Newsletter – April 2022

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Issue No 234
Registered Charity 1088437

AGM and Coffee Morning: 10.30 am Thursday 12 May 2022

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

Annual General Meeting

Our 23rd Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held before the talk at the Speaker’s Morning on Thursday 12 May 2022 at the Baptist Church, Parks Lane, Minehead TA24 8BS and on Zoom for those who do not wish to attend in person.

If any member has a proposal that they would like to put to the AGM, please send details before 9 May 2022 to the Secretary, Sue Hutchings ( or 07941 258871). If you are interested in standing for the committee, please contact the secretary for a nomination form, which must be returned to her by 28 April 2022.

All members for whom we have an email address will receive electronically the AGM Agenda and documents, including the Minutes of the 2021 AGM, Chairman’s Report and Treasurer’s Report, in the week beginning 9 May 2022. We shall deliver or post printed copies of the formal documents to those without access to email. If you need help viewing the AGM documents or sharing online access, please contact the secretary.

Talk ‘Adventures behind the lens – hot rocks and high places’

Alex Leger, Former Blue Peter Producer, Director and Cameraman

Alex Leger worked on Blue Peter, Britain’s best-loved children’s television programme, longer than anyone else. His talk is a compelling tale of the hits, misses and near-death experiences on location with presenters who became household names. It is also an account of the effect of technology on the programme and how the production team adapted.


The Zoom link will be sent on Monday 9 May to members on email. We hope you’ll join us at the Baptist Church or online. If you’d like to attend but need help with Zoom, just send an email before then to

Subs renewal reminder!

Membership fees are due now: the 2022–23 subscription is £12 with online newsletter (£20 for printed newsletter). For two people at the same address, the fee is £24 with online newsletter (£32 to include one printed newsletter). You can pay online or send a cheque. Pay online following the directions on our website (this page)  

Cheques to be 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 the Membership Secretary about any changes to your home address, email or telephone number. You’ll find Hilary’s details in the contacts list.

April Social Afternoon at Williton Pavilion

On Friday 8 April we had a reasonable turnout of 31 people plus committee members at Williton Pavilion. It is a light and airy venue with a large hall and kitchen, and plenty of room to sit enjoying tea and coffee. We were delighted to welcome seven new people interested in joining our u3a. It was good to see people spending time together enjoying face-to-face conversations.

DATES for your DIARY

Coffee Morning – Thursday 16 June 2022
Talk by Dr Ian Bedford: The Trouble Without Wasps…

Coffee Morning – Thursday 21 July 2022
Details in the May newsletter

March 2022 Speaker’s Morning: Everyday stories of Exmoor folk

At our March Speaker’s Morning members heard from some of the u3a members who are working on a Shared Learning Project, begun in late 2019 in conjunction with the Exmoor National Park Authority. An archive of papers relating to the Knight Family of Exmoor was discovered in an attic. Our project takes the documents, mostly letters but also account books, invoices, leases and so on, and turns them into typescript for modern computers, thus hopefully enabling future researchers to make more sense of the history of Exmoor. In the process we are learning an enormous range of interesting detail about 19th-century life on Exmoor.

For the presentation, John Batt set the scene. John Knight was the wealthy ironmaster from Worcestershire who bought the Royal Forest in 1819 and began the ambitious programme of reclamation and conversion of the rough land into a ‘gentleman’s estate’. Catherine Knight then told us about transcribing the extensive Exmoor Abstract, which detailed the considerable monies that John Knight spent in 1819–20 when first taking charge of the Forest. Under the heading ‘Sundry Expenses’ a peculiar item was found – the purchase of a coffin for the burial of one John King, whose body was carried from Simonsbath to Exford for burial. It was costly – paying for the shroud, the laying out, the coffin, the carrying etc cost £6.12.11 – a large sum in 1820. The procession across the moor must have been a sombre sight! This is an example of a nugget of information which could do with more research in other sources to fill out the story.

John Knight’s son, Frederic, switched to tenant farming and experimented with letting different sizes and compositions of farms and growing different crops and livestock. To assist, he employed a land agent, John Mogridge, between 1841 and 1848. Kathy Barnes told the meeting about the Mogridge years. He negotiated leases with prospective tenant farmers; employed labourers to build cottages and fences, and to dig out lime rock; and dealt with poachers, claims for deer damage, and a myriad of daily vexations. He expressed frustration at the lack of communication from Frederic, who was often away in London being an MP and man about town. Relationships with tenant farmers was fraught, and one, a man called Hibberd, was a particular thorn in the side of the agent. A typical comment was: I think Hibberd is the greatest rascal I have ever heard of’ (John Mogridge, 6 April 1846).

Di Martin outlined the career of the next Knight agent on Exmoor, Robert Smith, who moved from Lincolnshire and farmed at Emmetts Grange for 20 years. He was agent from 1848 to 1861 and his letters include an – alas, very brief – allusion to visiting the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, about which he wrote that it surpassed ‘all I ever saw. No pen or tongue can describe the imposing effect’. Cherrie Temple next told of the mining attempts on Exmoor, of which there were several shafts sunk, all of which eventually proved unviable. Some documents deal with family matters. Hilary Fisk reported a particularly moving letter about the funeral of ‘young Freddy’, the son of Frederic, who died in 1879 at the age of 28. Frederic, his wife Florence, and his son are buried in the churchyard at Simonsbath.

The project participants have transcribed over 350 documents and there are many more stories to be told. The work continues, and the opportunity to become a transcriber or undertake related research is open to members.

Hilary Fisk, Project Co-ordinator

Chairman’s Column

In response to my email last month, I’m pleased to say that five people came forward to find out more about joining the committee. I hope they liked what they’ve seen of us, and will submit their nomination forms – which must be in by 28 April. There remain committee vacancies and roles to fill, so do contact me for an informal chat if you’d like to find out more. Nomination forms are available by contacting the Secretary, which you can do via the website or by email. Please note that the date of our AGM is a week earlier than you may be expecting: it will take place on Thursday 12 May 2022. 

Earlier this month we conducted a test at Minehead Baptist Church, using the Church’s on-site kit to relay a short presentation via Zoom. My thanks to all those who worked hard behind the scenes to enable us to develop our hybrid meeting techniques. We have learned a lot from the experience, and it means that from May onwards our coffee mornings will resume at the Baptist Church on the third Thursday of the month, but the talks will also be available online to anyone unable to attend in person. The feedback from some of those taking part on Zoom was that ‘it was almost like being there’. I’m delighted that we’ll be making our coffee morning talks more accessible. The new committee will decide whether the more informal social events we have been trialling will continue in addition to our traditional coffee mornings with talks. 

Despite the increase in Covid infections, we do seem to be gaining confidence about returning to our old ways. Please still take every care and do not attend meetings if you have any Covid-like symptoms. I think we have some way to go before we are out of this particular wood. 

On a final note, if you haven’t yet renewed your u3a membership, please don’t forget to do so! For only £1 a month we have an exciting 12 months ahead – with old and new groups in full swing and, from this autumn, the likelihood of outings by coach to enjoy.

John Batt

Jill Merer

Jill Merer, one of our longest serving u3a members, sadly died on 6 March this year. We send our condolences to her family.

On joining Minehead and District u3a, Jill set up her book group, which has only recently disbanded. She soon joined the committee and in 2005 became our fourth chairman, bringing much expertise and enthusiasm to the role. A long-time member of the poetry group, Jill also recently gained much pleasure from the Zoom meetings on history and creative writing. She will be greatly missed.

Jean Page, Former Chairman, Minehead and District u3a

News from the Groups

Group convenor contact details


The warm spell in March encouraged us to get back to working on the allotment. Some seeds and onion sets have been planted and the new raspberry shoots are looking encouraging.  We are looking forward to a productive season with our new members.         

Alex Slater


Art for fun

Our meetings are held every Monday from 2.30 to 4.30 pm at the Beach Hotel, which has kindly offered us the use of a room, provided that we all buy refreshments.

We are a friendly, relaxed group with members of all abilities, each creating pictures using a variety of media – with our work interspersed with chat and the exchange of ideas and experiences.

Linda Marlton


Our March meeting was very low key as I had come down with Covid. However, a few members sent me their list of 40 different species seen. The list included a glossy ibis which, I’m told, looked wonderful when the sun caught its plumage.

Our April outing is to Swell Wood and other hot spots nearby. We are hoping to see the heronry and the cranes in full swing, and there are often some little egrets. After that, on Friday 20 May, we will be on the look-out for pied flycatchers, although part of Horner Wood is closed owing to ash die back, so I may need to rearrange our meeting place. A provisional programme for 2022 can be found in our group pages on the website.

Kay Bullen


Thus far this year we’ve read several books. They are The Librarian by Salley Vickers (at least, we tried!), but only one of our number actually finished it, so not one that impressed us, I’m afraid; A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, a memoir of his time in Paris in the 1920s; The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle, which is an engaging story of the unexpected friendship between two very different men; The Good People by Hannah Kent – a beautifully written, if unrelentingly miserable, tale set in Ireland in the early 19th century. Earlier we read Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, which we highly recommend.

Our next book will be The Confession by Jessie Burton. We met a week early this month, but in future our monthly meetings will be the third Wednesday at 2.30 pm. As we meet in each other’s homes, we aren’t in a position right now to take any new members.

Lesley Barclay

Classical Music 1

We meet in members’ homes and, therefore, over the last two years we have deliberately kept our numbers low. However, in May and June we will be losing two couples, which means there will be space for four new members. If anyone wishes to join us, please email me for details.

Sandra Hanley

Classical Music 2

Our April meeting, presented by Jean, was a great success. She played us a diverse selection of music, most of which was new to many of us, and we had interesting discussions about it.

Our next meeting will be on Monday 2 May, when Michael will present his choice of music.

Jan Lowy

Classical Music 3

At the April meeting, I played piano pieces by Albéniz, Beethoven, Grieg, Saint-Saëns, and Philip Glass and we heard a selection of recorded music featuring the viola.

Our next meeting will be on Friday 6 May when Tina and John will present a selection of music.

James Stringer

Crime Fiction

We had a meeting in March to discuss A Window Breaks by CM Ewan. There were mixed reviews as it was more of a thriller, but generally it was thought the author had great descriptive skills and we could imagine the terror, but it had a weak start and ending. All nine of us finished the book, but no one is in a hurry to read any more of his.

This month we are reading Harlan Coben’s The Boy from the Woods. We are enjoying our relaxed style and there is still one place left if anyone is interested.

Lori Lee

Discussion Group

At our March meeting Councillor Mandy Chilcott gave us an informative talk about the new unitary authority for Somerset: particularly relevant as we shall be voting in May for the new authority.

There is no meeting of the group in April as our due date for meeting falls on Easter Monday. Our next meeting will be on Monday 16 May in the Harbour Room at Townsend House starting at 10.30 am (all u3a members welcome). The topic for discussion will be advised nearer the time.

John Moss

French Conversation

Last month Covid and family commitments meant that our group was much depleted – but those of us present worked hard. We listened to and then drew a description of a salon of a Belle Époque château – an interesting and unusual scene. The decorated furniture, the plasterwork ceiling, rugs, ornaments and curtains produced some interesting vocabulary and discussions on grammar and style: for instance, the best way to say ‘matching colours’. As usual we went down several by-ways – including discovering that the song Frère Jacques has five verses and the fifth one is quite racy… Who knew?!

Di Martin

Genealogy ** NEW GROUP! **

On 5 April no fewer than 42 members attended – in person or via Zoom – a test hybrid meeting at the Baptist Church. John Batt gave a presentation about the experiences of two of his relatives who were orphaned in the 1870s, showing both the social aspects of their very different lives, and the tenacity required to tease out the details from a wide variety of sources.

It was also proposed that a new group should be formed to look at aspects of genealogy, both from the point of view of record investigation and from the life stories and social history revealed by that research. I have offered in the first instance to convene the group and will be contacting those who’ve expressed interest in attending. Any other member with an interest is welcome to make contact via the Contact Details page, or through the new Genealogy Group webpage.

Martin Fisk

General History

In March we heard about the Klondike Gold Rush and the part that women played in it. The topics of our mini talks after refreshments included the Workhouse at Williton, the West Somerset Mineral Railway, Canals and Le Tunnel.

In April we will hear about Foundling Hospitals and, after the final short talks on transport, will hear about items from the 17th century. In May we shall have a talk about camels – a topic that came out of the Transport theme!

Jane Sperring

Local History

In April the group met once again by Zoom for Cherrie’s excellent talk ‘Mining, Murder and Mystery’, which expanded on her talk at the March Speaker’s Morning. I have managed to record and edit her presentation. This is available, along with some of our earlier ones, on the u3a website (at this address, in the members-only area).

The group will not meet in May and Thursday 2 June is the start of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend, so I shall need to arrange a new date for our June meeting. I also hope to start outside visits from May. Members of the group will be kept informed by email.

David Temple

Lunch Club

Twelve of us had a good time in March at the Valiant Soldier in Roadwater.

Group comments on our lunch:

  • ‘Fabulous food! Super location! Great company! Can’t wait to do it again.’
  • ‘The strawberry and chocolate cheesecake was definitely worth the calories.’
  • ‘Bit too many onions and mushrooms on the steak, but a very nice meal.’
  • ‘Thoroughly enjoyed – gets 10/10 from us.’

We had excellent and quick service, nice quality and quantity. There were at least three vegetarian options, but these received mixed reviews: ‘Halloumi burnt and bit dry’; ‘Vegetable lasagne was very good’. Two courses with a drink averaged £18–£25.

We are meeting this month at the Royal Oak at Luxborough and hope to go to the White Horse at Washford in May. Two people on our reserve list attended last month, so please add your name to the reserve list on the website if you would like to attend in the future.

Lori Lee

Nature Amblers

In March, five of us gently ambled along the Church Fields path in Watchet. We concentrated on identifying trees from their flowers, new leaves and bark. In total, we noted 43 wild flowers, trees, birds and insects.

Our next meeting will be on Wednesday 27 April starting promptly at 10 am. We’ll meet just off the A39 at the Selworthy junction for an amble, hoping to see bluebells and early purple orchids in Great Wood.

New members will be made welcome.

Jill Pudwell


Now the weather is warming up we’ll start our weekly outdoor meetings on Monday mornings. We shan’t meet on Easter Monday, but our first two meetings, on 25 April and 2 May at 10 am, will be at the wetlands opposite Tesco. Future venues are yet to be decided.

Pat Gurnett


The theme for members’ images shown at our meeting on 18 March was ‘Contrasts’, and they were just that! Shots of old and new technology, of young and old animals, of differing textures and shapes; most within one image, but some paired.

The attached image by Sue Myrick picks up on contrasting shape, and on the organic and inorganic contrast. There are over 50 classy images on the website to see (here)!

The meeting on 1 April was totally different (in fact, another contrast!) with Ron Blundell giving an excellent presentation on ‘Photographs and Photographers of the American Civil War’. Not only were there portraits of famous generals – Robert E Lee and Ulysses S Grant – but also of some young soldiers with the anxious expression on their faces that remains much the same to this day.

Our meeting on 13 April was a joint visit with the Monochrome Group to Tarr Steps.

Stewart Lane

Tap Dance

The group has been practising tap steps, learning new ones and dancing routines to a range of songs. Beginners are welcome, and we go over the steps at every session. It’s a gentle way to exercise and have a bit of fun. You can try it out without needing tap shoes initially. 

We now meet on alternate Tuesdays. Come and try tap dancing and learn to dance to the music of the Charleston, Sinatra songs and sea shanties! You will be made very welcome.

Jane Lay

Absolute Beginners Ukulele 

The group has opened up new possibilities for beginner ukulele players. They have moved on from trying out a few chords to buying their own ukulele to joining groups 1 or 2 and enjoying practising new skills. If you fancy giving the ukulele a go, then get in touch and we can get you started in a small group.

Jane Lay

Deadline for contributions to the next edition of the newsletter: Friday 29 April 2022.

Please send your photos and copy by then to

Ukulele 1

Our numbers are going up as more people find out how exciting and fulfilling playing music can be. Playing in a friendly group of like-minded people is the best feeling! Most of the new recruits have come from the Absolute Beginners lessons. We meet every two weeks on a Tuesday at 2 pm in Carhampton Village Hall. It’s a great social occasion and so much fun.

Mike Lay

Ukulele 2

This group meets weekly to play a wide range of songs. We play as a group with fingerpicking melodies and different strum patterns to create more depth to our songs. It is all very relaxed and caters for beginners and intermediate players. We have an enjoyable time, and every ukulele player is welcome to join us.

Jane Lay

Welcome to our new members!

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

  • Sue Donovan from New Malden, Doreen Firstbrook from Williton, Suzanne French from Blue Anchor, Susan Myrick from Minehead, and John & Sandra Thomson from Watchet