Past Trips 2019

Trip to London, 12th and 13th September

Weren't we lucky with the weather, going to London on perhaps the last of the fine weather in September.

Polesden Lacey tempted us to linger longer with deck chairs set out on rolling lawns with fine views. Polsden Lacey We dragged ourselves away as we had a theatre comedy to see that evening. No-one knew quite what to expect with "The Play that Went Wrong", but most of us found that fast moving and often daring slapstick amusing. You had to admire the timing and rehearsal that must have been needed when large pieces of scenery kept falling apart around the actors.

Our second day started at the Tower of London, for some of us a first trip, and even for those who had been before, we all agreed that the displays were beautifully done.

River Boat From the Millennium Pier just outside the Tower River at Greenwich we were guided onto our Thames cruise to go to Greenwich - somewhat puzzled we found ourselves going upstream rather than down! However, most of us sat on the top deck and the sun was shining. The best way to view the London landmarks must be from the water and what a leisurely way to do it. And eventually we did get to Greenwich.Greenwich It was a little unfortunate that the time allowed for our visit to Greenwich was shortened due to the length of our 'cruise' but we're a tolerant bunch in Wells U3A. Everyone was tired and quite glad to get back into our coach for the homeward journey.

Trip to the National Waterways Museum and Boat Trip

The Gloucester Docks area with its restaurants, shopping mall, Gloucester Plaza plus being within walking distance of the High Street and Cathedral was the destination for the final day trip of this year. Members made good use of the free time during the day to explore many of the available venues.

The National Waterways Museum, located on the dockside in an old Grade ll Victorian grain warehouse was the Gloucester Horse prime reason for our visit to Gloucester. We were fortunate enough to have The Curator of the Museum and an ex- Mayor of Gloucester to guide us through the history of the docks. They explained how the River Severn, canals, and Gloucester Docks came to be and here I quote, 'a bustling, multicultural workplace at the heart of the regional transport network.' With its many fascinating artefacts, models Gloucester Motors and artwork to look at in the museum it was no time at all before we had to move on to the second part of the tour, a trip on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal in the 'Queen Boadicea', one of the little ships that took part in the evacuation of troops from France during the 2nd World War. We learnt about the construction of the canal and how originally barges were pulled by men or horses and then replaced by powered engines, and also the Gloucester Dock management of the canal. Places of interest were pointed out, including the warehouse where chocolate was stored to be delivered to Cadbury's factory and so much more of interest. The sighting of a Kingfisher and ducks covered the wildlife side of our canal trip.

At the end of an interesting day we arrived back in Wells about 6.30pm.

Trip to Athelhampton House and Gardens/West Bay

A wet and chilly morning greeted us as we gathered at the Wells Coach Station in preparation for our journey to Athelhampton; not quite the weather we had hoped for but nevertheless we travellers had our usual optimistic smiles as we boarded our coach.

We relaxed and settled down to enjoy the beautiful Somerset/Dorset scenery and catch up with friends' news. All went well until, after about three quarters of the journey had passed, we came to a gradual halt in a rather narrow road - the dreaded traffic jam. We noticed that car drivers were quickly doing U-turns and most of the traffic ahead of us consisted of lorries and coaches too large to escape. We sat and we sat, watching the cows in the field across the road, watching us. A 'tongue in cheek' suggestion of a singsong having been well and truly rejected. After approximately half an hour a police car came up behind us forcing the traffic to move as close as possible to the sides of the road, this was followed by two enormous recovery vehicles and a short while later we were on our way.

Our eventual arrival at Athelhampton was greeted with relief and delight that the weather had changed to sunshine. A dash to freshen up and have a cup of coffee was followed by our meeting up with a Guide who led us down a drive towards this beautiful privately owned Grade 1 listed Manor House which was acquired by the Cooke family in 1957.

Athelhampton The house, with 30 acres of grounds surrounded by the River Piddle, was originally built in the late 15th century, by Sir William Martyn. The Great Hall with its Minstrel Gallery, where we listened to the introductory talk is, as our Guide pointed out and as mentioned in their leaflet 'an exceptional example of early Tudor architecture with heraldic glass, linenfold panelling and carved roof timbers'. Our attention was drawn to the heraldic glass where each case shows a chained ape; the family motto being 'He who looks at Martyn's ape shall look at him'. After the talk members were free to explore the remainder of the house at will. With its collection of English furniture from Jacobean to late Victorian, an art exhibition, and not least the design and workmanship of the interior of the house, there was a great deal to explore.

Alfred Cart de Lafontaine, the owner of the property in 1891, employed Francis Inigo Thomas to design and build the magnificent gardens consisting of 'outdoor rooms' in the Elizabethan style. The highlight of the gardens being the twelve giant topiary pyramids standing over 30 feet high. A beautiful dovecot covered in roses, fountains and pools all added together made for a very pleasant experience. In contrast to the formal gardens a stroll along the wildflower banks of the River Piddle in the shade of the trees was equally pleasing.

At half past two we left Athelhampton for the second part of our trip, a dose of sea air at West Bay.

The sun was out, the boats were bobbing around in the harbour, what more could you ask for? West Bay An ice-cream perhaps to complete the picture. This coastline is an area where the erosion of the cliffs is a major problem, also the possibility of the town being flooded. It was interesting to see the work being carried out with giant machines to reshape the beach area to help prevent those occurrences.

Some members took the opportunity to have a leisurely meal, others to shop, walk, or just sit and admire the view. One member, not by choice, shared her ice-cream with a seagull who swooped down over her shoulder and took the cone out of her hand.

All good things come to an end and after a less than promising start we finished the day on time and in good spirits.

Trip to St Fagan's National Museum of History

On March 27th a large group of forty-six members travelled by coach to visit the St Fagan's National Museum of History outside Cardiff. The Museum began in the original 'castle' - a Tudor mansion built over the remains of a Norman castle. Hence its rather misleading name. Over the years a huge selection of buildings from all over Wales has been assembled around the 'castle', rebuilt brick by brick and stone by stone as exact re-incarnations of their original shape and form. At first the museum's emphasis was on the rural life of Wales, with farmhouses, crofts and barns, Now there is much greater variety of buildings, embracing in addition the country's industrial past.

We visited farmhouses and cottages from Tudor times to the last century, many with cosy fires glowing, Gwalia Stores at St Fagans and filled with simple furniture. We wandered around a three storey 19th century corn mill with working machinery. Other shops included the Gwalia Stores , a wonderful early 20th century grocery store where there were great mahogany counters with biscuits in open square tins on display beneath which brought back memories to many of us.

A fascinating terrace of ironstone miners' cottages which also echoes the now often lost industrial life of the country. Each of the six cottages in Rhyd-y-car Terrace is decorated and furnished in the style of a different patch of time, from the early eighteen hundreds to the nineteen eighties. As the lamp-lit cottages progressed through the years, cooking facilities moved from an open fire to a kitchen in the back of the house. After pipes and sanitation arrived, firstly a sink and eventually a bath appeared. A garden shed was introduced into the small garden in the thirties and finally electricity arrived with elementary lighting and - finally - a television! Fascinatingly we could also visit a prefab. Built of aluminium this is thought to be the only one of its kind to be still in existence. Made in the post war years in factories that had originally made aircraft, each off the production line in twelve minutes! Built to solve the housing crisis and often lasting several decades - what wonderful, well designed, compact and spacious buildings they were.

St Telio From the outside St Teilo's Church looks like a simple white chapel, But when you arrive inside you are met with a series of wonderful wall paintings, carefully re-worked on the evidence of medieval paintings that have been revealed beneath the whitewash. Obliterated during the reformation by Protestants the images only became visible again centuries later when the church was abandoned and rainwater washed away the layers of disguising paint. It is exciting to look at the colourful and dramatically simple paintings, made originally to teach our ancestors (and probably todays visiting children?) stories about the saints and the life and death of Jesus.

Many groups of school children were being led around, seeing how things used to be in times past. To them the Village School with is neat rows of desks must seem strangely formal, although the white china ink wells and blackboard with chalk and felt duster are well remembered by our generation. We and they could also see a cockpit where this unhappy sport was carried on, a round pig sty, a toll house, post office, urinal, war memorial, a smithy and a great variety of workshops. An Iron Age roundhouse has been re-constructed amongst the trees.

Our visit began with a short talk from the Curator outlining what we would see during our visit, She gave a brief history of the museum and explained a little of how the original buildings had to be researched before being transported and re-constructed in the Museum grounds. Some of the group were able to ride around the large site on a five-seated buggy, stopping to see the various buildings, I doubt that any of us saw everything, there was so much to see. We arrived back in Wells after a long day but it had been a really interesting and stimulating visit.