Wantage & Grove


TRIPS, OUTINGS AND EVENTS. Recent items of interest from the Wantage and Grove U3A please visit our Events Page for future activities - we are a busy group!

Trip to Bletchley Park 20 May 2019
On a pleasant sunny day 26 of us set out for Bletchley Park. On my return visit I was able to see (most of) the bits I’d missed in September. Huts 3 and 6 – the restored German army and airforce codebreaking huts, what a dark, noisy and smoky environment that must have been! The newly refurbished Teleprinter Building - an exhibition and short film explaining Bletchley Park’s secret D-Day role. Hut 12 – sketches, some comedic, some mysterious, from the Bletchley Park Archives. Finally, the Mansion - an exhibition showing the life and work of Bill Tutte, only 24 when he arrived at Bletchley, an elite Codebreaker, and also an exhibition showing how the (9000!) personnel entertained themselves with personal recorded accounts to listen to.
For some it was their first visit, so we all had different experiences on the day. However, the consensus on the way home was that it was well worth the trip, tiring, too much to see, but inspiring and very grateful to those who served there.

Monday Walking Group: On 14th May 14 people set out on a hot sunny Spring day. We started at Great Coxwell Tithe Barn, built in the 13th century. It is very impressive and well maintained by the National Trust. We turned away from the village, through two farms and across a field. We stopped for a short rest before the long climb up to Badbury Camp. This was used in the Iron Age. White Horse Hill and Faringdon Folly can be seen clearly from there. The famous bluebells were just about over but a few folk took time to explore the woods. Highlight of the afternoon...the ice cream van was in the car park! I think we all had one each. We made our way down the half mile back to the Barn for a photo opportunity and a bit of an explore before going home. A lovely afternoon. Hazel Townesend

Gardeners visit to Batsford Arboretum and Sezincote Gardens May 2019
May 2nd started bright and sunny when members of the Gardeners Group set off for Batsford Arboretum. Over coffee, the essential first stop, we found that it was Pat’s birthday, we didn’t sing but we wished her a happy day. The 5 of us explored the beautiful grounds; we wandered up the driveway to the pretty church, we saw the Cotswold-stone house where the Mitford sisters lived for a while. We ambled along the paths to the Thatched Cottage and the Japanese Rest House. All the way we admired the many flowers and trees coming into their spring time beauty; my favourite, a copper beech all pink before turning copper. On the way down beside the pretty stream we saw the famous Handkerchief Tree said to be the biggest and most beautiful in the country. Unfortunately no one had thought to bring a camera.
After a lunch and a mooch round the plant centre, Pat bought herself a birthday present, it started raining. We went across to Sezincote Gardens. All the buildings there have an Indian flavour, the main house which we didn’t have time to go into, is crowned with an onion shaped dome. While standing by a rill, admiring the elephants, the house and orangery we met the Irish head gardener who, when pressed, said he had spent time working at Buckingham Palace. We explored the wildflower meadow, just coming into flower, and followed a stream to the Island Pool. It rained lightly on and off but didn’t spoil our enjoyment. We had to go, Pat had a party to go to and we all had to vote!

Tuesday 30 April, See The Music Presentation. David and Eleanor Clough treated us to another Audio Visual compilation, which started with an Opera North orchestra flash mob surprising and delighting shoppers in a Leeds shopping mall with Ravel’s “Bolero”. We were then transported to the Lake District for beautiful scenes with appropriate music, and thence to Tuscany, following David and Eleanor’s walk from village to village. Extracts from Disney’s “Fantasia” (both versions) included my favourite Mickey Mouse sequence, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. Our travels then took us to the Thousand Islands area of Canada, with a look at Niagara Falls, and finally back to Europe to view several chateaux along the Loire. A welcome cup of tea and a biscuit provided by Eleanor rounded off the afternoon. Many thanks to both of you for all the time and effort you put into compiling these presentations. Linda Thompson

U3A Visit to Winchester 19th November
Under threatening skies, our party of 25 set off for the historic city of Winchester, once the capital of England. We parked in the shadow of the impressive bronze statue of King Alfred and went our separate ways, mainly in search of a cup of coffee.

Many members visited the cathedral, which at first glance has similarities to Salisbury, but without the spire (admired by many). Others decided on visiting the Great Hall, near the West Gate, one the finest surviving mediaeval aisled halls of the 13th century, housing the iconic Round Table of Arthurian legend. The hall is all that remains of Winchester Castle.

In the cathedral grounds was the extensive Christmas Market, wooden cabins offering a wide selection of goods and food and drink, and an ice rink.

A good time was had by all.

Gardeners visit to Batsford Arboretum November 2018
The Gardeners' Group made a late autumn visit to Batsford Arboretum, where in particular the large collection of Japanese maples (acers) provided plenty of spectacular autumn colours to delight the eye. A return visit is planned for next year to explore other aspects of the collection.

Visit to Bletchley Park September 2018
On a fine warm day, 28 of us travelled through space(well,from Oxfordshire into Buckinghamshire)and time (to WW2) to learn something of the amazing group of people who lived and worked at Station X, otherwise known as Bletchley Park. Mathematical and engineering geniuses such as Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman, Harold Keene and Bill Tutte, together with some 10,000 super bright young women and men from all walks of life and branches of the armed forces were secretly gathered together in this astonishing wartime codebreaking centre. Mathematicians and linguists, poets and musicians, chess champions and hieroglyphic experts, they had one thing in common - a passion for puzzles.

At the centre is the Mansion, a small elegant nineteenth century house complete with a cupola which overlooks a lake with friendly swans. Concrete huts were built around this to house the personnel and iconic code breaking machines such as Colossus, essentially the world’s first computer. Today there are showy, modern, hi-tech displays describing and explaining the work done. For me, however, the most evocative experience was walking through these historically restored, dreary huts. I could just about imagine the cold, damp, airless, tobacco-smoke filled rooms where people worked long shifts, under unimaginable pressure, 24/7, 365 days each year to crack the ever changing Enigma and other Nazi codes, decipher the intercepted messages and give Churchill and his Allies priceless information regarding enemy intentions. The secret intelligence they gathered certainly changed the course of the war, and just maybe I am able to write this today because of their efforts.

Everyone should go to Bletchley Park at some time to marvel and give thanks to these secret, unsung heroes, male and female, young and not so young. Val Lewis

Art Group Holiday September 2018
This year five members of the Art Group joined together to hire a holiday cottage for painting and drawing in Dorset. A well-equipped cottage was found for the first week in September, in the quiet village of Burton in Bradstock. This village is one of the main gateways to the South West Coastal path and Jurassic Coast World Heritage site, with its 148ft cliffs, and Hive Beach (National Trust). So it is ideally situated to access many areas of interest.

Having arrived on Friday afternoon, we were celebrating a birthday and lunching in Abbotsbury on the Saturday when, to our surprise and delight, who should walk into the restaurant- our member Penny Iles! Penny joined our group for the weekend, painting with us; an educational cliff top walk from Hive Beach along the coastal path, with its stunning views and wonderful wild life and plants was thoroughly enjoyed.

The holiday was very fruitful as we all returned home with rough drawings and paintings. Our inspiration was taken from Hive Beach, Bridport (once famous for rope making, now a bustling market town), West Bay and Bridport harbour. The jewel in the crown however, for us, appeared to be the charm of Charmouth.

All in all, the weather was lovely and the self-catering accommodation excellent. We had fun and learnt so much. Our many thanks go to Liz Woollven, with her sunburnt nose, for finding and organising this trip for us. Vera Kastner

Waterperry Gardens visit
Members of the Gardeners Group visited Waterperry Gardens on 6th September. Despite an unpromising weather forecast it was dry and partly sunny, as we wandered through the various areas, enjoying not only the flowers but the beautiful metal and glass sculpture pieces as well. Although we were a little early for the Michaelmas daisies, for which Waterperry is well known, there were plenty of other colourful blooms for us to see and discuss. Lunch in the café, a visit to the shop and plant sales area, and tea and cake before we set off for home all contributed to an excellent day out. Linda Thompson

Summer Tea at Sudbury House August 2018
Sudbury House in Faringdon is a newly restored 1930s hotel; it is set in attractive grounds close to the path to Faringdon Folly. This elegant place was the venue for our annual Summer Tea.

Forty one of us met there on a very hot afternoon where we chatted in small groups under the trees before being called in for yummy scones with lashings of cream and jam with tea and coffee all served by the attentive staff in the delightful dining room. This occasion also just happened to be Joan Ford’s birthday so she was presented with a card signed by all present and a lovely bouquet of flowers, and of course we sang, as expected.

It was a very enjoyable afternoon, many thanks to Joan who again organised it all. Hazel Townesend

U3A holiday - Taste of the Danube
On June 20th 2018, ten of our U3A members, (now affectionately known as The Crazy Cruisers), experienced a six day cruise on one of Europe’s greatest rivers, the River Danube, aboard the 4 star cruise ship MS Serenity. We enjoyed spacious, well appointed cabins, all with river views. The food was mouthwatering and well presented. The ship had 3 decks plus a sun deck, 96 cabins and 42 crew members.

Highlights of the cruise included the stunning beauty of the Wachau Valley. We visited the architectural paradise of Budapest in Hungary (known as the Pearl of the Danube), then sailed on to Bratislava, the historic capital of Slovakia, which is dominated by its castle. The unique suspension bridge, another key landmark, was announced as the building of the century when it opened in 1972. From there we cruised on to the musical city of Vienna with its grand palaces, baroque castles, magnificent squares and monuments that were just a few of the features of this World Heritage city. Several members took the opportunity to visit Schonbrunn Palace and explored some of the 1,441 rooms. From Vienna we sailed overnight to the Austrian City of Melk with its cobbled streets, overlooked by one of the most splendid monastic houses in Austria, the Benedictine Abbey. We then cruised on to Passau. The following morning we disembarked for the return flight to the U.K, where our mini-bus awaited us.

We were very lucky, as the weather was kind to us. Some of the scenery was breathtaking. Our members were a happy bunch, enjoyed themselves and interactedwell with others, especially at meal times where new friendships were formed! Vera Kastner

Quiz Afternoon 29 May 2018
A first for our Group. The Committee arranged a light hearted Quiz afternoon with prizes for the winning team and most original team name. Tea and cakes were enjoyed by all and a plant and book sale completed the afternoon. A total of £250 was raised to donate to the Church for their improvements to the hall.

Swimming Challenge 2018
For the second year members of the group took part in a challenge to swim as many lengths as possible to raise money for charity. This year the chosen Charity was Alzheimer's Research UK. Again, Wantage Leisure Centre kindly let the group swim for free. Nine members turned up on 19 and 26 March to try to beat last year's total of 174 lengths. They smashed it! 369 lengths swam and a total of £565.65 raised by a Just Giving Page, Sponsor Forms, SIG's Leaders coffee/car share donations and 'guess the lengths'. Let's see how we do in 2019.

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