Men’s Shed opens the door on their activities

6th June 2023

A disused barn at Rivers Hall in Boxted, near Colchester, has been transformed into a hive of activity, hosting a Men’s Shed project as a positive antidote to isolation and mental health challenges.

The project came about after a chance encounter when farmer and philanthropist Jonathan Minter DL (Jonny) attended a Spring reception organised by the independent charitable trust, Essex Community Foundation (ECF).

Jonny, who is the third generation of his family to live at Rivers Hall, is a former chairman of ECF and he and his wife Margaret (Miff) have a family fund managed by ECF to give grants locally to causes close to their hearts.

Jonny said: “When I was at a reception held by ECF, a man was there to talk about Men’s Sheds and the need for a venue for a local project. What he was saying started ringing bells for me.

“At the end I went up to him and said I had some old farm buildings that were empty. He followed this up and had a look at the barns and a plan was formed to set up a Men’s Shed.

“At the start about 10 people were turning up twice a week, but that grew quickly and there are now 74 members.

“They are self-sufficient and use their skills to make all kinds of things from wood, including bird boxes and five bar gates. There is plenty of wood here and they also use old pallets. The idea behind Men’s Sheds is to address isolation and mental health challenges. Several people who come here are ex-Army and have experienced PTSD.”

The project, one of several similar initiatives across the country, gives men somewhere to meet and socialise. They use and pass on their skills in a constructive way and enjoy the peaceful setting in beautiful countryside.

Ancient woodland and water meadows surround Rivers Hall which is set in 1,100 acres. Jonny and Miff have ensured that conservation and community involvement are at the heart of managing the estate.

Wildlife flourishes at Rivers Hall, including barn owls, water voles, lapwings and redshanks. Jonny has also gained widespread recognition for conservation work and for re-introducing the English Partridge.

Now the Men’s Shed project is also flourishing at Rivers Hall, bringing a new dimension and use to an historic site.

If you would like to have a conversation about how ECF could help you to support local charities call Perry Norton on 01245 355947.

Read more about Jonny and how he gives back to local communities here. Republished with kind permission of Essex Life Magazine.