The Men’s Shed Barn in Trimley St. Mary.
About a month ago, a kind and alert friend contacted me to let me know a Felixstowe Men’s Shed had arrived in Trimley St. Mary. This news was followed up some days later when a post appeared on Facebook with a link to a video about the Shed and its work. I contacted Tony Allen, who runs the Felixstowe Men’s Shed and arranged to visit the site to take a look at the work going on there.
The Men’s Shed movement was initiated in Australia, towards the end of the last century. Gradually it grew outwards and the first one in the Northern hemisphere started in Ireland in 2011. In the U.K. today, the umbrella organisation is known as the U.K. Men’s Sheds Association and the movement has spread across the country. There are about six hundred active open sheds with one hundred and forty one currently in development. In Suffolk, existing sheds may be found in Ipswich, Stowmarket, Bacton, Debenham, Leiston, Southwold, Beccles and Lowestoft. Currently two more are planned for Framlingham and Wickham Market. The Felixstowe Men’s Shed was formerly located at Felixstowe Museum but having outgrown the site, has been rehoused at Great Street Farm in Trimley St. Mary. He guided me around the site and explained how The Shed came to settle in the village and the nature of the organisation.
“I’m an ex-policeman, a former D.C.I. During the 1970s I lived in Sandy Close, Trimley St. Martin. We started the Men’s Shed about four years ago after an open public meeting in the Library. He is one of the founder members and Chairman of the Trimley Men’s Shed Committee. Membership is simple. The single requirement is age; members have to be over eighteen. And despite the name, it’s not just for men, women are equally entitled to join. We have two already. The concept of ‘Men’s Shed’, and not simply ‘Shed’, is because it has been recognised for a long time that men do not cope as well as women with bereavement, one of the initial rationales for their instigation.
All have their own flavour and the hardest thing is to find premises. It’s the most difficult thing going but we’ve landed on our feet here. The large barn at Great Street Farm is seventy feet by twenty eight across and part of the Trimley Estate owned by Trinity College. It will be cold in the winter but we are putting in an individual ‘front’ door to make it warmer. We’re also constructing an internal room, which will act as a Meeting Room with kitchen facilities. Some equipment for The Shed has been donated, some has been purchased through grants. We endeavour to use donated or recycled materials in everything we make; the doors for the Meeting Room were donated. We make use of any wood donated to us and always welcome any further offers! This Project is all about giving and sharing.
Membership was originally about thirty when we were situated at the Museum. Here we are down to twenty but attendance is higher here; last Tuesday we had all twenty people here, which shows enthusiasm and a sense of camaraderie. Another thing is that a workshop at home doesn’t have much laughter going on but here there’s humour. I took some pictures of the Wise Men the other day wearing a mask the other day. But it’s not like being at home because we have to be careful about Health and Safety.
Great Street Farm is obviously an old farm premises. I’ll show you the Stable Yard, where you can imagine what it was like in the early part of the last century. A hive of activity with the horses. It must have been magical. We’re able to use the barn, but not the yard, because Trinity College have given us a two year licence to use the premises together with an assurance something may be found in the future.
There is so much going on here. Some people have specialisms, some are generalists. There is a small but growing Library of specialist books which may be called upon in the absence of an expert. If you had been here last week, it was buzzing. There were twenty people here all cutting out the Nativity scene or working on it. It was incredible. We’re building a full size Nativity scene for Trimley St. Martin’s churchyard, which will be illuminated front and back. It will be a temporary structure which will be erected in a mindful manner, as the Churchyard is consecrated ground. It was Joan Wardle, the Church’s Safeguarding Officer, who came up with the idea and asked me if we could help out. We had an open meeting in the Shed when I said, ‘Drop everything’, and we all agreed to do it as a matter of urgency. Everything was put on pause and we got to work on this one at once. The members are so enthused. The images for the Nativity came from Joan, who gave me a folder of small images. Ivan Rose, a Sign Writer, copied the designs onto full size boards. We have been asked to install them in the Churchyard by the 9th December.
There’s been great interest in the project. Last week Mike Ninnmey, the former Lib Dem candidate for the District Council, was here filming the Shed for a You tube feed. The Church have become involved and in addition to the request for the Nativity, they have organised a Cake rota. Today Sue Sanderson has delivered the cake. Everyone is excited by the Project.”
In addition to donations, the barn houses a mobile display unit demonstrating the range of projects undertaken so far. There were photographs of wooden guns now installed at Landguard Fort as well as a reproduction of a Second World War WAAF Plotters’ table. Also on the display board is a photograph of a reconstructed mid-twentieth century Pub, which was installed in a local Care Home, designed to help residents revive their memories of going to an old fashioned Pub. A small, niche library provides help in the absence of any member’s specific knowledge.
When another visitor arrived, I moved outside by myself, not wishing to upset the steady flow of work. Here I met two enthusiasts. Outside the Barn doors, Malcolm Crowther was busy painting part of the Stable for the Nativity. He described himself as a ‘general bod’ and said I could talk to him for a fee. It emerged that he holds an Equity Card as he used to ride or drive horses for films and T.V. He has appeared in ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, ‘A Man called Horse’, ‘Tiswas’ and ‘Blue Peter to name a few productions. He enjoys the work at The Shed but also likes the caring and helping of other people.
Across the way, Paul Braithwaite was busy working in what is destined to become a It is going to be called a Wellness Garden; somewhere to relax, reflect and bring the senses back into place. A local Society has been in contact and have offered to seek funds in the region of £2,500 for the materials.
After speaking to Malcolm and Paul, I took a quick glance at other corners of the site. Tony had already mentioned the Yard, where long gone horses had once looked through the stable doors. Looking down the drive towards the High Road and peeking around the back of the Barn, it was possible to see glimpses of an older Trimley.
Timeless supportive and sharing values seem to sum up the ethos of the Men’s Shed Project. Good Luck to them all.
The small but perfect Library
The Display Board demonstrating the versatility of Trimley Men’s Shed
The Meeting Room inside the Barn for members’ use
Two exterior views of the Barn
The site of the future Wellness Garden
Paul Braithwaite contemplating work in the Wellness Garden
The Wellness Garden under construction
Malcolm Crowther painting part of the Nativity Stable
The original old stables at Great Street Farm
Part of the old stables
View from the Barn towards the High Road
Another view of old Trimley looking towards the Church, Great Street Farm House and The Welcome Hall
If you are interested, you can contact the local organisation at: www.felixstowemensshed.org.uk
If you have any comments or would like to be part of the Trimley St. Martin project, please contact me at: