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Sheds Heaven

PUBLISHED: 06:17 04 August 2014 | UPDATED: 07:44 04 August 2014

Men learning practical skills at the new project, Norwich Men's Shed. George Michie, left, and Julian Phillips. Picture: Denise Bradley

Men learning practical skills at the new project, Norwich Men's Shed. George Michie, left, and Julian Phillips. Picture: Denise Bradley

copyright: Archant 2014

Whether it’s for pottering, potting or pigeons, for contemplation, crafting or a crafty smoke – a shed is almost always more than four simple walls and a roof.

Some are very much more and perch in trees or luxuriate in balconies and wood-burners, and some are mainly for the mind – a man-cave for men to escape into.

Nick Haywood’s sheds grace gardens all over the country. He founded The Classic Shed Company in Burnham Market 15 years ago and creates beautiful wooden buildings reminiscent of chapels, beach-huts and boats. He started out as an artist and furniture designer and decided to combine his love of design, gardening and working in wood.

“I came up here for a weekend and never really left!” he laughs. “Thirty years ago it was the last bastion of hippydom and I sold wooden toys on Fakenham market.”

He graduated from toys to furniture to posh sheds. One of his most popular designs is based on a traditional shepherd’s hut and comes prettily panelled and painted, with windows and a wood-burner. Another is the boat-seat-shed which was based on traditional boats he saw on Holy Island.

“What customers generally want is somewhere they can store some things in, but also somewhere they can sit and relax and enjoy their gardens. People look out of their windows on to their shed and it’s better to have something nice to look at than something ugly.” As a keen gardener he particularly enjoys visiting people to discuss their shed requirements. “There are very few people who love gardening and aren’t nice people,” he muses.

In the man cave

A new kind of community is taking shape in Norwich. The Men’s Shed movement began in Australia, where it even gets state funding, and has since spread worldwide.

Norfolk’s first Men’s Shed was founded in the autumn in Norwich, with members ranging from youngsters living with their parents to pensioners. Some of the men have a lifetime of practical experience behind them and now the time to share their skills, others are eager to learn from scratch.

Men with their own workshops at home who relish the extra space and company, have made the work-benches, donated many of the tools and are teaching others how to make, mend and create in wood and metal. Added to the bonds of nails and glue, are the more intangible bonds of new friendships across generations and backgrounds.

On Saturday, June 14, Norwich Men’s Club will hold its first open day, during Men’s Health Week and over the Father’s Day weekend. Anyone interested in finding out more is invited to drop in to Norwich Men’s Shed, Unit Six, Beckham Place, near Anglia Square, Norwich, NR3 3DZ.

For more details contact Andy Wood on 07717 055543; www.menscraft.org.uk

Now, that’s a yard

Sam Coster started his architectural salvage business seven years ago and now runs Mongers from three showrooms, a yard, a garden and workshops, plus extra storage in barns on nearby farms. Sam began Mongers, based in the Market Place at Hingham, near Watton, with his late wife, Trudie.

Stock can include anything from flowery antique toilets to entire staircases, roll-top baths to wrought iron gates, and fireplaces to stained glass. It comes from demolition sites, developers and private individuals and Sam says: “Norfolk has always been a good source of salvaged items, as there are so many barns where people have stored items for many years. I have a set of 17th Century oak doors in stock that I was told came from Costessey Hall, which was demolished in 1960, but have been stored safely since.”

He says every item tells a story: “Wherever possible we keep a record of the provenance of every item we sell. I had a summerhouse once, in which Nik Cohn was reputed to have written Saturday Night Fever, and a toilet used by Betty Grable at the Palace Theatre in London, but to be honest I get just as excited by a roof ridge tile with Hingham 1868 scratched into it, or a wooden fire surround with a name in pencil scribbled on the back.”

His favourite pieces were made by local firms such as Boulton and Paul or Barnard, Bishop and Barnard. “We have a Boulton and Paul revolving summerhouse in stock and a complete 1920s wooden farm office building that was also very likely to have been manufactured by them.”

Mongers restores pieces too. “The satisfaction that I get from giving old and antique items a new lease of life is immense,” says Sam. “By restoring a humble tap we, not only prevent it from being prematurely scrapped or thrown into landfill, but also reduce the need to unnecessarily manufacture more.”

Television’s Grand Designs filmed at Mongers recently. “We supplied some coloured 1930s bathroom fittings to a couple building a house in London, and they thought it may be interesting to film them choosing some other items for their project. We hope this may highlight issues about how few eco-houses use reclaim, and the reasons for it. This industry gets none of the subsidies that other green industries do and yet there is nothing more sustainable than reuse.”

Love shack

Tristan Scott loves sheds so much he built a beautiful wedding shed for his bride.

He and Sara left church in Horsford, near Norwich, in a pretty white shed, complete with heart-shapes on the shutters, flowers and champagne, all perched on a trailer.

Tristan runs Scott Sheds in Horsford and built the wedding shed himself as a surprise for his bride – and it is now a playhouse for their children.

His mum, Jane, who also works for the business said the company is currently building a Bavarian beer shed in Thorpe St Andrew, near Norwich, and makes everything from small tool stores to holiday lodges, including grill cabins, posh pods and atriums. “We do a lot of ‘man caves’ as they are now called apparently!” adds Jane. “It’s a place where a husband or partner can escape and leave everything laying around without being moaned at. Ladies prefer a nice summerhouse where they can sit, relax and watch the world go by.”

Did you know

More than 50 sheds across the country are listed by English Heritage, including cart sheds, cattle sheds and fishing net sheds.

Harley Davison bikes, Renault cars, bouncing bombs and wind-up radios are all said to have been invented in garden sheds.

Why is your shed special to you - and what unusual things do you keep in yours? Let us know, by email to norfolkmagletters@archant.co.uk or by letter to Feedback, EDP Norfolk magazine, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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