25th October – Skittles Evening

What a weekend of competitive sport it was. Out in Japan the Rugby World Cup semi-finals saw the All Blacks well beaten by some team playing in white, and Wales narrowly lose a very close encounter with eventual champions South Africa. But perhaps the most keenly contested sporting event was held nearer to home at Oaklands Park Golf Club on the Friday evening. It was of course our very own CDWS Skittles Evening.

Rob Britton was the chief organiser and took charge of the evening in his best courtroom manner. Thirty seven people had booked for the evening, mostly members of our Welsh Society but with a handful of welcome guests. Two were non-players, including new member Vivienne Jack who attended despite a strained wrist. Somehow Rob managed the trick of organising everyone into six teams of six.

Each team played one after the other for three rounds. In every round each player had three skittle balls to knock down the nine pins. If the player was skilled or lucky enough to knock down all nine pins using less than three balls the pins were reset so they could score more points.

We had the Oaklands Park Golf clubhouse to ourselves, with three front of house staff to serve drinks, food and help with the computer when needed. The skittle alley was laid on the floor of the lounge, leaving plenty of room for us to sit and socialise when not “skittling”. Pam Britton took charge of the computer to record scores, which were projected onto a large tv screen.

A key role fell to Pamela Jones, the other non-player. She took a special chair next to the alley, armed with a Welsh flag. Near to one end of the alley was a red line. The skittle ball had to be rolled over this rather than be thrown over it. Pamie’s job was to wave the flag to signify any foul throw that she spotted. She took to this job with gusto and nothing escaped her eagle eye.

Graham Beavan had the misfortune to captain the first team to play. The other teams learned from his team’s mistakes in the first round, as they kept Pamela Jones busy with foul throws. Clearly not everyone had listened to Rob’s instructions despite his stentorian efforts. At least Gail Thomas’s guest Maggi Newcombe had the excuse that she had got lost on the way, arrived a little late and so missed Rob’s exposition of the rules.

A variety of techniques were tried by the players. Maldwyn started as though he intended to send the pins flying. Alan Longshaw took this a step further and almost turned them into matchwood.  On the other hand, Monica Owen sent her shots gently down the alley and still managed to knock them over. Several players made the remarkable discovery that the ball was just small enough to squeeze its way through between the pins. As a result some turns scored nothing, even when the ball was rolled almost straight down the middle. I’ll mention no names for those who suffered this misfortune.

Half way through the rounds, play stopped and we enjoyed an excellent hot meal from the buffet. Good sized salmon steaks were accompanied by new potatoes and mixed vegetables and a tasty sauce. Then we could help ourselves to coffee and mints.

At the end of the evening prizes were awarded to the top scoring lady and top scoring gentleman, and to the members of the top scoring team.

Despite being probably the smallest person playing, and needing both hands to lift the ball, Pat Chapman showed off her previously undiscovered talent for skittles by winning the lady’s prize with the best individual score of the evening.  Alan Longshaw took the men’s prize with only one point less than Pat, and just one point ahead of his nearest male rivals.

The winning team was captained by Gwyndaf, and included Anthea Beavan, Lloyd Jones, Peter Johnson, Jane Morris and Pam Britton. They won by a mere two points and the result was in doubt until the very end of the sporting contest.

Thanks were given to the Oaklands Park staff for the tasty meal and their good service. Then also to Rob, for organising such an enjoyable event and adjudicating so capably when competitive feelings were running high and a riot could so easily have been triggered. The two Pam’s were also thanked, one for her work keeping the score and the other for her sterling work ensuring fair play.

Gwyndaf John

CDWS trees at Parc Mawr

At the 2018 Christmas gathering, our hosts, Bill & Sue Jones, asked that as a gift, they would prefer a donation to the Woodland Trust for trees to be planted at Parc Mawr.

Following the Society’s Oswestry trip in June, Bill & Sue drove on to see how the trees were doing. Here is their report:

 

Parc Mawr is on the very steep easterly facing side of the Conwy valley. It is an ancient 84 acre woodland occupying a very prominent position in the landscape. Historically, the wood was managed most probably as a high forest, with gradations between upland oakwood and ash / elm with a hazel understorey. The woodland is now a valued local amenity for walking and horse-riding, boasting a network of permissive and public rights of way and fantastic views.

Woodland Trust’s focus is on thinning the exotic species introduced by humans and restocking with native woodland.

We walked up the steep path along Grove 1 which is where the 6 CDWS trees were planted. Our path went roughly North South along the steep slope and was therefore a little more manageable, crossing an old byway leading to the ancient Llangelynnin church. This is the North Wales Pilgrims Way (linking Basingwerk Abbey with Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island)) and passes through the site from the south: a further information panel is provided near this route, at the bottom of the byway.

Along our walk we had glorious views over Conway Valley including to Dwygyfylchi (where Kay Day hails from), and Conway Castle.

The Woodland Trust had forewarned us that the trees were already planted and that they did not mark the trees in any way to preserve the natural beauty of their woods. We saw very many young trees but none that could be specifically identified as saplings.  Therefore, in the event we could not identify the CDWS new trees since they were interspersed with existing trees and growing rapidly.

So, having walked over a mile in and then back again, we did not specifically see our trees but had a glorious walk through lovely fresh woodlands listening to bird song and looking out on to wonderful views in the sunshine. Here is a map reference for the site at Parc Mawr.

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@53.2474083,-3.859518,2605m/data=!3m1!1e3

Bill Jones

WWT Slimbridge 12th September 2019

Slimbridge is situated north of Bristol, very close to the Severn estuary, and is home to many different types of birdlife. It was founded in 1946, by Sir Peter Scott.

Our coach arrived at Slimbridge at 11:15, giving us time to meet the others of the party who had arrived by car, to have a coffee or have an initial look around the reserve.

We split into two parties of twelve for the guided tour of the Scott’s house. The volunteers told us about Peter Scott’s earlier life, as a hunter and painter, his wartime career, as an Olympic sailing medallist, but he is best known for his passion for preserving wild life, founding the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, and especially for creating the World Wildlife Fund.

Scott’s whole house borders a man-made lake, where Berwick Swans and many kinds of other waterfowl were only a few yards from the windows. I looked down, and there was a snipe only four or five feet away.

We were shown the Scott’s kitchen, looking very much of the 1950’s, with its range and an old-fashioned Belling 2 ring cooker. There were hand-written notes inside the cupboards and in notebooks and it looked as though the family could return at any moment.

The Scott’s kitchen

We saw the dining room with its one long table, but were told that the Scotts usually ate on the small formica table in the bay window, where they could watch the birds.

We were also shown the study, where Lady Phillipa Scott had most of her effects and paintings.

Perhaps the most interesting room was familiar to any of us who had seen Peter Scott’s programmes on the television, with its painting easel, the wide panoramic view across the lake, and the extraordinary window which was built out in front of the house and extends about 8 feet in each direction, allowing an additional 6 of 7 people to enjoy the view, but not be in the room!

The tour took about 1 hour, and, as we were heading back to the main visitor centre, the guides asked us what we thought – as we were the first visitors to the house since the renovation! We have Peter Day (as chairman of the WWT) to thank for that privilege.

After the tour some of us went off to hear a talk about the re-introduction of the European Crane into the country (a couple of them could be seen skulking about on the other side of the pond) and then on to watch the otters being fed and playing in the water. These were North American otters rather than European, as European otters are nocturnal.

European Cranes

Other members of the party were more adventurous and walked across the flat site to one of the hides, where knowledgeable WWT volunteers pointed out interesting sites across the panorama.  These included cranes beyond the sea wall, godwits, curlew, knot, dunlin, linnet with it’s distinctive “puppet on a string” flight pattern, an array of ducks and a fantastic fly past by a skein of geese at eye height and within metres away.

The coach left Slimbridge at 3:30 and we had a swift and pleasant journey back. Jonathan Pegler thanked Peter Day and David Powell for arranging such a successful trip.

Golf Day – 30th August 2019

Once again we were blessed with perfect golfing weather.  I cannot recall having played our golf day in any other conditions.

Colin Thomas, Pam Britton and Rob Brett

The scores of the team competition were very close, and was won by Pam Britton, Colin Thomas and Robert Brett. 

Lady Winner – Irene Glyn Jones

The winner of the individual stapleford score was Irene Glynn-Jones, who returned a fantastic score of 44.  Irene played an excellent round of golf and her putting was outstanding.

The ladies’ longest drive went to Pam Britton and the men’s longest drive went to Ralph Broomby.

Men’s Longest Drive Winner – Raph Broomby

The ladies’ nearest the pin was won by Jane Morris and the men’s by Eryll Morris.  Perhaps they have been practicing hard together!

Unfortunately the numbers of golfers went down this year again, but we had full support from those members of the Society who came to the lunch.

Chris Thomas and Pam Britton were thanked for organising the golf day and the club staff for a very enjoyable meal.

Rob Britton

Summer Lunch 7th July 2019

The morning was rather grey and the trusty band of men erecting the gazebos, under the supervision of Alan Longshaw, survived the rain.

Luckily the weather brightened to welcome the 48 people who turned up for lunch. The large Welsh flag, flying near the topiary, was very helpful in finding the correct location.

Our hosts, Alan and Diana Longshaw’s, garden was much admired and in particular the fish pond and water lilies. Some of the goldfish and carp were seen later when Alan fed them, but the general noise, chatter and banter kept them in the depths for most of the time. 

 The food, served by “To Dine For” was excellent and many had seconds! It is interesting how many people are allergic to hazelnuts, is this a Welsh gene?

David Powell thanked our hosts and the caterers. A presentation was made to Graham Beavan for his years of service as Society Treasurer.

The enjoyable party broke up mid-afternoon and the volunteers dismantled the gazebos, tables and chairs to return them to the Longshaw garage.

Kate Picton

Welsh Marches Trip 2019

Oswestry Trip 17th June 2019

We had an early start at 8am in Gerrards Cross, picking up the rest of our party at Amersham. After a brief stop on the M42 we drove on through the countryside and to Presteigne to visit the Real Wine Company for a wine tasting and paella. The company was established by Mark Hughes, who used to live in Gerrards Cross, but followed his dream to create his own specialist wine company. We sampled up to 12 delicious wines, and many of us ordered a few.

After lunch we drove north along swollen Severn. The previous weeks had rained pretty continuously and river levels were high. As we passed we saw that many of the fields were flooded.

Phil, our coach driver, drove us on to Montgomery, where we had 10 minutes to stretch our legs and to explore the market square and the Norman church with the tomb of Sir Richard Herbert (dating from the 16th century).

There followed a somewhat sleepy trip on to Oswestry as the effects of lunchtime’s wine made themselves known. We drove to Oswestry’s Premier Inn through stunning countryside, avoiding floods which had been prevalent only a few days before. That evening, some ate locally while others walked to Oswestry to sample the local restaurants.

Tuesday 18th June

The coach picked us up from the hotel, and we drove to Llanfair Caerinion station, where Jonathan had booked two carriages on the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway. The railway dates from 1903 and has an unusual 2’ 6” narrow gauge. We had time to look around the station and watch the engine (‘Countess’, one of the original engines) being prepared.   The first part of our journey followed the path of the valley of a small river (the Afon Banwy neu Einion), where, Jonathan said, otters and king fishers lived.  It took about 45 mins to cover the 8.5 miles to Welshpool. We crossed streams and small roads, with or without level crossing gates, admiring the countryside as we chugged along. When we arrived in Welshpool we had another chance to admire the train getting ready for the return journey. (More railway pictures.)

Our coach had driven on to meet us and we all climbed on to travel to Powis Castle. On the way there, Jonathan, acting as the most knowledgeable tour guide, gave us an extraordinary level of detail of the history of the castle, built in the 13th century by the Welsh prince (Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn), loyal to Edward I. By 1587 the castle was sold to the Herbert family. In 1784, heiress Lady Henrietta Herbert married Edward Clive, son of the famous Clive of India.  Their son inherited the castle, on condition that he changed his name to Herbert.  The castle remained with the Herbert family until it was passed to the National Trust.

A really impressive structure, the castle was built of local red sandstone, with wonderful views over the surrounding countryside. It was easy to see that the building was not only a castle but also a home. We entered smart drawing rooms, elegant dining rooms and formal bedrooms, all decorated with paintings of family members through the ages from the 17th century to the present day. A separate room was set aside to display some of the riches brought back from India by Clive, including Indian weapons and fine jewel encrusted figures.

The castle has beautiful gardens set within steep slopes and terraces revealing wonderful flower beds.

In the courtyard of the castle was a male peacock displaying and protecting his mate with one chick, the last remaining of clutch of 5.  (Additional photos of Powis Castle in the gallery.)

That evening, after the bus had dropped us off, Jonathan took us on a conducted tour of Oswestry including the remains of the castle which was torn down during the English Civil War. In the memorial gardens we saw a statue to one of Oswestry’s famous sons,the poet Wilfred Owen, who was tragically killed in the last week of World War 1.

The whole party then met for an evening meal in the Wynnstay Hotel, making our own way home after discussions in the hotel bar. (More pictures of our evening here.)

Wednesday 19th June

We set off early to visit ‘Jones the Boats’ on the Llangollen Canal, where we all boarded a canal boat to take us across the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – the highest aqueduct in the world.

The bridge was built in 1805 by Thomas Telford, and stretches for 336 yards above the River Dee.

It was a strange experience to be in a boat on the canal and to be able to look down over 120 feet to see the river and fields below with the drop just inches away from the side of the boat.

Looking down from the boat on to the Dee
5 Ann(e)s on a boat

  We traveled on until we passed through the Chirk tunnel, 460 yards long, turning around just before the Chirk Aqueduct. The tunnel is narrow, with only room for one boat at a time, and boats must show lights so that they can be seen by those coming from the other direction.

(More canal pictures here)

After the canal trip, we once again boarded the coach to visit Chirk Castle. The castle was originally constructed in the late 13th century by Roger Mortimer de Chirk under the orders of Edward I, in order to guard the Dee and Ceriog valleys. It was expanded and remodeled over the years and was bought by Sir Thomas Myddelton in1595.

The interior of the castle was varied in style. It was interesting to see the different tastes in different rooms and to see areas where the Victorian designer Pugin had made changes to restyle the Georgian features into what was then considered to be a more authentic new Gothic.

The gardens at Chirk are extensive, with clipped yews, herbaceous borders, a ha-ha and views over the Ceiriog valley. As we left Jonathan had two more sights for us.

The original gates included the Myddelton crest featuring a sinister looking red hand. There are several stories about the significance of the hand, most of them somewhat gory. The coach then took us back via the Llangollen canal, where we could walk down to the tunnel we had been through that morning, and then walk across the Chirk Aqueduct, crossing from Wales to England. This is another Telford bridge, this time crossing the Ceiriog valley, 710 feet long and 70 feet above the valley, this aqueduct runs alongside a later viaduct carrying the railway.

More pictures of Chirk Castle.

Thursday 20th June

We set off to Brymbo Heritage site, which is really two sites in one. Brymbo is close to Wrexham, and is the site of an old iron works dating from about 1790. We split into two parties and were shown around the site where we were given a brief history of the development of the industry as well as being shown the original furnace and the old ruins of an even older coal mine.

Interestingly, Brymbo had another aspect. Recently, when the coal was being extracted by open cast methods, they found an ancient petrified forest beneath the coal. This originally grew as gigantic ferns and mosses over 300 million years ago, when this part of Wales lay on the equator! While walking over the site, we met some of the paleontologists working on the site. As we were talking to the leader, Dr Tim Astrop, another of his party picked up a stone lying on the ground and showed us a fossilised plant stem from 300 million years ago, saying that we were the first people ever to see this fossil specimen!

We were then driven over to Erddig Hall, another National Trust site. It was built in the late 17th century for Josiah Edisbury, but in 1733 it passed into the Yorke family. We were met by one of the guides who entertained with stories of the Yorke family (mostly Stephens and Phillips) who threw very little away, which was why the site had such a vast collection of artifacts. One of the last of the line became almost a hermit who removed the phones and the electricity. He used to sleep at night guarding the silver with a shotgun and a burglar alarm fashioned from carnation milk tins.

The Hall is also famous for its paintings, poems and stories of the servants who worked there. From the early days, portraits were made of some of the serving staff, maids, gardeners, gamekeepers and housekeepers and together with these there were descriptions or poems, often in a child’s hand, to describe the individuals.

The gardens at Erddig are extensive, based on the original 18th century formal garden. They contain a lake and a canal in addition to rose gardens, fruit trees, walled gardens and herbaceous borders.

(More Erddig pictures here)

Friday 21st June

We said goodbye to those of us who travelled by car and set off on the first leg of our journey, to Shrewsbury. We were met by our guides, who took us on a conducted walk around the town, looking at taverns and houses with connections to the Tudors, then a led us on a tour around St Mary’s, Shrewsbury’s oldest church, dating back to Norman times, to see the stained-glass windows. We completed the tour by looking at the medieval trades areas, after which the streets were named, and at the centre of the high street, where David III, Prince of Wales, was executed in 1283.

After lunch we boarded the coach and David Powell thanked Jonathan Pegler for all the planning and the incredible amount of information he had provided us with about the places we passed through and visited.

We finally arrived back home at around 4pm all feeling quite tired.

Thanks once again Jonathan!

2019 AGM

CDWS AGM Coleshill Village Hall May 17th

A good turnout of over fifty members set the scene for an informative, interesting and illusionary evening.

Our Chairman, David Powell got off to a good start (this being his first year as Chairman and hence his first chairing of the AGM) by welcoming us all. In particular Thelma and John Lusher who had traveled all the way from the New Forest. The reports for the year were encouraging; membership strong at one hundred and sixteen; finances in good shape; two new members of the committee have volunteered their services – Merle Davies and Peter Chapman; and there has been strong support for all the events over the year. Particular thanks were directed towards Graham Beavan on his retirement after a long tenure as Treasurer.

Jonathan Pegler had briefly taken on the role of Treasurer to fill the gap and so he presented the Accounts for the year. Under his watch the magnificent sum of £20 had been dealt with. Peter Chapman has now stepped into Graham’s shoes.

The formal part of the evening was, as ever, well presented and short and was followed by a meal. The caterer was Anne Tennant who clearly knows exactly what the members of the CDWS enjoy, and on this occasion was like a human dynamo. The rest of her team were at an event catering for the mayor of Beaconsfield so Anne was chief cook and bottle washer and everything in between. Well done Anne! The choice of desserts was particularly appreciated. Bread and Butter pudding and custard, Chocolate mousse, cheese and biscuits, Fruit Pavlova and I spotted a fruit salad for someone dairy intolerant. The gentlemen on our table made a bee-line for the Bread and Butter pudding, and then when Anne explained that she really didn’t want to take anything home, they were happily also tucking into Pavlova. No doubt belts were loosened.

After the meal came the entertainment. This year it was the place of Bertie Pearce whose web site says that he “…brings wonder and laughter to your event”. We were not disappointed on either count. The theme was “Now you See it-Now you Don’t, The Art of Visual Deception”. This was a whistle-stop tour through Surrealism, Trompe L’eoil, Ambiguous Imagery, Optical Art and Camouflage. Fascinating, thought provoking, puzzling, entertaining, amusing and all delivered at a pace that kept you on your toes, engaged and surprised. A particular ripple of amusement occurred when Bertie said that in America artists had used illusionary methods to paint potholes on the road which appeared to be 3D in order to reduce speeding. Here in Buckinghamshire we have no need for artists’ illusions. We have the real thing.

Interspersed with the artistic journey were a number of magical moments. Ably assisted by our very own Ann Lawrence, Kay Day and Gwen Hill, Bertie performed mysterious and inexplicable tricks. Ann, Kay and Gwen have clearly been sworn into secrecy as they were reluctant to share any explanations afterwards. Perhaps they could be prevailed upon at a future event to offer magical entertainment?

 

The evening closed at 10 pm everyone having been well entertained and well fed. Thank you to all.

Janet John

Spring Walk 2019

1st May 2019 Spring Walk

This year Gwyndaf added a visit to a local church to our Spring Walk.

We all met at the Red Lion pub in Little Missenden at 10:00 to order our lunches for later. Then 22 walkers set off on a 3 mile walk in the hills around the village.

We started off following the River Misbourne and in the first field we passed we saw a curious collection of animals – pot-bellied Vietnamese pigs, funny looking sheep that turned out to be goats and a magnificent turkey displaying for his harem of females.

In the next field we discovered an archaeological party surveying the field. They explained that they had detected signs of very old buildings (possibly Roman) close to the river and were tracing out the shape of the building with a view to a future dig.

We then followed the South Bucks Way footpath up the hill with wild flowers on either side. Janet John pointed out some of the flowers, and when we reached the top of the hill, she introduced us to the flowers and explained their common names.

From here we were able to admire the views across the Misbourne Valley.

The weather continued to be fine and we didn’t need our coats, as we turned back towards the village pub, chatting and getting to know other members of the society.  We arrived back at the Red Lion just before 12:00 after walking about 3 miles. There we were met by others who had come for the church tour, and there were over 30 of us when we sat down to lunch.

 

The food proved to be very good, with a wide choice from sandwiches to belly pork and sea bass. We also had time to sample the beer and watch the carp in a pond in the back garden.

About 2pm we walked the hundred yards or so to the village church, The Church of St John the Baptist, where we were met by the vicar, the Reverend John Simpson.

We were treated to a guided tour of the church and told that the original church dates back to Saxon times (about 975 AD). It was then added to by the Normans and by successive villagers over the centuries. The original Saxon church is very visible and you can see where the exterior walls and windows were.

The highlight of the visit was to see the medieval paintings on the church walls. There are a number of pictures on various walls, but the main ones on the north wall of the church show St Christopher and cartoons of St Catherine showing scenes from her life. The paintings have been declared ‘of national importance’ by the Courtaulds Institute and have recently been restored after receiving a grant from the heritage fund. During the restoration even more fragments of paintings were found on other walls around the church, dating from the 13th century and through to the reigns of Elizabethan and William and Mary.

The vicar made an excellent and enthusiastic tour guide, pointing out so many features of this old church that might otherwise have been missed. Our tour lasted about 1 hour and we were very impressed to see such artwork on our doorstep. You can find out more about the church and its paintings here: www.lmchurch.org

Many thanks to Gwyndaf and Janet John for organising such a fun and educational day.