REVIEWS OF GROUP EVENTS, VISITS AND OUTINGS
This page contains reviews of recent U3A events and visits written by members, which up to April 2014 appeared in our newsletter, Kanuta. The following appear here in chronological order, with the most recent listed first:
Visit to Wentworth Woodhouse, 17th September 2018
Visit to Birmingham, 6th September 2017
Music In The Afternoon, 11th November 2016
Visit to Rochdale, 3rd November 2016
U3A Summer School 2, Cirencester, 15th-18th August 2016
Afternoon Concert by Pupils from Chetham’s School of Music, 17th September 2015
Talk on the Anderton Boat Lift, 10th September 2015
Visit to the Morgan Motor Company, 2nd September 2015
Knutsford 10th Anniversary Tea, 14th May 2015
Talk on Caldwells and their Customers, 8th January 2015
Visit to JCB, Rocester, 30th October 2014
Talk on Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland, 11th September 2014
Geology Group Field Trip to Ercall Quarry
Traversa – a Solo 3000 Mile Walk across Africa, talk, 12th June 2014
Ironbridge: Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, U3A 2-Day Study Break, April 2014
Amblers group – Walking Holiday to Grange-over-Sands, April 2014
Celebrity Artist Visits U3A Group, 27 March 2014
VISIT TO WENTWORTH WOODHOUSE
Monday 17th September 2018
Thanks to a well organised visit by Knutsford U3A (especially to Margaret Hinde) we were spared the individual stress of driving the 56 mile journey (M56, M62, M67 and Woodhead Pass!) to Wentworth Woodhouse.
The house described by Dan Cruickshank as ‘arguably the largest, most splendid and artistically breathtaking ever built in Britain’ was bought by a Trust in 2017 and recently partnered by the National Trust to offer two tours.
Had its history been kinder this northern gem would surely have equalled (even surpassed) many of the nation’s finest, stately houses? But, over the decades, family feuds, financial decline, crippling death duties and scandal took their toll with the final downturn coming in the 1940s when the coal industry was nationalised and Manny Shinwell (Minister for Fuel and Power) authorised open-cast mining in the grounds. Surrounding land was torn up, Repton’s formal gardens destroyed and slag heaps built up adjacent to the house. Much of the income to run the house came from coal (the house sat on the rich Barnsley seam) but with nationalisation this promptly dried up. Raising funds thereafter included a six-day sale in 1948 when its contents of fine furniture, paintings etc. were sold off and leasing the building as a teacher training college. By 1986 Wentworth Woodhouse was largely abandoned. In 1989 the decaying building was bought by a businessman but following financial difficulties it was repossessed by the bank in 1998. A year later it was purchased by a retired architect (Clifford Newbold) and family with the intention of restoring and developing the site. Following his death it was sold to the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust in 2017.
The two tours (The Wentworth Tour and The Clifford Tour) can only sample some of the 300+ rooms in the house – actually made up of three houses on the site. Despite being largely empty the splendid proportions, exquisite plasterwork (based on designs of Inigo Jones) and marble fireplaces are still hugely impressive. An imperial staircase leads to the pièce de résistance of The Marble Hall – said to have taken up to a hundred years to fully complete. The volunteer guide (Jo) had been a student there in the ’70s and she provided a lively and informative commentary on the history of the house (originally dating from the 17th century) and its many owners.
“There is a sublime yet tragic atmosphere about it” concluded Dan Cruickshank in his book ‘The Country House Revealed’. Seeing the house now it is hard to believe that it was once such an influential, political and social powerhouse. But, it is good to know this grand yet sad place is to undergo a scheme of restoration and development and so do justice to its fascinating history.
With so much culture to absorb it was delightful to relax with a cup of tea at the end the day in the nearby 16 acre Wentworth Garden Centre and its Walled Garden Restaurant – interestingly created on what had been the former Kitchen, Italian and Japanese gardens of Wentworth Woodhouse.
Group Photo Wentworth Woodhouse Visit
VISIT TO BIRMINGHAM
Wednesday, 6th September 2017
The early morning start was well worth the effort for our coach trip to Birmingham on Wednesday 6th September. With an unusual, but very welcome, smooth journey down the M6 we arrived at the Jewellery Quarter Museum 45 minutes early but managed to find two local cafes to provide refreshments for our group of 40.
The Museum is built around an old family-run jewellery company which was abandoned in the early 1980s leaving a large quantity of documentation stretching back almost a century and various paraphernalia of the workforce – but no gold. After repairs to the building and the cataloguing of the contents this ‘time warp’ was opened in 1992. Our hour long guided tour took us through the manufacturing process and stories of those involved. It was fascinating.
After a leisurely lunch around the Canal Basin we had another guided tour – this time on a narrow boat along the canals of central Birmingham. This gave us views of some of the City’s industrial heritage and new developments, many of which made good use of the old buildings. Birmingham boasts of having more canals than Venice. It might only be 9 more miles but enough for an accurate boast.
MUSIC IN THE AFTERNOON
Friday, 11th November 2016
The Music Appreciation Group held a “Music in the Afternoon” concert on Friday 11th November which featured pupils from Chetham’s School of Music.
U3A members filled the Methodist Church and were treated to a delightful musical afternoon by the young musicians led by Martyn Parks.
We were entertained by five soloists on violin, cello, trombone, oboe and flute with piano accompaniment by Martyn. The ages ranged from 13 -18 and all introduced their pieces and were very accomplished.
A wide programme of music including Mozart Concerto No.2 in D Major KV211, Bach Suite No.3 for solo cello in C major & Poulenc Sonata for Oboe and Piano but also lesser known works by such as Nigel Hess Theme from ‘Ladies in Lavender’ and Casterede Sonatine for Trombone and piano.
We wish them all the success for the future which, on the strength of this programme, they all truly deserve.
Many thanks to all involved in the afternoon.
VISIT TO ROCHDALE
3rd November 2016
Early in November 40 U3A members visited Rochdale to see the Rochdale Pioneers Museum and Rochdale Town Hall, venues that showed two very different sides of this old mill town.
We started at 31 Toad Lane, the original building where, in 1844, 28 working men, the Rochdale Pioneers, started the first successful co-operative. In this original shop our excellent guide told the story of the Pioneers and the development of co-operation into the world wide movement that we have today – all based on the principles laid down in the mid 1800s. We had time to see all the informative visual displays as well as the small conservation area outside.
In total contrast, the Town Hall is an imposing, Grade I listed building “widely recognised as being one of the finest municipal buildings in the country”. It was designed and proudly decorated with painting, symbols and beautiful stained glass to celebrate the industry and trade which gave the town its Victorian prosperity. Another excellent, informative guide led our tour of the old Council Chambers, the old Courtroom (now the Council Chamber), the Mayor’s Parlour and the very impressive Grand Hall with its balcony overlooking the town and the new statue of Gracie Fields.
U3A SUMMER SCHOOL, CIRENCESTER
15th-18th August 2016
I arrived at the impressive buildings and grounds of the Royal Agricultural University in the middle of a glorious summer afternoon to register and collect the keys to my accommodation for the next three days. Registration was well organised with porters and guides available to help with luggage and show us to our rooms, which were dispersed among several housing blocks on the campus. We had time to freshen up and familiarise ourselves with the campus before attending the first seminar for one hour at 5pm, followed by welcome drinks at 6.45pm and dinner at 7.30pm.
I was the only representative from Knutsford U3A among about 300 delegates, but soon got to meet others from all over the country and on varying courses. My first impression, which was borne out for the rest of the week, was one of warm and welcoming friendliness from staff and participants alike. I was attending the “Singing for Pleasure” class, which was one of nine classes on offer ranging from “Solving Cryptic Crosswords” through “The History of Ideas” to “Garden Design”.
Although some of the subjects on offer did not interest me, I got the impression that those attending them found them all to be stimulating and an enjoyable experience. My singing group was great fun, challenging at times, but in a very supportive environment. We put on a short concert after the gala dinner on the Wednesday evening, which was housed in the beautiful chapel on the campus. Audience participation was mandatory for some of the more light-hearted and familiar songs and everyone had a great evening.
We had been entertained the previous evening by a jazz/folk trio of highly talented professional musicians who provided a varied programme from simple traditional folk songs to complex jazz versions of more modern tunes. I am not a fan of jazz but found their renditions to be easy on the ear and so impressive to watch, making the evening a delight.
My overall impression of the Summer School was “fantastic”. Set in a fabulous location with good and plentiful food, adequate and comfortable facilities with free gym and free Wi-Fi if you are desperate to keep in touch with the outside world! It hit all the U3A strapline buttons: I had Learnt a lot; I had Laughed even more; and came away having made so many new friends and a feeling of Living life to the full! I shall certainly be going again! For anyone else interested, the programme for next year will be published in December in Third Age Matters and on the National U3A website. It is advisable to book early as many of the courses are very popular and numbers are limited…perhaps I will see you there!
AFTERNOON CONCERT BY PUPILS FROM CHETHAM’S SCHOOL OF MUSIC
17th September 2015
This was a programme of string music largely comprised of string quarters by Haydn (No.6) and Beethoven (No.7) played by two different ensembles.
As appetizers we were presented with virtuoso violin solos composed by J.S. Bach and Paganini. The soloists were Coco Inman and Elizaveta Saul who played with total assurance and panache, making light of the technical challenges.
The chosen quartets were a wonderful representation of the great composers and their differing styles. The demands of performing as small ensembles are considerable. This is especially the case for young players all of whom were 16 or 17 years of age but both ensembles produced a lovely quality of tone and an acute sense of balance and style. The gradation of dynamics was extensive and never seemed to be over emphasised, a sure sign of maturity.
For the Beethoven, the above named soloists were joined by Nils Jones and Francesca Cull. The players for the Haydn were Iona McDonald, Monika Kudlinska, Miranda Bailey-Sharam and Hugo Eedle.
In summary, we were royally and very professionally entertained. Well organised by Sue Hopkin & her willing helpers.
Photographs from Chetham’s Concert, 17th September 2015
THE ANDERTON BOAT LIFT
Talk at the General Meeting, 10th September 2015
Dave Thomas of the Canal and River Trust spoke with authority and enthusiasm about The Anderton Boat lift when he addressed an audience of 160 U3A members at the General Meeting on Thursday 10th September. He kept his large audience engaged and entertained with a selection of photos and lively speech telling the history of this unusual and truly impressive industrial structure.
We were shown pictures of the lift in its various incarnations – hydraulic, electric, modern hydraulic – and photos from the earliest days of traffic at the Anderton Basin pre-lift, when labour intensive chutes and steep planes were the only means of trans-shipping the goods between the 2 navigable waterways – Trent and Mersey Canal and River Weaver. For the workers this was heavy, physical employment but for the employers slow and expensive.
With so many boats from the Salt Industry, and the coal-mining and industry of the Potteries reaching the River Mersey, the interchange needed improvement. In 1870 locks as a solution was rejected; too much water would have been lost and running costs would therefore have been too high. So the idea for a lift was born.
Dave gave us a good indication of the complexity of the engineering problems and the ingenuity displayed in addressing them, however he also revealed the huge oversight of using a hydraulic system when the local water was so contaminated. Within only 5 years Corrosion became a problem and the solution to that huge problem was another fascinating aspect of the story.
In its heyday up to 68 boats went through each day.
It lay derelict for many years and was under threat of demolition however thanks to the enthusiasm and enterprise of local people this wonderful structure is now preserved for future generations. The Anderton Boat Lift or The Cathedral of the Canals is one of the UK’s most prestigious industrial heritage sites – now on the National Heritage List for England.
VISIT TO THE MORGAN MOTOR COMPANY
2nd September 2015
The Morgan Motor Company is unique in that it has remained in family ownership since it was founded in 1909 by H. F. S. Morgan, who built the first three-wheel car. It is also unique because all the cars are pre-ordered and hand-built in the premises in Malvern. Those lucky enough to be able to buy a Morgan must first select the model and then have to choose from an enormous range of colours and finishes for the paintwork and upholstery. Tim Donelly arranged for a group of 37 members to visit on 2nd September 2015 and, after lunch, we were shown round the factory by enthusiastic guides. We saw a range of cars at all stages in the process of bring built: four classic sports models; the Aero 8 super-car and the three-wheeler, which was brought back into production in 2011. There was even a prototype car with an electric engine. It was a delight to see craftsmen building the frames from English ash, shaping the aluminium body panels and fitting engines, seats, soft tops and all the other necessary parts. Although we saw completed cars being polished, we were not allowed to go into the paint shop: a shame, as we could have gone home with new looks! Perhaps wisely, test drives were not offered but this was a fascinating visit and several of us were still drooling as we boarded the coach to go home…
KNUTSFORD 10TH ANNIVERSARY TEA, 14TH MAY 2015
For a report of the Knutsford U3A’s 10th Anniversary Tea from the Kanuta newsletter, June 2015, click here
CALDWELL’S AND THEIR CUSTOMERS
Talk at the General Meeting, 8th January 2015
Barbara Moth gave a very interesting talk on the work of the Cheshire Gardens Trust, in particular their work to enable access and improve awareness of the inheritance of Caldwell’s Nurseries, Knutsford. Cheshire has a rich horticultural heritage. The county is fortunate that plant sales ledgers kept by Caldwell’s Nurseries are still extant in the archives. This family firm operated in Knutsford, from around 1759 until 1991, supplying plants not only locally, but also nationally and internationally. Barbara introduced us to prominent members of the Caldwell family through a collection of interesting photographs. She has also been able to identify via the ledgers that Caldwells has supplied remarkable and important plants to all the great estates around Knutsford. Today, in the town centre, there are still some marvellous examples of trees and shrubs from Caldwells (just have a look in Aldi car park.) There was great sadness amongst staff and customers when the business closed, now, no trace of it is left. However if you look carefully there is still some evidence on the ground of where the company used to be an important part of the Knutsford community.
VISIT TO JCB, ROCESTER
Thursday 30th October 2014
Photograph outside JCB Visitor Centre, supplied by Peter Butler and taken by his son
LEWIS CARROLL AND ALICE IN WONDERLAND: AN OVERVIEW BY SELWYN GOODACRE
Talk at the General Meeting, 11th September 2014
Dr Goodacre is a retired GP and past chairman of the Lewis Carroll society. He has been collecting Lewis Carroll and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson memorabilia all his life. The main purpose of his talk was to share some of the highlights of his collection with the U3A audience. Interest in Lewis Carrol and his Alice Books has never waned. New editions of the Alice Books in many languages are still being produced all over the world. The source of these books is a small tome written by Carroll called “Alice’s Adventures Underground”. This is one of two original texts of the story. As there is a degree of uncertainty as to Carroll’s original wording Dr Goodacre is now working on a definitive version of the text which is planned to be published in the US next year. We were shown some of Dr Goodacre’s collection of mathematical textbooks written by C.L. Dodgson. However, the highlight of his talk was to see how various illustrators have depicted the famous “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” scene in the Carroll story. Alice was out of copyright in 1907 so the artistic floodgates could then be opened without impunity. There are now about 150 English Language illustrated book versions. Dr Goodacre is aware of most of them, and he selected over 30 pictures of the party that he considered were of particular interest, for us to enjoy. There is still a significant awareness of Carroll/Dodgson and his work by modern day collectors. As well the books, his original photographs and letters are keenly sought after. By means of his talk Dr Goodacre was able to acquaint us with the continuing interest in the man and his works which looks like it will go on for many years to come. David Goatman
GEOLOGY GROUP, FIELD TRIP TO ERCALL QUARRY
25th June 2014
For report and photographs of this trip, click on to the Geology Group page
GRITSTONE TRAIL WALK JUNE 2014
For photographs of the Gritstone Trail walk from Nelson Pit to Mow Cop, with members of Walking Groups 1 and 2, see the Walking Group 1 page
TRAVERSA – A SOLO 3000 MILE WALK ACROSS AFRICA FROM THE SKELETON COAST TO THE INDIAN OCEAN
Talk at the General Meeting, 12th June 2014
Fran Sandham is an acclaimed travel writer who was inspired by the deeds of Stanley and Livingstone to make his own contribution to African exploration. Following a brave new year’s resolution and 12 months fitness training in a book shop, Fran and his 100 lb rucksack landed in West Africa ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Walking in Africa is not without its difficulties. Fran had to learn how to successfully cope with snakes, man eating lions, bandits and drunken drivers along the way. His only insurmountable obstacle was trying to employ the services of a mule and donkey to carry his rucksack. This delayed him by nearly 3 months until he realised that none of his four legged friends were going to cooperate. The only sensible choice was to carry his considerable burden on his own back. A heavily laden Fran was still able to enjoy mixing with the locals and experiencing the sights and sounds of Africa. You’ll have to read the book “Traversa” to get the full picture. On completion of his adventure Fran had to consider what effect the whole thing had had on him. At the start he was excited but wary but by the end he was quite reflective and a bit sad as he was giving up a simple yet demanding way of life. David Goatman
IRONBRIDGE: BIRTHPLACE OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
U3A 2-Day Study Break in April 2014
This was advertised in the November issue of Third Age Matters. It was open to members nationally. I lost no time in applying. It was just as well as within days of the advertisement appearing it was oversubscribed. I joined my fellow 39 attendees on a sunny morning in April. The glass room where we met was a high ceilinged adapted space, very pleasantly modernised and fitted out for a study centre. The first talk was given by the resident curator; a fascinating slideshow of works of art relating to the earliest development of the industry around Ironbridge. He was particularly informative with his answers to the many subsequent questions, but to vary our learning we next had the opportunity to walk around the extensive sites of the iron museum, the Darby family house and the Quaker burial ground, where many of the Darby family are interred. The resident archeologist was our guide. He showed us the remains of industrial processes dating from 1709, aswell as domestic buildings indicating the living conditions for the workers and the ironwork owners. One particularly interesting point to emerge was the preponderance of Quakers in these successful industrial ventures. By dint of their religion these energetic and well connected young men were banned from university and public and civic offices. They could however apply their talents to engineering and industry eg. Cadbury and Fry Chocolate Companies, Clarks shoes, Hanburys Tinplate etc. The Darby family had an enlightened approach to their workers. Tee-total themselves, they nevertheless built public houses for their hot and thirsty workers and later created parks and woodland walks to encourage the male workers to walk with their families on a Sunday, rather than spend the day drinking in the pub. Although many Quaker employers did ban alcohol they often provided medical, dental and educational opportunities. We saw evidence of this at Coalbrookdale. Our second day was even sunnier. We started at the Coalport China Museum Site. We saw a potter creating flowers from clay and another making saggers before we entered an enormous bottle kiln. Again we heard riveting accounts of the industrial processes of old from enthusiastic and informative specialist guides. Our visit ended with an afternoon at BlistsHillVictorianTown. We left at 5pm but not until all the displays were closing. We had all enjoyed our 2 full days but it was not enough time to do justice to the many museums which make up the Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge Complex. We did however leave armed with an annual ticket so that we can return to see more of these wonderful sites and explore more of this very beautiful part of the country. Pauline Hales To see the above report with photographs included, go to Ironbridge report http://knutsfordu3a.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Ironbridge-report.pdf
AMBLERS GROUP – WALKING HOLIDAY TO GRANGE-OVER-SANDS, APRIL 2014
Twelve members of The Amblers’ Group have just returned from a most enjoyable few days in the area around Grange-over-Sands where we had glorious weather. We met for lunch at Levens Hall last Tuesday, after travelling up in cars from Knutsford. We had a splendid walk of about three miles through the parkland, led by John and Ruth Funnell, before checking in at our rather exotic hotel where we had a delicious dinner in a private dining room.
On Wednesday we caught the train for a short journey to Silverdale where we had a good walk round Hawes Water. We visited the RSPB sanctuary at Leighton Moss where we had lunch and then walked along paths through tall rushes to visit hides where we watched many birds, including a marsh harrier standing on a tall dead tree trunk surveying the scene. As we returned to our hotel we felt a few drops of rain, but too late to spoil our day.
Thursday was another sunny day as we all left our hotel bound for Cartmel. This time the walk was led by David Cogger and we crossed the racecourse to climb up through bluebell woods with views across to the sea. Returning to Cartmel we sat outside in the sunshine to have coffees and then visited Cartmel Priory founded towards the end of the 12th Century. We drove to nearby Holker Hall for lunch before visiting the house, the magnificent home of Lord and Lady Cavendish. We followed this by a visit to the gardens which were spectacular with rhododendrons, tulips and wallflowers in full bloom.
Our final dinner was as delicious as usual, after which we all sat around together in an atmosphere of great hilarity. Thanks were given to John, David and Sheila for making our trip such a great success.
There was, however, one last morning before we left for home when we had our final walk around Sizergh Castle. We walked up to St. John’s Church at Helsington, miles away from anywhere but beautifully kept and from which we had fantastic views. We then walked back through fields of sheep with their little lambs enjoying the Spring sunshine before joining up for our closing lunch together. The sky was beginning to darken and soon after leaving the Heavens opened and we set off to drive home in torrential rain – obviously sad to see us go!!!
Photographs from Ambler’s Holiday 2014
AMBLERS’ SONG, APRIL 2014
We love to go wandering
The Amblers love to ramble
through field or river valley
On gentle slopes we know the ropes
And move convivially.
The country lanes are easy walks
we stride along with vigour
The passing cars are fine for us
But we want nothing bigger
On steeper slopes we take our time
Admiring the views
Once on top we pause a while
And hope for handy pews.
To see a STILE across the way can be an awful shock
But Amblers will walk along as steady as a rock
Approaching it with confidence there is no need to worry
we all get over bit by bit and are never known to hurry.
When in the pub at last we rest
And sip a well earned drink
The chat goes on apace as well
Which shows we still can think.
CELEBRITY ARTIST VISITS U3A GROUP, 27th MARCH 2014
Members of Art Appreciation 1 were thrilled and excited, when they had a surprise visit by artist Grayson Perry at their March meeting. Grayson (aka Tim Donelly) had come to talk to the group about his ceramics, and was resplendent in his glamorous outfit, a pink and navy spotted skirt with a stylish white blouse, and his blonde curls were enhanced by fetching pink ribbons. The whole ensemble was accessorised by navy tights and trainers and a pink and black parasol. Grayson, with the help of his partner and muse, Margaret Cole, enthralled the group with slides of his famous ceramic pots which fascinated us all, or perhaps it was just the sight of those bobbing pink ribbons…….. Sadly Grayson could not promise a return visit, but we are now in negotiations with Grayson about the publication of a photo of him at our meeting. We are hoping to secure exclusive rights to publish this in the next edition of Kanuta. Watch this space!