The original inspiration for our shed came from Garry Shore, who had been involved with Men’s Sheds before and could see the potential for one in Woking. Back in July 2017 there were only 4 of us, Garry, Kit, Roy and Steve, based at the International School of London (ISL) school on East Hill, where Garry’s wife was the deputy head. One of the great challenges in starting a “Shed” is to get premises and we were lucky to be in that position from the beginning. Garry held an “open day” there and a few new guys joined us.
At first, we shared a corrugated hut with the School Caretaker, Frank, but soon we moved to a brick garage and spent the early days learning how to run a Shed and converting this brick garage into a viable workshop. Our membership grew to 10 and we became members of the UK Mens Shed Association (UKMSA) and began fundraising. It was fun getting to know each other and discover the skills and experience we all brought to the shed. We had a limited set of tools to use but soon learnt the importance of the kettle and filter coffee machine. One of our first projects was to build 150 dormouse boxes for the local dormouse preservation society.
We established a relationship with Woking Borough Council who have been very supportive ever since. We have been given several grants by the council and started fundraising from other donors to whom we are extremely grateful.
We initially met for 4 hours on Saturdays but later extended that to include Wednesday afternoons, something usually only available to those of us who are retired, which included most of our members.
In Jan 2019 we were approached by UKMSA to see if we could get involved with a potential new project with Anchor homes, who have a large care home in West Byfleet. As part of their community outreach Anchor wished to open Men’s Sheds on their sites throughout the UK, the first one being at West Hall.
At the same time, we learned that our existing base was no longer secure as the ISL school was closing and being replaced by Greenfield School. We decided to go with the new project and began a long series of meetings with the Anchor management, UKMSA and a philanthropic organisation called the Rayne foundation who were considering putting substantial finance into the scheme. Plans were drawn up to fund raise and build a wooden cabin and workshop at a location in the grounds of West Hall Care Home. We chose a piece of land near to the greenhouse and created a building site for our new base.
It was decided that the cabins would be owned by Anchor and leased to the Shed which would be called the Woking & District Men’s Shed and would be set up as a Registered Charity. We appointed Trustees to be responsible for ensuring that the objectives of the organisation are being met.
The project to build these wooden cabins started but was interrupted by the Covid 19 pandemic. We soon were only able to meet over Zoom! It is difficult to know how much Covid delayed the project but thankfully none of our members were badly affected by the virus.
When we were eventually allowed to recommence our building project at West Hall, all members contributed to the construction of 2 superb log cabin buildings, one of which we use as a social club house and the other as a well-equipped workshop. Thank you Andrew for guiding us through this project. Later we added a third wooden storage shed. Being in the grounds of a Care Home, when we were allowed back on site and for many months afterwards, we were required to pass a Covid 19 lateral flow test before we attended the sheds.
Our new workshop has been kitted out with a table saw, band saw, a planer-thicknesser, router table and many other tools funded by our generous donors. We introduced a workshop familiarisation process to ensure members could use these tools safely. Recently we have obtained a 3-d printer and a vinyl cutter. We have established relationships with suppliers such as Axminster Tools, Ronseal, Wickes and others to help us to equip the Shed.
Our club house is equipped with comfy leather sofas and a huge tv, fridge and of course coffee and tea facilities. We have also built a paved area in front of our wooden cabins and work outside when we can. We have installed solar panels behind our workshop and over the course of a year generate more power than we use. Also, by using LED lighting and timber construction throughout, we are proud of our green credentials.
We created an allotment area next to our shed and grow various vegetables to take home, and our members are encouraged to get their hands dirty!
We re-launched the Shed to new members in February 2022 for 3 days a week and we soon grew our membership to over 30 with men joining us from many different backgrounds and skill sets to share with others. Over the years, the Shed has grown and developed under the Chairmanship of Kit, Roy and most recently Phil. Our activities are determined by our members, and we endeavour to contribute to the community by working with local charities and good causes.
As well as our normal opening days, we have enjoyed other social occasions e.g. Fish and Chip supper, Christmas Socials and Afternoon Tea for members and partners. We have also invited visiting speakers such as representatives from Prostate Cancer UK and St John Ambulance to come and deliver talks to members.
We look to grow and develop as more new members join us, bringing with them their own skills and experience.