Andy Richardson: So the time has come, the Walrus said...To talk of sheds

The time has come. After years of prevarication, after making do with brick-built outbuildings and cellars, after stacking shovels, rakes and boxes of grass seed in the dusty spider’s nest that passes for a garage the time has come… to own a shed.

Time to talk about sheds
Time to talk about sheds

I like to think shed ownership is a rite of passage that comes to us all. Having obsessed about music and girls during my teens, having acquired a full set of white goods during my twenties – who knew washing machines could bring such joy? – having secured wedding rings (plural – not a good look) during my thirties, before selling them to pay for unleaded petrol and Asda Tiger Bread, and then having become a father in my forties (joy unbound), now is the time to finally, finally become a fully-fledged adult.

Though my cup runneth over, She Who Must Be Obeyed seems preternaturally happy. I think she has already calculated that if I become tiresome or troublesome, she now has an ace in the pack. “Why don’t you pop to the shed, dear?” she will say, shooing me from under her feet as she sends me into temporary exile amid the glass jars of plaster board nails and neatly stacked garden shovels.

Sheds, like County Championship Cricket, are a man thing. And yes, I know that some women have sheds too, just as not everyone at the Worcester versus Warwickshire game is a retired man falling asleep in a deckchair, but the generalisation is true and there’s no ill will in making it.

It is an apposite time to be acquiring a timber framed outbuilding in which to store rusty old lawnmowers, neglected tools, half-used pots of paint and two bikes. Auntie Beeb has just run a video feature called Inside Britain’s Best Sheds. It shows a man called Len who has created an Irish pub in his back garden, complete with Guinness pump and bar.

Then there is Colin, in Lancashire, whose birthday gift to his wife was an arts and crafts potting shed vibrant with colour. In West Yorkshire, Pat has a beach hut shed at the bottom of her garden. Built to remind her dementia-suffering father of his childhood, it takes him back to happier times. Len, Colin and Pat are not the only ones.

Remarkably, there is a competition called Shed Of The Year, which is taking votes until August 9. In a novel twist on the readers wives paradigm, a website called Readersheds shows pictures of timber and glass, inviting people to rate their favourites. Should it be Pallet Hollywood, a bar and spa complete with inflatable paddling pool, cd racks and helium-filled balloons, or the cleverly-named Pizza Folly, which boasts a bar, Belfast sink and bed, so that once you’ve drunk too much you can literally take a nap.

We ought not to overlook The Bemusement Arcade, a wooden construction complete with ye olde fairground paraphernalia, nor take for granted the portable shed that is called The Lorry Life, a mini-home that has been built into the flatbed section of a former army truck and contains surf boards, an acoustic guitar, an oxblood red Chesterfield sofa and more.

There is Silas the Silo, a circular shed made from corrugated iron in which the owner lights BBQs; Old Bill, a miniature railway carriage on an actual line in an actual garden – and you thought shed owners had too much time on their hands – while the shed-cum-TV-studio that is The Shed School has become a lockdown hit among kids not allowed to go to their classrooms.

All will be vying for the prestigious title of Shed Of The Year, aiming to dethrone the amusingly named Bux End, a Hobbit-inspired creation from shed-building superstar Chris Hield, who created a design immortalising his love for Lord of the Rings. Complete with a grass roof, circular door and a blackbird’s nest in the eaves, it is the reigning title-holder of Britain’s Best Shed.

All sheds are not equal, of course, and while most cost a few hundred pounds, John Lewis typically goes the extra mile by providing sheds for £5,300 - £5,000 more than most. For that, you get – well, basically the same as if you save the spare £5,000 and spend it on something more useful. Perhaps it’s not surprising that given the heavyweight price tag, John Lewis has shot a video that suggests using the shed as a gym – a smart idea given the heavy lifting required to pay the bill.

Such extravagances are not for me. I’ll be happy with something more modest in which I can store the usual garden nick knacks while unwittingly providing fertile ground for a nest of earwigs. I’m hoping it won’t be a target for burglars who steal my rusting tools, solidified paint and hi-vis jackets. If they do, they can run, but they won’t be able to hide.

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