Holiday & Trip Reviews
Holidays & Day trips, below are some reviews of some of the outings the groups have organised (the most recent first)
New Year in Bournemouth with U3A friends 2019/20
Here we are in sunny (?) Bournemouth for the U3A New Year break. First stop was the Pavilion for the Pantomime, Aladdin. Nothing out of the ordinary although there was a considerable amount of ad-libbing by the actors. Full of all the usual fun and the kids all had a lovely time....oh no they didn’t, oh yes they did!
Then to The Ocean (well Channel actually) View Hotel. Ushered in to sign in and a quick cuppa before going to our rooms. John and I had a super view and large balcony. Then downstairs to a glass of wine or sherry and on to dinner. It would appear that there are only about four or five members of staff who take on whatever role needs to be done including the owner, a German lady who was waiting on tables.
After coffee we went to another room where we were entertained by a quiz. Our team The New Year Revellers) won both prizes.
Day 2 and New Year’s Eve. Took a walk down to the Russell Coates museum which was very interesting and enjoyable. Then wandered through the pleasure gardens to the town centre and met my sister for a bowl of soup in Debenhams. Back to the hotel by 4pm for a cream tea and rest before our 4 course dinner and entertainment which was a singer/comedian, not the best but we enjoyed singing along with his choices and eventually got up for a bit of dancing. There was a quick game of bingo and a bit of hokey kokey! Then the hour came and we drank a toast with bubbly and soon after dispersed to our rooms. Very tired 💤
U3A Sherborne Castle Trip
Our group of 30 members left for Sherborne Castle from Fair Oak Square on a grey cloudy day. The weather stayed with us for the whole journey but luckily it improved on our arrival.
In fact it was just right allowing us to enjoy walking around and admiring the grounds. Indeed there is a beautiful lake and many majestic trees to admire.
The staterooms are also a delight to see; fine furniture, interesting family portraits, and many other interesting items. What we thought, was just a ordinary foot stool, turned out to be a specially designed “Gout Stool” who would have thought it!
We also visited the family museum which is in the castle’s cellars. It had many fascinating items to see there including an invitation to the unusual reburial of Richard III.
There was a cafe in the grounds where we were able to buy high quality refreshments.
We left Sherborne Castle at 4p.m. I think everyone would agree that we had had very pleasant day out.
BTW - Sherborne Castle is not a castle at all, but is technically a “Lodge” Walter Raleigh was given Sherborne Castle as a gift, “for services rendered”, by Queen Elizabeth1. He deemed the castle not suitable for family life so he built the Lodge as a replacement. Locals at the time called it “The New Sherborne Castle” and the name “Sherborne Castle” has remained ever since.
Great day out at Southwick Village D Day Revival!
We had a very interesting talk in the map room of Southwick House and there was loads going on round the village including field gun running, rifle drill and a lovely sing song of all the old tunes on the village green. And only a couple of showers! Thanks Ann for organising such a good trip.
On Sunday December 30th 34 of us boarded a coach bound for The Best Western Hotel at Long Eaton in Nottinghamshire, half way between Nottingham and Derby. After dinner some of us enjoyed a quiz set by the Restaurant manager, whilst other played cards. After breakfast the next morning, New Years Eve, we set forward up the M1 to Derbyshire and the magnificent Chatsworth House. The house was beautifully dressed for Christmas with some 35 plus over 20ft Christmas trees, each room being dressed differently, with a fairy tale theme running throughout the house. As the weather was dry but cold, a tour of the grounds was well worth doing even though it was winter.
There was music and dancing in the evening and the New Year was seen in with a glass of bubbly - although most of us went to bed soon after!!
Tuesday morning saw us up and off to the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway for a trip on a vintage diesel train from Wirkworth to Duffield. We then moved on to Masson Mill, near Matlock Bath, for Lunch and a bit of retail therapy as the whole place was a large outlet centre with a cafe. We all returned home on Wednesday having had a good few days away and giving thanks to Jill once more for organising the trip.
After being picked up by the almost full coach at Eastleigh, John and I took our seats. A quick, problem free drive got us to Chelsea by mid-day and we all alighted from the vehicle and followed the leaders through a door to what we thought might be the café….but no…there were a few toilets and some food dispenser machines, clearly NOT the café. John and I being last off turned back and asked a passing Army soldier the way to the café only to be told it was all the way across to the other side of the Grade 2 listed site. Although it was a bright sunny day it was also freezing cold, we needed a hot drink! After asking one of only 16 lady Chelsea Pensioners for further guidance we found the café and enjoyed a hot drink and sandwich. Soon after, the rest of the group entered and filled the café and we were much impressed at the speed the staff were serving food to this unexpected influx of customers.
Fed and watered we headed out for a walk around and an opportunity to take some photographs. At 1.30 we all met up for our tour. We first had a film to view then we were divided into two groups. Chelsea Pensioner Michael Allen led our group. He had a great sense of humour and was very knowledgeable and informative as he took us from one area to another explaining the living quarters and the criteria that needed to be fulfilled to join the Pensioners. Sadly the extreme cold conditions made it a little difficult to concentrate and we were much relieved when he took us inside to the Great Hall, which is where they eat their meals. Very impressive room, reminded me of Harry Potter’s dining room at Hogwarts! After this we were shown the Chapel opposite, which was equally impressive, and we were able to light a candle for loved ones.
A quick walk through to another courtyard and the Museum and gift shop. Having already seen the museum earlier, John and I decided to nip around the corner to the café for a final hot drink before returning to the coach which left around 4.10pm and after an arduous drive through London’s rush hour traffic arrived back in Eastleigh at 6.30. Tired and hungry, thank goodness I had a stew in the slow-cooker ready to serve! Many thanks to the organisers for a great trip.
Well, the gods were certainly with us when we visited Stourhead on the 10th October.
They were everywhere - notably scattered around the beautiful lake - and most importantly the one in the sky that shone on us constantly.
Arriving late morning, we had the freedom to do as we pleased. Every twist and turn of the path round the lake revealed another surprise.
There were wonderful specimens of trees just putting on their winter coats and varying styles of magnificent architecture.
Half way round the lake the Gothic Cottage offered a welcome break with light refreshments.
Viewpoints abounded - each one outdoing the last.
The pub offered good food as did the busy ice cream kiosk.
A stroll past some lovely chestnut trees marked the path to the house. The art works and library were lovely as were all the rooms (each of them with a view).
As a bonus there was a lady playing the grand piano as we walked through the music room.
On leaving the house we went through the stable yard into the walled garden, with monster pumpkins in a greenhouse.
Then, tired but happy back to the coach for a restful journey home after a perfect day in the country.
A sunny Autumn break in Newquay Cornwall
On the first day we visited Charlestown, with its unspoiled Georgian harbour which has been used in many films and TV productions. Some of us were disappointed to learn we had just missed Aidan Turner, as Poldark had been filming there the previous week! After time for a visit to the fascinating shipwreck museum we travelled on to Mevagissey with its quaint harbour, narrow streets and interesting shops.
The next day the group visited The Lost Gardens of Heligan and heard the story of how these neglected and overgrown gardens had been rediscovered and restored to their former glory. The group had ample time to explore the grounds and take in the wonderful views.
On our last day we were driven to the Bedruthen Steps where we were able to walk along the cliffs though I don't think any of us climbed down and back up the 141 steps to the beach!
Later we travelled on to Tintagel via the picturesque coast road, which involved some very tricky manoeuvres by our excellent driver. We then had lunch followed by enough time to explore the village.
Our hotel overlooked Tolcarne Bay and we had lovely sea views from the dining room as well as from some of the bedrooms. We could watch the surfers enjoying the clement weather.
The food was very good and with great staff and comfy clean rooms we were well catered for.
On the first evening we amused ourselves with card games but on the other three evenings we had singers to entertain us, and many of us had a great time dancing the night away. Well, until 10.30 that is! We had lovely sunny weather all week and I think it's safe to say the whole group had a really good time. Thank you Jill for another excellent trip.
BOAT TRIP ON THE RIVER THAMES
What could be better on a hot summer day than to go “messing about on the river”
That is precisely what us members did on the 19th of July.
After reaching Runnymede we were escorted to our river boat for a leisurely cruise on the Thames. After making our way to the top deck we set off. The gentle breeze was very welcome and after navigating Old Windsor Lock, the boat did an about turn for us to enjoy a ploughman’s lunch.
On the return trip the most famous landmarks of Windsor Castle and Eton college were pointed out.
After returning to our coach we were then transported to the Saville gardens in Windsor Great Park where we were able to wander at leisure amongst the beautiful gardens and water features. After having our cream tea in the restaurant we were then transported home, tired and happy after a lovely day out.
The day was enjoyed by us all!!
A trip to Mottisfont with the Gardenening Group, in June 2018
Our group visited Mottisfont in June. It was the beginning of the hot weather, but it did not affect our enjoyment in looking at the many beautiful roses in the lovely gardens.
A visit to Kimmeridge in April 2018 proved to be a very interesting day.
On the way we visited the Holme Nursery which also offered us an enjoyable walk around their beautiful newly planted garden
area including several attractive ponds. Tulips jumped out at us everywhere and I’m sure later in the year it will be a colourful picture.
We were well served in their restaurant for lunch – tables all reserved which was helpful - and then the coach took us on to the main event – the Etches Collection Fossil Museum where we had a very interesting guided tour by the owner Stephen Etches which was followed by another visit to a restaurant opposite the Museum for any choice of refreshments and cakes including the very popular home made Dorset apple cake.
New Year Trip to Ashford, Kent
Saturday morning, 30th Dec, saw 27 of us on a coach in Eastleigh - First stop was Arundel, where we ambled in the Centre followed by refreshments. We continued to our hotel in Ashford where we were met with a warm welcome and a cuppa. After a lovely meal we gathered to play Bingo or cards.
The next morning after a good breakfast we left for Rye -(unfortunately the rain came with us). We took a look around the shops, although some found a pub serving hot drinks and stayed there for the day. When we arrived back at the hotel, tea and coffee were waiting for us. After chatting we went to prepare for a Bucks Fizz reception, followed by a tasty dinner and dancing until midnight. The party was in our own private suite with hats and masks to add to the atmosphere.
Monday it was off for Canterbury, again the rain came with us!! A few of our group visited the Cathedral. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet Centre. Our driver obtained vouchers which were for free cake and a drink in Patisserie Valerie and was very well received by everyone! Then it was back for afternoon tea at the hotel. We enjoyed a Carvery dinner followed by a ‘difficult’ New Year Gala Quiz, the winning team won a box of chocolates - lucky them!
Sadly Tuesday morning (still raining!) was time for our journey home. We had lots of laughs and we are sure all had a great time and are looking forward to the next holiday.
Visit to Longleat
On 4 December 2017 over 50 members travelled to Longleat. We arrived at lunchtime and set off on a 2 hour tour of the animal park. We watched with a mixture of amusement and anxiety, whilst the monkeys concentrated on either removing or attempting to remove pieces of trim and various other appendages from several of the vehicles travelling through the park. Fortunately, the larger beasts (lions, tigers and wolves) displayed only a vague interest in the vehicles and their occupants!
After the tour we had time for refreshment before the light faded revealing a beautiful display of various colours and shapes from the numerous lanterns. The 15 minute colourful display of the varying shapes and patterns on the enchanted Christmas tree was truly magical and kept many children and adults mesmerised.
All in all a very enjoyable day
Wickham Vineyard and Mill 27th September 2017
At the end of September we went to The Three Choirs Vineyard for a very interesting talk on wine production and the history of the vineyard, which was followed by a tasting of four of the wines produced there. We were taught how to taste wine properly and how different cheeses complement the various wines. After a very enjoyable lunch in the in-house restaurant we boarded the coach for the short trip to Chesapeake Mill where we spent time browsing the antiques and taking refreshment in the vegan café. Overall a successful and enjoyable day out!
A Visit to Kew Gardens 12th July 2017
We visited Kew gardens, where a walk around the lake brought us to the Palm House, a unique piece of architecture, which was built in 1844-48, and rebuilt 1984-85 and is an example of the ingenuity of Victorian designers. There is a huge Palm Oil tree growing in the dome, under rain forest conditions. These conditions made the floor very slippery.
A walk through the Rose Gardens led to the Water Lily House (small but beautiful). From here we passed Holly trees, then walked along “Ginkgo Lane”, which is a lovely avenue of these trees.. The Ginkgo or Maiden Hair tree can be found growing throughout the world.
We lunched in the Orangery, after which we walked to the Princess of Wales Conservatory. There was so much to see, including the giant water lily leaves, the Flamingo flowers, small Zebra plants, cacti in bloom and so much more. There was also a treetop walkway within the Conservancy that could be reached by stairs or a lift.
A great day was had by all.
Easter Break to Isle of Wight – 14th to 18th April 2017
25 U3A members joined the Coach at Eastleigh for the short journey to Portsmouth where we boarded the Ferry to take us to Fishbourne. Our Driver was Richard, who hailed from Wales, and was an excellent Driver/Courier and kept us entertained over the 4 days. Driving on the narrow roads and lane required all his skills.
We arrived at our hotel early afternoon and most of us took the short walk into Sandown, a stroll along the seafront with a break for tea/ice-cream.
Each evening we were provided with an excellent 3-course meal followed by entertainment on Friday & Saturday. We had to make our own entertainment on Sunday night. Half the group decided to play “Sevens”, This entailed 14 people playing the games using 3 packs of cards. Great fun and enjoyed by all.
On Saturday morning, after an excellent breakfast, made more entertaining by some new staff who didn’t always get the orders correct, we visited the pretty village of Godshill with its 14th Century church and thatched cottages, and then went to Ryde for lunch a stroll around the town and along the seafront. In the afternoon, we visited a Vineyard for a talk and wine tasting with the opportunity to buy some wine to take home.
On Sunday, we visited Alum Bay in the morning to see the Needles and the multi-coloured sand cliffs. There was also workshop showing how they made glass objects and the sand filled decorations. After lunch, we visited the Calbourne Water Mill, which is a working Mill and Rural Museum. Most members saw the demonstration of how flour has been made for 1000 years. An extra bonus was a vintage car exhibition. We returned to the hotel and celebrated one of our member's 85th Birthday with a lovely chocolate cake.
Our last day too us to the Donkey Sanctuary and then to a Garden Centre for lunch, after which we travelled to Yarmouth for our drive back to Southampton via Lymington.
A good weekend, enjoyed by everybody and thanks, as always to our Group Leader for organising the break.
A Visit to Angel Costumes at Hendon
A small party of us went on a visit to Angels Costumes at Hendon on the 8th of March 2017. We had a long journey there due to the bad weather and road works but it was worth the journey.
We had a very informative and humorous tour. We walked through the workshops where people were working on alterations and fittings. When we reached the top of the warehouse we looked down on rows and rows of costumes which were stacked four rows high. If they were laid out in one continuous row, the row would stretch to eight miles long.
We also went into a refrigated room which was used to store costumes that contained real fur. We saw dresses and uniforms worn in a range of TV shows such as Downton Abbey.
Aterwards we travelled to Hendon Museum for lunch before travelling back home in a much shorter time than going.
New Year Trip to Illfracombe
A party of 28 left Eastleigh on 30th December 2016 for this North Devon Town, on the edge of Exmoor. After a pleasant but sometimes slow journey, due to traffic, and with suitable comfort stops we arrived at 4.30pm. We were greeted by the owner of the hotel and served coffee, tea and lovely homemade cakes, yummy. After familiarisation of the hotel members retired to have a rest and prepare for dinner. Our party was split across four long tables, adjoining one another, in the dinning area and the meal was enjoyed by all. After dinner there was a Quiz which was good fun.
On Saturday a short coach journey took us into Barnstaple to explore the town and to have lunch. The weather was bright but cold. On return to the hotel more lovely tea and cakes. Members retired to make themselves beautiful for the evenings Gala Dinner and festivities. The Gala Dinner was great with multiple courses and was enjoyed by all. Afterwards there was music, drinking and dancing to midnight and beyond. Most of our party saw in the New Year and bacon rolls and coffee were served at 1am.
After a late breakfast on Sunday we set off in pouring rain for a visit to the Barnstaple railway. The 2 mile round trip on the Narrow Gauge railway was fun despite the weather. It is a charitable organisation and is operated by volunteers and it is hoped to restore the line which once ran between Barnstaple and Lynton. We left for Lynton and the scenery on the way was stunning despite the lashing rain. The driver of the coach took us on a tour of the area which was enjoyed by all. Back to the hotel for more afternoon tea and cakes.
After Breakfast on Monday morning we said good bye to the owner and staff and thanked them for the accommodation, lovely food and warm welcome they had given us. We arrived back in Eastleigh late afternoon.
The Savill Garden
On August 18th 51 happy members and friends went on a visit to Savill Garden, which was created by Sir Eric Savill in 1930, in Windsor Great Park.
On arriving most of us headed for a cup of tea or coffee before enjoying the walks and flowers – beautiful herbaceous borders with bright blocks of colours; the rose garden with old and modern species 3.000 plants in the new layout, which had recently been opened by the Queen and the New Zealand Garden with its many swaying grasses (so different).
I could not see any fish in the lakes but it was a shady walk, although not so peaceful due to the plane noise from Heathrow airport. The shop was well stocked with plants and interesting items – you may be lucky at Christmas!
We all met up again in a private marquee for a ‘Queen’s Tea’, what a picture it was – six large round tables, laid up with white table cloths. There were china cups and saucers, and plates of finger sandwiches, scones with jam & cream, shortbread, macaroons and Victoria sponges, enough for everyone and more. Our waiters and waitresses willingly served us all with ‘2 cup’ pots of tea, some on our table had two pots each as it was a hot day.
Graham our coach driver had quite a lot plants to put into the boot before getting us home safely.
A happy trip had by all.
Easter in Worcester
Eighteen U3A members set off on a lovely sunny Good Friday to travel to the city of Worcester, and after a stop at Gloucester Quays for lunch we arrived at our hotel late afternoon. The hotel which had an interesting history as a converted glove factory was clean and pleasant and conveniently situated close to the city centre.
The next day was spent in Worcester itself which proved to be a very interesting city with many attractions. We started with a trip to the Royal Worcester porcelain museum and most of us also visited the cathedral. In the afternoon thirteen members boarded a pleasure craft for a short trip on the river to see the sights from a different perspective. That evening the hotel organised a quiz exclusively for U3A members.
On Easter Sunday we went on a tour of the Black and White Villages. We had a guide who was a mine of information and made the day very enjoyable. We had coffee at the very old New Inn in Pembridge, lunch in Hereford with time to see the beautiful cathedral, and visited several villages. The weather was kind to us, and though there were some showers while we were on the coach, in the main we were walking around in the sunshine. That night we had Bingo and three lucky members won cash prizes!
The following morning we set off on a mystery tour. This took us through some very pretty countryside into Wales and down the Wye Valley, stopping at Tintern Abbey for coffee. Afterwards we travelled to Marlborough where we had a break for lunch and then carried on to Eastleigh. Many thanks to the organiser for another excellent holiday!
Seeing the New Year in Great Yarmouth
A jolly band of members and other passengers set off from Eastleigh and arrived at our Hotel late afternoon on the Wednesday. The family run hotel was situated just off the seafront and was clean, tidy and very welcoming. The food was good with no frills and nothing was too much trouble for the staff. There was evening entertainment including bingo, quizzes, karaoke all hosted by a resident singer/entertainer.
The following day we went to Wroxham, which is the main town on the Broads, then on to Aylsham where we joined the Bure Valley Narrow Gauge Railway for a 45min trip back to Wroxham, which everybody enjoyed. After the evening meal at our hotel there were various entertainments leading up to midnight and everybody saw in the New Year.
The next day saw us taken to Norwich but being New Years Day a lot of premises were closed. After evening dinner at the hotel everybody dressed up in fancy dress, some of which were provided by the Hotel, which had a large collection. Some members had come prepared.
Great fun was had by all and the following morning we set off for home.
Visit to the Mary Rose.
Members went by coach to the Portsmouth Naval Dockyard. First stop refreshment then a cruise round the dockyard, with commentary on the various vessels present. A windy but sunny boat trip and then on to The Mary Rose experience. Wonderful display of many artefacts never seen before together with the preserved hull of the Mary Rose giving the impression you were actually on Henry V111,s Flagship. The lighting was very dim to show what conditions would have been like. Enjoyed by all.
Visit to Abbotsbury Swannery and Subtropical Gardens.
Travelled by coach to this picturesque village, in the beautiful Dorset countryside, near Weymouth. This is the only colony of nesting Mute Swans open to the public in the World. Saw the new cygnets born in May to June and watched the hand feeding of the vast flock of swans by the wardens and visitors. During feeding an expert live commentary described the whole history of the Swannery and life cycle of the swans.
On to the gardens where trees and shrubs from all over the world were growing. |Refreshments were had and wonderful walks through the gardens experienced by the group. Very enjoyable outing.
Trip Down the Thames and a Visit to the Cutty Sark.
Travelled to Westminster Bridge by coach and joined vessel for trip down the Thames. Wonderful sights of places of interest and the" Shard" is amazing. The whole river trip was accompanied by a commentary by the captain who made the experience so interesting.
On arrival at Cutty Sark lunch was had and members explored the Vessel and the Museum, at leisure. Great outing.
Spring Break in Lincolnshire
We travelled by coach to our base "The Wyndham Garden Grantham Hotel" situated at Marston, in the lovely countryside, arriving late afternoon.
On the second day of our stay we visited Coningsby home of the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight where we enjoyed a tour led by a volunteer and were able to see the historic aircraft at close quarters. Then on to the beautiful village of Woodhall Spa which was associated with the famous 617 "Dambuster" squadron. In the afternoon we went to Skegness.
Day three saw us visit Barnsdale Gardens created by Geoff Hamiltion with Britains largest collection of 39 individually designed gardens and then on to Belton House, a perfect 17th century English country house set in delightful gardens.
On day four we travelled to The City of Lincoln where the cathedral lies opposite William the Conquerors Norman Fort, Lincoln Castle, which is home to a surviving copy of the Magna Carta. The group explored the cathedral and castle and an intrepid few walked down the famous and award winning Steep Hill which runs from the castle square down into the modern shopping area.
Alas our stay was at an end. Everybody enjoyed the trip and much fun and friendship was experienced. The facilities, accommodation and food were excellent.
Visit to Bombay Sapphire Distillery at Laverstock Mill and Whitchurch Silk Mill
Arrived at the Gin factory on a cloudy, cold morning. Were shown the Distillation Process where the " neutral" spirit produced from the distillation of Barley or Maize is diluted to the required strength placed in a Copper Still heated and the vapour passes through a vessel containing various " Botanicals" which infuse their flavour and aroma into the Gin. We all sampled a Gin Cocktail at the end of the tour. Very enjoyable visit and a lovely location on the banks of the River Test.
Next stop the Silk Mill. This is the oldest silk mill in the UK still in its original building. Whitchurch Silk Mill is a Georgian water mill that weaves silk using 19th century machinery. There was no weaving going on during our visit but the method of weaving was demonstrated. The silk is imported from China and Brazil where it is produced by the Silk Moth Caterpillar which spins a cocoon of silk round itself and becomes a chrysalis. The cocoons are boiled and the silk reeled. When it arrives in the UK it is dyed to the required colour.
Interesting visit and a lovely location on the River Test.
Tour of the Houses of Parliament
It was on Monday January 26th, a damp and chilly morning, when a group of 29 Members of Eastleigh District U3A departed Fair Oak on a coach bound for London and a tour of the Houses of Parliament.
When we arrived we all had to go through the security check points before assembling in Westminster hall, the oldest and largest room in the Palace of Westminster. We were then greeted by Eastleigh MP Mike Thornton and his assistant Hannah, both gave us a brief history of the Palace before we set off with them for our tour. Walking through the Hall we passed over many Brass Plaques depicting where many of the good and great had been laid in State, such as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother plus many others. There were also plaques showing where famous people had stood to address Members of both Houses, such as Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela to name but two.
Our tour continued, taking us through the Royal Gallery into the Queen's Robing Room and into the Central Lobby (Midpoint between the Houses of Lords and Commons) plus several other important rooms.
When we first entered the House of Lords I think most of us were in awe of the gold and glitz of this Chamber, however quite the opposite awaited us as we entered the House of Commons, very plain and austere by comparison. I think most of us were surprised by the size of both Houses, they are much smaller than they appear when seen on television.
After spending a short time in the House of Commons we were ushered out as the Houses had to be ready for the day's business to begin. We could see the Sniffer Dogs already hard at work, tails wagging, making sure none of us had planted any explosives under the plush leather benches!
Once outside the Chamber we said our thanks and farewells to Mike and Hanna and had enough time for a leisurely lunch before re-boarding our coach for the return journey down the M3 to home. We had all enjoyed a very interesting and informative day out.
New Year in Shropshire
Fifteen U3A members travelled to Telford in Shropshire for a four day New Year's break, and a very good time was had by all. The hotel was comfortable, the food was good, the entertainment excellent, and the company lively and convivial. What more could anyone ask for? After a very enjoyable four course gala dinner and a complimentary glass of bubbly we saw the New Year in all together on the dance floor, and personally I cannot remember when I last had so much fun on New Year's Eve.
The weather was kind to us and we had two excellent day trips, on the 31st to Ironbridge and Blist's Hill Victorian Town (which was absolutely fascinating), and on New Year's Day a nostalgic steam train ride on the Severn Valley Railway through lovely scenery to Kidderminster.
Many thanks to Jill for organising this very successful break and for ensuring everyone, especially 'first timers' like ourselves, felt welcome and included in the group and all the activities. We are looking forward to next year's trip.
Visit to the SS Great Britain At Bristol
We arrived at the SS Great Britain in time for coffee and cake. Then we went through the gift shop to the museum which was excellent and held lots of interesting artefacts and so on to the ship which had three decks – the weather deck, the promenade deck and the saloon deck where the steam engine was working. Then below the ship under the glass sea to view the ship’s original iron hull which is kept at 20% humidity to preserve it.
SS Great Britain was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and launched in 1843 by Prince Albert as an ocean liner. She was the first ship to be built of iron, have a 1000 hp steam engine and a screw propeller. In 1852 she changed ownership and sailed to Australia carrying hundreds of emigrants and gold-seekers. Between 1882 and 1886 the SS Great Britain carried coal and wheat between England and the west coast of America. In 1886 storms off the Cape Horn badly damaged the ship and the Captain was forced to seek shelter in the Falkland Islands. The ships owners decided the cost of repair was too high so their insurers sold the ship to the Falkland Islands Company. After a rescue attempt failed the ship was used as a warehouse and a quarantine ship before being abandoned and left to rust away. In 1970 the ship crossed the Atlantic to Bristol sitting on a floating pontoon pulled by tugs and it took until 2005 to restore it to what is seen today.
After all that we had lunch in the café before boarding a boat from the Bristol Packet Company for a trip along the River Avon viewing the houseboats, ships, restaurants, apartments and old and new buildings lining the river bank. We left Bristol before the rush hour and reached home early evening.
Visit to Esso Oil Refinery at Fawley
Our visit to Esso Refinery on 30th January began with a slight delay for those on the mini-bus, as the battery in the bus was flat, and a replacement had to be sent out! However, once everyone arrived at the refinery, we were greeted with tea/coffee and biscuits, before our host gave us a very interesting presentation.
He told us that he had worked at Esso for 46 years before retiring, and his knowledge of the whole plant was really impressive. We learnt that the refinery processes 330,000 barrels of crude oil every day, providing 20% of the UK’s total refining capacity, and over 2,000 ships visit Fawley’s marine terminal each year. Apart from fuel, at home we are surrounded by products containing materials made from crude oil, eg carpets, CD’s, toiletries, paint and plastics.
The Royal Albert Hall Christmas Concert
On one of our very few bright sunny days in December, our coach party left Eastleigh for a Christmas Show at The Royal Albert Hall in London.
On arriving in London we were dropped off right outside the Albert Hall and with over 2 hours before the performance started we had plenty of time to seek out somewhere for refreshments or take a stroll through the park.
We walked towards South Kensington and passed museums – one of which had a seasonal outside ice rink, which added to the festive feel of London.
After wandering and taking in the atmosphere we found a really unusual place to stop, rest and have something to eat and drink. It wasn’t a usual chain eatery – it was called “Muriel’s Kitchen” it was obviously very popular and had a very friendly atmosphere and reasonable prices on the menu that were varied, with Healthy Options, Vegetarian choices and the favourites for the indulgent ones amongst us.
On entering the Royal Albert Hall we took the stairs for our seating area, The Top Circle, and in the 2nd row we had really panoramic view. The lighting played across the ornate ceiling, beamed onto the stage and the Christmas Trees in an array of colours. This gave a wonderful ambience to the most impressive interior of the Hall.
Thanks to our Outings Group Leader from us all.
Visit to a Materials Recovery Facility at Alton, Hampshire
On a bright crisp October morning, 8 of our members visited the Veolia Environmental Services Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) at Alton to obtain an insight into what happens to the recyclable and non-recyclable waste collected from our homes each week.
On arrival we were provided with a hot drink and biscuits, to warm us up a little, before we were given a very informative presentation, after which we were shown around the Facility.
Apparently Hampshire is the best performing county in England for avoiding sending waste to landfill ( According to the Eastleigh Borough News, Eastleigh is the best performing borough in Hampshire!). The County’s non-recyclable (black bag) waste makes up approximately 60 % of the total material collected, of this 60 % only 7% goes into landfill whilst the other 53% is burnt to generate electricity via three Energy Recovery Facilities operated by Veolia.
The 40% of waste collected that is considered recyclable is taken to either of Aeolia’s MRFs, one based in Portsmouth and the other at Alton.
The Alton MRF is apparently the most technologically advance plant of its kind in the County. However, we noticed during our tour around the facility that, despite all that technology, there was still a need for ‘pre sort’ rooms in which workers manually picked over the waste material, as it passed them on a conveyor belt, to remove any non-recyclable material that the public had put in the wrong bin.
To the uninitiated the facility appeared to be a maze of conveyor belts and pipes all going in different directions. In its travels the waste passed through rotating drums, was blasted by air jets and passed under strong electro magnets to separate out the various materials before reaching its final destination. This trip was certainly not a waste of time.
Trip to Monets Garden & the Normandy Coast
In late June seven of our members joined a coach party to France, to primarily visit Monets Garden but there were some other highlights included.
We were based in the city of Rouen, which although a large industrial place, had an interesting old centre. Among the many impressive buildings was the very modern church of St. Joan of Arc built in 1979 near the site where she was executed in 1431.
Our trips to the Normandy Coast were disappointing as both Dieppe and Bologne were shrouded in mist or cloud. Before visiting Dieppe, we went to Fecamp to experience the delights of the Benedictine Abbey, with its museum and distillery. This beautiful Palace building was built in 1900 by Alexandre le Grand who discovered the old original written composition of the elixir created by the monks in1510 on this site. Benedictine produced here today is sold all over the world.
On Monday we set out on the object of our trip, Giverney and Monets Garden. We were lucky and the weather was warm and sunny but not too hot. Most of us have heard of this garden, but we were not prepared for the magnificence of it. It was obviously the best time of the year to visit, the Water Lilies were at their best, prolific and of several colours. Sitting in the shade eating our lunch we could feel Monets need to record what he saw and felt. The other part of the garden known as the Clos Normand was a profusion of colour. There were flowers of every kind and colour, not a space between them, no room for any weeds. Then into Monets house, some of the rooms were as he had lived in them. There were sixty of his paintings, two of Renoirs, his collection of Japanese pictures and ceramics and also photos of him and his family. When you left the house, the perfume of the garden outside confronted you. A truly memorable day.
On the way back to Rouen we went to Chateau Gailliard with its panoramic views over the Seine Valley.After a very pleasant and busy few days we returned to Eastleigh with many memories to treasure.