2017 - 18  LECTURES

The Lectures take place between 1st October and end of March, at Bethesda Church Hall,Gt. Norwood Street, CHELTENHAM, GL50 2AP at 2.30pm. on the FIRST Thursday of each month, and at Southam Village Hall at The Close, School Lane, Southam, GL52 2NS at 7.30pm. on the THIRD Thursday of each month usually.

Our next lecture: - THURSDAY, December 7th. 2017 - details are below on this page

The admission price for all meetings payable, on the door, £3 Members & £4 visitors.

The Thursday afternoon meetings to remain at Bethesda Methodist Church Hall until further notice.

The Thursday evening meetings have moved to Southam Village Hall. (Details on how to get there, are given below )

From the  A435 (GE traffic lights) travel along Southam Lane, through Southam village. Turn left into Old Road and left again into School Lane by the War Memorial. Travel 200 yards and the village hall is on your left.

From Prestbury travel towards Winchcombe on the B4632 and just after the Ellenborough Park Hotel turn left onto Old Road. Turn left again into School Lane by the War Memorial. Travel 200 yards and the village hall is on your left.

From  Winchcombe travel towards Cheltenham on the B 4632. At the bottom of Cleeve Hill turn
right onto New Road and then sharp left onto Old Road. Turn right into School Lane by the War Memorial. Travel 200 yards and the village hall is on your left.
                       Please note – there is no access to the village hall from Ratcliffe Lawns.


                                                              2017-18  Lecture Programme

         Thurs. December 7th at  2.30pm at Bethesda Church Hall, Gt Norwood St, Cheltenham,

                                                     The People of Bletchley Park.

Bob Skelt worked for GCHQ for many years, became a tour guide at Bletchley Park on retirement and then began to deliver talks about a subject which clearly means a lot to him. He will look briefly at the history of the house before it became Station X and then speak about both the people who worked at this base for the British Government code breakers from 1939 -1952 and about the importance of what they did.



Thursday 4th Jan  2.30pm ‘Dyrham House and Park’ - Bethesda Church Hall, Gt Norwood St, Cheltenham, GL50 2AP. 

A lot of us will remember we gave a donation for the roof, and some of us visited and looked over the work in progress, and down on the old Tudor core.  The staff are proud they were the first to offer roof tours, as several NT properties are now following suit. Tom Boden has been General Manager for 18 months, and I met him when I accepted a kind invitation to see what their plans are for the future.  My goodness, they are not resting on their laurels!  The staff are buzzing with new ideas: regularly changing exhibitions and the continuing restoration of William Blathwayt’s formal gardens.  I can’t wait to hear Tom’s talk, and I hope you’ll feel the same.  Julph 

                         Thursday  18th Jan 7.30pm ‘Birds, Tigers and the Taj’ - Arthur Ball

            Thursday 1st February 2018 2.30 p.m. Bethesda Church Hall Great Norwood Street

                                 "May Hill and other National Trust Open Spaces"

The National Trust Countryside Service, based at Ebworth, manages significant areas of the countryside in Gloucestershire. A speaker from Ebworth will introduce us to these extensive and special areas which make up the Gloucestershire countryside that we cherish.

Most members will have seen, possibly from a distance, the summit and surrounding area of
May Hill. The hill is capped by a clump of pine trees planted in 1887 to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria. Views from the top of the hill encompass the Malvern Hills, the Cotswold Hills, the Severn Vale, the Forest of Dean, Herefordshire and the Black Mountains beyond.

The warden service manages other key areas throughout Gloucestershire. These include Crickley Hill; Woodchester Park; Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons; The Sherborne Estate together with Haresfield Beacon and Standish Wood.

Their management decisions not without controversy, trying to balance the needs of conservation with that of visitors using these sensitive areas for all types of active and passive leisure pursuits. As well as getting a wider appreciation of this landscape it is these management challenges we hope to hear about in this lecture.   Come armed with your questions!    Bill Cronin

Thursday 15th Feb 7.30pm     ‘Developments at Snowshill’ The speaker for our lecture at Southam Village Hall at 7.30pm will be Maurice Heritage. His subject will be the history of Snowshill Manor and Garden and the many beautiful and interesting objects assembled there that were collected and restored by Charles Wade. Maurice is a long-standing volunteer at Snowshill and has an unrivalled knowledge of the property and its contents.

Thursday 1st Mar 2.30pm  Newark Park now, work on the house and wider estate: 2.30pm at Bethesda Church Hall, Gt. Norwood St. Cheltenham

Originally a Tudor hunting lodge but now a wonderfully eccentric building, Newark Park has the most
wonderful views and beautiful parkland.  A keen research volunteer, Pauline Robinson, will provide a summary of Newark’s history.  Stefanie van Stokkom, Operations Manager, hopes to be free to come, too.  Long-standing members may remember that our previous President, Michael Clayton, was the tenant at Newark for many 
years. He is a delightful and talented man who made huge discoveries and improvements throughout the house and grounds. However, since his relatively recent departure, the Trust has been doing more conservation and presentation work, and has built a nice little sandwich outlet.  Our last talk of the season, so do come along.  Julph Miers 

24th Mar. 2.30pm. Centre Annual General Meeting – Sacred Hearts Church Hall, Charlton Kings                                                  NB: Bring your Centre Membership Card.


            A talk by David Fletcher, arctic-traveller, given at Bethesda Church Hall, 5th October 2017 
We were all somewhat relieved when David Fletcher confirmed, in the week before the date of his lecture, that he was back from the Arctic. His transit from Greenland, via Iceland, had been delayed, so it was a pleasure for us all to see his large figure stride into the hall to deliver the first of our new series of Winter Lectures. And of course, he rose to the occasion.

Kamchatka is a mysterious entity, a remote and beautiful peninsula in the Russian Arctic. Approximately 700 miles long and 300 miles wide at its widest point, it forms part of a volcanic arc of land that leaps from its southern tip, via a series of islands eventually to the northern tip of Japan. Kamchatka itself has 29 active volcanoes, many of its people living quite close to dangerous peaks that erupt with remarkable frequency.

Although its indigenous peoples have Inuit ancestry and maintain a traditional way of life that includes reindeer-herding, the modern population includes many who are the offspring of former Gulag political prisoners, the grand-children of scientists, artists and people who for various reasons were deemed to pose a threat to Stalin. For many years following the Revolution and during the cold war Kamchatka found itself at the front line of politics, with a strong military and naval presence. Across the water, of course, lies the western coast of North America.

The military presence ironically led to the protection of Kamchatka’s wildlife, so that now it is a place rich in interesting flora and fauna, with vast areas that remain almost unexplored. It was a complete surprise to learn that in the intense (if brief) continental summers, vegetation grows lush in the rich volcanic soil, and warm, damp weather. 

Amongst many images of the unusual fauna, we saw two new (to us) species of puffin, parakeet auks and of course the famous 10 foot-tall brown bears. There are evidently as many as 10,000 of them on the peninsula.

The main town of Petropavlovsk - Kamcatskiy is surprisingly go-ahead, its people warmly welcoming to visitors. Surprisingly, American money is helping to rebuild churches, and fishing boats are as likely to have on board a cargo of Toyotas as fish, these days. There is, of course, a black market, but, the place seems to be gradually getting onto its feet economically whilst being proud of its diverse political and natural heritage.


                                              The Lectures Sub-Committee at work.

When your list of lectures comes through in your newsletter every year please give a thought to the hard-working members of the Centre’s lectures sub-committee. This seven-member subcommittee ably
chaired by Jan Turner, organise, arrange and run the lecture series for the benefit of members on a
completely voluntary basis.
They are fortified only with copious cups of tea or coffee and a substantial supply of quality biscuits provided free of charge by the host.
The meeting this September reviewed progress and details of the organisation for the coming season’s lectures and tried to anticipate possible problems. It seeks to ensure that speakers arrive, are properly introduced, looked after and paid. Critically the sub-committee tries to ensure that the audiovisual equipment arrives in a working order, the pay desk is manned and that the key for the premises is collected and returned. Additionally, some of the committee members have the responsibility of the storage and carriage of the equipment to the two venues.
The meeting in November concentrates on the choice of speakers. That is followed by sometimes tortuous attempts to contact them and sort out availability. This follows a strict procedure written by the subcommittee Minute Secretary and endorsed by the sub-committee members. Subsequent meetings monitor progress and identify issues arising during the season.
During the long summer break, they are busy ensuring that lecturers will turn up, have all the equipment required and that the publicity is provided for the newsletter, website and the 'What’s On' section of Radio Gloucestershire

Recently innovations by the sub-committee are a request for voluntary contributions for the refreshments on the Thursday evening lectures; investigation of the hearing loop and audio equipment systems in both venues and the introduction of a free guest pass for members to invite non-members to one of the evening series of talks.  All this is intended to give good quality lectures at a reasonable charge of £3. 

 The photo below was taken at the September meeting shows Peter Walker, Jan Turner, (chairman), June Stroud, Julph Miers and Ann Nye. Bill Cronin was hiding behind the camera and Duncan Reid had sent his apologies.     


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