Newsletter 2022 May

For a PDF version (so you can print it!), please click here. All hyperlinks (in blue) are active and safe; for instance, each group news entry banner in blue is a hyperlink to the group’s webpage, which will of course contain much more information!  In this new style of presentation, you can have the newsletter read to you using the button at the bottom right of the screen.  For full information, see Screen Reader

Deadline for contributions to the next edition of the newsletter: Friday 3 June 2022.  Please send your photos and news to


Issue No 2345
Registered Charity 1088437


AGM and Coffee Morning: Thursday 12 May 2022

Coffee served 9.45–10.15  –  AGM starts 10.30  –  Talk starts 11.00 (approximately)

Our 23rd Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held before the talk at our May Coffee Morning at the Baptist Church, Parks Lane, Minehead TA24 8BS. The talk ‘Adventures behind the lens – hot rocks and high places’ will be given by Alex Leger, who worked for many years on the Blue Peter children’s programme that many of us still remember so well.

Regrettably, as the recent message from the Chairman explained, technical issues mean that we are unable to share the morning’s activities over Zoom, as we had originally planned.

Speaker’s Morning – 11 am Thursday 16 June 2022

Mention wasps and most of us think of an annoying, angry, yellow and black striped flying insect that delivers a painful sting when confronted. However, there are around 9,000 different wasp species in Britain and their value to us is immense.

You may be surprised to learn that we’d have a lot of problems without them. This talk by Dr Ian Bedford reveals why. 

This is an online-only Speaker’s Morning.

The Zoom link will be circulated on Monday 13 June to members on email. If you’d like to attend but need help with Zoom to do so, just send an email before then to

Introduction to editing pages on our website

Have you ever wondered how web pages are made? Would you like to learn to edit a web page?

Join us for a preliminary session on how to update the U3A website. Like many websites, ours uses WordPress software, and in this session we hope to dispel much of the mystique surrounding web page content. Later, if you’d like to follow up by doing some ‘live’ editing, we can tailor a further instruction session to your specific requirements. It really is very easy!

Two sessions are available: Wednesday 25 May (afternoon) and Tuesday 7 June (morning).

If you’d like to take part in one of these sessions, or would like to find out more, please contact me by email (

Hilary Fisk

Chairman’s Column

A new u3a has been created for the Quantock area and I recently attended their inaugural meeting. It’s taken a few months for them to get together a committee and find group convenors, but they’re now up and running. For any of our members who’d also like to belong to Quantock u3a, their current associate membership fee will be £8. I’ve also had contact from the Chairman of Exmoor u3a to introduce himself and their new committee. They are aiming to triple their small membership of 20 and to offer more groups than their current three. Both u3as are excited about the future. 

We too have struggled to find new committee members, but I’m pleased that we do now have enough nominations to move forward into our next u3a year.

Three of our trustees are leaving the committee after many years of service: Helen, Group Co-ordinator; Hilary, Membership Secretary and Website Editor; and Margaret, Newsletter Editor and Press & Publicity. In addition, Mark, IT adviser, and Sue, our Secretary, are standing down. Saying thank you to these volunteers on behalf of each of our u3a members (that would be 324 times!) still does not seem adequate appreciation of all they have done for our u3a.

As with Quantock and Exmoor u3as, our own new committee will, I’m sure, be working to develop membership and opportunities. At the same time, they will no doubt also be considering how to combine the best of the tried and tested u3a model with the extra opportunities that technology has offered us over the last two years. 

No doubt the next few months will have their challenges as we emerge from our Covid hibernation, and the new committee gets to work. I’m confident, however, that West Somerset will soon be home to the most vibrant group of u3as in the country!

John Batt

DATE for your DIARY

Thursday 21 July 2022 – Coffee Morning at Minehead Baptist Church

Talk by Christine White on the work of the RNLI

Farewell from the IT Champions

When the pandemic hit, it became clear that the u3a would need to make more use of technology to maintain communication between members, and that many people would need IT support for that. We therefore set up the IT Champions to offer help where needed. We feel proud that over these past two years we have indeed helped many of you. 

It is now an interesting situation as the pandemic tide recedes – is there more or less need for that support? Sadly, of the six original IT Champions, two have suffered health issues and two with committee responsibilities are standing down. Despite trying to recruit new Champions to allow the workload to be shared, our efforts have been in vain. We now feel that we must disband the group and leave IT support to your children and grandchildren or, of course, the private sector and the ever-helpful staff and volunteers at our local libraries.

To those that have given us fantastic support over these two years, we thank you and appreciate your kind words. To all members: have fun, keep your systems updated, and make sure you run your virus checks regularly!

IT Champions

Membership fees 2022–23 now overdue!

You’ll find renewal details in both the last two editions of the newsletter, as well as here on the website  When renewing your membership, please don’t forget to tell the Membership Secretary of any changes to your home address, email, or telephone number.

News from the Groups

Group convenor contact details

Normally this group meets once a fortnight, but last month we met only once as two members of the group were taking trips to France. Their visits gave us plenty of basis for discussion about experiences of visiting France. We also listened to a French podcast about conflict between France and the UK over the Channel Islands. We had all prepared a short talk on the topic of Exmoor. One of these was about the Beast of Exmoor, and another was an ambitious attempt to translate an Exmoor hunting song!
The topic for our next meeting is ‘the sea’.

Kathy Barnes

Art for fun
We are a relatively new group with a growing number of enthusiastic members.
We’d like to share with you here an example of the work of one member of our group.
If you’d like to see more of what we’ve done, please look at the Gallery at the foot of our Art for Fun group page on the website.

Linda Marlton




Our April outing was to Swell Wood (a nature reserve between Fivehead and Curry Rivel). The heronry at Swell Wood is home to some little egrets and, in the nearby fields, we also saw some of the common cranes that have been reintroduced. Then we continued to a stopping spot near Oath that often produces crane sightings. In total we saw 34 different birds, including common cranes, sedge warblers and a marsh tit. In addition, several roe deer popped up into view, as well as a bank vole and some brimstone butterflies.

Full details of our sightings can be seen on our group pages on the u3a website.

The photograph here of a heron on its nest was taken by Cherrie Temple.

Our next meeting is planned for Friday 20 May, when we’ll visit Horner Wood, where we’re hoping for sightings of pied flycatchers and wood warblers. I’ll confirm the starting point, after checking whether Horner Wood is open, as some paths there have been closed because of ash dieback. Our next outing after that will be on 17 June to Simonsbath, and I’ll be in touch with members of the group nearer the time of both these meetings.

Kay Bullen

Classical Music 1
In April Paul played a wide variety of Beethoven’s music, which we all enjoyed.
During May and June two couples are leaving the area, which means that we shall have room in our group for another two or three people. We take it in turns (voluntarily) to give presentations. If you are interested in joining us, please email me for further details.

Sandra Hanley

Classical Music 2
For our May Day Bank Holiday meeting, Michael chose some interesting music ranging from Allegri to Aaron Copland, which produced some lively discussions.
Our next meeting will be on Monday 30 May, when Janeen will choose the music for us.

Jan Lowy

Classical Music 3
The group will reconvene at my house in Minehead on Friday 3 June for a stimulating programme of live piano and recorded music. All welcome!

James Stringer

Computer Confidence

The group met ‘live!’ in Townsend House, for a discussion about networking and how members can connect their multiple devices, including phones, and exchange files. We had a go at using the new hybrid kit, and it was a learning experience – one which has borne fruit and will enable future uses to be much more successful. I have been leading the group for a while but am now stepping down as temporary convenor. Sadly, Mark Rest is also going to take a break, so the group will now go into abeyance, pending a new convenor being found.

Martin Fisk

We now hope that the Craft group will soon be up and running, after having to put it on hold when we went into the first lockdown. I have tried to keep everyone posted over the last two years and we do have several members who are still interested.
For anyone new to the u3a, or who missed the original news item about setting up the group, the plan is actually to have two groups – one in Watchet and one in Minehead – keeping the groups linked so that we can share ideas, skills, resources, and even people. Crafts could include, for instance, cardmaking or other papercrafts, sewing or embroidery, knitting or crochet.
The meetings are intended to be mostly informal crafting get-togethers, with everyone working on something of their own. It is planned to have regular themes to inspire anyone to create something in a craft of their choice. If you haven’t already told me that you might be interested in joining us, please email me at

Pam Bartlett

Crime Fiction
Last month we read Harlan Coben’s The Boy from the Woods. We all enjoyed reading it: the main character was very thought provoking for some of us and the end twist a surprise for us all. We felt it was set up for his next book – maybe making a new series. This month’s read is Hostage by Clare Mackintosh. We are not meeting in June as Watchet Library will be closed for the Queen’s Jubilee, so our next meeting will be on 7 July. At present the group is full, but if you enjoy reading crime fiction, please put your name on the group’s reserve list via the website.

Lori Lee

French Conversation
This month we continued our theme of making drawings from dictations. In our first piece we were introduced to the owners of last month’s Belle Époque mansion, M et Mme Pompadour, their neighbour Mme Pique, and their maid (who in one of the drawings bore an uncanny resemblance to Julie Walters as Mrs. Overall)! Their appearance, clothing and mannerisms all provided good discussion points.
For our second piece we had a guided tour around a garden in spring: one complete with stream, bridge, greenhouse, compost bins, a pagoda, a children’s playhouse and a tremendous variety of trees, shrubs, and flowers. Much of the vocabulary was new to us. Thank you to our three scene setters extraordinaires!
Next month our thoughts will turn to art – more specifically a piece of art that we covet for ourselves. Not an easy choice to make, but we’ll try.

Di Martin

I have written to those who initially expressed an interest in this new group, with a request to complete a short questionnaire describing their experience and interests. This questionnaire can be found on the Genealogy group web page and is open to any of our u3a members who’d like to be involved. Once the responses have been collated, we’ll plan a meeting schedule.

Martin Fisk

General History
In April we heard about the Foundling Hospital in London that Thomas Coram opened in 1741 and which finally closed in the 1950s. On admission, children were given a number and a new name before being sent into the countryside to a wet nurse for the first five years of their lives. They then returned to the hospital and to a very draconian life, being apprenticed out when older. Some of the stories we heard were tragic and others happy.
Our mini-talks were on hot air balloons and turnpikes. Did you know that the first to take to the air were a sheep, a duck, and a cockerel? We also heard about Turnpike Trusts, which started in the 17th century with the aim of improving road travel.
Next month we are going to have a talk about camels. The new theme for our mini-talks will be the 17th century. They will include talks on the Glorious Revolution, William Byrd, 17th-century Watchet, and the lives of ordinary women in those days.

Jane Sperring

Local History
There was no meeting for our group in May, so we are looking forward to our June meeting. After consideration and some consultation, I have decided that we will hold the meeting in the usual calendar slot, despite that Thursday being the start of the Queen’s Jubilee weekend.
On Thursday 2 June, Ron Blundell will tell us about scouting in West Somerset in the second half of the twentieth century. We will set up the Zoom session from 10.15, with the talk starting promptly at 10.30. If you’d like to attend, as usual please request the Zoom link nearer the time.

David Temple

Lunch Club
Twelve of us had lunch at the Royal Oak, Luxborough, where we enjoyed a very chatty, sociable time together. There is a small car park to the side, but the nearest pub entrance to that is difficult for people with mobility issues; the front entrance has easier access. We all enjoyed the meals, although portions were so generous that few of us had room for pudding! The menu choice includes at least four vegetarian and two vegan meals. Two people managed both courses, but the puddings were a little disappointing, as was the service.
Our next venue will be the White Horse Inn at Washford on Thursday 26 May. If you’d like to go on the reserve list, please add your name on our group page on the website. When we have a couple more names, we plan to start another group on the third Wednesday of the month.

Lori Lee

Nature Amblers

In April nine of us ambled around Great Wood at Selworthy. We were delighted to see carpets of bluebells and swathes of early purple orchids peeping out among the bluebells. Cherrie Temple took this photograph (left). There was plenty more nature for us to see and hear. In total we saw 37 wildflowers, trees, birds, and insects and heard another five birds that we couldn’t see.

We have a very special amble booked for May – a guided walk with a talk about the recent introduction of beavers on the National Trust Holnicote Estate. Places are limited, and nature amble group members have already been sent details. If you would like the opportunity to join us for this amble, please email us [see Contacts] to enquire whether places are still available. 

Jill Pudwell


Although we normally meet on the first and third Fridays of the month, we moved our last meeting to Wednesday 13 April to avoid Good Friday. We visited Tarr Steps jointly with the West Somerset Monochrome Group. The weather was kind for mid-April, although a little more sun would have been welcomed, and we were able to sit outside for a coffee at the Tarr Farm Inn afterwards. Images from the trip shown at our indoor meeting on 6 May can be found here
Meanwhile the image here from John Batt highlights not only place, but also – if you look closely – member activity!

Stewart Lane

Absolute Beginners Ukulele
If you would like to give the ukulele a go, then get in touch with me, and we can get you started learning the basics in a small group.

Jane Lay

Ukulele 1
We meet every two weeks on a Tuesday at 2 pm in Carhampton Village Hall. Just get in touch if you’d like to join us.

Mike Lay

Ukulele 2
This group meets every week on Wednesdays at 2 pm in Carhampton Village Hall. If you play the ukulele, you’re welcome to come along.

Jane Lay

April 2022 Speaker’s Morning

Tavistock v Taj Mahal, by Andrew Thompson

Andrew began by explaining why he’d given his talk a provocative title that appeared to suggest that a Devon mining town was on a par with the world-famous Taj Mahal. The basis for the selection of a site as UNESCO World Heritage – in this instance the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape – is its ‘outstanding universal value that transcends politics, religion and culture’. In addition, World Heritage sites are judged against 10 criteria. Interestingly, anything underground doesn’t count as World Heritage, which rules out most of the mines, despite how much they define the landscape! However, the development of beam and steam engines to power the pumps needed to keep the mines workable is also an important factor in the area’s classification as World Heritage. During the height of the mining activity, some 25% of Cornwall’s 30,000+ population were engaged in some aspect of the industry, many miners later emigrating to other countries where minerals were more abundant. It’s partly because of the worldwide spread of their expertise that the mining landscape of Cornwall and West Devon has achieved its World Heritage status.

Why is Tavistock part of this? The 18th-century map here shows many mines, of which the Dukes of Bedford owned most of the mineral rights. By the 1830s the area was producing a quarter of the world supply of copper and by the 1860s two-thirds of the world’s arsenic, although the arsenic mines closed in 1903.

In the first 60 years of the 19th century Tavistock’s population tripled. Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford, was responsible for much redevelopment in the town. In 1847–8 he spent lavishly on redeveloping the Guildhall and magistrates’ courtroom with the police station and cells beneath, and having part of the river Tavy filled in to create Tavistock’s famous pannier market.

About 300 model cottages were built to house miners and other workers in the town and in the surrounding countryside. A mineral canal was constructed to link Tavistock and Morwellham Quay on the Tavy, a major feat of civil engineering involving a one-and-a-half-mile tunnel with state-of-the-art mechanical ventilation. Several foundries produced modern machinery such as beam engines both for local use and for export.

In summarising, Andrew questioned the process for arriving at World Heritage ranking, wondering whether locals regard ‘their’ heritage status in the same way as UNESCO and asking whether they even consider that they benefit from it. Tavistock had already been an important town before the nineteenth-century industrial expansion, with an abbey flourishing there from late Saxon times and the Bedford estate benefiting hugely from the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. There was a vibrant wool trade and a long tradition of tin mining, with Tavistock one of the three Devon stannary towns established under Edward I early in the fourteenth century.

Margaret Shaw

Please note that the talk was recorded, and is available to members registered on the website here.  Not registered? Just email

Welcome to our new members!

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

  • Kay Cheesman from Carhampton
  • Pauline Botting from Blue Anchor
  • Jacqueline Hill, Maggie Buchanan and Steve Bratt – all from Minehead

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