Future in doubt for Wareham Sheddies after eviction threat

Talented woodworkers are facing an uncertain time as an eviction wrangle leaves their future in Purbeck very much in the balance.

Members of the Wareham Area Men’s Shed project, set up for the lonely, disadvantaged and retired, were dismayed when they were told by landlords Care Dorset that they had three months to leave their workshop.

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WAREHAM AREA MEN’S SHED

The totem pole made as a tourist attraction for Purbeck’s Blue Pool

Three months’ notice to quit

Although Care Dorset has subsequently apologised for the way the eviction notice was issued and has placed the order on hold, leaders still fear the worst and are desperately looking for a new home.

The Sheddies, as they are affectionately known, have undertaken a huge amount of voluntary work for Purbeck schools, councils, churches and charities, even making a new tourist attraction for the area – a 14 foot tall totem pole based at the Blue Pool near Norden.

They have built a platform for RSPB Arne to view raft spiders in their natural environment, a climbing wall for reception children at Stoborough Primary School, and a restored clay mining trolley for a roundabout at Wareham after the previous one was destroyed in a car crash.

Dozens of hedgehog houses, bird boxes and planters have also been created for Purbeck nature groups by the 30 members of the Men’s Shed group from their workshop at Care Dorset’s centre in Sandford Road, Wareham.

But there was a shock in store when Care Dorset, an adult care service provider which is wholly owned by Dorset Council but run independently, gave the Sheddies three months’ notice to quit, citing an ‘operational need’.

WAREHAM AREA MEN’S SHED

A climbing wall made by the Sheddies for reception children at Stoborough Primary School

“I found the decision very strange”

On hearing the news, chair of the Wareham Area Men’s Shed project, Harold Forbes said:

“This means we must quickly find a new site otherwise there will be no alternative but to shut down. That would be an enormous shame both for our members and for the wider community, for which we have done so much over the past few years.

“Our reputation for making and repairing many and varied items out of wood has grown steadily and we know those for whom we have worked have been very grateful.

“The notice to quit came out of the blue, and I found the decision very strange. Care Dorset’s stated purpose is ‘Supporting adults to live better lives’.

“That’s also the Shed’s ethos. Many of our volunteers feel it gives them a purpose in life that they would otherwise not have.”

WAREHAM AREA MEN’S SHED

The remains of a clay mining trolley after a car crash at a Wareham roundabout where it was a local landmark

WAREHAM AREA MEN’S SHED

The new truck made by Wareham Sheddies before being planted up with flowers

“Sorry for concern and anxiety”

But after an outcry on social media, with dozens of people immediately declaring their support, Care Dorset announced on Saturday 6th April 2024 that notice to quit should not have been made in the way it was and paused it with immediate effect.

A Care Dorset spokesperson said:

“We are sorry for the concern and anxiety that has been caused and want to assure all those involved with this project that we are committed to developing our services with local people and community groups.

“At Care Dorset, we have been looking at how to improve operations of day centres and how this affects the work of Men’s Shed operated from the Purbeck centre.

“In the planning of this work, we recognise that there are more discussions that need to be had with representatives from Men’s Shed and notice should not have been given when it was. Consequently we are pausing all matters relating to the issuing of the notice.”

WAREHAM AREA MEN’S SHED

A nature conservation noticeboard made for Creech Heath

No action will be taken over tenancy

The spokesperson added:

“We will be meeting with Men’s Shed, together with adult social care staff at Dorset Council, to explore the options for the future. We hope to meet in the next couple of weeks.

“In the meantime, Men’s Shed can be assured that no action will be taken in relation to their tenancy.

“We are committed to improving our day service offer, and that has to be our first thought, but our centres are valued parts of their communities and we recognise that there are wider conversations that need to be had as we go forward.”

WAREHAM AREA MEN’S SHED

Hedgehog homes made by the Sheddies have been installed across Purbeck with the help of local primary schools

Future is still in the balance

A spokesperson for the Wareham Area Men’s Shed said that although he was pleased the immediate threat of eviction had been lifted, the group’s long term future was still very much in the balance.

The Shed, which is affiliated to the UK Men’s Sheds Association, has been paying a modest rental to Care Dorset and could offer the same to a new landlord.

It is now seeking a site anywhere in the Purbeck area on which it could build its own workshop, or existing premises that it could adapt, the only prerequisite being an electricity supply.

Anyone who believes they could help with a new home for the Sheddies has been asked to contact Harold Forbes by emailing warehamshed@gmail.com

Further information

  • Find out more about the Sheddies and their work on the Wareham Shed website

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