Sowing the seeds of happiness - Thetford Men’s Shed project helps tackle loneliness and isolation

Prince's Trust Team 137 hand over the key to the allotments in Station Lane, Thetford, which they re

Prince's Trust Team 137 hand over the key to the allotments in Station Lane, Thetford, which they renovated for Keystone Development Trust's Men's Shed. Picture: KERRY PLILER - Credit: Archant

A shed has long been known as a man's haven where he can lovingly build and mend things.

But now two new projects in Thetford are helping men experiencing loneliness and isolation to plant the seeds of friendship, good health and happiness.

The Keystone Development Trust started the Bike Shed last October, where men can meet up to repair and service bikes.

Thetford Town Council then donated the charity space on the allotments in Mundford Road – enabling the organisation to also start the Grow Shed and create a new community garden.

However as one of its members said: 'The grow shed is about more than just planting seeds.

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'It's a place where guys can go and do some gardening, some DIY or just hang out and socialise.

'It's about getting outside and doing projects with other people. Everyone can use a project to keep them occupied.'

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The Grow Shed and the Bike Shed are part of the growing Men's Shed movement taking place across the country, designed to give men a place to socialise and share their skills.

Dave Hannah, co-ordinator for the Bike Shed and the Grow Shed at the Keystone Development Trust, said: 'What's really important with the Men's Shed is the social aspect.

'It is a proven fact that being a part of a social network can improve your health and sense of well-being.

'It's a known fact that there are lots of isolated men in the community who, given the opportunity, would like to be creative, meet with other men and have fun.

'Men aren't generally quite as good at talking to each other and there are more social organisations for women than there are for men.

'This is about targeting men who would like to meet up with others to share their skills.'

The Grow Shed is open every Wednesday from 11am to 1pm.

Anyone who is interested can visit the allotments at the Station Lane entrance for a cup of tea and a chat about the project.

The Bike Shed runs every Tuesday from 1pm until 4.30pm in Exeter Way, opposite the community centre.

'Blank canvas'

Volunteers from the Prince's Trust spent a week clearing the Mundford Road allotment site in Thetford of overgrown weeds earlier this year so the Grow Shed could get underway.

This has, according to Grow Shed organisers, given the project a 'fresh and fertile blank canvas', with members starting to plant and grow vegetables.

Co-ordinators are now appealing for men who want a place to socialise and share their skills to get involved in the project.

There are empty plant beds, a bag full of seeds and plenty of tools in the shed – but organisers are keen to get more people involved so they can make more detailed plans.

'We're very keen to get more members,' said co-ordinator Dave Hannah, from the Keystone Development Trust.

'It's all about trying to get the word out there and starting to plant seeds.'

He added that the Bike Shed project is 'about building relationships as well as building bikes'.

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