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Dingwall Men's Shed craft village vision seeks support to build on solid foundations

By Hector MacKenzie

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Steve Dovey and Raymond Jackson of Dingwall Men's Shed.
Picture: Callum Mackay
Steve Dovey and Raymond Jackson of Dingwall Men's Shed. Picture: Callum Mackay

PROPOSALS for an ambitious "craft village" that will pump fresh life into Ross-shire's county town, reduce social isolation and pass on skills to a new generation have been unveiled.

Planning approval for the project has already been granted and hopes are high it will become a trailblazing centre for activities ranging from woodwork and metalwork to horticulture and arts and crafts.

The Dingwall and District Men's Shed charitable group behind it now hopes to build on goodwill already generated in the town through countless hands-on projects that have helped improve the environment and offered a helping hand to others.

A kick-start for funding to help service units planned for the old skate park at Jubilee Park has already come from friends of the town's Highland Rheumatology Unit at the nearby Ross Memorial Hospital in gratitude for work on the garden and benches there.

With the paperwork falling into place, the main hurdle now looks set to be funding to link units to electricity, water and sewage services.

The "village" would become an oasis of creativity and a place where skills are freely shared across the generations. It's hoped that in addition to units, a polytunnel can be established for a community growing project.

The rapidly growing men's shed movement has been credited with reducing social isolation, improving mental health and, in some cases, saving lives. The Dingwall "shedders", as they are nicknamed, are amongst 131 one in Scotland with dozens more in development.

The main remit of the group is to tackle isolation by providing facilities for hobbies, craft, games, gardening and anything that provides interest and achievement for men in general.

Members have built and installed public benches and raised planters in many places around Dingwall and helped local schools and playgroups to enhance general amenity. They are also chipping in to a project linking Dingwall with Strathpeffer by a safe cycle and footpath called the Peffery Way.

They have also chopped and sold kindling at low cost to support the disadvantaged.

One of the members, Steve Dovey, said: "Now that we are acquiring a lease ´╗┐on the disused Dingwall skate park and have planning permission to create a craft village on it, we need funds to instal services and the workshops and recreation facilities to realise our dream. The result will be a craft village in the heart of Dingwall providing inclusive interest and learning for all."

Dingwall and Seaforth councillor Graham Mackenzie welcomed progress with the project and said: "I was involved at the very earliest stage of their development and I have always been impressed by their enthusiasm and willingness to help others.

"They are inundated with requests to helpand always look to provide support to others. Many groups in the town have reason to be grateful to them. I wish them well in their current and future endeavours."

The men's shed has met in a "pod" at Ross County FC's ground and, with very restricted space, in a local scout hut.

One grateful recipient of their help, a local resident who reached out for assistance with odd jobs around her home, said: "They ought to be applauded for what their generosity of spirit and continuing to use their abilities and talents for the greater good of the community. I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking their work should be supported."

* Anyone interested in joining the group after lockdown is over, or donating to the cause, can contact acting secretary Steve Dovey on 01997 423209 or email at steve@sjd32.plus.com

Story or picture for us? Email hector.mackenzie@hnmedia.co.uk

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