Mintlaw and District Men’s Shed soon to be ‘open for business’
Trustee and former Chairman of Mintlaw and District Men’s Shed (MADMS), Sandy Thom, shares the exciting news that their new Shed premises, within the grounds of Aden Country Park, will hopefully be ‘open for business’ by the end of the summer.
Aden Country Park is a 230-acre popular and family-friendly park with beautiful surroundings that include a café, shop, camping and caravan area, fairy woods, play park, the maintained ruins of Aden House, landscaped gardens and a building called the Gardener’s Cottage.
Following a long hunt for the perfect location and right fit for Shed premises, MADMS trustees were delighted to receive an offer from Aberdeenshire Council they couldn’t refuse. As part of a conservation programme, the Shed was offered the semi-derelict Gardener’s Cottage to transform and bring back into public use for community benefit.
Sandy said: “Our story began in the summer of 2018 when a local lady advertised in the Buchan Observer asking if the community would be interested in setting up a Men’s Shed. Myself and three others met and were keen to start a Shed. We then held a public meeting, formed a committee and became a registered charity in March 2019.
“We began meeting in numerous places including the bowling club, our public hall and the café at our local garden centre. We would get together to socialise, listen to guest speakers and discuss and look for potential premises.
“Aden Country Park had secured funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) under the Parks for People Initiative and within this was the proposal to give the cottage building a new lease of life whilst preserving heritage features for future generations.
“We were champing at the bit to get started on our new Shed as soon as the offer came in. We began working on two shipping containers, that were donated to us, that could also be sited close to the cottage. We were at such a high point, applying for funding and ready to progress with our plans, when Covid-19 struck.
“Several of our members are in the shielding category but all our members are in the vulnerable category and are rightly cautious. Social distancing measures halted to our plans in the first lockdown. We kept in touch with phone calls and emails to members and established fortnightly Zoom meetings for those that wished to join online. In September 2020, we also held a successful AGM online and all positions were appointed.
“Over time, we resumed some socially-distanced activities such as planting daffodil and tulip bulbs ready for a spring show in addition to refurbishing the attractive sign at the entrance to Old Deer.
“We then returned to site to remove the old security fence at the back of the cottage and replace it with a new one (funded by Aberdeenshire Council). We also added uprights to the containers to support the cladding in addition to tidying up the compound. All this was done within government restrictions and following the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association (SMSA) recommendations and wearing our Pathfindr Safe Distancing Assistant devices from the Association.
“Thanks to the Council funding, we were also able to purchase our generator and additional steel carriers for the profile sheeting for the roofs. Some of the money has also been set aside to make our work benches.
“We are extremely grateful for the relationship we have with our local authority and are indebted to them for the support they have given. We are also fortunate to have received support from several other funders (including the Co-op Local Community Fund and Shell Small Grants) and local businesses that have donated to the cause. We are certainly well kitted out in tools ready for our opening!
“The interior of the Gardener’s Cottage is unfortunately fire damaged and we are currently applying for additional funding to revamp this. Our plans for the two-storey building is to have a social area and kitchen downstairs and an IT/computing area and store upstairs. The two shipping containers nearby will also become one big workshop with storage. The park is currently undergoing an extensive expansion project and is receiving an upgrade to the electricity grid and we hope to be able to link up to this to power the Shed.
“Despite not yet having a physical Shed, we are still very much up and running and we are thoroughly enjoying getting involved in new projects and partnerships like the maintenance of the Fairy Woods at the Park—making fairy doors, windows and bird boxes—after they were recently targeted by vandals.
“We are delighted to have not only retained our membership, consisting of a dozen active members, but also attracted new ones in lockdown. New members are always welcome and they can email us with their details at [email protected] to join us on Zoom or on site and/or be added to our mailing list to be kept informed.
“By the end of this summer, we’ll inherit a cottage that has been fully refurbished externally with new windows, disabled access, lighting and even an SMSA-blue-branded front door. We will finally have a place to call home – with no neighbours being disturbed by our hammering, drilling and sawing – in a beautiful location and we are extremely proud to have achieved what we have to date.
“We do not yet know what our opening times will be but this will be member-led and whatever floats their boat. We already have a demand being expressed by our green-fingered Shedders for a greenhouse and raised beds.
“Lifelong friendships have come out of this mammoth task; it is hard work but we are enjoying every minute. We have strived to get to this stage, and there is still much to do but we look forward to what this next chapter will bring.”
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• Michelle Wibrew, author of this article, is the Communications & PR Officer for the Scottish Men's Sheds Association.