Groups, Outings and Activities

This is the page where you can read all about some of the activities of our u3a, both past and still to come


Shake up your Shakespeare

Booklovers Group had an inspiring morning on 1st April with Nigel Smith and Patsy, his wife. Lorna Leyton introduced Nigel who told us how a few years ago he had determined to start a group which reads a whole Shakespeare text together; this takes place at his home in Wellington. Nigel leads a group at Taunton Library several times annually, reading aloud and sharing a Shakespeare play, with each member having a text to follow and to join in. Several members read pieces connected with Shakespeare’s work. Dorothy Davis chose a letter from 1592 written by Robert Greene, a contemporary of Shakespeare, warning his friends about the new actor/playwright who threatens to usurp their field. Maureen Horne read a piece of journalism from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown recounting her experience performing the part of Juliet in Uganda; the director had given the parts of the Capulet family to the Indians at the school, and those of the Montagues to the black
students. Yasmin’s performance was recognised by the offer of a scholarship, but she was forbidden to take it up by her racist family, indeed she was beaten as she dared to have a relationship(on stage) with a black boy who played Romeo. Her father refused to speak to her for the rest of his life.

Julia Cann read a short extract from Samuel Pepys diary with his comments on seeing ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in 1662, and a piece by Bernard Levin, recently printed in The Times, entitled ‘On Quoting Shakespeare’. Nigel and Patsy read parts of Twelfth Night illustrating the relationship between women, and another about the humour between Feste and Viola. Lorna read a comment by Charles Lamb about the universality of Shakespeare, and a discussion about the beauty of his language ensued.

What You Do When The Speaker Cries Off!

BOOKLOVERS were not deterred and explored the following: -
What book are you reading now?
Contributions included ‘Imperium’ Robert Harris – his latest book. Travels with my Aunt’; (1969) Graham Greene; ‘Innocent Traitor/Lady Jane Grey’ by Alison Weir; ‘What a Plant Knows’ (yes really!)by Daniel Chamovitz; ‘If on a Winters Night a Traveller’ by Italo Calvino; Chief Inspector Gamache Novels by Louise Penny.
What book would you take to a desert island?
‘Embroidered Textiles – A World Guide to Traditional Patterns’ by Sheila Paine - fascinating symbolism behind motifs of embroidered textiles from Ghanaian patchwork to Egyptian head shawls. The Booklover who brought this offering said she could draw the patterns with a twig in the sand! ‘Tales of New Jerusalem’ by
David Kynaston; 4 volumes - 2166 pages! ‘Life in Britain between 1945 – 1962’ - information about life and events throughout these years. Also shared with us was the omnibus edition of Picture Post Magazine.
What book gave you the reading bug?
This produced ‘The Little White Horse’ by Elizabeth Goudge, and another member said she was often sent to her room therefore she became an avid reader.
What book would you not lend?
A consensus of opinion was “none, if you were concerned about their return.”
The above contributions made for a very happy and interesting morning recently spent with the Booklovers Group.


In July our group celebrated our first birthday in style by holding a Garden Party for members and partners. The venue was the beautiful garden of member Cynthia West. We provided ourselves with an excellent spread of food topped off with the essential birthday cake. We continue to hold our meetings at Staplegrove Village Hall at 2pm on the third Wednesday of each month and, in addition make visit to local gardens throughout the summer months.


On a hot August morning twenty of our members went on a self-guided tour of Bridgwater town centre. Four of our party had prepared notes that were read out at the appropriate point. We are grateful to our guides Dorothy Davis, Mary Bull, Mike and Janet Jones. Our party first gathered near Robert Blake’s statue in Fore Street, opposite the 18th Century corn exchange, and headed towards the river. As we walked, we noted some terracotta dragon’s heads on a large chimney stack. These were typical products of Bridgwater’s once important brick and tile industry. On reaching West Quay, we headed northwards and spotted a bricked-up archway in an old wall – remains of the Watergate of the castle. Another section of the 13th Century castle wall was seen incorporated in the West Quay Business Centre. The castle occupied an area of 10 acres, and was destroyed in 1646 after the English Civil War.

Further along, we were invited into The Lions House for a look around. This was built between 1720 and 1740 in a Baroque style by wealthy merchant Benjamin Holloway. At the front of the house are 20th Century gate-piers topped by Chinese-style dogs (the lions). The interior of this listed building is rich in ornate plasterwork, and has been adapted for use as offices. Our next port of call was the docks, which consist of an outer- and inner-basin connected to the River Parrett and the Bridgwater and Taunton canal. Shipping was at its height in the late 19th Century, but the docks area was re-developed in the 1980’s. The dock became a leisure marina, and the warehouse was converted for flats.
Turning southwards along Northgate, we soon came to the Chandos Glass Cone. This is the partial re-build of a circular brick building, 64 feet across at the base and 125 feet high, originally built by the Duke of Chandos in 1725 for the manufacture of glass. It was later converted to make pottery, and demolished in 1943.

We then rested in the shade of trees in King Square, a green area designed and laid out in the early 19th Century. The original square garden served as a private garden area for the regency style properties surrounding the square. It was rebuilt in 1924 with diagonal footpaths centred on the war memorial designed by John Angel.
After lunch, some of us visited the Blake Museum, in the 16th Century house said to be the birthplace of Robert Blake (1598 – 1657). The museum has collections which include the archaeology and history of the district, Robert Blake, the Duke of Monmouth and the Battle of Sedgemoor. Blake is little known nowadays, but ranks with the likes of Drake and Nelson. In his lifetime Blake was a national hero, first as a soldier in the First Civil War and then as a naval commander. In 1649 Blake was appointed one of three commanders of the English Navy with the title General-at-Sea. When he died he was given a prestigious state funeral. In our opinion, this museum is well worth a visit (or two).

RUSSIAN GROUP (Improvers) Mike Thompsett

Taunton U3A Help International Relations

by Kanga, Expedition Leader

A group of Somerset Scouts are currently training for an 'ExplorerBelt' expedition to the mountains of Uzbekistan in 2017. The overall training programme for the Explorer Belt is quite varied
and extensive. We train and 'test' the participants’ stamina and endurance, teach them the skills they need, improve on other skills, increase their fitness levels, and get them thinking and working as a team. Ultimately they need to be self-sufficient, competent, and confident for undertaking 10 days trekking in the
mountains. This will be in unknown terrain, with high day-time and low night-time temperatures. They will be carrying all their own kit, navigating, buying food and fuel en-route, and finding and purifying water. They will have to cook for themselves, and work with others, including local Uzbek children, and so overcome
language barriers and cultural differences…....which is where U3A come into this!
We are shortly going to be undertaking some Russian Language learning under the tuition of Svetlana and Mike, leaders of the U3A Russian Group. I'm not sure who will find this challenge more daunting...the Scouts grasping the basics of Russian, or 'team Svetlana' coping with teaching a gaggle of teenagers in cold Scout huts! Hopefully after four lessons we may be able to remember a little, even if it's only enough to say hello and ask for a cup of tea!
So, I'm sure we will all have some fun! I'll have to let you know our progress! (if you would like to know?) We start our tuition in December at our next training camp, with another lesson a week later. We also have two lessons scheduled for February.


Hello to all past, present and future Science Group members. Our group has been very ably led over the past few years by Alan Johnson, who has decided to have a well-earned rest. Our very good wishes go to him and we look forward to his continued presence at our Thursday afternoon meetings.
Our dates remain the same, the first and third Thursday afternoons of the month, from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm, with our first meeting being Thursday 1st September. However, our venue has now changed and we will be holding our meetings at the St. George’s Church Hall, Wilton, Taunton; upstairs in the Winston Room. There is limited parking available at the Church Hall, or Vivary Car Park is a short walk away.
We hope to continue with our tried and trusted format, with some additional resources as we can obtain them. Our first lecture will be from The Great Courses, and is entitled “Impossible: Physics Beyond the Edge. Lecture 1 – From Principles to Paradoxes and Back Again.” This will be followed by a short Q&A and discussion period. I then hope to introduce a change by including a science based film, which I can obtain from the U3A’s excellent Resource Centre. I have booked "STORY OF SCIENCE BY MICHAEL MOSLEY: PART 1” which will be our first film.
We will need to discuss the range of science we wish to cover and obtain a consensus as to how we proceed. I would also like to line up the occasional Guest Speaker and organise trips to relevant sites if we can. I look forward to welcoming members to the first of our revamped meetings.
John Hunt


Since my last report the group has enjoyed several pleasant walks in the Fitzhead area with its gently rolling countryside. One from Crowcombe Heathfield Station, where early arrivals enjoyed the atmosphere of the arrival and departure of a steam train (one of the ladies had a proposal of marriage from the stationmaster!), before the walk on peaceful country lanes. Another from Combe Florey, where we visited the beautiful church and were made most welcome, before walking on past the 16th Century Gatehouse of the Manor, with its associations with the Waugh family, through fields, past a lime kiln and along country lanes. We enjoyed good views of the Quantocks on a very clear and fine day.


What a nice walk. Thanks to Dick Hogg for organizing, well done Dick it was most enjoyable. Only twelve braved the autumnal weather but the views were worth it and that fresh Quantock air ............ fabulous. Eleven of us had a nice lunch at the Carew Arms at Crowcombe, good food, good walk, good company. Perfect.Ron & Rita will lead the January 24th walk, details next year !