survived them and I’m here! 

Our garage at home is full of stuff, including a kit car - I don’t have room to put up a bench. So I’m looking forward to doing more in the Shed and particularly when we get the lathes going. I did metal-turning as part of my graduate apprenticeship after university and really enjoyed that.  More recently my wife gave me a two-day wood-turning course as a birthday present - I made a couple of plates and a vase.

I’ve always enjoyed working with people - to kick ideas around – I work better like that. I enjoy the companionship here and as more workspace becomes available there will be more opportunities to get involved."

Bob (81 years)

"  I’ve been involved with Letchworth Shed for approximately 4 months. I lost my wife and spoke to my doctor – I was very lonely and needed to speak to people. The doctor put me in touch with Herts County Council and a person came and interviewed me to find out what my needs were and they came up with the Letchworth Shed address. I also got a young lady to come out once a week and talk to me in my own home. That was a great help – the main thing was that I wasn’t meeting anyone to talk to and I was beginning to worry. I was a carer for my wife for many, many years – she was bed-ridden – so I couldn’t get out. I would get up in the morning, put the telly on, and not see anyone all day.

I used to do joinery and this [the Shed] has helped keep that going. The people here are wonderful – it’s the comradeship, it really is. At work I had people day to day – it just worked, no trouble at all. Many years ago I played cricket, football, and table tennis – up to about four years ago I was still playing league table tennis.

I’ve had problems with my knee – I had a replacement but it went wrong. I’ve had eight operations in five weeks to put it right but it’s still giving me problems. I couldn’t walk when I came out of hospital, but I can now – so I must be making progress!

The friendship is the thing with the Shed – everyone is so, nice. It’s a treat to come here and obviously altering the building is good – it was a heap when we moved in and we’re getting it into shape. I’d like to get more involved in the Shed when it’s sorted. I can’t bend down now so that makes things difficult, but I’ve done a lot at home in the past – I put an extension on many years ago, I did all the household repairs, l’ve also laid paving, and enjoy gardening – but I can’t now!

If you’re lonely, the Shed is a good release – it puts the cap on your loneliness – you get terrific friendship with the people here. When you’re at work, you’ve got your comrades there and see them every day. I worked for a local authority for 57 years – I started as an apprentice carpenter and joiner then moved into the office and was a trainee surveyor – doing alterations and upgrades for people who were infirm. I prefer to use my hands rather than my head.

I have a daughter who is extremely busy. She’s got to work to pay off a mortgage - I see her maybe once a week. I’ve lived in Letchworth for about 50 years so I feel I very much belong here.  "

Ray (83 years)

"  I’ve been a member of the Shed for around four years – from the days when we met in the Nourish Café [at the centre for healthy living between Letchworth and Hitchin]. I first heard about the Shed when I saw an ad in the local paper asking if anyone had premises. I went along to one of the meetings but we didn’t have a space for many years. 

When Covid came along we had to stop our regular meetings. It wasn’t until after lockdown that we started cleaning this place [a farm building] – we got access in April 2022, started cleaning it all out.

I would describe a Shed as a place for people to go to make things, meet pals and get to know more people, have a coffee – a social thing. I come back every week in the hope we might be able to start using some of the machines someday. Space is still a problem – the noise when the machinery gets going.

I used to do woodturning at home to make things for the Countryside Restoration Trust Open Days from 2003 – ever year I used to get £2-300 and give them 25%. I made loads of things for the 2020 show and it never happened because of Covid. My back decided to retire at the end of 2019 so I was at a loss from not doing the conservation work and there was no point in woodturning if the was nowhere to sell it. I’m hoping we can sell stuff in the farm shop and that’s why I made a hobby horse.

Now we need to get the Shed laid out so we know where everything is. I’ve got holes in my shelves for dropping in tools, and nails on the front for hanging things on, and honey jars for nails and things. At home I can find tools easily, here it’s probably in a bucket somewhere, and there are still lots of tools in storage!  "

Graham (82 years)

I’ve been involved with this Shed for around a year and a half, but I’ve previously been involved in a Shed in Morley [in Leeds] for the best part of two years. You might say Morley was a ‘Rolls Royce version’ of a Shed - it was a converted old weaving building, very large with 15 double-sided benches. You had to apply to join (then wait until there was a place) and most people went two days a week to 10am to 3pm sessions.

The thing that was good about the place was that, if you paused for a moment and looked puzzled, one of the guys would be there offering to help you. It was a really pleasant atmosphere with a mandatory break at 12 noon – no lathes or saws – and we all sat around having a natter over a cup of tea and biscuits. The camaraderie was very good.

I think it was actually my daughter who tracked down Letchworth Men’s Shed after I’d moved back down to Hertfordshire. I discovered they were looking to start a Shed and came along to meet the guys who were working on finding a space here at Standalone Farm which took a while. My initial involvement was seven of us building a poly-tunnel for the farm – really hard work, learning as we went along with a 14-page manual.

Based on my experience with the Morley Shed, I’d describe a Men’s Shed as somewhere you find a group of people interested in working together to share skills – both a chat room, but a skills learning exercise as well. 

Looking ahead, I’m a little concerned that having done all the refurbishment work on our current space here, we’ll be offered a larger space on the farm and we might not benefit from all our hard work! Clearly we need more space for interfacing and social activity and more time in each session for the guys to sit down and have a natter.

My starting interest for being involved with Sheds was woodwork. When I joined the Morley Shed, I was making a birdhouse with my mother’s old kitchen cutting board as a base, and the birds are still using it! In Leeds, I also made planters and then learnt how to make wood-turned bodies for pens which sold at the local charity shop.

When I’m not in the Shed I play badminton, petanque [a kind of French bowls] and table tennis. I swim 20 lengths a week, and I like regular walks two to three times a week. It’s a great way to unwind.

Looking ahead I’d be happy to make things for sale in the farm shop here. It would be interesting to set up a timetable of work to organise things in a bit more structured way. It would also be good to see what other Sheds are doing – I’d be interested in a ‘shed crawl’.  

For more on Morley Shed see www.groundwork.org.uk/projects/men-in-sheds  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FA64Kc2ph8 "

Alan (76 years)

"  I’ve been involved with the Shed for 3 - 4 months. I found out about it through the internet – I was searching for somewhere to socialise and I can’t remember where, but I’d heard about this thing called Men in Sheds. I live in Stevenage but my nearest one was Letchworth.

I’d describe a Shed as a great place for people of all walks of life to get together. There are no strict rules and there’s an element of comradeship with the possibility of getting involved in little projects – I’ve just been applying mastic around the new door. It’s a great social space and you can either sit down and have a chat or get up and do stuff. I enjoy the company and the ‘low key’ atmosphere. It means if I’m not feeling great – I suffer from long Covid and some mornings I have to push myself – there’s no pressure.

I’ve done many things in the past – including being a prop maker and building scenery – I’ve always been practical – always done DIY. This is such a nice environment – in what used to be a piggery, but better than a Shed! But I imagine that all Men’s Sheds are different.  "

Phil (70 years)

"  I am a Cornishman now living in Letchworth Garden City. I discovered the Letchworth Shed through a North Herts. Newsletter. I have now been with the Shed for just over a year. I like to be practically involved and there has been plenty to do getting the premises ready for use. I am also happy to chat to people. 

Physical and mental wellbeing has become a high-profile concern. Men’s Sheds  exist to support people - primarily men - who may have lost colleagues, have fewer social contacts, are possibly bereaved or single, and looking for both a social and practical involvement with other men with similar interests. I think that Men’s Sheds is a superb initiative and I am glad to be part of it.

What keeps me coming back? There are plenty of jobs that need to be done! And as you do the jobs with others you get to know them better. I moved back to Hertfordshire four years ago and since then I’ve had pretty poor health and have had to isolate a lot. Apart from our allotment, this is really the only group I am involved with regularly. I see a few other friends occasionally, but the Shed is a key aspect of the week for me.

For the past 10 years I have been a woodturner. I was fortunate to be involved in a large and active club in Cornwall where I worked from being a complete novice to a proficient turner. I have a well-equipped workshop and I am happy pursuing my practical interests in my own space producing things on commission or for charity. I am also qualified to teach woodturning. 

Our Shed is very fortunate to have good grant funding and I am personally very happy that we have invested in woodturning equipment. There are three others with woodturning experience and several people have said they would like to learn. I would like to develop a course teaching basic woodturning on a one-to-one basis. Alongside that, I would like to pick up a few new skills myself – I have a router but want to learn how to use it properly, and maybe develop my woodcarving too. An early next stage should be to identify what skills we have between us and we can then move to phase 2 of the Letchworth Men’s Shed.  "