Events & Outings

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Colchester Civic Society Social Program 2018/2019

Monday 3rd December 2018

Meet at Greyfriars at 10am for our monthly Coffee Morning
For those who have never attended one of our Coffee Mornings, I’d better explain. They really take the form of a discussion group with coffee (or tea) and delicious little shortbread biscuits thrown in! They are an opportunity for you to raise issues of concern affecting the town, to ask questions, to discuss proposals, to ask the Society to give praise where praise is due etc. We are not afraid to tackle issues and have built excellent relationships with Councillors and Council Officers in both Colchester and Essex County Council and in Network Rail, BT, Anglian Water, the Police, and so on. We have been told that our eyes and ears are very much appreciated. Some issues are really hard to resolve but many are easy and dealing with them often makes a huge difference. The Coffee Mornings are enjoyable, interesting, friendly and extremely worthwhile. When we began, we met in one of the small rooms off the bar at Greyfriars. We soon outgrew that room and moved to the Rose Room. Now it is possible that we may have to move, yet again, this time to the main restaurant, the largest room in the hotel, such is the popularity of this monthly event, always held on the first Monday of the month, even if it is a Bank Holiday. If you can’t find us, ask at Reception. There is no charge for the Coffee Morning but we always welcome a donation towards the work of the Society, if you feel so inclined. A donation box is always available.
We recognise that some of you are working or have other commitments on a Monday morning so our traditional Spring Up and Burning Issues meetings remain part of our Programme. They are evening meetings that follow exactly the same format as Coffee Mornings, giving all members an opportunity to have their say.

And so to 2019. What follows is, by no means, the complete programme for the year. I have more planned. However, it is still too early to give any further details. It is curious how difficult it is to arrange a programme before the beginning of the year. Venues are just not planning that far ahead and greet enquiries with amazement. ‘Next year? We haven’t come to the end of this one yet! Ring us back in March!’ It is remarkably frustrating. Please remember that all our events are open to non members so please invite friends if you want to.

Meet at Greyfriars at 10am for the first Coffee Morning of the year.

Sunday 20th January 2019 Meet at Greyfriars at 12.15pm for 12.30pm for our New Year Lunch.
A change of venue this year as so many of you have asked whether we can have our New Year celebration at Greyfriars. From my point of view, this is great because there is no hassle at all. We receive such a wonderful welcome and nothing is too much trouble. It would be lovely to see you all there. Lifts can be arranged. I do need to know whether you are coming by 6th January at the latest, please. Greyfriars would like to know in advance what our menu choices are so, if you are joining us, please read the menu at the back of this Newsletter and let me know what you would like when you submit your reply slip.
Cost £26
Monday 4th February 2019 Meet at Greyfriars at 10am Coffee Morning
A date in the Spring to be arranged Tree Planting at St Botolph’s Priory.
We had intended to ceremonially plant a lime tree in the grounds of St Botolph’s Priory last Spring but the Beast from the East meant that this event had to be postponed. Although this was enormously frustrating at the time, every cloud has a silver lining. Would that young tree have survived the heat and drought that followed? Who knows? Somehow, I think it might have struggled! We are still intending to replace the original tree that we asked the Council to remove as it had died. It was part of a row of limes planted some time ago to screen the Britannia Car Park from the Priory. The new tree is to be dedicated to the memory of John and Ann Crook Williams, who were very active members of the Civic Society. I am still trying to find a date that will suit their sons (as we obviously want them to attend) but I can certainly let yo.u know once I have one if you would like to attend. Please complete the reply slip if you are interested and I will be in touch.

Monday 4th March 2019 Meet at Greyfriars at 10am Coffee Morning

Sunday 24th March 2019 Meet at the bus stop at the top of East Hill (opposite Greyfriars) for our re-arranged visit to the Museum of Brands in London and a whole lot more.
I am so sorry that we had to postpone our visit in October 2018. Several people had to drop out because of other urgent commitments and the trip was no longer viable. However, I have rearranged it and will advertise it more widely so I hope that it will be successful this time. Please let your friends know about it. The more the merrier! We meet our guide in the City where we stop for coffee before rejoining the coach to explore the history of marketing. I often smile to myself as I write details of our visits and imagine your faces as you read and this is one such occasion. Marketing? Why on earth would we be interested in that? But you will be fascinated, I promise. Our guide, who has a professional marketing background but is now one of the best blue badge guides in London, will take us on a journey through the streets of the City looking at the visual clues to the ways that businesses have sought to empty our pockets throughout the ages. Mediaeval street names, branding by the powerful Livery Companies, hanging signs featuring pictures rather than words to entice the illiterate; all feature in the tour. We then make our way to Kensington where we are free for lunch close to the new Design Museum, well worth a visit, before spending the rest of the afternoon at the Museum of Brands, housing Rocert Opie’s incredible collection of packaging. This has been described as ‘ten thousand memories in one afternoon’ and I challenge anyone not to wallow in nostalgia! There will be time for tea and cake before leaving for Colchester.
Cost? £54 to include morning coffee and afternoon tea and cake.

Monday 1st April 2019 Meet at Greyfriars at 10am Coffee Morning.

Tuesday 9th April Meet at Greyfriars at 7.30pm for our Annual Spring Up Meeting
As previously explained, this meeting is much like our regular Coffee Mornings, an opportunity to raise issues affecting the town. We would love to see you and would really welcome your input. Coffee, tea and biscuits will be served. Lifts can be arranged.
Cost? Free but donations welcomed.

Thursday 18th April 2019 Meet at the bus stop outside Greyfriars at for a visit to Bury St Edmunds
The main focus of our day in Bury St Edmunds will be a visit to the newly restored Guildhall. It is here that we will begin our day with coffee and cake before meeting our guide. It is a building with an extraordinary history. The first written record of it dates from 1279 but evidence found during the restoration indicates that it was almost certainly built 100 years before, probably at the expense of the Abbey. What is certain is that the Guildhall quickly became the centre of a long and bitter dispute between the town and the abbey – a fascinating story! As the townspeople managed to assert themselves, alterations were made to the Guildhall and much work was done in the late 15th century to make the building even more impressive. After the fall of the Abbey in the 16th century, the Guildhall became the true focus of life within the Borough and remained as such until the late 20th century. The Town Council met here, it was an Assembly House, a courtroom and a town library. It even housed the Royal Observer Corps during the War. Now the Bury St Edmunds Heritage Trust is developing it as a visitor attraction and a community hub for the town. It will still be used for feasting, just as it was many centuries ago, as it will be a venue for weddings and other celebrations. Following our guided tour of the building, you will be free for lunch and then you have a choice. You can either spend the afternoon exploring by yourself, visiting the Cathedral, Moyses’s Museum, shopping etc OR you can join us on a bespoke walking tour of the town centre. This tour will look at the development of the town, with particular regard to its relationship with the Church. I think you will find it extremely interesting. There will be time for a cup of tea before our return to Colchester.

Monday 6th May 2019 Meet at Greyfriars at 10am Coffee Morning.

Sunday 12th May 2019 Meet at the War Memorial (by the Castle Park Gates) at 2pm for a Siege of Colchester Walking Tour.
So many members have commented that they know a lot about Roman and Norman Colchester but very little about the Siege that I decided that it was about time we rectified the situation! I had conversation with our Vice Chair, Ann Turner, who is also a very experienced and knowledgeable local Blue Badge Guide. She has agreed to take us on a ‘Siege Walk’ around the town which should sort out those gaps in our knowledge of such an important time in the history of Colchester.
Cost? £5
Date in May to be arranged (once the 2019 tide timetables become available!) Wildlife trips by boat on Hamford Water.
We will be boarding Karina, a converted lifeboat, to explore Hamford Water, close to Walton on the Naze, a magical place where seals and seabirds abound. More details in the next Newsletter.

Monday 3rd June 2019 Meet at Greyfriars at 10am Coffee Morning.

Probably June 2019 Date to be arranged. Meet at the Old Heath Recreation Ground Car Park in Port Lane for a guided walk to look at the New(ish) Gates.

This will be our third attempt at this walk! 2018 was NOT a good year!! Atrocious weather stopped one walk and the other we postponed because Essex County Council chose the same day to close all the surrounding roads so that they could be resurfaced, suggesting that residents could park in the Rec car park. Coping with access, parking and noise issues seemed all too much! We will be trying again next April, I think, but I want to check the events timetable for the Rec before I book. If you are interested and are not already in my list, please complete the slip and I will be in touch as soon as I have a date. For the benefit of new members, here is the information again.
This is another event requested by members. The gates have been in situ for a little while now and there are interpretation panels but there is nothing like a guided tour by local historian of great renown, Andrew Phillips (who wrote the information for the boards!). The gates were designed by artist Tim Ward from Circling the Square in collaboration with local residents. The work was funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Each highly decorated gate depicts aspects of the area, military connections, Paxman’s and the Co-Op, sport, leisure, retirement and New Town. Andrew will expand on the information on the boards, telling us about the history of the Old Heath Rec, of New Town and the surrounding area. He is incredibly knowledgable and very entertaining.
Cost? £5

Tuesday 11th June 2019 Meet at Greyfriars at 6.55pm for our Annual General Meeting
This is very much a case of advance notice! Greyfriars have offered us the use of their main restaurant for our AGM which means that we won’t be so cramped as we were this year. I still can’t get over how many people came! Far more than usual, which was great! The meeting will start at 7pm. We will break for coffee before our AGM speaker, David Balcombe from the Colchester and North East Essex Building Preservation Trust, takes the floor. The Trust has recently been deeply involved in finding potentially acceptable uses for Jumbo and is currently working to save Birch Church from demolition. I think you will find this a very interesting insight into what they do. Lifts can be arranged. There is plenty of parking available in the hotel car park. Please let us know if you are coming to give Greyfriars some idea of seating requirements.

Monday 1st July 2019 Meet at Greyfriars at 10am Coffee Morning.

July, a Wednesday or Saturday evening to be arranged. A further visit to see the Badgers at Fingringhoe Wick.
The series of Badger Watching sessions arranged for the Summer of 2018 were oversubscribed so I am intending to ask for at least one more in 2019. If you would like to come, please let me know by February 2019 so I know how many sessions to book. The hide, which is easy to reach and access, only holds 4 people and the volunteer warden. It is very comfortable and the badgers, attracted by a plentiful supply of peanuts, normally come very close as long as those watching are as quiet as possible. Lifts can be arranged.
Cost? Probably £10.

Sunday 14th July 2019 Meet at the bus stop at the top of East Hill (opposite Greyfriars) at 12.00 noon for our second visit to Foulness
The first group of Civic Society members who finally got to Foulness this summer sweltered in the heat. The second group didn’t get there because the weather was so bad we had to postpone their visit! Torrential, prolonged rain and high winds would have made the experience singularly unpleasant and even dangerous. I have rebooked! They can only take 30 people at a time, hence the need for two visits. The second visit was almost fully booked but not quite, so if you want to go, please let me know ASAP. I am repeating what I wrote in the Newsletter earlier this year for the benefit of new members.
I am not going to spoil the afternoon by telling you much about the place now. All I will say is that it is another world. Owned by the MOD and used, for decades, to test missiles, it is a large, flat island, 6 feet above sea level at its highest point. Access is through Army checkpoints. Security is taken very seriously at Foulness. The church is closed and structurally unsafe. The pub has shut. The school shut several years ago when the number of pupils dropped to 11. The school building is now a quaint little museum and heritage centre. That’s enough. I shall say no more apart from to tell you that it is an incredibly interesting and atmospheric place and I know you will enjoy your time here. Peter Carr, a local farmer, will take you on a tour of the island, mostly following the sea wall, in a big and easily accessible trailer pulled by a tractor ( there are steps up into it but even I could manage them). It has seats and is fairly comfortable. Peter’s knowledge of the island is second to none; its history, its wildlife, its people. It is a fascinating experience. Tour complete, it is back to the heritage centre for a cup of tea and cake and free time to look at all the little museum has to offer. I am afraid that it is the tour or nothing. Visitors to the island must not explore by themselves, for both security and safety reasons. Cameras are allowed but you may be asked not to photograph certain things. Binoculars are OK. Mobile phones must be switched off whilst on the island. Please bring a packed lunch to eat on the coach and, however warm it seems, bring a jumper or light jacket. The sea breeze can be quite strong. And before you ask, there are loos at the heritage centre – and on the coach.
Cost? £35 to include guided tour and tea.

Monday, 5th August 2019 Meet at Greyfriars at 10am Coffee Morning
Thursday 8th August 2019 Meet at the bus stop at the top of East Hill, opposite Greyfriars at for a visit to Farley Farm and Ditchling Museum and Art Gallery in Sussex
Following last year’s visit to Charleston Farmhouse and Monk’s House in Sussex, I have been asked for a visit to both Farley Farm and the Ditchling Museum and Art Gallery, also in Sussex. Your wish is my command – well, sometimes! Farley Farm? It is another extraordinary house. Its exterior is nothing out of the ordinary, although it is very attractive, but, inside, it is something else! With rambling corridors and brightly coloured walls filled with works by such artists as Picasso, Miro, Man Ray and Ernst, all of whom visited the house, it is a sight to behold! The house was bought by Lee Miller and Roland Penrose in 1949 and they lived there for the rest of their lives. Lee Miller was born in New York. She became a model for Vogue and Vanity Fair before moving to Paris to study photography with Man Ray, setting up her own photographic studios in Paris and New York prior to marrying and moving to Cairo. After meeting Ronald Penrose, she moved to London at the beginning of the Second World War. Her surrealist images, portraits and extraordinary World War II photographs have earned her a place in the History of Art. Rowland Penhurst was born in London but spent much of his life in France where he became friends with many artists within the surrealist movement. He was, himself, a surrealist painter but also a photographer, poet and the biographer of Picasso, Miro, Man Ray and Tapies. He co-founded the Institute of Contemporary Arts and was a major promoter and collector of modern art. We will have a guided tour of this amazing family home. Then, in the afternoon, we visit the Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft. Ditchling! Where do I start? The village was home to many artists, including Frank Brangwyn, the extraordinarily prolific artist-craftsman, Eric Gill, sculptor, typeface designer and printmaker, Charles Knight, landscape painter, David Jones, artist, wood engraver and poet, Edward Johnson, the calligrapher who designed the typeface used throughout the London Underground and Ethel Mairet, hand loom weaver. Why were they all there? Eric Gill moved to the village in 1907 with his apprentice, Joseph Cribb. Other craftsmen followed. In 1921, Gill, Hilary Pepler, the printer and Desmond Chute, stone carver, founded the Guild of Saint Joseph and Saint Dominic, a Roman Catholic community of artists and craftsmen inspired by the ideas of mediaeval guilds and the Arts and Crafts Movement. The community had its own workshops and a chapel. It survived until the late 1980s. In 1985, two elderly sisters bought the former school in Ditchling and opened it as a museum. They had known those artists when they were children and wanted to recognise the importance of their presence in the village. By 2007, the old school was in a poor state. The decision was made to raise funds to not only restore the building but also to extend it. The redevelopment cost £2.3m but it was worth every penny. The architects, Adam Richards, won a number of very prestigious awards for their work and the museum was a finalist in the Art Fund Museum of the Year in 2014. So our visit is not just to see the amazing art collection at the museum but to see the building itself. However, I am hoping to arrange a guided walk around the village during which we will learn a lot more about the artists who lived in Ditchling whose work is now on display in the museum. More information in the next Newsletter.

Monday 2nd September 2019 Meet at Greyfriars 10am Coffee Morning

September Weekend/s to be arranged. Heritage Open Days.
Colchester Museum has not yet decided which weekend, or even weekends, we will hold our Heritage Open Days in 2019 but we will obviously play our part, as usual, in stewarding buildings open to the public. Hopefully, by the time the next Newsletter goes to press, I will know more. Watch this space.

Thursday 19th September 2019 Visit to West Stow Anglo Saxon Village.
I have just arranged a date for this visit but still don’t have enough details to fully plan the day, I’m afraid. I intend to get to Stow via a circuitous route that those without cars might particularly enjoy. More in the next Newsletter.

Probably September or October 2019 Date to be arranged. Our reconvened Great Stink visit.
This visit was another that hit the buffers in 2018, not, this time, because of the weather, but because asbestos was discovered in the ‘Cathedral of Sewage’ and all visits were stopped whist the authorities set to work to remove it! We understand that work should be complete by April but I have taken that with a sizeable pinch of salt and have asked whether we can rebook later in the year. Hopefully I will have some news in time for the next Newsletter. For new members intrigued by the nature of this visit, it is a look at the history of sewage disposal in London!

Monday 7th October 2019 Meet at Greyfriars 10am Coffee Morning.

Monday 4th November 2019 Meet at Greyfriars 10am Coffee Morning.

Monday 11th November 2019 Meet at Greyfriars at 7.30pm for our Burning Issues Meeting.
This is the second evening meeting during 2019 for you to come and discuss issues concerning4t our town. Lifts can be arranged. Coffee and/or tea will be served. Lifts can be arranged.
Cost? Free but donations welcomed

Monday 2nd December Meet at Greyfriars 10am Coffee Morning