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Men's Shed moves in to old elephant house at former Maidstone Zoo, Cobtree Manor Park, Aylesford

A community project which has swept the country is coming to an elephant house near you.

A “men’s shed” is being built in the enclosure at the site of the former Maidstone Zoo at Cobtree Manor Park, Aylesford.

The concept allows people, often retired men, to meet in a safe environment and take part in woodwork and practical projects, building relationships and filling any voids in their lives.

The elephants of Maidstone Zoo. Picture: James Sephton
The elephants of Maidstone Zoo. Picture: James Sephton

Sheds have sprung up across the country since being introduced by Age UK in 2009, with the Forstal Road project following a successful six-month trial near Kent Life in Lock Lane, Sandling, last year.

The enclosure has fallen into disrepair since the zoo closed in 1959. To transform it into a DIY sanctuary, Rob Oxley from North West Kent Countryside Partnership requires volunteers.

“The project really makes a difference to people’s lives and their mental wellbeing and helps men who are missing something after their careers.” — Rob Oxley

Mr Oxley, who is working on the project with Elizabeth Buckingham from the park, said: “The project really makes a difference to people’s lives and their mental wellbeing and helps men who are missing something after their careers.”

He said: “The building is an absolute shell. We haven’t got a set opening date but the more help we get the sooner it will be.

“Last year, we were in a great location down by the river. The shed was so well attended and we outgrew it.

“The support we’ve experienced from the park has been great and the plan is once we’re up and running we will make bird boxes and things to help with conservation projects and sell other products on site to help run the shed.”

Lizzie Buckingham from Maidstone Borough Council is working with Rob Oxley on the project
Lizzie Buckingham from Maidstone Borough Council is working with Rob Oxley on the project

While the project mainly aims to attract older men, many sheds across the UK are attended by women and young people.

Across the UK more than one workshop opens every week, with 162 serving 3,000 participants and more than 70 in development.

A total of 12 sheds are operating in Kent, with a further seven planned in locations including Yalding, Park Wood, Aylesford and Maidstone.

For more information go to www.menssheds.org.uk or phone Rob Oxley on 03000417643.


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