2017-18 programme

All talks, presentations and meetings are open to visitors and are held in the Cramphorn Theatre, Fairfield Road, starting at 7.45 pm. There is no need to book but there is a nominal charge of £3 for members and £5 for visitors, payable on the night.

All outings leave from outside the theatre. Group members will have received booking terms and instructions with their Newsletter.

Parking is via Coval Lane only. Charges apply but there is an alternative car park next to the County Hotel which is free in the evenings and at weekends.

Click any event for details.

Annual General Meeting

The agenda for our AGM is as follows:

  1. A drawing of a microphoneApologies for absence
  2. Minutes of the last meeting
  3. Matters arising
  4. Chairman’s report
  5. Treasurer’s report
  6. Group funding of NT projects
  7. Election of President and Vice President
  8. Election of Committee
  9. Election of Honorary Examiner of Accounts
  10. Any other business

After the AGM Paul Forecast, the new Regional Director, will give us an update on the National Trust.

Tales from the smithyReport by Keith Otter

A coloured drawing of a horseWe were promised that Roger Dorking would regale us with tales from the smithy. He explained that he had started giving talks by accident rather than choice. BBC Essex had been preparing a programme on the Essex accent and someone recommended they speak to him. (Having heard him speak, I can confirm that he has an Essex accent and not the Estuary accent that has come to be associated with the county.) He received a telephone call from a BBC researcher and, somewhat reluctantly, agreed to take part. After the live broadcast one of the BBC staff said she had taken a number of telephone calls from people asking whether he gave talks. He phoned them all back and told them he did not. However, a few months later he did accept an invitation from a friend to speak at a WI meeting, which went so well he found himself giving more talks.

His father, known to everyone from the youngest to the oldest simply as “Henry”, was Witham’s blacksmith for nearly sixty years, starting work in the forge at the age of 14 and retiring when he was 70. The original owner retired when Henry was 56 and sold him the business. For the first time in his life Henry had to open a bank account and take out a loan. Even though he was now the owner it was his proud boast that he never earned enough to pay income tax. One of his sayings was “Hard up and happy – Money and misery.”

Henry shod horses for some 20 miles around and acted as farrier at the Essex Show and at the local point-to-point. The horses that came to him he would hot-shoe in his forge. For the other horses he would make the shoes in his forge and take them out to be cold-shoed. He knew the sizes needed by the horses he shoed regularly. For the Essex Show and the point-to-point he would take shoes of a variety of sizes with him and adjust them to fit on site using a portable anvil, a hammer and a pair of pliers.

Because he spent much of the day in the hot forge, Henry liked to be cool at home and would sleep with the window open in all sorts of weather, even though it was north-facing. Roger Dorking told us that one winter’s morning he was woken up by his father yelling “Roger, come in here, boy!” from the next room. He went in to find over an inch of snow on top of his parents’ eiderdown!

Henry would sometimes take the young Roger with him when he visited local farms, so Roger got to know them quite well. At 15 he left school to start working on one of the farms, much to his mother’s disappointment as he had done well at school and she had wanted him to go on to something grander (brain surgery?). Most of the tales he told about his own life were based on his four years working on the farm, so it was obviously a very happy time for him.

A few months after Roger started working on the farm he was asked to work with the horses as one of the horsemen had fallen ill. He worked in particular with two horses, Boxer, who was amenable, and Jack, who was fairly stubborn. He enjoyed ploughing with them. Although most farmers used tractors and other modern equipment, the farmer for whom Roger worked liked seeing the horses working on his farm and could watch them from the farmhouse.

Roger worked with an older horseman, Bert. On one occasion when the harvesting mangels, Roger asked Bert if it would be OK to take half a dozen home for his father to make wine out of them. Bert said “Yes” and Roger put six aside in a bag and cycled the three miles home with it on the front of his bike. When he got home he found that his bag contained nothing but bricks and dirt! Bert had played a trick on him, although he did find the six mangels in a corner when he returned to the farm.

Nothing was said about it. A few months later Bert put some wood aside to take to his cottage across the road from the farm to burn on his fire. Roger opened the bag Bert had put them in and hid two iron ploughshares in it. This time Bert said nothing until several weeks later when he commented that “I found a couple of ploughshares that I put on the fire. They burned beautifully.”

After four years Roger left the farm for higher wages and worked in a number of non-farming jobs, including one he had at Marconi’s for twenty years. He married and started his own family, not having taken his father’s advice “Remain single and bring up your children to do the same.”

Space prevents me repeating all the stories Roger Dorking told us. He proved to be a real character, so it is no wonder people were so taken by his original broadcast. If you ever get the opportunity to hear him speak, do take it.

President’s EventReport by Alan Arnot

A lady sitting on a mobility scooter with friends looking onOne advantage of having as our new President a volunteer at our local NT property of Hatfield Forest is that we could benefit from the 'hot line' that his position gave. Consequently we have been able to enjoy two visits that David Simmonds has organised for us this summer. The first was on the afternoon of Thursday, 4 May, thereby enabling us to escape temporarily from the shenanigans of the General Election. We checked in at the welcome centre where we sat down to hot drinks, scones, cream and jam (with many thanks to David&squo;s wife, Winifred, for arranging this treat), followed by an account of the recent work at Hatfield Forest. Having been more than adequately fed, we were introduced to our guide, Ben, who walked us round part of the huge site, starting at the Shell House. The visit coincided with Felicity’s birthday and, as a treat, she was shown how to use the new mobility scooter (a Tramper) which had recently been acquired. In a short space, it is impossible to cover all the work which the Forest is undertaking but we did learn that a growing problem is the sheer number of visitors. Consequently, many of the paths are getting worn so much that they have been losing their biodiversity. To combat this, the staff have closed off some of the pathways to give them chance to recover. We left with a much better understanding of the Forest with the usual thanks to David and his staff for an excellent afternoon.

Outing to Wicken Fen and Otley HallReport by Alan Arnot

This was the first of our year&squo;s outings, with one (almost) full coach. Our driver, Steve, arrived promptly at the Civic Theatre and we headed northwards towards the M11, A14 and A10. The May blossom was out in force but the grey, overcast skies did not show it to best effect. We arrived on schedule at Wicken Fen and were welcomed by a volunteer who checked our cards and directed us towards the learning centre for our coffee and biscuits. Various options were available but we opted for the boat trip, which only allowed a maximum of 12 people. A Tudor manorThe little boat cruised gently through the reeds up to the “Wicken lode” before turning around and coming back by the same route. We managed to see some of the Konic ponies which we'd help purchase some years before. On return, we were served a very nice ploughman’s lunch in the education centre before making our way back to the coach.

Our next destination was the old Tudor house of Otley Hall near Woodbridge. This was not a NT property and we were all seeing it for the first time. We were met by a small team of volunteers, told a bit about the house and divided into two groups for the tours. Our group had as our guide the wife of the owner, Catherine Beaumont, who was also the local vicar. It wasn't a large house but it was steeped in history and is also available for other activities such as retreats. We ended the tour with cream teas in the dining room but there was still time for a quick look around the gardens and see one of the peacocks with its tail up before re-boarding the coach for a trouble-free return, arriving back in Chelmsford at 6.25 p.m. It had been a good start to our trips season!

Outing to Capel Manor and de HavillandReport by Alan Arnot

The proximity of these venues to Chelmsford meant that our driver, Tim, was able to take us straight to Capel Manor Gardens without a comfort stop. The weathermen had predicted the hottest day of the year so far – and how right they were!! Capel Manor is located in Enfield just off the A10. This meant that we were conscious of traffic noise during our visit rather than the peace and tranquillity we normally associate with gardens. The leaflets we were given described them as “a colourful and scented oasis surrounding a Georgian Manor House and Victorian Stables”. The layout of the gardens was based on themed zones, the outer fringes of which were the most wooded, with seats located in their shade – much appreciated in the heat! Most of us concentrated on the zone described as the 'National Gardening Centre', conveniently located next to the restaurant. It showcased a wide range of gardening styles, including re-creations of gardens that had won awards at earlier Chelsea Flower Shows. The restaurant had been open all the time for light refreshments but it didn’t start serving meals until 12 noon, which meant that it got very busy for lunch before re-boarding the bus at 1:00 p.m.

We re-joined the M25 for the short journey to the de Havilland Aircraft Museum at the former Salisbury Hall near London Colney. Tim had to negotiate a tricky entrance to the coach park and we were asked to go straight into the café area to meet our guide, who gave an outline of theA group of people looking at an old fashioned aircraft inside a hangar early life of Geoffrey De Havilland and how his passion for flying led to the establishment of the aerodrome at nearby Hatfield. We were then led to the various hangars to see the static displays of some of the iconic aeroplanes that had made the de Havilland firm world-famous. These included earlier models such as the Tiger Moth, up to the more recent jet planes like the Vampire and, of course, the Comet, the world's first jet airliner. Not surprisingly, the most iconic of all was the Mosquito. A restoration of the first version stood proudly at the front of the main hangar, whilst volunteer mechanics worked somewhat noisily on restoring a later version. The heat made it a tiring tour but it was very informative and the staff were very good at making sure there were chairs on hand for those who found the heat too demanding. The guide's last presentation was outside near the fuselage of the last-ever prop-engine airliner to be built at the Hatfield site, the BAe 146. We were then free to go inside the aircraft on display, even sitting at the controls of some. Tea and biscuits back in the cafeteria were much appreciated before joining Tim on the coach for the home run. He accomplished a brilliant piece of manoeuvring at the narrow exit before getting back on the road. It was then a straightforward journey back to Chelmsford and home, in many cases, no doubt, to cold drinks and comfy chairs!

Outing to Woolsthorpe and Southwell WorkhouseShirley Deering

Two coaches left Chelmsford at 8.30am, Coach J for Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire, Coach P taking the 45 minute longer journey to The Workhouse in Nottinghamshire. The plan was for both coaches to leave their destinations in the early afternoon, with Coach P travelling to Woolsthorpe Manor, A grey housewhile Coach J went on to The Workhouse. Thanks to Paul’s expert execution of his impeccable planning it all worked perfectly, even though Coach J was in charge of an amateur leader (ie Shirley Deering, who wrote this report; you did a fine job, Shirley! - Webmaster). Thanks to invaluable help from the driver and friendly assistance from the rest of the party I managed not to leave anyone behind.

Wolesthorpe Manor is a solid, unpretentious farmhouse, furnished as the comfortable home of a seventeenth century yeoman farmer. Here Isaac Newton was born in 1642, a posthumous, premature and sickly baby who against all expectations, survived, and grew to become a leading scientist. A particularly intriguing reminder of his childhood is in his bedroom, where young Isaac scratched the image of a Cavalier in the plaster of the wall near his bed. The outline is now preserved under a glass panel. There are no gardens, as such, at Woolsthorpe Manor, but there is a picnic area and a small orchard – and of course, The Tree!

The two parties met briefly in the car park, then Coach J departed for The Workhouse at 12:45pm. With Andrew, The Boss of Kings Coaches driving, what could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, the sign for the entrance to The Workhouse was, as everyone agreed, very poorly sited and was not glimpsed until too late. However, everyone enjoyed the bonus tour of the quaint old town of Southwell.

In complete contrast to Woolsthorpe Manor, The Workhouse is a large austere building. Many of the rooms are bare, some are furnished with items relating to the original use of the room. The beds in the dormitories show how little space the residents had. The complete tour of one and a half hours and is quite demanding. Some members found the lure of the tearoom, which was due to close at 4:30pm, outweighed the interest in climbing the final flight of steep, narrow stairs! Again, there are no gardens as such at The Workhouse, but there is a large vegetable patch. In the nineteenth century, this would have been maintained by the male residents and the produce used in The Workhouse. Today it is tended by volunteers and the produce sold to visitors. Thank you, Paul, for another incredibly successful day out.

Outing to Jane Austen’s House and PetworthReport by Alan Arnot

With 2017 being the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, it seemed appropriate that we should include a visit to the house where she lived for the last eight years of her life. Consequently, 52 of us set off with our driver, Tim, to the little village of Chawton, near Winchester. Her house was immediately recognisable as we entered the village, lying just opposite the Cassandra’s Cup Tea Room, named after Jane's sister, A red brick house with a bricked-up door for farm wagonswhere the staff welcomed us on arrival for morning coffee or tea, served in china cups and saucers, with slices of delicious homemade shortbread. It all seemed very English! Paul had gone across to the house to collect our stickers which were conveniently given out as we sat at the tables and which allowed us to stroll across to the house in our own time. Apart from the house itself, there were the options of looking round the colourful garden or watching a DVD of Jane’s life in the education room. As the house is small, entry had to be carefully controlled by a volunteer at the door. The period furniture included the unbelievably small table where Jane wrote her six most famous novels. Her early death at the age of 41 left us wondering what her output might have been had she lived longer.

Our afternoon stop was at the National Trust property of Petworth House, a 17th Century mansion located between Midhurst and Billingshurst. Tim had a challenging approach through the narrow streets of the town to our dropping off point by the entrance, which led straight in to the busy restaurant where a hungry coach load sat down for a late lunch. The house was built in 1682 for the wealthy Percy dynasty. Its speciality is its large collection of paintings, including by such renowned artists as van Dyck, Reynolds, Titian and Turner, but it had additional attractions such as the 'below stairs' servants' quarters and the huge Capability Brown-designed park. Tim had a tricky job of picking us up in the busy street outside for the ride home but, once again, it was Mission Accomplished!

President’s EventReport by Alan Arnot

Aerial view of a forestOur second visit to Hatfield Forest at the invitation of our President, David Simmonds, was on the evening of Monday, 21 August. On this occasion we left our cars at the entrance where we gathered round to hear the work of the Forest’s bat conservation. We were given some of the bat detectors which our supporters' group had purchased specifically to aid and monitor the work. After a brief set of instructions on how they would be used, we set off on the longish walk to the lake, by which time darkness had fallen and the bats were emerging from the trees for their nightly feeds on flying insects. We learnt that different species of bat use different frequencies on their extraordinary echo systems to locate their prey and we were all astonished at the first clicks and pulses of sound that were clearly audible from our little gadgets, even above the noise of the jets from Stansted airport. Actual sightings of the bats required quick head reflexes as these amazing little animals flew at great speed above our heads. Admiration for bats was enhanced hugely as, somewhat reluctantly, we handed back our detectors and made our way over to the education centre where a highly enjoyable and informative evening was rounded off with tasty sandwiches, cakes and beverages. It only remained for us to thank the David and the Staff for a memorable evening.

Talk on the Pioneer Sailing Trust

A red-sailed fishing smack 
David Tournary will tell us about the history and work of the Pioneer Sailing Trust.

Group holiday in the Lake DistrictFully booked

Monday, 25 September

We travel by coach to Grange-over-Sands and on our way spend a short while at Mosley Old Hall near Wolverhampton.

Tuesday, 26 September

A wooden pleasure boat tied up at a jetty on a lakeA Victorian day out. We visit Bowness and look around then travel on Lake Windermere by boat southwards to the pier at Lakeside. We then have a steam train ride to Haverthwaite Station. Our coach picks us up and we travel to Holker Hall and enjoy the afternoon there before returning back to our hotel.

Wednesday, 27 September

We visit the Beatrix Potter Gallery and/or Hill Top then take a trip on Steam Yacht Gondola after which we have some free time.

Thursday, 28 September

We start the day with a visit to Sizergh Castle and after lunch we then travel north through the Lake District to Wordsworth House and Garden and spend the afternoon there before returning to our hotel.

Friday, 29 September

Depart for home visiting Sudbury Hall near Ashbourne, Derbyshire, on our way.

The cost of the holiday is £440 per person and the single room supplement is £75. Insurance through Kings Coaches will be in the region of £27 - £30.

Outing to visit London film locationsPlaces available

Coloured drawing of a cameraman leaning against his cameraWe leave Chelmsford a little later than usual so we can start with a Carvery lunch before the tour, and then have time for a cuppa before we leave.

From the Long Good Friday to Harry Potter, James Bond and Bridget Jones, we will be shown the “locations” in one of the world’s most filmic cities. Revealed will be interesting facts about how filming in London works, where permission is needed to close somewhere like Trafalgar Square or Westminster Bridge, or to film in and around various buildings. It is a fascinating glimpse into the life of “Lights, Camera, Action” in the capital city, and a tour of some great sites of London.

The Evening Standard 31st January edition told us: “London aims to become the world’s most film-friendly city as part of series of measures announced today...” London is the third busiest city for film productions after Los Angeles and New York... About three-quarters of the UK’s film industry is based in and around London contributing roughly £1.2 billion to the capital’s economy in 2016.

Guide price £43.50

Talk on the history of Chelmsford High StreetPay on the door

A pedestrianised shopping street 
A talk by Alan Pamphilion.

Talk on the Gunpowder PlotPay on the door

Drawing of an old-fashioned bomb with a lit fuse 
It may not be 5 November but this is still an appropriate time to remember the plot to blow up Parliament in 1605. Richard Thomas will tell us something of this fascinating piece of history.

Christmas lunch on the ThamesPlaces available

A fish looking at a cooked turkey lowered on hooks 
We will go by coach from Chelmsford to Windsor. There we will board our boat for a three-hour cruise, during which Christmas lunch will be served. When the boat returns to Windsor we will get back on our coach for the journey home.

Guide price £49.00


“Salisbury Hall & de Havilland Aircraft Muesum”Pay on the door

A passenger propeller aircraft taking off 
If you visited the de Havilland Aircraft Museum with us on 17 June, or even if you didn’t, you are sure to be interested in this talk by Alistair Hodgson.

Talk on Canine PartnersPay on the door

Canine Partners logo 
How do Canine Partners give practical and emotional help to their partners?

Speaker to be announced.

Talk on plans for Chelmsford’s MuesumPay on the door

Stylised version of the universal symbol for a museum 
Nick Wickenden will bring us up to date.

Annual General MeetingPay on the door

A drawing of a microphoneAfter the AGM John Frankland will tell us the fascinating story of William Potter.

The date is still to be confirmed.

Talk on the history of the handbagPay on the door

A pink handbag 
Come and learn the history of Maggie’s favourite accessory from Sarah Shehadeh.

Group holiday in DevonNot yet open for booking

A riverside town 
Our 2018 Group holiday will be based on Tiverton, Devon. Watch our Newsletters for further details.