Data Protection

                                                                                                                                                  Issue 170     January 2024


Registered charity no. 1108125                                                                                                              

Newsletter Editor: Elizabeth Stevens                                                             newsletter@westoxfordu3a.org.uk           

Photography: Inga Martin 


This Newsletter is published on the internet simultaneously with the printing.  If any material relating to any individual should not be so published, please contact the Editor.

    Dean Court

                             We meet at Dean Court Community Centre, which has excellent facilities.


                               MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIRMAN – Beverley Birmingham 



Happy New Year to all.

I hope you have all enjoyed the break over the festive season and now feel ready for another interesting year ahead.
Our talks last September started with a very intense 9/11 talk and ended with us relaxing in the Botanical Gardens. I know that we are having many more varied talks to come this year.
All our sig groups have been busy with various activities whether they have involved walking, reading to help us relax, trying many different pubs for refreshments, or using 'the little grey cells' for bridge or scrabble. All
reports back have been very positive.
After the talk on the children's air transport we were able to raise £40 when we had the raffle so a big thank you to all who gave. It will buy at least two sets of ear muffs.
The raffle was, I hope, a bit of fun and unfortunately not everyone was able to win a prize. However, I must say that I was amazed that we had so many prizes to give out so a very big thank you for  the very generous donations.

I know I keep repeating about help when we have teas but our tea ladies do an amazing job and without them we wouldn't be able to socialise at the end of the meeting so please think about helping out occasionally.
Also our technical team who so ably look after all our a/v needs would like to have someone else join them, no experience necessary as training will be given, just a bit of enthusiasm will do.

I hope by now you are all finding our new look newsletter of interest, please read carefully for important messages.
Looking forward to seeing you all again on January 8th.




                                                YOUR NEWSLETTER from Elizabeth Stevens


Please send all contributions, notices, etc. for the next issue covering April/June 2004 to Elizabeth Stevens, 104 Kennington Road, Kennington, Oxford OX1 5PE (01865 739252) not later than Friday, 8 March 2024.





Meetings are normally held on the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month from 2.15 pm onwards.  There is always an opportunity for tea, biscuits and a chat from approx. 3.15pm.  All are welcome, and we extend an open invitation to any visitors who might like to come along and meet us. Visitors are asked to make a small contribution of £2.


We now have a full diary of talks for next season, September 2023 - June 2024. These are detailed in the 'Talks' section of this website and the talks for January, February and March are covered in more detail here.


8th January:  Carole Page – “My Career with Thames Valley Police”.


In the course of her long career with Thames Valley Police, Carole Page worked in several rôles, including patrol, custody, road policing and riot control. As a Public Order Commander she was involved in overseeing football matches, music events and other public operations. In addition to such operational aspects, she was involved in strategic level initiatives, such as the Neighbourhood Policing roll-out and work to support the National Counter Terrorism strategy.





Carole has always had a strong interest in developmental aspects. She introduced the Thames Valley Women’s Network and devised the “Aspire” women’s development programme; she was selected to become one of TVP’s first executive coaches.


Following retirement, Carole has continued to act as a coach and mentor and is, she says, passionate about preserving the legacy of Thames Valley Police.


22nd January: Christina Hardyment - “The Serpent of Division”.


Christina Hardyment is a local author and  journalist. She has written numerous books on subjects as varied as parenting, food, gardens, domestic life, and British history. Titles include “Dream Babies”, “The World of Arthur Ransome”, ”Writing the Thames” and “From Mangle to Microwave”. She occasionally writes book reviews. Christina has spoken to us in the past about her “Thames” book.
The subject of this talk is Christina’s most recently published book, “The Serpent of Division”, which features Alyce Chaucer, an extremely wealthy lady, three times widowed and living in the grand Palace of Ewelme. Lady Alyce (1404-1475) was the grand-daughter of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer. The book is a novel, rather than a biography, and we are told to expect murder and mystery, royals and peasants, heroes and villains, a charming pirate, as well as an assortment of other characters; the principal villain is ruthless neighbour Sir Robert Harcourt.


12th February:          Stephen Barker – ‘Six Warrior Women of the Civil War.


Stephen is an independent Heritage Advisor who designs exhibitions and makes funding applications for museums and similar organisations. He has delivered projects for Oxford and Oxford Brookes Universities and is an Arts Council mentor as well as a published author.


26th February:          Tony Hersch – ‘Recent Discoveries in Astronomy’.


The subject of Dr Hersch’s talk, 'Recent Discoveries in Astronomy,' is very much in the news, as it seems that every day there is yet another discovery adding to our understanding of the skies above us. However, still there are phenomena observed that are unexplained. Tony says that his talk is suitable for those with no knowledge of Astronomy.


11th March:   John Brimble – ‘Hinksey Heights Nature Reserve: History, Wildlife, Volunteer Activities  and Future Opportunities’.


We are fortunate in Dean Court in having a number of local nature reserves and green places on our doorstep.

One of the best is Hinksey Heights Nature Reserve with its forest walks, nature trail, streams, pond, reed beds,

summer cuckoo and much more.

John Brimble, long-time local resident and now co-owner, has been responsible for opening up the old permissive footpath linking Chilswell Valley and Harcourt Hill. With his own hard work, and the help of the many volunteers he has recruited, he has transformed this into the impressive nature trail that it is today. In his talk John will tell us about the history of the Reserve, introduce us to its wildlife and share his vision for its future development.

A fascinating introduction to Hinksey Heights Nature Reserve is on the web at https://hinkseytrail.org/


25th March:   Richard Martin – ‘Witney Blanket Hall: The Hall in History’.


Witney is a town that became a brand thanks to the Witney blanket. For over 300 years blankets were produced in a wide range of styles – woven, point, cellular, knitted, military, horse, electric and more. They were sold throughout the country with many exported all over the world. Sadly, the last blanket mill closed in 2002.

Richard Martin had for years been fascinated by Witney blankets, to the point where, a few years ago, he bought the Witney Blanket Hall and spent many months refurbishing it and arranging displays. Thanks to his efforts the story of the Witney blanket is preserved and open to the public in the original Witney Blanket Hall.


Last year Witney Blanket  Hall hosted the u3a’s 40th Anniversary Quilt.









I hope you are enjoying our varied and interesting series of talks this season and the camaraderie of tea and biscuits and a chat afterwards.  Although our group is run by volunteers all these things need money and, as with every other organisation, our costs are rising all the time.  The largest hit to our resources this year has been the doubling of the hire fees for the use of the hall and kitchen at the Dean Court Community Centre.


Over the last two years we have drawn down £1,000 each year from our reserve account to maintain the subscription at £15 per annum, which has been at this level for some fifteen years.  The Committee feel this is no longer sustainable and propose an increase in the Annual Subscription to £20 and the Visitors’ fee to £3 per visit for the financial year starting April 2024.  (Although 99% of members pay their subscription in September/October the society’s financial year runs from April 1st to March 31st in any year).


This proposal will be put to the Annual General Meeting in May to be voted upon by members.  I trust you will support the Committee to maintain our society on an even keel and enable us to keep a solid financial base for the future.


Russell Ansell Treasurer




TVN                                                                                    Contact: Beverley Birmingham (07799413110)


As TVN rep I continue to go to meetings at Benson.


They mainly consist of any changes that are proposed by National Headquarters to streaming the running of u3as and make access easier for any queries to be answered, most of which we will not even notice.  However, it is nice to know that they are trying to keep up to date with what people want and do occasionally listen to requests.


Zoom talks continue to all with easy access and are either free or only about £1.00.  These are advertised on our notice board or on the TVN website, so please keep looking.  They tend to be very varied so they appeal to a wide range.


If you would like a particular subject to be one of these, then contact the TVN events team and they will help

with all the organising.  Suggestions always welcome.





More information about the SIGs, including recent activities and photographs, is available in the 'Groups' section on this website.

BRIDGE                                                                                     Contact:  Membership Secretary

U3A Bridge Group looks after itself. It has 8-9 regular players of Intermediate level, meeting on 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month at the invitation of whoever will be hosting in their home. Players respond directly and make up tables at each session. We are a social, learning group - exploring elements of bidding and play each time we meet and having tea together.

Bridge players interested in meeting us for an introductory session or two should please enquire, initially, of Liz Jones, Membership Secretary, membership@westoxfordu3a.org.uk, 01865 202227, who will put you in touch with the next host for an invitation to join us for a trial visit or two. We would be very pleased to meet you.

CHURCHES AND PUBS                                                           Contact Lis Froggatt (01865 249828)

Churches and Pubs has been running for many years and new members are always welcome.  The visits are arranged with a guide at the church and pre-chosen meals afterwards at a nearby pub, a sociable time over food.  A list is available of not yet visited churches with nearby pubs; so many still to explore, but a re-visit is always good.  We look forward to your attendance.


CINEMA GROUP                                                                       Contact:  Mary Chait (07342964870)

When we meet we decide which type of movie we would like to watch. e.g. One month it was Ingmar Bergman, another month it was Spaghetti Westerns.


DISCOVERING MUSIC  (7 members – new members welcome) Contact: John Grimshaw (01865 861949)


This friendly and sociable group meets in members’ homes during the third week of each month at 2.15pm.   The host introduces and plays recordings of their own choice, of broadly classical music, usually on CD or DVD.  Thus, we have made many delightful musical discoveries, have learnt much, and we freely express our reactions.  We often finish with something of lighter mood.


GARDENING GROUP       New Members always welcome              Contact:  Mary Gregory (01865 865887)


Mary Gregory writes:   gardening

To dig or not to dig? That was the question which exercised (not literally!) the garden group when it met (indoors) on a cold and damp afternoon in late November.

Recent scientific studies have suggested amazing insights into fungal networks pervading the soil structure for the benefit of gardeners, and best left undisturbed. ‘No dig’ also has massive appeal for ageing joints and dodgy backs (most of us). But can generations of gardeners really have got it so wrong, expending energy uselessly and risking their backs? The jury is still out, but experiments are creeping in, including among our members. To be continued……


LUNCH CLUB                                                                           Contact:  Beverley Birmingham 07799413110 

The Lunch Group continues to thrive with about 10/12 member attending regularly.  At present we are meeting in various pubs but always on the lookout for interesting venues, especially for the summer. 


I am pleased to say that we have not had any bad meals, and friendship and laughter are never in short supply.


If you feel that you would like to give us a try we will be having a break in January and will start again in February.

Our Christmas lunch in 2023 was held at The Turnpike in Yarnton. We had a great turnout – 22 members; the food was delicious and plentiful!

READING GROUP                                                                    Contact:  Lis Froggatt (01865 249828)

The Reading Group is expanding and a way of being introduced to new books and new ideas.  The library where we meet provides multiple copies from a list we provided so each month is a new discovery.  There is no obligation to finish the book, and to dislike it gives even more grounds to discuss and disagree.  Give us a try!

SCRABBLE                                                                               Contact:  Margery Dent (01865 862534)

We continue to meet on the 3rd Monday of the month from 2.00-5.00 pm.
Contact Margery Dent (01865 862534).

WALKING GROUP                                                                   Contact: Mary Chait (07342964870)

The Walking group meets on the 2nd and 4th Friday of the month.  We had our last walk on 24 November.  

There were 12 of us and we walked along the towpath, ending up at The Plough in Wolvercote for a lovely lunch.  We will start again at the end of January, weather permitting.  I look forward to seeing you all in the New year.


We welcome any newcomers who wish to join us.  I can be contacted either by email (smchait@gmail.com) or mobile - see above.






 Registered charity no. 110812