Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Activities Day in Dorchester - Monday, 14th March 2011

This day was organised by Ridgeway branch of the U3A (based in Watlington) as part of the Thames Valley Network’s Riverside Project and over 100 members turned up. We were really lucky to have a lovely sunny spring day, which everyone enjoyed. Participants were greeted on arrival in the Abbey by coffee about 10 a.m. and then heard a fascinating illustrated talk on the history of Dorchester and it’s Abbey by Margaret Craig, the Education Officer.

She was followed by John Metcalfe MBE, who talked about the multi-million pound restoration project, which has been only recently completed. Jane Sellwood nobly stood in at short notice to make a presentation on the Industrial History of the Thames to a smaller interest group.

Lunch, in various local hostelries or sandwiches in the sun according to taste, was followed by a range of activities. Some members chose a Natural History visit to the Water Meadows with one of the leading conservationists. Others took a conducted tour of the Abbey and St Birinus Church with Margaret Craig and Fr John Osman respectively.

Six energetic people were driven over to lunch at the Wagon and Horses at Culham, from where they undertook the six mile walk back to Dorchester along the Thames Path.

Another group strolled down to Day’s Lock for an explanation of its workings and that of the weir from David Stanley, the duty lock-keeper.

Two groups ‘Walked into History’ around the village under the expert guidance of Professor Malcolm Airs and Mrs Margot Melcalfe, both very knowledgeable local historians.

Tea and cake back in the Abbey rounded off the day. Many, many thanks to those of our members who helped make it a success. Many thanks also to all the experts who gave lectures, led groups and generally shared their knowledge with us all in so generous a manner. This surely is what “lifelong learning” is all about.


The U3A is a worldwide organisation for retired and semi-retired people who are interested in lifelong learning. There are around thirty-five branches in the Thames Valley area alone so there is certain to be one near you. Further details may be found on our website. If you are interested why not come and join us. We are a university in the true meaning of the word with no entrance exam and no degree at the end but we have fun and improve our knowledge of a huge range of subjects with lectures, visits, study days, interest groups and activities.

(Blogged by Susie Berry of Ridgeway U3A, Thames Valley Network)