Town Study Group
Starting September 2021
We have ten members on the list for this group, there is space for more
To register an interest in this group contact Sue Skelton - Town Study Group
Epsom & Ewell has a lot of history in the surrounding area. A suggestion has been put forward for a Town Study Group along the same lines as the very successful one that Reading u3a have run for over 25 years.
The proposed format would be similar with 3 visits planned per year and the intervening months would be spent by group members researching the chosen towns history etc prior to the group visit.
Below is an overview of how Reading have run their very successful group'
READING U3A TOWN STUDY GROUP The Town Study Group in Reading u3a was set up just over 25 years ago. The basic idea is to take three towns per year, within visiting distance (no more than one-and-a-half hours by coach) of Reading, and to devote two monthly meetings to studying the town, then in the third month of the sequence a coach trip is organised. For the study sessions, we look for volunteers to prepare short presentations – 15-20 minutes, sometimes shorter – on any aspect of the town. These could cover local history, transport, industry, culture, architecture, legends and, occasionally, scandals. We encourage as many people as possible to contribute, offering help with picture research and PowerPoint presentations. Because the presentations are quite short, and assistance is offered, members who would otherwise shy away from public speaking are more inclined to participate. For the visits, we have an excellent local coach company who have been our drivers right from the very beginning. We try to arrange a guided walk with local guides, and then offer alternatives such as a visit to the church, or a museum, or time free to wander. On the day, we give each member a timetable and annotated map showing the location of coach drop off and pick-up point(s), public toilets, and local landmarks. We do not include visits to stately homes, as we have a Heritage Group which organises those visits. Town Study trips are mentioned in our newsletter and any member can come on a trip, even if they are not a member of the Group, subject to space on the coach. We have two convenors – one organises the speakers and makes local contacts with tourist offices, guides, museums, etc., and the other makes the travel arrangements and also offers help with picture research and PowerPoint presentations. In the early days, of course, presentations were basic short talks, with some visual displays (books, leaflets, postcards), and the occasional slide show. Advance visits were often made to the towns by some of the organising members. With wider use of the internet this has changed – most research is done online and the talks are usually illustrated with the use of PowerPoint presentations. A typical day’s visit would go as follows: 930, coach leaves Reading; 1100 coach arrives at destination; 1130 guided walk; 1300 free for lunch; 1430 visit to museum/church/other place of interest; 1600 coach departs; 1730 arrive back in Reading. We sometimes have an earlier start if the town is a bit further away. We have experimented with a later time to depart for the return journey, but found that members got too tired. Pricing: we normally get around 40 on the trip, so we initially budget for 35. We sometimes make some of the day’s activities optional, so we might say, for instance, £15 for the coach only, plus £4 for the walk, £5 for the museum. This makes slightly more work in organising finances, but some members do like to do their own thing! We collect the money in cash or by cheque at the second of the study meetings, although some people do pay on the day. We usually pay the guides and venues in cash, getting a receipt of course. During the last year we have, of course, had to give up our visits, but the group still continues with monthly study sessions, very much as they were before – the format has adapted well to Zoom meetings. “Guided Walks” can be constructed using screenshots from Google Street View. Our latest town was Amersham – the subjects covered in our first meeting included a general history of transport and brewing in the town, High and Over – a modernist house on a hill overlooking the town, some other interesting buildings, and the history of the Lollards and the Amersham Martyrs. Our second meeting included the development of the town due to the arrival of the Metropolitan Line, the history of a local pub (including a ghost story), a history of the local landowners, and the history of the local laboratory and factory which produced medical isotopes. As lockdown continues, we are also studying towns which are interesting, but would be too far away for a visit. Our next town will be Whitby – over four hours drive from Reading, but easily “visited” online. We are working on an archive of presentations and talks, and will make them available to our members via our website. At the end of each year we have a “round-up” meeting, with a review of the year, with members photographs and memories of the visits, and any extra information which might have come our way since the visit followed by a planning session, with a discussion and vote on the towns to be visited during the following year. Town Study regularly tops the “league table” of the most-attended interest groups in Reading u3a. Avis Furness Co-Convenor, Town Study Group, Reading u3a 14.2.2021