The Longshed; The Future.

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Building the Future of The Longshed.

Over the last few years, many people will have been to Whisstocks Place on the waterfront in Woodbridge.  They will have seen the area develop: with restaurants and cafes; the iconic Tide Mill Museum of course; the new Woodbridge Museum   and The Longshed. 

The Longshed is owned by Woodbridge Town Council who, in 2018, leased the building to a charity, Woodbridge Riverside Trust (WRT) for 35 years. The role of WRT was to take an empty shell of a building with nothing, not even a lightbulb or tap, and develop it into a thriving community resource where many projects appropriate to a maritime area could take place. WRT raised some £150K of grants to complete the building, gallery and workshop.

Having achieved this ‘kit-out’, the first designated project was the building of a full size replica of the Sutton Hoo burial ship.  This immense project belongs to a separate charity, The Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company and a magnificent undertaking it is.  If you have not been to look at what’s happening with this project in the Longshed, then please do so.

Although the replica build still has some way to go, WRT is already looking forwards to when it is completed and launched by The Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company.  There will be a large empty building for WRT to run for the community for the remaining 25 or more years of the lease.  The building is enormous and can embrace a wide range of activities.  As a community resource it is unique and as such deserves an imaginative, multifaceted future that serves the widest possible range of people and groups in the Woodbridge area.

So what is the thinking?  WRT have a plan to allocate different workshop spaces with areas appropriate to projects and needs. This will afford as many different groups as possible and younger people especially, access to the space and equipment needed for projects that develop skills. Building a canoe, a raft, a punt, a coracle initially perhaps, then moving on to more complex builds as enthusiasm becomes embedded. For example, the St Ayles Skiffs build facilitated by WRT in the early days of The Longshed for the newly formed and thriving Woodbridge Coastal Rowing Club.

Also in those earlier days, WRT worked on half a dozen pilot projects with young people under the umbrella of another local charity, Just 42.  The results of these pilot projects were quite amazing, not only in terms of what the young people produced but in the huge improvements that resulted in self-confidence, social skills and especially in mental well-being.  Indeed, the very first boat launched at Whisstocks slipway and built in The Longshed was a canoe built by young people working with Just 42 and Woodbridge Riverside Trust. One young person, a school refusal for nearly three years joined the project and never looked back.  A restored self-confidence enabled a return to education, successful A-levels and now, university.   

Those early pilot projects involved close work with local charities, Suffolk County Council Education department as well as Social Services and the array of support staff in those departments.  The Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore spent an afternoon gaining a positive overview of the pilot project and its potential

There will be other needs for this amazing community building also.  Sae Wylfing, the half size version of the burial ship built in the 1990s, which has graced many a school fair, and waterway needs a home, ongoing repair and maintenance and possibly a rebuild.  Here, we would like to thank Matt and his team at Woodbridge Boatyard and the wonderful volunteers from The Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company who have helped with Sae Wylfing’s maintenance so far.

Another possibility being explored is to work with disabled people. There are many organisations that offer sailing for disabled, but it is hard to impossible to find any that offer even simple boat building.

However, there is one major and quite innovative possibility now being seriously explored by WRT, which is inspired by the work of an organisation ‘across the pond’. 

Rocking the Boat ( is a charitable organization based in The Bronx in New York City.  It started 25 years ago to provide boat building/restoration projects to help support young high school students who, in a whole range of ways, were struggling with life and school. Their work evolved over the years to embrace environmental projects with young people and even sailing – the young people learn to sail around Manhattan! Such is its success that many of the school students it has helped have found positive routes in life.  Some have even returned to the organisation as social workers, mentors, tutors and volunteers. A quick look at their web site is simply inspirational.

WRT wants young people in the Woodbridge area who need support to have the same opportunities. To this end, WRT is in contact with Rocking the Boat to learn as much as it can from their experiences and development.  We want to build a strong and outward looking connection for our Town and its people.

The pilot projects undertaken by WRT with Just 42 show just how important such provision and opportunity is to enable young people who may be struggling, to find the confidence and successes to take them forward into adult life.  Rocking the Boat have been doing it now for many years, making national TV in the USA and attracting philanthropic and corporate sponsorship.

WRT is now broadening its liaison for this major youth project to include current providers of youth workers as well as those with long term experience of working with young people in education and other settings.

It will be 2-3 years before this project will materialize, which gives the long but very essential planning lead necessary to making such a major project work.

If you would like to be part of this project planning, and have experience and skills to offer, then WRT would be more than delighted to hear from you. Please get in touch via


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Celebrating Six Years in The Longshed
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