Newsletter 2022 March

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Issue No 233
Registered Charity 1088437

April Speaker’s Morning: 11 am Thursday 21 April 2022

Tavistock v Taj Mahal: the town’s significance as World Heritage
Andrew Thompson

What is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and why do Tavistock and the Tamar Valley enjoy that same official recognition as the Taj Mahal and Great Wall of China?  We’ll hear about the rise and decline of mining in the area, and why international heritage professionals now value so highly the remains of the mines, canals, miners’ cottages, and municipal buildings there that they are now managed as a World Heritage Site.

Those of us who heard Andrew Thompson’s gripping Zoom talk, The Iceman, certainly won’t want to miss this very different mystery story.

The Zoom link will be sent on Monday 18 April to members on email. If you’d like to attend but need help with Zoom, just send an email before then to

March Social Coffee Morning

At last – for the first time since Lockdown 1 – we’ve been able to hold a social gathering!

Over 50 members came along and enjoyed coffee and a (in some cases, very long!) chat on Tuesday 8 March at the Northfield Hotel in Minehead.


Photo: John Batt


     2–4 pm, Friday 8 April 2022    

Williton Pavilion, Robert Street, Williton TA4 4PG

Drop in any time between 2 and 4 pm to join us for coffee/tea and biscuits and a chance to welcome new members and have a chat with old friends.

Committee members and convenors hope to see you there, so do come along!

Unless you have a Blue Badge, please leave your car in Killick Street Pay Car Park.

For Covid guidance on u3a meetings, please check here.

Spring means renewal… of your u3a sub!

Please pay your membership fee now*. The 2022/2023 subscription is £12 for an individual with online newsletter (or £20 if you want a printed newsletter). For two people at the same address, the rate is £24 with online newsletter (or £32 to include one printed newsletter).

* If you paid your £12 recently, you don’t need to renew until 2023.

You can pay online or send a cheque. Pay online to Minehead & District u3a, sort code 30-95-66, account number 24579768, giving your membership name as the reference (all the same as last year) and, if you’re asked, select ‘Business account’. If paying online for the first time, please check carefully that you’ve entered the correct digits: not all banks can verify account names, so it’s important to get the number right.

Cheques made out to Minehead & District u3a, please, and sent to Nic Pettit, u3a Treasurer, 81 Parkhouse Road, Minehead TA24 8AE.

Don’t forget to tell me about any changes to your home address, email or telephone number. You’ll find my details in the contacts list.

Hilary Fisk, Membership Secretary


DATES for your DIARY

Social Afternoon at Williton     Friday 8 April 2022

See above for details

Annual General Meeting     Thursday 12 May 2022

Speaker and location to be confirmed

Speaker’s Morning     Thursday 16 June 2022
Speaker and location to be confirmed



Committee Corner – Lori Lee

This is part of an occasional series that introduces new committee members and convenors to you

Lori moved back to her home county of Somerset about four years ago after some 25 years living in Devon. She is now in her early sixties.

Her first experience of the u3a movement was attending and helping at her u3a near Plymouth. She understands what a wealth of friendship and good times can be had within the organisation, and how valuable a thriving U3a can be to a community. 

In her younger days she was a showjumper, competing at national level with the likes of David Broome, Harvey Smith’s boys and the Whittaker brothers. Lori began her varied business career in book-keeping before moving on to financial management, trusteeship of a large horse sanctuary, sales and marketing management and as a trainer with a blue-chip international company. She had her own small company in food manufacturing and sales.

She is also an animal portrait artist and while living in Devon enjoyed selling many paintings and sketches.

Since moving to Watchet, in semi-retirement as partially disabled, Lori has worked for Magna Housing. This involved all aspects of fund-raising and arranging events for older sheltered residents. During lockdown this work diversified, and she was teaching many older people how to use new digital equipment and use Zoom – all teaching done over the phone owing to social distancing restrictions.

Lori hopes to bring plenty of energy and ideas to the already great committee, which should benefit and enhance the local organisation going into the future.

News from the Groups

Group convenor contact details 

Hybrid kit available

All interest groups are reminded that you can take advantage of the hybrid meeting kit now owned by our u3a. It includes a laptop, additional camera and speaker/microphone options, and software ready to go. If you want to host a face-to-face meeting and include members joining remotely via Zoom, the kit will allow you to do so simply and with flexibility.

Contact if you’d like to find out more about it.



As our new French conversation group is becoming established, we are trying various activities to find a format that suits us all. One of our priorities is to listen to French spoken by a native speaker, so at each of our fortnightly meetings, we listen to a French podcast which deals with topics of interest in the news, in science/technology, and in the arts. Having listened and translated our chosen articles, we use them as a basis for discussion.

We are pleased to have promoted ourselves from the ‘beginner’ to the ‘intermediate’ section of the podcast, though we are often challenged by the speed of spoken French!  At each meeting we also choose a topic for us all to be prepared to talk about at the next meeting. The most recent subjects have been ‘Horses’ and ‘Spring’. As a fun activity at our last meeting, we tried a wordsearch – which proved far more difficult in French than in English!     Kathy Barnes


The storms have left us a scattering of twigs, but no damage. Spring must be coming as the rhubarb is emerging and we are thinking about future plantings. We have a vacancy for a new member and welcome enquiries from anyone keen to grow their own vegetables and share the planting and harvesting of the communal plot.  Alex Slater


Art Appreciation

The group will start again in April. I am looking to hold the meetings on a Friday afternoon: either the first or third Friday in the month. All are welcome, but if you’re interested, please contact me so that I can gauge numbers. We could run this group as a hybrid group via Zoom.  Pam Young


Our planned outing on 18 February to Steart had to be postponed because of the storms. However, a few of us were able to meet up at Steart the following week, when we saw 35 different bird species and heard a further three. The sun was out, and the glare made watching difficult, but when the sun was in the right direction it did show up the birds like the teal really well. The colour on the heads of the male teal was beautiful.

Our meeting on Friday 18 March is planned for Greylake and then Shapwick (the Ham Wall end). On 15 April we plan to go to Swell Wood to see the heronry (perhaps some little egrets, too) and either there or nearby we’ll be looking for the cranes. Further information will be sent to members of the group nearer the time.    Kay Bullen

Book Club, Stogumber

We’ll meet for the first time at 2 pm on Thursday 24 March at the Residents’ Lounge, Deane Close, Stogumber TA4 3TE. Our meetings will be every fourth Thursday after that. It’s an open group, meaning that you read a book of your choice that you then present to the others in the group. You could join this group using hybrid technology, via Zoom.   Pam Young


A reminder that this new group has not yet started meeting. If you’d be interested in joining us or would like to learn more, please let me know, and I’ll be in touch when meetings are due to start.   Kay Bullen

Classical Music 2

At our March meeting, Alison played a delightful selection of music chosen more or less at random from our collection of CDs and ranging from Byrd to Manuel de Falla.

Our next meeting will be on 4 April, when Jean will present her choice of music.    Jan Lowy

Computer Confidence

Until our members regain confidence about attending in-person meetings, the group continues to meet over Zoom. We have solved some individual problems, and held some lively discussions on digital currency, the ‘metaverse’, and much more besides.

All u3a members are reminded that you can come to this group for help to resolve any IT issues you may have – just drop us a line and we will try to provide some worthwhile advice!      Martin Fisk

Crime Fiction

Our first meeting was on 3 March and this month we are reading A Window Breaks by C M Ewan, who is a writer from Taunton.

We still have one place left if you would like to join us. Our next meeting is on Thursday 7 April at 1 pm in Watchet Library. The book for the month will be Harlan Coben’s The Boy from the Woods.    Lori Lee

The deadline for contributions to the next edition of the newsletter is Friday 8 April 2022.

Please send your photos and copy by then to

Discussion Group

At our February meeting the question ‘Do we need a unitary authority?’ provided those present with much food for thought. As usual, there were many views aired and the whole discussion took place in our usual friendly and happy atmosphere.

Our next meeting will be in the Harbour Room at Townsend House on Monday 21 March starting at 10.30 am. We hope to explore further the ramifications in regard to the new unitary authority, possibly with the benefit of a guest speaker. This may be of particularly topical interest to u3a members, as the elections for the new authority are due to be held on 5 May 2022.

If you are a u3a member and have yet to attend one of our meetings, you’d be most welcome, so why not come along and give us a go?
John Moss

 French Conversation

In February we translated a newspaper article for homework. We then brought along our offerings to the meeting in order to work together on one definitive translation, or choice of translations. This, as always, was a useful exercise; the choice of vocabulary, nuances between the different choices and different grammatical ways to express ideas made for interesting and thought-provoking discussions. Next month, three people will describe different scenes, and the rest of us will then attempt to draw what we hear.    Di Martin

 General History

A few of us who hadn’t been affected by the storms did get to Townsend House in February and enjoyed a talk from Pam on the history of photography. We were astonished to discover that as early as the fifth century BCE, the Chinese had been thinking about pinhole cameras and that the idea for box cameras was first thought of in 1685!  Once photography became popular, other employment grew up for painting backdrops and making furniture solely for photographic studios. Pam’s photo here of a group, including her aunt, on a day trip is an example of that. We shared memories of our Instamatic and Polaroid cameras and mourned the loss of printed photos in the 21st century. After our tea break, we heard about the early Atlantic voyagers from Scandinavia and, in particular, about the voyage of St Brendan.

At our March meeting we’ll learn about the Gold Rush in the Klondike and will share some more short talks on our transport theme. In April, our main talk will be on the Foundling Hospitals.       Jane Sperring

 Jazz Appreciation

A reminder that if you’d like to join the group or learn more about it, you’re invited to email me at or call me on 01984 639249 or 07717 023474.  Alan Bond

 Local History

The March Zoom meeting was another successful one, with Alison presenting her research on the Williton workhouse, illustrated with photos she’d taken of the building soon after its modern conversion. It was sad to hear about the conditions in which some families lived in 1881. I followed with a description of the West Somerset Mineral Line, which ran south from the West Quay in Watchet. I got as far as Kentford, where trials of a train control system were held in 1912, in front of a large audience. We ran out of time there, so I plan to continue this presentation at a later date.

We meet next at 10.30 am on Thursday 7 April for Cherrie’s talk titled ‘Mining, Mystery and Murder on Exmoor’. Please join us to find out more!  Following my earlier talk on Williton, we are planning a history walk through the village. This will start and finish at the church. I have also just been offered a walk through historic Porlock, with a separate visit to the Grade 1 listed church in the village. I’ll confirm plans for those in due course.

There will be no meeting on the first Thursday in May.   David Temple

 Lunch Club

We hope to start the Lunch Club on 24 March at the Valiant Soldier in Roadwater and will choose further monthly venues then.

The group is full at present, but if you’d like to put your name on a reserve list for later, you can do so from our group page on the website. Contact me if you’d like more information.    Lori Lee

Nature Amblers

In February, our plan to amble along the Dunster Marsh riverside walk had to be changed at the last moment as Storm Eunice had made the path impassable with fallen trees and branches. We met instead at Woodcombe, where nine of us enjoyed a leisurely amble, noting some 64 features of natural history interest.

Ann Lang took the photograph on the left.

Our next amble will be on Wednesday 23 March. We’ll meet at 10 am outside the Methodist Church, Harbour Road, Watchet, for an amble around the area. New members are welcome.     Jill Pudwell


Our meetings in March have had limited numbers as, temporarily, we don’t have a venue that can accommodate us all. However, by April we hope it will be warm enough to start our outdoor painting sessions, so that we can all get together again.    Pat Gurnett


One meeting held but another cancelled as it coincided – precisely – with the arrival of storm Eunice!  However, at our first meeting in March there were 14 members showing their images on the theme ‘Winter landscapes’.

The pictures with snow and ice mostly looked back to previous winters, but we had a great range of moorland and woodland images from this winter. Some captured bleak and grey days (we’ve had rather a lot of those lately!), while others showed winter colours, often beautifully set off against different cloudscapes.

The image by Alex Slater shown here sums up our theme well.

There were also shots of early flowers from those obviously keen for spring to come! A selection of these lovely views can be viewed here for all to enjoy.  Stewart Lane

 Ukulele 1

The group is now meeting regularly again and it’s great to get together for a sing and strum. We are extending our repertoire while still focusing primarily on songs from the second half of the last century. That gives us a huge range to choose from, covering a diverse range of genres.

If you can play half a dozen chords (or more), you’ll be very welcome to come along and join us. We meet every second Tuesday at 2 pm in Carhampton Village Hall.   Mike Lay

Ukulele 2

We are working to improve the performance of our repertoire by focusing on intros and instrumental breaks in the songs. We are using fingerstyle techniques to achieve this. This is further helped by having a mix of instruments including concert, tenor, baritone and bass ukuleles, together with banjo ukes – or banjoleles as they are often called. We sometimes include a mandolin too.

Uke 2 meets every week on Wednesdays at 2 pm in Carhampton Village Hall.  Mike Lay

Website news

In February we recorded our 50,000th page view since the site went live in December 2020 – thank you all for sticking with it. We have enjoyed your enthusiastic support, and hope to continue to provide quality content.

All new members are now automatically registered with the website, allowing full access to all pages, some of which are restricted to members only. New members are now registered on joining our u3a, yet we still have only 50% of members registered with the site. If you are a long-standing member and want to be registered, just email and we will set it up for you.

One area which has been disappointing is Forums – these are provided to allow you to have your say, but they are withering on the vine. The Books Forum was running quite healthily until about seven months ago, since when there have been no comments at all. Have we all stopped reading?  There are other forums too that are not receiving any input – if they’re not used, we shall regretfully close them down. Use them or lose them!     Martin Fisk [webadmin]

February 2022 Speaker’s Morning

Job of a Laughtime, by Brad Ashton

The illustrations for the February morning talk proved not to be PowerPoint slides like we’re used to, but instead a series of amusing anecdotes and jokes told by Brad. His long career as a comedy scriptwriter means that he has a wealth of information about celebrities whose names and careers are familiar to most of us.

The names of actors and stand-up comedians that rolled off Brad’s tongue so easily proved a source of nostalgia for many of those present. As he readily admitted, he could have gone on far longer than his allotted hour – and no doubt would have happily done so had it not been for a timely intervention by our chairman!  The talk was recorded and is available on our website here (but for members registered with the website only).
Margaret Shaw

Welcome to our new members

A warm welcome to those who’ve recently joined us – we hope to see you soon!

  • Phil & Sue Cracknell from Watchet
  • Diana Nuttall from Williton
  • Fay Clark, Margaret Clements, Jean Giles, Susan Myrick and Debbie Rowbottom – all from Minehead


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