Men’s Shed Ottery

The Men’s Shed is a charitable organization run by the members for the members. There is a small committee who ensure the Shed runs safely, economically and legally.

Essentially  the Shed is a safe place for adult males over the age of 18, who can come and engage in all manner of manly things. Talking is a very important part of the Sheds ethos. How many times have you heard “we men bottle things up and don’t express our feelings and worries” whether that be to family or professionals and the like. The Shed encourages men from all backgrounds to come along, see what is going on and get involved and support each other. It is wonderful how the toughest, most single-minded of people are able to open up to what is really a bunch of strangers. We’ve all had our issues during our journey through life and it is very empowering to hear from men who have gone through similar trials, to hear how they coped and survived and in many cases came through a changed but better person for it.

Interested?  Pop in any time, we are opposite the exit from Sainsburys car park in Hind Street or contact or have a look at

One of the Men’s Shed members

Hello, my name is Dave Holland. I’m a relatively new member of the “Men’s Shed” Ottery St Mary. It is coming up to a year of membership for me and I would like to tell you about how I came to join such an organization.

So what about me? Well I retired from the Police in May 2020, having spent 22 years serving the good people of Devon, particularly  Mid and East Devon and latterly Exeter. I had a varied career and for the most part thoroughly enjoyed my time. Before entering the police I had 10 years working in road transport, maintenance and engineering and prior to that I was in the Army. I come from the midlands so the motor trade was very close to my heart, but I wanted to stay out of factories and to “see the world”. The Army seemed to be the place to go.

I’m sure the Spring of 2020 has stuck with you as it has me. Yes, the start of “lockdowns etc”. I had such hopes and dreams for my new future. A fully kitted out shed in the garden to begin my new hobby of woodworking, holidays to far off places with blue skies and sun and more.

Well it didn’t happen. I couldn’t buy what I needed to get started, couldn’t leave the house let alone the country. Like most of us I got through the inconvenience of COVID fairly unscathed though.

As things started to open up my wife and I started to visit local venues we had not been to before. On one overcast Sunday we stopped off at “STEAMERS” a café and racing simulator establishment in Cullompton. Lucky for me it was one of their theme days, Sports cars through the years. Some of the old machines there were fantastic. My wife spotted an E type Jaguar, a V12 no less.

While looking around the car the owner was up for questions and was more than happy to tell the car’s story. That man was Peter Graddon. Other hobbies were mentioned and I told Peter about my wish to get more involved with woodworking. It was then he told me about his passion for wood turning and his membership of “The Men’s Shed”. I had heard of the idea of the sheds but knew we had nothing in Mid Devon.

I mulled things over for a week or two then plucked up the courage to visit the shed on a Saturday morning in June 2023. Imagine my surprise when the first two people I saw on entering the unit were female! Had I come to the right place I asked myself. I was guided to the office area where I met the man who I now know was the founding member and chairman, Tony Pugh. Tony explained that a decision was made some time previously to allow the shed to be a “community” shed on a Saturday, so allowing females to attend.

Tony went on to explain how their system worked. They provide repair and in some cases full manufacture of commissions from local groups and members of the public. Anything is considered. They have men with many skills, woodworking, metal work, electrical work, model making and restoration to name a few. What was supposed to be a 10 minute look round turned into a two hour session, including a guided tour of the unit. A demonstration of some of the machines was quite exciting. The set up is very impressive. Industrial quality machines, a good stock of timber and everything else that an aspiring woodworker would need. Paperwork completed and membership paid quicker than “Dell Boy” selling a dodgy video on the market. I think the Royal Navy used to use such tactics during the 19th century, it’s called the “Press Gang” I believe.

A week or two later I had my first full session on a Tuesday. I was teamed up with one of the committee members for the day, Mike Stephen. Mike comes from a civil engineering background and is very skilled with his hands. I have assisted Mike with a couple of commissions, planters, a table and woodworking bench, each one built from scratch. I picked up so many tips from Mike over the next few weeks, it was brilliant.

Everyone I have met at the shed has been welcoming and engaging, always including me with a project or two. I have also, over several months, been trained in how to use various machines: band saw, planer thicknesser, Mitre saw. I have also had coaching on some hand tools: sharpening chisels and plane blades to name just two.

I mentioned Peter Graddon at the beginning of this article and it is Peter I come back to. Peter offers members one to one lessons on turning. The shed has three lathes and all the associated equipment needed to undertake any turning task. I have had two lessons myself. It’s very fulfilling creating all the sawdust and shavings. It’s a bonus if you have something to show for it at the end too. Do you remember the “Generation Game”? Well I am one of the less able contestants, but very willing.

And that is all that is expected from a member is to be willing, be supportive and very importantly have fun and a laugh.

The members being supportive and understanding has been very important for me. In May 2022 I began to suffer some very strange motor function symptoms: wobbly walk, instability and clumsiness. Within a year I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disorder. I was completely taken by surprise, shocked and more than a little worried. Joining the Men’s Shed has helped me immensely, keeping things in perspective and giving me other things to focus on.

The Men’s Shed is a place of refuge and support, a place to come and learn new skills and refresh old ones. You need to be able to drink tea and coffee by the gallon and where possible be a non-judgmental ear for your fellow members. It’s also best not to take yourself too seriously as well.