GalleryExtras 2014

Go To Brentwood U3A Home Page
Back to Gallery Extras Menu



By scrolling this page up you may view reports and pictures of these events

January - Theatre Group Three Annual Dinner

May - Theatre Group Three weekend break

June - East Anglian Studies trip to Purfleet

September - Five-day break in Derby

horizontal rule

SEPTEMBER - T’was on a Monday morning a motley crew from Brentwood U3A assembled to begin a week-long furlough into England’s beautiful Peak District, organised and directed by Joyce Lindley through the auspices of the travel company Just for Groups. With coach pick-ups in Shenfield and Brentwood we were soon acquainted with our travelling courier Carol, from Hornchurch, and coach driver Dave, from Wigan, before heading onwards to Melton Mowbray for lunch in glorious weather conditions for the time of year. Carol, ‘Ladies & Gentlemen’, who kept us well informed throughout of the places of interest we passed through and of our itinerray for the week. Melton Mowbray has many credits to its name but the lasting one is that of their pork pies. After a quick lunch and a muse around the town to stretch our legs it was once more onward and upwards to our base for the week - the Hotel Sandpiper, at Sheepbridge just outside Chesterfield - which we achieved in good time that allowed for that very welcome wash and brush up before dinner.

The hotel was very pleasant with courteous staff and built on the motel style with linked units by a covered way in small blocks with a maximum of two storeys but mainly just a ground and first floor. Services were excellent, being very clean, good sized rooms each with en-suites facilities. The restaurant was also excellent with tables laid out to suit our party that provided a buffet style breakfast and a preselected evening meal from a varied menu that was plentiful and of good quality. Although the hotel has a small conference centre, the hotel lounge and bar were not adequate for our party to meet up in comfort until our Chairman Brian negotiated the use of the ante room to the conference centre that fortunately was not in use. With Day 1 completed a comfortable nights’ sleep beckoned for all at a very early hour.

Day two: After breakfast and with the weather staying fine, we began a visit to the Royal Crown Derby pottery works in Derby, arranged by Carol, ‘Ladies & Gentlemen’, where we had an extensive guided tour around the works that included the various stages of development from the raw materials to the fascinating design and decoration of some highly exquisite works that are exported throughout the world. After perusing their pricing manual my eyes began watering at the prices displayed and realised this pottery was marketed to the wealthy and celebrated monarchs around the world. Lunch was taken in their restaurant after which we again boarded our coach to continue on to the National Trusts’ 1760s Kedleston Hall to view a neo-classical mansion or show palace set in a beautiful landscaped park where sheep take the place of lawn mowers. For young architect, Robert Adam, a first major commission it made his name inspiring many other buildings around the world. It was not designed as a family house but as a showpiece palace for lavish entertaining to compete with Chatsworth House whose parties were notorious. Kedleston Hall displays Sir Nathaniel Curzon’s collection of paintings and sculptures. The size of everything is simply immense and very wearying if you tour the whole building and some of the party needed to cut short the tour and seek refuge in the cafeteria. A tired but resolute party returned looking forward to their evening meal back at the hotel. This was followed by a quiz that our Chairman Brian had put together for us all as we split up into six named teams and sure enough not unnaturally it was won by the ‘High Fivers’.

Day three: ‘Ladies & Gentlemen’, announced Carol, we will be travelling to the Tramway Village at Crich, Matlock followed by a visit to Cromford Mills which we were assured would be a lot of fun. Tramway Village is celebrating 50 years and is home to the National Tramway Museum. Trams from around the whole country are renovated and repaired back to working condition for members of the public to take unlimited trips for one old penny up to the ‘Old Glory Mine’ about one mile away. Within this reconstructed village there is the Workshop Depot, Tram Exhibition, ‘The Red Lion’ pub, Rita’s Tea Rooms and a host of tram drivers, conductors and inspectors all of whom are volunteers. The highlight of the morning was when some of our party took the ‘Blackpool Belle’ (no prizes for where this tram came from), and having just stopped at a request stop could proceed no further and with a high pitch alarm ringing in their ears wondered what would happen next. We watched our driver, in an oversize heavy green flannel coat and peak cap, which we thought he would eventually grow into, frantically trying to put matters right with a spanner in his hand, pushing buttons and stamping on pedals without having any affect whatsoever. Meanwhile the conductor in blue uniform, peak cap and regulation ticket punch and clip tried to pacify the passengers who were becoming hysterical with laughter at the whole situation. Finally the conductor took the initiative and by using an emergency trackside telephone requested aid which duly came and returned us to the terminus to await the track to be cleared. In a short time the ‘Blackpool Belle was removed and returned to the depot for repairs and services returned to normal. Lunch was taken wherever you chose before returning to our coach for a visit to Cromford Mills in Matlock.

At Cromford Mills we were introduced to a gentleman who gave a short but extremely interesting lecture on the work of Sir Richard Arkwright, whose invention of a wooden device driven by water power assisted in the creation of yarn from raw cotton that virtually changed the cloth material business from a cottage home industry into the mass production. This single invention made him one of the richest men in the country. He built many mills and changed the way families worked which ultimately led to a better way of life - all from Arkwright’s ingenuity. It was a thoroughly interesting historical insight into the weaving industry. This was followed by a tour of the village including the 1771 Mill Manager’s House, the 1778 Greyhound Inn along with the Market Place and a number of buildings and cottages built around the 1790s and Rock House being the home of Sir Richard Arkwright from 1776 until his death in 1792. He also built Willersley Castle but died before it was completed but it was lived in by members of the Arkwright family until 1925. The story of a man who carved his own history from a nobody who once was heard to tell those in high places, who despised him, that he may not have the breeding but that he could clear the national debt if he so chose.

Day four: Little did we know what we were about to experience on our tour of the City of Nottingham that would probably turn out to be most people's highlight of the holiday. On arrival in Nottingham our courier Carol introduced us to the Blue Badge Guide that had been engaged to show us the gems of the City who from thereon became ‘Our Margret’. A lady, small in stature with a broad Derbyshire accent, made her own introduction in her native style - plain and earthy -  telling us she worked to a set of plans A, B, C and D. Plan A was the tried and trusted tour she had performed numerous times, Plan B was the backup plan should Plan A fail, with Plan C being for the creation of a diversion before Plan D was enacted PANIC. From that moment on ‘Our Margret’ had us all in uncontrollable laughter with her hilarious interpretation of history and landmarks of Nottingham, without deviating from the true facts but just by embroidering them in her own inimitable manner. When the local legend was mentioned she had her own take on events involving Robin Hood and his merry men whilst paroding them to the current city council who have the opposite viewpoint to Robin. The spontaneity and delivery had all the earmarks of an outstanding comedienne as I told to her on departing the coach, for which she thanked me, and said she should be as she was a teacher for 45 years prior to becoming a Blue Badge Guide. A story she told before leaving us was about the celebrity Christopher Dean, of Torvill and Dean fame who was born close to where ‘Our Margret’ lived. As a small boy Christopher did not take to any sporting activity such as football, rugby or cricket but after joining the cub Scouts was encouraged to change his ideas and it was suggested he try ice skating at the Nottingham Ice Rink. The Torvill and Dean story is now history but ‘Our Margret’ has happy memories as she was Christopher’s cub mistress who told him to try ice skating. Following lunch we continued to the 1170-built Augustinian priory, Newstead Abbey that became the ancestral home of the poet Lord Byron. Whilst time did not permit us to explore the Abbey we did explore the picturesque gardens and grounds. A hectic day culminated with a traffic delay on our way back to the hotel that could not have pleased our driver Dave.

Day five: This was our final day  for travelling back home - by way of the picturesque Vale of Belvoir and stopping at Stamford for lunch, with time to take in the quaint shops and houses. For those of a certain age, travel, walking and hotel environment can become tiring and so from this point onwards to our final comfort stop at the Birchanger Services just off the M11 close to Stated Airport, the only noise apart from the drumming of the coach tyres was the distinct sound of ZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZ until we hit Brentwood when some of our party left us. For statisticians driver Dave’s coach mileage for our total tour covered around 540 miles.

Credit and thanks must be given to the initial study, research and organisation of Joyce Lindley with the company Just for Groups and also to our courier Carol, ‘Ladies & Gentlemen’, for co-ordinating our activities during the week despite having had the bad news that her flat back in Hornchurch had been affected by fire from a flat above. We must also not forget our driver Dave who throughout gave us a smooth and safe journey despite some unexpected heavy traffic at times and also attending upon our luggage and assisting those with needs, admirably. Finally we give thanks to our Chairman Brian who provided an evening's entertainment with a light-hearted quiz.

 (Report: Richard Marson)

Dinner at the hotel (Photo: Brian Leith)

Dinner at the hotel (Photo: Brian Leith)

Display cabinets at the Crown Derby works (Photo: Brian Leith)

A crude attempt to cut and paste to portray the magnificent hall at Kedleston Hall (Photo: Brian Leith)

The housekeeper welcomed us with a list of the rules (Photo: Brian Leith)

Kedlestone Hall (Photo: Richard Marson)

Beautiful grounds at Newstead Abbey (Photo: Richard Marson)

Waterfall in the grounds of Newstead Abbey (Photo: Richard Marson)

Tramway Village at Crich, (Photo: Richard Marson)

The Blackpool Belle at the Tramway Village (Photo: Richard Marson)

Arkwright's Mill (Photo: Brian Leith)

Ready for the off, the group gathers outside the coach before setting off for home (Photo: Brian Leith)

horizontal rule
East Anglian Studies trip to Purfleet

JUNE - The East Anglian Group recently went to High House Purfleet home of the Bob and Tamar Manoukian Royal Opera House Workshops.At the entrance to the complex stands High House, which was built in the mid 1500’s to equally divide the Manor of West Thurrock between Cecily Long’s two daughters. Originally built of Timber, the house was later covered in brick in the 1700’s. Many buildings were added to the farm at later dates by distinguished owners the Jocelyn’s and the Whitbreads.Samuel Whitbread bought, and reshaped West Thurrock with wealth from his Brewery business and reshaped most of West Thurrock through the lime and mining chalk industries. After the Purfleet by-pass cut the farm off from its fields to the North other uses failed until 2007 when the Royal Opera House workshops were a casualty of the 2012 Olympics because their land was needed for the Stratford Olympic Village. The land behind High House became a National Skills Academy for technical and stage staff and a small business park. Best of all, the workshops were designed with geo-thermal heating and roof covered with turfs. Inside the staff were making a stage for La Boheme. First they make a mini model of the set which costs several thousand pounds and then if the set designer is satisfied the carpenters, metal workers go ahead and complete the real thing. Not all is as it seems some gold fixtures are painted polystyrene. Plastic is painted to look like tiles and all the paintwork must be exactly matching. Outside there is a knot garden, kitchen garden and a walled garden and a cafe. We were told they may soon bring the costume department to the complex, and will also have a live performance on the big screen of Rigoletto in the garden. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed inside the workshop. (Report and photos: Jackie Towler)


horizontal rule

MAY - Members of Theatre Group Three enjoyed a three-day break recently in Bury St Edmunds, a large town that proved quite a challenge for drivers who were unfamiliar with the maze of one-way roads and pedestrianized areas. The Regency Hotel, a minute or two from the town centre provided comfortable accommodation, where dinner on the first evening and breakfast during the stay were excellent. After dinner on the first evening members attended the Theatre Royal, a fully-restored Regency Theatre one of only eight Grade One Listed theatres in the United Kingdom. where they saw an amusing play based on the 1970s television sitcom Rising Damp. The four main characters (Rigsby, the scheming landlord; Miss Jones, a college administrator; Alan a naive medical student; and Philip, a  sophisticated planning student who claimed to be the son of an African chief with ten wives), gave very clever portrayals of the original characters. Day two and some members undertook a guided walking tour of the town, the centre of which is the magnificent cathedral. That evening dinner was taken at Café Rouge. The weather running up to the outing was somewhat soggy, but during the three-day break was very pleasant with spells of sunshine. All agreed that the break was a great success and expressed their gratitude to Judith Finn (TG3 Convenor), for making all the arrangements. (Report and Photos: Brian Leith)

The circle and the Royal circle consisted of dedicated boxes

Part of the ruins of the original abbey

The stunning interior of St Edmundsbury Cathedral

Dinner at the hotel was a great success

horizontal rule
JANUARY - Members of Theatre Group Three gathered together at the Thai restaurant in the Rose and Crown, in spite of the miserable weather that seems to have consisted of nothing but non-stop rain for weeks. The occasion was the annual dinner which followed last year's formula, even to the price of the set meal which was the same. Arrangements had been made to seat the 21 members around a square boardroom-type setting, a real plus compared to the alternative of a long table with members seated either side. The food came in a succession of various dishes with a whole range of tasty flavours, and all agreed that the evening had been a success. It was a pleasant surprise to greet Convenor Judith Finn who only seven days before had undergone an operation to replace her hip. (Report and Photos: Brian Leith)
Go To Brentwood U3A Home Page
Back to Gallery Extras Menu

Page last updated : Tuesday, 23 June 2020