Past Trips 2017
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Christmas at the American Museum - November 2017
An idea to spend a relaxing afternoon away from our own Christmas preparations came to fruition when we spent an afternoon at the American Museum.
Claverton Manor, located high above the Limpley Stoke Valley, houses the American Museum, which was bought in 1958 by co-founders of the museum John Judkyn and Dr. Dallas Pratt.
Dedicated completely to the American way of life the route through the house took us to rooms specifically designed for different occasions and periods. Artefacts ranging from Red Indian headdresses, amazing wooden sculptures, some of which were crafted from the timber of derelict ships, fashion, furniture, paintings, magnificent handmade quilts, and historical facts were there to be investigated.
The theme for this year's Christmas was based on the jazz era and as we wandered through the house jazz music played gently in the background. Throughout the house were beautiful handmade decorations and floral displays. The highlight of the decorations had to be the enormous Christmas tree in the hall; covered in lights, sparkling gold, black and white baubles, fringing and glittering chandelier drops, the tree was truly spectacular and complimented the feeling of the jazz era.
We finished the afternoon with a cup of tea and mince pie in the Museum café which, incidentally, produces food based on American recipes.
Trip to Portland Bill - October 2017
You know, when the weather is kind this country is one of the best places to be, and so it was with some trepidation we waited to see what the weather would be like for our trip to Portland, because if there is just one thing you need on a headland like Portland Bill, it’s good weather! How lucky we were then to have sunshine and just a light breeze, after some very indifferent weather leading up to it.
We started with Portland Castle, a Henry VIII castle with commanding views across Weymouth bay and built to defend against French and Spanish invasion. Over the years it has been added to by previous owners and is now somewhat dwarfed by the modern apartments behind it.
From there we went on to Portland Bill lighthouse, 41 metres high, and about half of our group climbed the 155 steps to the top with Rob, our guide who paused only occasionally to allow us to get our breath back. The lighthouse became automated in 1996 and is the only operational lighthouse in Dorset open to the public.
Lunch was at the Lobster Pot, a justifiably busy little café perched on the cliffs at the end of the Bill and the afternoon was spent amongst the old workings of Portland Bill Tout quarry, with more than 50 sculptures from many artists for us to find. This quarry is one of only two where the famous Portland stone was quarried using old methods and work songs. It is now left for people to explore the geology, industrial archaeology, nature conservation and, of course, the sculptures.
The day finished with a cup of tea at the Heights Hotel, with perhaps the best view of Chesil Beach and the bay stretching on towards Lyme Regis in the distance.
Trip to Barrington Court - June 2017
After a bumpy start to the day, both metaphorically and literally, we finally arrived at Barrington Court just as the sun decided to make an appearance.
Members were free to spend the day as they wished.
The gardens had taken a battering from the inclement weather but, by the early afternoon, had brightened up and the beautiful waterlilies were in full bloom. The perfume from the Sweet William flowers was exquisite and the roses, some trained up the walls of buildings, were a delight to be seen. The vegetable garden was an excellent example for us all to follow.
For members who were interested in the history of Barrington Court there was a free guided tour of this atmospheric house with its ‘magical’ barn owl.
The Book Barn, with numerous second-hand books to purchase, provided a venue in which to browse and members interested in craft had the opportunity to explore a couple of craft shops.
Most members enjoyed a meal in the restaurant and quite a few finished off the afternoon with a rather delicious ice-cream.
All in all a pleasant day out.
TRIP TO THE GLOBE THEATRE - February 2017
We are led to believe that ‘The sun shines on the righteous’ so the intrepid U3A members who set off at a quarter to seven in the morning from Wells Bus Station, for ‘The Elizabethan Experience’, must be very righteous as we were certainly rewarded with an excellent day.
As we travelled along the Wylye valley dawn broke and we were treated to the most magnificent sunrise, the trees and buildings silhouetted against the deep bright reds, and greens of the sky; the fields bathed in a light mist. This was a scene for every Impressionist artist to paint.
Thanks to only one, not too long, traffic jam we arrived at Southwark Bridge in London at 11.00a.m.; having enjoyed the final few miles of the journey admiring the activity on the river Thames. We disembarked from the coach into the balmy air of a Spring day and the members went their own way for a while, with strict instructions to meet up at the entrance to The Globe Exhibition Hall at 12.50p.m.
The Elizabethan Experience was excellent. For the first three quarters of an hour we were free to roam the Exhibition at our leisure – artefacts, costumes, drawings, famous quotes, historical facts, so much to see and read. After this came the fun part, an Elizabethan dressing demonstration. Two delightful, knowledgeable members of staff dressed one, very brave, volunteer from our group in the costume of the day whilst, at the same time, explaining with great humour why and how the various items of clothing were necessary.
Cookies and tea were a welcome break at The Swan restaurant, followed by the second part of our tour.
Our enthusiastic Guide, who is also an Artistic Director, gave us a brief resume of the history of Bankside and then led us to The Rose Playhouse, Bankside’s first theatre. Here we saw the archaeological remains of the theatre, preserved under water, with the key parts e.g. stage area outlined with coloured lights. We were advised that performances are held at the Playhouse but you need to wrap up warmly as there is no heating, the temperature having to remain the same for reasons of preservation and there are no cloakroom facilities.
We saw the site of the open-air Bankside playhouse first built in 1599, where Shakespeare worked and wrote some of his plays. The final part of our tour was The Globe Theatre itself, a faithful reconstruction of the Bankside playhouse and well worth seeing. The wrought iron gates leading into the Theatre yard have beautifully crafted decorations e.g. a mouse with a piece of cheese, a fox’s head, flowers.
Was our early morning journey worth the effort? Most certainly, not only was the weather good but, more importantly, the staff who guided us were excellent and brought the whole experience to life.
Lake District Visit May 2017
This year the Days Away Trip was to the Lake District and Hazel spent great effort in organising the holiday: the journey, the hotel and the many activities. Very sadly she was herself unable to come and was missed greatly throughout.
The forty members who went had a brilliant time. We were staying in a rather splendid Victorian hotel, the Cumbrian Grand, which overlooks the Lyth estuary at Grange over Sands. We were very lucky with the weather and sun and blue skies added greatly to the pleasures of driving around the glorious Lakeland countryside.
Monday, the first full day, we took the 19th century steamer (now converted to diesel) along Windermere; the lake was wonderfully tranquil as we travelled from Lakeside in the south to Ambleside at the north end of the lake. In the afternoon, most of the group visited peaceful Holehird Gardens whilst others explored Bowness, busy with a profusion of tourists and boats of all sizes coming and going.
Tuesday saw us taking the narrow-gauge steam train from Ravensglass. The train crept its way through unspoiled hills and woodland to Eskdale from where, after a sunny stop for coffee in the old station rooms, we returned to Ravensglass. Next was a visit to nearby Muncaster Castle, a fine mediaeval building in whose grounds we saw a fascinating demonstration of falconry
On Wednesday Hazel had arranged for three mini buses to pick us up, so we could travel by narrow hilly roads unsuitable for our big Barnes bus. We had a scenic drive up past Tarn Howe and on to Hill Top, the home of Beatrix Potter. We visited this intimate time warp of a house, furnished exactly as she would have known it and as she left it to the National Trust when she died in 1943. Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck, Samuel Whiskers and Tom Kitten all lived here in Beatrix’s vivid imagination. We had time to explore Keswick over lunch time and eventually travelled home over Kirkstone Pass: up over the barren sheep-scattered hills to 1500 feet with far misty views - and down again to our hotel on the shores of Morecambe Bay.
With the long journey home on Friday, Hazel had planned that we travelled less far on Thursday. We had time to explore Kendal where some of us visited the famous Quaker tapestries; forty beautifully embroidered panels explain the history of Quakers and their faith. Later in the day most of us visited Sizergh castle, owned by the National Trust. Here, we wandered about the grounds in beautiful sun and enjoyed the cool old building with its many staircases and panelled rooms – one reputedly haunted!
In the evenings, some enjoyed a green woodland walk in the hotel’s grounds and others walked to nearby Grange alongside the dangerous sands of Morecombe Bay. At night, some playedRummikuband others somewhat animated Bridge. Many of us met new friends and we returned home on Friday full of happy memories. Philippa