Members of a north community group aimed at reducing isolation in older men have found a new home at a former skate park.
Dingwall and District Men’s Shed yesterday welcomed the installation of two shipping containers at the site, which will allow them to run group activities once lockdown restrictions are eased.
The containers were lowered onto the space in the morning, ready to be converted into facilities for the so-called “Shedders”.
Another storage container, gifted by neighbouring Ross County FC, was also moved in to house the group’s equipment and tools for its various projects.
Dingwall and District Men’s Shed was formed three years ago, and has “squatted” in Ross County’s ground twice a week for meetings.
They shared the local Scout hall for practical activities, contributing to the repair and running of the building in return.
The members have made their mark all over the town, carrying out all sorts of practical tasks.
They have made play furniture for local primary schools, benches for the Peffery Way and picnic tables for local charities and other organisations.
They have also maintained gardens for elderly or infirm residents, fashioned craft items to be sold locally and looked after amenity areas and pathways, all while providing a place of safety and companionship to combat loneliness and isolation.
Member Brian Liddle said: “We quickly recognised that our needs were beyond the space in the Scout Hut.
“It does not have an adequate heating system which, during the winter, prevents socialising or workshop activity.
“During our search for alternative permanent accommodation we noted that the local skate park was unused, and buildings could be erected utilising containers.”
The Dingwall group decided to depart from tradition among other Men’s Sheds and open their new home to the community beyond those affiliated with the charity.
Mr Liddle said: “Given the size of the plot, we discussed the potential to develop a facility which would meet our needs but also serve as a community asset.
“Planning permission has been granted for a polytunnel, a facility for arts and crafts and a landscaped area which encourages wildlife.”
These areas will be available for disadvantaged groups, particularly wheelchair users.
The polytunnel will have raised beds and paving as well as areas for wildlife.
Mr Liddle said: “We anticipate that pupils from schools such as St Clements may benefit from the development.”
Dingwall Men’s Shed has 34 members, with around half classed as active.
The pandemic has severely curtailed the group’s activities, with some members having to shield, and meetings only able to take place outdoors.
Mr Liddle said: “At the start of our organisation, we envisaged a group of older members.
“We were surprised at the number of younger people who approached us who were, for many reasons, excluded from society.
“For some we have become a gateway back into the community, offering mentorship, skills and company.”
The first task has been accomplished – a kettle and chairs have been moved in so the members can have a cup of tea, or “something stronger”, Mr Liddle said.