Category Archives: General



If you are experienced in Photography/Photo Enhancement, please come and share your knowledge with us.

If you are new to Photography, we are a friendly group who will always be pleased to help with advice on Camera equipment and how to take better pictures.

Submitting Competition Entries – a reminder

Please ensure that your competition entries are submitted in the correct format – i.e. as JPEG files – and at a resolution of at least 1024 x 768 pixels.  Please also remember to rename the files to include your name and the competition topic, e.g. Joe Bloggs – September Topic 1

Because of Covid  19, all our meetings and trips are cancelled until further notice

Our aim is to run a virtual group whilst the self isolation rules are in force.

Digital Photography group members have already been informed by e mail about the monthly competition, the first of which will be in April.

We can also provide help and information on any Photography and Photo editing topics as requested by members, and perhaps suggest photography projects that can be undertaken in the home during this period of  social distancing .

If you have any questions, observations ,or topics for discussion,  please make contact via the competition e mail address

Stay at home. Keep well, and we hope the time when we can once again resume our meetings will soon arrive. 


August 2020 Competition

Topic 1    Reflections   click for slideshow

Topic 2    Street Food   click for slideshow

Message from the Management Committee


Prior to hiring rooms, the Premises providers will have certified that the premises are classed as ‘Covid-19 Secure’. The Premises providers will have provided a risk assessment confirming the steps taken to minimise the risk of transfer of Covid-19. However, while some of the actions are on the provider of the premises there are many actions required on the hirer and now figure in the terms and conditions of hiring.


If you have any Covid-19 symptoms or have been advised to isolate, do not participate in U3A activities. If you are from a location known to be subject to special measures, do not participate in U3A activities. Your health and safety and that of other members are paramount.

Assuming the above does not exclude you from attending, please take note that the onus is on you to assess the risks associated with participating in the offered activities. The premises owners and your management team will have taken all reasonable steps to minimize threats to the wellbeing of members and communicate the good practice described here. However, the acceptance of risk is inevitably a personal matter.

By the way, the Third Age Trust advises that members avoid car sharing to and from activities.


The premises will be cleaned by the premises provider at the start of each day but NOT between sessions. As a condition of the booking, any party hiring the premises must commit to themselves cleaning all surfaces with an appropriate household product. Typically, this means wiping chair frames (not fabric), tables, door handles window handles and toilets. The group leader will be responsible for supplying the cleaning products; with the cost covered from attendance fees.

If equipment is used, clean that equipment with an appropriate sanitizing product between sessions.

Keep the room well ventilated.


Attendees are encouraged to clean hands with a sanitizer or soap/water prior to and throughout the session.


Attendees must adhere to the Govt guidelines on social distancing. Ideally, a standard of 2 metres should be adopted. The room provider may assist in this matter by floor markings. Wherever practical, sit side-by-side rather than face-to-face. If 2 metres is not viable (e.g. card and board games), a distancing of 1+ metres must be adhered to and face masks must be worn throughout the session.

If the activity involves synchronized movement that may cause an individual to inadvertently move into the space of another individual, a social distance necessary to avoid inadvertently breaching the 2 metres must be adopted.

The premises management will have advised the maximum capacity of each available room. The Group Leader must ensure that the imposed maximum attendance is not breached. This could entail putting potential attendees on a rota or splitting a session.

Avoid congestion within corridors. The room provider may designate separate entrance and exit routes. These must be adhered to.

If the activity has recognized national guidelines (e.g. table tennis), comply with those guidelines.


Excepting access to a sink, kitchen facilities will NOT be available. You must not touch the hall’s cutlery or crockery. Bring your own refreshments. Do not share refreshments or associated utensils.


Leaders must maintain an accurate register of attendees at each session and ensure that a contact telephone number is recorded on the register against each attendees’ name.

Leaders must retain the register and be prepared to pass the details of any specific session to the Secretary and to an agent of the Govt ‘Test and Trace’ service.

Derrick Fewings,
on behalf of the Management Committee

Message from the Chairman – August 2020

Many of you will be aware that a survey of Group Leaders and approx. three hundred members chosen at random has taken place.

This was undertaken to give the Committee an indication of member’s feelings with when our U3A activities should continue. The dates of 1st September, 1st October and 1st January 2021 were used as a time indicator rather than fixed proposals for reopening.

The results of the survey revealed a fifty-fifty split between October and January, but with the proviso “as soon as it is safe to do so”.

At a Zoom Management Committee meeting, on 10th August, the survey results were considered. It was also accepted that there are Covid-19 spikes in Preston, Greater Manchester and Liverpool at present. There is also speculation about whether or not the re-opening of schools etc. will affect the situation…

Given this scenario, and as the health and wellbeing of our members is our number one priority, the decision to restart our U3A activities was deferred until the New Year 2021.

The committee will continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation and will take heed of Third Age Trust and Government advice, and will keep you informed of any progress that can be made.

This is of course disappointing to many of us, but it is better to be safe than be sorry.

Alan Starkie


Aughton & Ormskirk U3A

Online Talks and Tours

A message from Pamela Ball, the Speaker Meeting Organiser, about Free Online Talks:

UK Tours Online are offering a number of online talks via Zoom which may be of interest to members. Most have to be paid for, but there will be a free one on Monday 7 September entitled Saints, murderers, heroes, crooks: the worst and best of British monarchs. Also on 25 August there will be a talk on Seven treasures of the British Museum – this one is available to us for a donation (you choose the amount) to Prostate Cancer UK. Register for either or both here (you will need to scroll through a bit!).

Shine a Light on Beacon

Still in the dark about the  U3A Beacon Membership System?  Then let the Membership Team enlighten you.

For example, among other things:

  • existing members can renew membership online
  • members can update their own personal details on the Beacon database (useful if you change your email address and still want to receive the enews and Management Committee communications)
  • group leaders can easily communicate with their group members via Beacon email

Gardening Group Gallery

Thanks to the U3A  Gardening Group  members (and a couple of other enthusiasts) that sent in photos of their gardens taken during this lockdown summer, the Web Team have created this interesting and colourful gallery.

Click or tap on the first pic to run a full-size slide show.


Chairman’s message about re-opening

Many members are asking questions about re-opening our U3A. The Management Committee has been actively discussing the situation and examining the latest Government rules. You can read the Chairman’s statement (sent to members in a special Beacon email on 3rd July) about the steps we are taking to ensure a safe continuation of our activities.


There have been many announcements from Government detailing when and under what conditions businesses can open from 4th July. As a result, many members have raised the question of when our U3A will be operational.

Government rules on how organisations such as ours can re-open have been examined and as a consequence, there are several steps we need to take in order for us to make it as safe as possible for us to start Group activities again.

There are obligations on the owners of venues that we use such as Scouts & Guides, Aughton Village Hall etc.
Before we can commit to using any facility, we must be sure that they have been deep cleaned and how they will conform to cleaning regulations.

These and a whole raft of other topics will need to be negotiated and agreed before we continue with our activities.

When we can eventually restart meetings, we should not expect things to continue as before the lockdown.

We shall have to plan and allocate where and when meetings can take place, taking into account the size of the group; how many people a facility can accommodate within distancing rules etc., and if the wearing of masks will be mandatory or not.

For example, face to face Groups such as Bridge under present rules will probably have to wear a mask for the duration of the meeting.

It is also more than likely that Horizons will not be reactivated for some time.

There are many more rules for the committee to consider before we can give the go ahead to continue with meetings and meet our friends again.

Uppermost in our thoughts is that, according to the scientists, our generation is identified as being very vulnerable to Covid-19 and we must take very cautious steps when moving forward.

Even when we can continue, every member must be responsible for their own health and safety and should bear this in mind before attending U3A meetings.

I hope that a successful vaccination against Covid-19 will be found and we will all be vaccinated, rules and regulations will no longer be needed and we will be able to freely meet again.

Until then we must cope with how things are.

The Committee will strive to restart our U3A and we will inform you when it is safe to do so.

Keep Safe; Keep Well

Alan Starkie

Gardening Group-Garden Visits & Photos

Lockdown 2020

All meetings are currently postponed until further notice.

Hello Everyone. Helen here from the Gardening Group. I do hope that you are all staying safe and well and enjoying your garden or outdoor spaces. 

Garden visits

For anyone that hasn’t heard, the National Gardens Scheme have started garden openings with an online booking system for visits so that numbers are limited and social distancing can work. 

79 Crabtree Lane – which our group visited last year is opening this weekend – Sunday 5th, Monday 6th and Tuesday 7th.

Hazel wood  – which our group was due to visit this year is also opening this weekend – Saturday 4th, Sunday 5th and Monday 6th.

Just go online to and click on ‘book a visit’.

Photo gallery of our groups gardens .

Following on from the earlier success of the West Lancs in Bloom galleries on our U3A Website, the Web Team are wondering if Gardening Group members would be interested in a special gallery to add to our Group Page with recent pictures of your gardens?  West Lancs in Bloom was nearly exclusively Spring Blossom, so we were thinking of a gallery this time with a theme like Our Summer Gardens during Lockdown.

Contributions can be emailed as attachments to  As the website is public, contributors should avoid the appearance in a photo of recognizable people or obtain permission from those appearing. Please provide suitable short captions for your photos and say whether you would like your name to be included or not.

Looking forward to seeing your lovely gardens. I’m amazed at how resilient many plants have been to the recent extremes of weather, gales, heatwave, drought and torrential rain ! 

Stay safe and healthy,

Pam & Helen

Creative Writing Group During Lockdown

When we heard that we’d no longer be able to meet up for our usual monthly sessions, the Creative Writing Group decided that we’d still like to write something every month and share it via email. We knew it wouldn’t be half as enjoyable as getting together but it was better than nothing. However, with the next ‘meeting’ several weeks away, someone suggested we created a WhatsApp group so we could keep in touch in the meantime. What a great idea! National lockdown was looming but we were prepared.

We’ve got to know each other surprisingly well. Through the WhatsApp chat we’ve heard snippets of lives past and seen present day photos from daily walks. We’ve even had the odd glimpse into each other’s homes via Zoom. Strangely, during this time apart, acquaintances are becoming firm friends.

One day, a bit of banter on WhatsApp sparked a couple of lines of fiction and everyone joined in adding their own couple of lines. Before we knew it we had a page-worth of words that could have been lifted from a spy novel. It was a bit of fun so we decided we’d have a proper go with a new story. We’ve written seven so far, including one round of poetry. The six of us keeping ourselves amused with these exercises are set in a new order every time and then write two or three paragraphs each, usually two rounds per story.

Follow this link to see our most recent creation!

With all of this, plus our short story competition entries, we’ve done more writing in the last three months than most of us ever do under normal circumstances and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of lockdown.

Gardening Group – June

All meetings are currently postponed until further notice.

Hello Everyone. Helen here from the Gardening Group. I do hope that you are all staying safe and well and enjoying your garden or outdoor spaces. Thank you to everyone who has emailed with comments or photos, good to hear from you. I hope you all enjoyed the quiz in the last email, here are the answers to that one and a new quiz for this month.

Continue reading

Peter LLoyd Fund Raising

Although our group is for the time being having a rest due to Covid 19, Peter LLoyd – Leader of  Beer Appreciation group – has taken the opportunity to raise some much needed funds for our local hospitals. He cycled almost 80 miles in consecutive days calling at Alder Hey, Royal Preston and Southport Hospitals where he is also a volunteer.  A magnificent total of £920 was raised which will be disbursed to Alder Hey and Southport, both of which have issued Urgent Appeals.  Peter would like to say a sincere thanks to all of his U3A Friends who donated following his Bike Ride: ” You have been simply amazing, I cannot thank you enough. Best Love to all”.

2019 Visits

Our day out at the Wigan Beer Festival at the DW Stadium complex and also Wigan’s best in the town centre. Thanks to Barry – we didn’t get lost – unlike the journey home.

St Alban’s Cathedral, Hertfordshire

The Cathedral Church of Saint Alban, Saint Alban’s, Hertfordshire, 26th May

Although we will not be meeting for talks by the three Peters, we can see a taster of what is to come once lock-down is over.

In 731, the Venerable Bede had this to say: ‘A beautiful church worthy of Alban’s martyrdom was built, where sick folk are healed and frequent miracles take place to this day’

Nothing remains of the chapel built where Alban was martyred in 209, but he was executed for sheltering the Christian priest Amphibalus, so Christian worship was taking place in and around the city of Verulamium by that time. The earliest church was destroyed by Saxons in 586. Offa is said to have founded a double Benedictine monastery in 793, replacing the building of Bede’s time. This later building was, in turn, sacked by Danes around 890, after which the monastery hit hard times and there was no abbot between 920 and the 970s. However, Abbot Ealdred began to rebuild in 1005, but this work stalled under the pressure of Viking raids from 1016 onwards.

In 1077 when Paul of Caen was appointed the first Norman abbot, by his uncle Lanfranc Archbishop of Canterbury, he set about building a new church straight away, starting with the crossing tower. There was no good building stone near the site, only flints, so some stone was imported from Caen but the major part of the building was constructed from Roman tiles, found in abundance in the nearby ruins of Verulamium.

Today, the crossing tower, two western bays of the chancel and the transepts survive from the late 11th century. Eastern parts of the nave and much of the north arcade and aisle are also Norman work, of the 12th century, and four Western bays of the nave are Early English from the early 13th century, the presbytery, and retro-choir date from a mid-13th century rebuild and the Lady Chapel from the late 13th and early 14th century. The south arcade and aisle of the nave were rebuilt in the mid-14th century, documented 15th century work has been mainly replaced under later (Victorian) restorations.

After the dissolution of the abbey in 1539, practically all the claustral buildings were demolished for their building materials and the main church abandoned and neglected. In 1553 the citizens of St Albans bought the old abbey to use as their parish church, but repair and maintenance of such a large ancient building was beyond the means of the parishioners and by 1832 the main building was reported to be in a sad state of disrepair. But from 1871 remedial work was done under Sir G.G. Scott: to the nave clerestorey, the South aisle roof, stonework of the Lady Chapel and the structure of the crossing tower, but funds ran out after his death in 1878. This laid the way open for a local lawyer, Lord Grimthorpe, also an amateur theologian and an amateur architect to step in. He was a wealthy man and overall spent £130.000 of his fortune on his own ‘improvements’ and repairs to the structure, mainly in a version of Victorian Gothic. The whole West front was replaced by him and the roof heightened to a steeper pitch and well as other restorations throughout the structure. There is a carved portrait of him, represented as St Matthew, in the West porch.

The see and bishopric of Saint Alban’s was inaugurated in 1877 and the old Abbey church became the cathedral, whilst also remaining the parish church, dedicated to St Alban.

Poems for Lockdown

This Post was the response to a request for poems from the Web Team, in early May 2020 (during the coronavirus lockdown),  for members to read on our U3A Website.  The result below is an eclectic mix penned by known poets and by our own talented U3A members. Many, many thanks to all contributors.
Please note – This particular post is now complete.  But members are always welcome to send in contributions for publication on the website  sharing their many and varied literary and artistic talents eg poems, stories, paintings, cartoons etc to:

Continue reading

Garden Group – April

U3A Garden Group – April 

Hello Everyone. I do hope that you are all staying safe and well and enjoying your garden or outdoor spaces. As we are no longer able to meet I thought of keeping touch – and hopefully have a bit of fun. We all need this in the current situation.

Fun quiz:

1. Conceal the guide.
2. blue dilly,dilly.
3. Material for sundress.
4. Mrs.Bucket.
5. Overworked girl.
6. Sugary Prince.
7. Remember Me.
8. German wine for Ivy’s partner.
9. The shepherds friend and the bakers ingredient.
10. Line up for the dolly.
12. Colourful accommodation.
13. Instrument has roof support.
14. Crustation combines with Adams downfall.
15. Weight of gold.
16. A taxi for an era.
17. A Foppish feline.
18. Cold fall.
19. Stan.
20. This is more than a saga.

Answers to be revealed next month.

Fun quotes

A farmer purchased an old, run-down, abandoned farm with plans to turn it into a thriving enterprise. The fields were grown over with weeds, the farmhouse was falling apart, and the fences were broken down. During his first day of work, the town preacher stops by to bless the man’s work, saying, “May you and God work together to make this the farm of your dreams!” A few months later, the preacher stops by again to call on the farmer. Lo and behold, it’s a completely different place. The farm house is completely rebuilt and in excellent condition, there is plenty of cattle and other livestock happily munching on feed in well-fenced pens, and the fields are filled with crops planted in neat rows. “Amazing!” the preacher says. “Look what God and you have accomplished together!” “Yes, reverend,” says the farmer, “but remember what the farm was like when God was working it alone!”

God made rainy days, so gardeners could get the housework done.

A toddler who was found chewing on a slug. After the initial surge of disgust the parent said, “Well, what does it taste like?” “Worms,” was the reply.

A Few Jobs to do now

  • Start to direct sow hardy annuals, eg marigolds, poppies, dill, cerinthe, nigella, etc.
  • Harden off seedlings that have been started off indoors on warm still days. Place them outside during the day, but take them in again late afternoon, and do this for about a week or so. This way they will get used to the cooler conditions before being planted outside. Start planting out half-hardies, eg.cosmos, in sheltered spots at end of the month.
  • Pot cuttings of tender perennials, eg. perlagoniums taken late last summer or autumn. They’ll be well rooted now and will benefit from some fresh compost and more space for root formation before planting in their summer position.
  • Plant out sweet peas– two plants to each upright. Dig a good, deep hole and fill the base with farmyard manure. Tie them in to the base of the arch or frame and water them in well.
  • Create new plants from last year’s pelargoniums – take cuttings now and they’ll be ready to be replanted in a couple of months and be in full flower in four.
  • Keep on top of the tiny annual weeds emerging with a hoe. Only hoe on dry days – this way any weeds that you hoe will die off and wilt quickly. Run the blade back and forth over the soil to break it up and cut down any of the newly sprouting weeds. You can save so much back-breaking work later on if you do this every other day for a few minutes.
  • Perennials such as bindweed will start to appear big-time now. Dig them out, tracing the roots as far as you can, or train the tip up a bamboo cane and then treat with a suitable weedkiller.
  • Cut back the last of the perennials and lightly fork over the soil carefully without damaging emerging shoot.
  • Lavender plants need cutting back now to prevent them from looking sparse. Give the plant a short back and sides with secateurs to snip off old flower stems and shoot tips. Don’t prune hard into old wood, as this will prevent new growth. While you are pruning, shape the plants into domes and remove any leggy or unwanted stems. Give the plants a weekly liquid feed during the summer, to encourage growth.
  • Last chance to cut back shrubs, especially those grown for colourful winter stems (eg dogwood or willow). Cut back to buds about knee height, then feed and mulch.

Inspirational table tennis player

Ibrahim Hamato lost both his arms as the result of an accident when he was 10. He plays table tennis better than most people!

West Lancs in Bloom

The daffodils had faded, but there was no shortage of beautiful blooms appearing in our gardens and local countryside. Member, Audrey Patterson, had sent the Web Team a stunning photo of a lovely tree in her garden. This was the inspiration to set up a new Photo Gallery to brighten up both our spirits and the website, and to show off West Lancs in Bloom. A request to members for photos taken when  pottering in the garden or out on a daily walk was so successful that we have now included some late additions and an extra gallery 7 that you may not have seen earlier.

Many Many Thanks for contributing to and viewing these photo galleries. It has proved very popular with loads of hits on this Webpage.  No more photos are required for the time being for this Webpage.  But if the lockdown persists, we may set up another one on  nature seen in the local gardens and countryside later into the summer.

But in the meantime, if you would like to view some further excellent photos taken by members, take a look at the Competition Winners to be found following on from the Digital Photography Group Page.

Click or tap on any of the photos in the Gallery you wish to view, and then scroll through the slideshow for that Gallery to see the images full-size.

Gallery 1

Gallery 2

Gallery 3

Even the leaves are ‘blossoming’ (mostly taken by Alan N)

Gallery 4

Gallery 5

From Pete and Val’s Garden

Gallery 6

Gallery 7

Lovely, and mostly pink, Clematis, Cherry Blossom and Camelia

More TAT Advice and Info

Following on from the Post called TAT Advice and Info on this website, here are some other great lockdown ideas and activities from the Third Age Trust (TAT).

Exercise Motivation

Find out about a great opportunity that has been arranged for U3A Members via YouTube.

Mr Motivator has joined forces with U3A for a weeklong series of exercises. Mr Motivator – famous for his brightly coloured outfits and enthusiastic tv workouts- has compiled a workout aimed at specifically at Third Agers. It started on Monday 20 April AM and will run every day through that week working on every muscle in the body.

For for information and trailers and the sessions, check out the official YouTube channel of the University of the Third Age in the UK.

Tech ‘How To’ Guidance

Here you will find links to guides to tools that will help you stay in touch and connected with your friends, family and U3A.

National U3A Support Forum

This is an online message board available to all U3A members.

The Third Age Trust has launched three online discussion forums so that you can share ideas and support each other during this time. This user guide will walk you through the registration process and basic navigation and use of the forums.

Coronavirus Science

COVID-19 Symptom Tracker

Take 1 minute to report your health daily, even if you’re well.

  • Help slow the outbreak
  • Join millions of people helping to fight COVID-19
  • Help scientists identify high risk areas in the UK

The COVID Symptom Tracker was designed by doctors and scientists at King’s College London, Guys and St Thomas’ Hospitals working in partnership with ZOE Global Ltd – a health science company. The Tracker is an app that runs on an iPhone or an Android phone, and by using this app you would be contributing to advancing research on COVID-19 by the Kings College team. The app will be used to study the symptoms of the virus and track how it spreads. For more information go to the COVID-19 Symptom Tracker website.

Government NHS COVID-19 Symptom Tracker

The official UK Government tracker app has been evaluated on the Isle of Wight where significant problems have been identified.  The development and use of similar apps has faced problems in other countries.  As a result a “hybrid” app with some of the characteristics of the existing Google/Apple contact tracing app and the UK Government app is currently being developed.  This probably will not be available until the autumn (if at all).  You can get more information  at:

Our website will be updated with more information on how to download and use the NHS tracker app if/when it is available.

The Francis Crick Institute,
King’s College London, and
Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Tuust

A highly detailed analysis of the composition of immune cells in the blood of patients with COVID-19, reveals new aspects of how the SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus causes disease.

This article describes how a blood test could track immune response to COVID-19.

Imperial College

The MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College has provided the major scientific input to the government on the Coronavirus strategy.  By following the link below you can see their Covid-19 reports.  Report number 9 was an early influence on the Government’s response to the pandemic, and even if you are not interested in the science, reading the introduction and discussion is worthwhile, and you can get an idea of what might be coming next by reading it.

Imperial College COVID-19 Reports


The WHO – not the rock band!

Confused by all the media reports on Covid-19, want to keep up to date on what is going on worldwide?  The World Health Organisation provides daily high quality scientific information in an easily understood format at

“Advice to the Public” in the sidebar gives reliable information on e.g. masks, coronavirus myths etc.

CEBM – The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine

The CEBM has a useful Oxford COVID-19 Evidence Service giving rapid reviews of primary care questions relating to the coronavirus pandemic. It is updated regularly.


Vaccine Development in the UK

The UK Government have recently announced major funding for vaccine development by two research groups, one at Imperial College and one at Oxford University.  You can read more about the details at:

and at


Coronavirus: the science explained

Coronavirus: the science explained is an authoritative website maintained by UKRI (UK Research & Innovation) the government organisation which funds much of the research work in UK universities.  You have paid for it so you might as well see what it is doing with your money!  The site lays out the evidence and the facts about the virus, the disease, the epidemic, and its control and is regularly updated with the latest science information behind the coronavirus pandemic.  If you keep up to date with this you will be better informed than the average television commentator or newspaper journalist.


BAME and Corona Virus

There has a lot in the media recently about the effect of corona virus on BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) communities.  The Public Health England report it is based on covered all reasons for “disparities” from the normal for all types of characteristics e.g age, sex, diabetes, obesity etc.  You can access the report at

It has not been able so far to come to definitive conclusions relating the increased risk of Covid 19 due to ethnic origins because of the difficulties of including the influence of factors relating to co-morbidities and types of employment of BAME communities.


Science TED talks, podcasts, YouTube Videos and iPlayer

So what are TED talks?  TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design.  TED is an American media organization that posts talks online for free distribution under the slogan “ideas worth spreading”. TED was originally conceived in 1984 as a conference, which has been held annually since 1990.  TED’s early emphasis was on technology and design, it has since broadened its perspective to include talks on many scientific, cultural, political, and academic topics.  It features renown speakers, chosen as expert at explaining their specialist subject (a bit like the U3A but without the tea and biscuits!).  You can access TED talks at, you don’t need to register unless you are an enthusiast just put a few words in the search box in the far right hand corner relating to your interests and click on a talk in the list which appears.

The TED talks are generally hosted on YouTube but there are many other science related talks hosted on the same site; there is much more to YouTube than just entertainment videos, just enter a science topic which interests you in the search box and see what comes up.

BBC iPlayer is a source of past BBC science programmes e.g. Horizon; you will need to register but it is free.  Just look for Science and Nature under the Categories tab and you are away.

To get you going look at a few of the recommendations below.

David Spiegelhalter

You might have seen David Spiegelhalter who is a statistician and Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk in the Statistical Laboratory at the University of Cambridge recently on the Andrew Marr Show where he had some trenchant things to say about the use of Covid 19 statistics by politicians; if you missed it catch it here  , it is well worth a watch.  If you want to know more about his work look at some of his TED talks and podcasts – don’t worry, just concentrate on the Public Understanding bit of his title and the statistics will look after themselves, you learn some by accident along the way while being entertained.  For a good start look at a recent TED talk from him at

which you might find fun and then move on to other TED talks by him and even his podcasts e.g. see

where he may amusingly rant (his words not mine) about the misuse of statistics in the media.


Jonathan Wilker

Ever wondered  how mussels, clams etc. stick to rocks on the sea shore?  Perhaps not; but they use an adhesive which will stick underwater, something you can’t buy in B&Q.  Learn all about it from Jonathan Wilker at


Hans Rosling

The late Hans Rosling was a truly charismatic presenter who brought statistics to life with his unique style. Here is a selection of the best Hans Rosling talks.

Bill Gates

His 2015 TED talk explained why we have our current Covid19 problems.

Marcus du Sautoy

Marcus du Sautoy, Oxford’s University’s science ambassador  is a a mathematician specialising in symmetry.  Take a look at his TED Talks it won’t hurt, I promise.


Some brilliant optical illusions to grab your attentionLink to Michael Bach's illusions website

138 Optical Illusions & Visual Phenomena by Michael Bach, who has compiled a great assortment, with some explanations.

Click here to go to Michael Bach’s website.



The Stroop effect

Look at the chart below and say the COLOUR of the word, not the word itself.

Why is it so difficult? Because the right half of your brain is trying to say the color, while the left side of your brain is trying to say the word.

John Ridley Stroop, better known as J. Ridley Stroop, was an American psychologist whose research in cognition and interference continues to be considered by some as the gold standard in attentional studies and profound enough to continue to be cited for relevance into the 21st century. Wikipedia

Can you read this?

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid, too.
Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe tuo fo 100 anc.
i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it.

So what is this all about?  Simply to demonstrate that you do not actually read words as a collection of letters but recognise them even if they are mis-spelt.  Your brain recognises the word and strings its recognition together with the other words it has recognised and so “reads” the sentence without having to consider and work out what each jumble of letters means.  This is common with many of the brains operations: it takes an input and then matches it against preexisting concepts stored in the brain and so decides what to deliver as a result.

Jokes & Cartoons

Some jokes and cartoons for the maths enthusiasts
click or tap to view full size!

and some of a loosely scientific kind:




Daily Science Snippets

Come back to see a new snippet each day!

Science Snippet

(not all of these quotes have been checked for authenticity – if you notice any that are misattributed, let us know!)

Zoom Boom!

Although fairly familiar, or at least aware of, a good number of apps, I had never heard of Zoom until the start of social isolation.  When asked about video conferencing, a younger family member immediately said Zoom.  Soon after that, we also heard mention of it from a couple of U3A members.  A Computer Helper, Ann P, had already done a family meetup using it and Willem, Computer Advice Leader was already experimenting with it for U3A and non-U3A use. Since then, our Website Media Manager, Alan N, has joined in with a non-U3A online Pub Quiz run with Zoom which after a few initial hiccups – technology rather than alcohol related – worked amazingly well.  And recently the Burscough, Formby and Aughton Nolans have had a Zoom get-together.  After we learnt how not to talk over each other, it was pretty good. We have also heard from Megan, the U3A Secretary, that there is a non-U3A Zumba class being run with Zoom by a local teacher.

If you already have used Zoom, please do share your experiences.  Contact:

Or if you would just like to know more about Zoom (and other communication tools), then there is very helpful How To guidance on the Third Age Trust (TAT) website.

Important Caveat

There is no charge for the basic version of Zoom, But remember – ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’.

And some reservations are already being mentioned in the media.  Thanks, Ann P, for sending this link:

And for further information on security issues, check out this other recent Guardian article which includes the Pros and Cons af various Video Chat options.

So if you do want to try video chat, as with all Apps,  ……….. Be Aware and Use with Care!

Joyce Nolan (Web Manager)


Speaker Meeting News

Piano Recital by Andrew Wilde

We have heard via the North West Region of U3As that international pianist Andrew Wilde will be giving a recital on Tuesday 21st July at 2 pm, via Zoom. The concert is free of charge and is open to U3A Members only.

Andrew will play a selection of much-loved ‘evergreen’ pieces by some of our greatest composers for the piano, to include works by Chopin and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. He will introduce the pieces and their composers adding in some entertaining musical anecdotes. Andrew studied piano at Chetham’s School of Music and graduated with Distinction from the Royal Northern College of Music. He went on to win top prizes at international competitions and to play with great orchestras at major venues throughout Europe and America.

Follow this link to the North West Region website for further information and to book.

Pam Ball



Let’s Communicate (Remotely)

As you probably are aware, enews is emailed to all members with an email address on the Beacon Membership System.  But you may not be aware that Group Leaders can send emails to all members in their Group.  A number of Groups are set up in Beacon to enable this already – extremely useful in the current circumstances. If your Group cannot do  this, contact the Web Team and we’ll explain the procedure to get you started.

Remember too that all members are very welcome to make use of our U3A’s facebook page. You can send in items to Brian Bostock, the facebook editor. And you can even arrange with him to be allowed to post info on U3A facebook for yourself. If you don’t know how to get in touch with Brian, contact the Web Team.

Website Group Leaders and Authors are encouraged to add appropriate information applying to the current situation on their Group Pages and Posts. Members of Groups with no Author can  send their content direct to the Web Team.

There are many other technologies useful for communicating remotely via social networking, web conferencing and such, that can help us all keep in touch with family and friends and neighbours as well as fellow U3A members.  Common examples, in addition to facebook above,  are Skype, FaceTime, Twitter, (the very popular) WhatsApp, (the increasingly well-known) Zoom, Echo Show,  WHYPAY? (for conference calls) and (the latest to have come to my attention) TikTok. Over the following weeks, we could perhaps use this website to provide info on and experiences of some of these, if there is a demand.

There are also YouTube videos and TED talks that might be pertinent to your Group or other U3A activities that you organise. Let the Web Team. know of your interest in learning about them and especially if you have expertise to impart.

Do return to this  Website regularly as these are fast-changing times. And please do send your ideas to the Web Team (email address below) on your ideas on how to keep in touch and help each other during social isolation.

For now …….

Stay Safe, Stay Well and Stay in Communication with the U3A.

from the Web Team (Maureen, Alan and Joyce)


Your U3A Magazine

If  you have not yet received your U3A Magazine through the Post, please email:

Bill Evans, the U3A Magazine Editor, has written a very interesting article about how your U3A Magazine is printed and also, for this March issue, ‘why’ it was printed:

Usually, this is the ‘timeline’ of the U3A magazine:

  • I work on it for approximately four weeks or so, before the Distribution Day – sometimes in Ormskirk, occasionally in Spain, and for this issue, in ‘Center Parcs’ near Penrith.
  • Feature pages and photographic pages are created first.
  • The ‘group copy’ is read by one or two ‘volunteers’.
  • Then the group copy is inserted and made to fit. This is the part which can take a considerable amount of time. Sometimes I have enough group copy to fill 22 pages – other times only enough for 17 or so.
  • Hopefully it leaves me on the Wednesday or Thursday before ‘Distribution Day.
  • Production then takes place.
  • It gets delivered to either myself or the Scout & Guide HQ on the Friday, or over the weekend, or perhaps the Monday before Distribution Day.
  • On (and around) Distribution Day (a specific Horizons meeting), Magazines are distributed by various methods. These include:
    • individual members turning up at the Distribution Desk at Horizons to pick up their own and maybe one or two for friends and neighbours
    • Hand delivery at members’ addresses by a team of local Deliverers
    • Handover by Group Leaders or others during Group Meetings
    • Mail Posting for the remainder

This current issue was a little different:

  • I had it virtually ready for printing but waited until our Management Committee met on Monday, 16th March
  • A decision was made to ‘go ahead and print’ . . . but I needed to completely re-jig the front cover. (Obviously lots of our meetings and events are postponed or cancelled . . . but hopefully some of the later ones may take place.)
  • This time round, our magazine left me on Saturday afternoon of the 21st March
  • The platemaker came in on the Sunday to compete his part of the job
  • Our printer delivered the job to the Scout & Guide HQ in the early evening of Monday 23rd. Here they joined the already printed labels and stock of envelopes
  • For this print issue, isolated at the Scout & Guide HQ through Tuesday and Wednesday morning, the Magazines were put in envelopes along with Membership Renewal Forms and then Beacon address labels were stuck on and stamps added from our pre-purchased stock
  • All the magazine were delivered to the nearby very helpful Post Office by early afternoon on 24th March ready to go out.

How our magazine is printed:

A little technical ‘info’ on four-colour printing:

  • If we printed only 250 or so, it could probably be printed ‘digitally’ i.e. no film or metal plates.
  • The ‘copy click’ charge wouldn’t be too excessive.
  • Most companies ‘rent’ from Canon, Xerox, etc, etc, and pay a ‘copy click’ fee for each print – usually between 5p and 10p per sheet.
  • This is because hardly any ‘local’ printer would actually have their own digital printer – they are enormously expensive.
  • Our print run of around 1,800 would cost a fortune printed this way.
  • We use two companies to produce the magazine ‘lithographically’.
  • Using the ‘hi-res’ pdf file I send them, one company makes the 40 ‘plates’: 10 pairs of A3 pages x 4-colour: cyan, magenta, yellow and black.
  • The other company collects the plates, prints the magazine and delivers them.
  • The companies are extremely efficient and they do a great job for us. Unfortunately, both these companies are being ‘hit’ like most firms are, with the Coronavirus. Jobs being cancelled, or printed and then not required, etc, etc.

Science & Technology Quiz No 2

Here’s another short quiz, 10 more questions – again, don’t google the answers – at least not until you’ve tried the quiz!

Do let us know how you get on by email to

Drama Group

We are really disappointed that our planned production for April – “Death By Paintbrush” has had to be rescheduled.  All being well we hope to perform it later in the year.

All April tickets will still be valid for the later performance and anyone unable to attend will be entitled to a refund.

Best wishes

Science & Technology Quiz No 1

To get you started, here’s a short quiz, just 10 questions – why not try it without googling the answers?!

Let us know how you get on, whether you enjoyed it, whether you want more of them. You can email


March – Scandinavian Mythology

The session:

Continued the topic of Frey and Freya the twin gods of fertility in Germanic and Scandinavian mythology.

1/.  Frey – means lord

According to Snorri Sturluson he was good, gentle, beautiful to look at, had power over sunshine and rain.  He had a boar which pulled his chariot.  Frey was venerated particularly in Uppsala in Sweden where there were great celebrations including wild dancing, men dressing as women, laying down of weapons. The people doing it believed it was vital to do or Spring would not be able to come again.

We had a look at the story of Gunnar Helming where Gunnar due to a twist in the plot impersonated Frey.  Olaf Tryggvason the King of Norway who has a role in this story features in historical records.

Frey was married to Gerd the daughter of a Frost Giant.  There is a tale about how their marriage came about where gifts were offered and threats given before she gave in and married Frey.  This can be seen as Winter marrying Spring after a confrontation.

2/.  Freya – means lady

Freya is a female version of Frey and they are very similar but Freya also has influence over love and affairs of the heart.  She visited the world of men regularly.  Some say she was married to Frey but in other myths she is married to Odr in perfect happiness.  However she was insatiably lustful and had a passion for jewels.  Loki said that she had worked her way through the men of the nine worlds.  She had a chariot pulled by cats.  She travelled in her chariot to every battle scene.  Odin took half of the fallen to Valhalla and Freya took half to Asgard.  There is some of the Great Goddess Mythology life and death, responsibility for wnter/spring, creator destroyer.

In the story of Dvalin and his Three Brothers, who were dwarves, she is tricked into buying a beautiful necklace in exchange for marrying each of them for a day.  Dwarves were seen as very low status in these myths.  When Odr finds this out he leaves and she wanders the world looking for him, shedding tears of pure red gold.

3/.  Thor

Thunor the Germanic weather god and Thor the Scandinavian weather god are much the same thing.

Thor is a god of the people and a way of explaining the world around them.  He was a huge red haired figure, boaster and drinker, ruler of thunder lightning and storms and by extensions a god of battle.  A powerful protector of the gods.  Protector of humans, giver of good weather for agriculture.

His chariot was pulled by 2 goats.  Thunder rumbled as Thor passed by.  He was married to the goddess Sif who had golden hair like a field of corn.  If brute force was needed they called on Thor, for cunning Odin and Loki.

He had three treasures, a magic strength doubling belt, iron rock shattering gauntlets and a mighty hammer Mjollnir.  If the hammer was thrown it would return to his hand and was his thunderbolt.  The hammer was the most important as it kept the universe safe and secure.

The Greeks, Romans and Celtic people viewed oak trees as sacred, in Germanic myths oak trees are linked to Thor.

When people travelled to live in new places they would take soil from beneath his shrine to scatter on the newly tilled fields to ensure a good crop.

There are lots of tales of battles with the Frost Giants.  These were not presented as monumental battles, much more down to earth and humorous.  We started looking at three tales recorded by Snorri Sturluson’s Prose.

i/ Thor’s Duel with Hrungir where Thor was brought in to use his strength to fight the strongest of all the Frost Giants.

When we re-convene after the covid-19 break we shall look at ii/ Freya the Bride and iii/. Thor’s Visit to Utgard.


The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson – A 12 century Icelandic historian – there are translations and reference books of his work available online and good bookshops.

Dyes and Pigments

Wednesday 4th March 2020

Ever wondered how clothes, furnishings, home decorations, cars etc. get their colour?  Our own Marguerita McBride gave us a wide ranging talk, with illustrations from history about dyes and pigments, and more recent details of their chemistry, how they are used and how they get their colour.

U3A National Newsletter

The Management Committee  and Trustees think it would be a good idea to pass on this message from the National Office regarding the U3A National Newsletter to the membership to help keep them in touch.

The National Newsletter is crucial in reaching out to members as we have no direct contact with them. During this period we would be very grateful if you could assist members who are happy to do so, to sign up to the national newsletter.

The March Newsletter can be found here.

February – Norse Mythology

The session:

Continued the topic of Odin and Frig in Germanic and Scandinavian mythology.

1/.  Odin –

We covered the tale of The Lay of Grimnir in more detail.  In this story Odin visited the world of men under one of his many disguise.  Odin and his wife Frig were very competitive and Frig warned Gerrod, King of the Goths, to beware of a magician who would visit.  This caused Gerrod to seem to break the rules of hospitality and lead to him coming to a bad end but as Gerrod was a cruel and tyrannical king that would have gone down well with the audience.

2/. Frig

Nerthus was venerated as the Earth Mother by the Germanic and Scandinavian peoples.  Frig was originally the earth mother worshipped by the Angles and Saxons.  Borne of the earth itself and married to the sky god so linked back to creation mythology.

Over time the fertility element moved over to Frey and Freya who started out as the children of the Earth Mother Nerthus.  Frig became the goddess of marriage and married love.

The Legend of Baldur

Baldur was the favourite son of Odin and Frig.  He was the best of gods, bright, beautiful and shining, kind and wise.  He was very happy with his wife Nanna.  Baldur had a twin brother called Holder who was the opposite of Baldur to look at; he was dark and blind.  They loved each other.

Baldur could tell the future and started to have bad dreams full of dread, of a shadowy world.

Odin went to the Hall of Hel (the goddess who ruled in the Realm of the Dead) to find out what was going on.  The Hall was set out for a special guest.  Odin was told that Baldur would be killed by Holder.

Frig went to see each and every substance to gain its commitment not to harm Baldur, and this was agreed.

They decided to test Baldur’s new found invincibility and threw things at him, much fun was had and Baldur was unhurt.

Everyone was happy apart from Loki who was consumed with jealousy.  He shapeshifted into the form of an old woman and visited Frig to see if there were any flaws in the plan.  He checked that everything had been covered by asking lots of questions and identified it covered everything that grows out of the earth so it did not cover mistletoe.

Loki made a dart out of mistletoe, gave it to Holder to use, helped blind Holder sight up and the dart went right through Baldur and killed him.

Frig sent an emissary to Hel to negotiate a ransom for Baldur’s life.  The condition of the ransom was that everything must weep for him.  Everything wept apart from an old woman (Loki) so Baldur stayed in the hall of Hel.

This shows some evidence of the earlier role of Frig.  Baldur has a lot of the characteristics of the spring god, but in this story he does not come back, reflecting that the fertility role had already been taken over by Frey/Freya and the concept of an inescapable fate.

3/.  Frey/Freya

We touched very briefly on this and will take it further at the next session.

March 2020 competition

T!   Bottles   click for slideshow


T2  Gold  click for slideshow


Musical Theatre

Our next show will be in May at The Civic, Ormskirk and will be ‘The Magic Of The Movies’. Songs from Movies and Musicals from the last nine decades, including Kiss me Kate, Wizard of Oz, Me and My Girl, My Fair lady, Greece, Evita, Singing in the Rain, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and some that might be not known such as Bugsy Malone,  Moulin Rouge, Hairspray and Billy Elliot – so there should be something for everybody. Book now to ensure your place for this magical night of song.

Gems in the Dunes

Wednesday 5th February 2020

Thomas Brown [CC BY 2.0 (]

Fiona Sunners is the project manager of “Gems in the Dunes“,  a Heritage Lottery funded project focused on protecting the plants and animals of the Sefton Sand  Dunes, an important habitat for rare amphibians and reptile species.

Fiona talked about the efforts to preserve the natural habitats of this local environment for the rare species of the Sefton coast such as the Natterjack Toad and Northern Dune Tiger Beetle.


New dancers for the new year

Welcome to five new dancers so far this year, it great to have new people join us.

7.02.20 Some of Liz’s birthday requests.(L)

  • (The) Farmer’s Joy a Joseph Pimentel longways dance, with joyful tune by Adam Broome.
  • Pine Cones a 3 couple Pat Shaw dance from 1974. (L)
  • Alice longways dance by Philippe Callens 2002 in waltz time. (L)
  • Double Jubilee a 3 couple set dance by Gary Roodman 2015 with a tune by David Wiesler. (L)
  • Ladies of London a traditional dance from 1718.

some danced two or three times.

14.02.20 more of Geraldine’s & Liz’s birthday requests.

Most appropriately Valentines Day a longways Playford dance 1650.

  • Sailor’s wives a 3 couple dance danced twice. (G)
  • Sea Breezes another 3 couple dance also danced twice. (L)
  • Marching to Praetorius a 2 couple dance by Gary Roodman 1996. (G)

21.02.20 and another of Geraldine’s birthday requests!

  • Jamaica we danced the longways version which is the original way from 1670.
  • Greenwich Park a longways dance.
  • Morrison’s Reel a 5 couple dance which we danced twice to give all a turn. (G)
  • Zig Zag Tuesday a longways dance with unsurprisingly zig & zag moves.
  • Fourpence halfpenny farthing a traditional longways Playford dance from 1709.

28.02.20 A special treat today dancing to live music with Frank’s band & June calling as usual. Many thanks.

  • Indian Queen a longways dance.
  • Corelli’s Gavotte this speedy longways number certain gave us a challenge…
  • Lead through and Cast away a 3 couple dance.
  • A Lady remembered a JohnWood longways dance. We recall dear departed dancers.
  • Maiden Moor a 4 couple dance with music/choreography by Tom Cook & Brian Jenkins, 1980.
  • (The) Ladies of London from 1718.
  • and finally The Duke of Kent’s waltz a longways dance from 1801.

followed up with refreshments, and thanks to all.

Forget me not appeal

Textile Group – Tap to enlarge

In mid February,  a representative from the Alzheimer’s Society, Gina Berry, came to collect all the knitted, crocheted or stitched ‘Forget me not Flowers’ made by our own Textile Group, the Creative Stitchers from Aughton Village Hall and the Knit and Natter Group from Christ Church.

The flowers will decorate the staircases at the Harris Museum & Gallery in Preston where they will be part of ‘The Unfurlings’, an events programme to support those living with dementia, their carers and families.  Events have just begun and continue until the end of May.  Everyone is welcome to attend and they are all in the afternoons.

Gina is the dementia adviser for West Lancashire and was quite overwhelmed at the numbers of hand-made flowers presented to her.  We didn’t count them but there were probably around 250.

Drama Group

Our next production “Death by Paintbrush” will be on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th April at Aughton Village Hall.  Curtain up at 7.30.

The play is set in the 1920’s so please feel free to come dressed in the style of the time.

Tickets will go on sale on Thursday 5th March..

We look forward to seeing you.

2019/20 Snooker League

Here are the Divisions and Matches for the forthcomming Event.


I will update the Match Results as they happen.

2020 here we come…

10.01.20 Elfrida calling the dances today starting with:-

  • The first of April ??? a longways traditional dance from 1780.
  • Childgrove another traditional dance 1701.
  • My Lord Byron’s Maggot a longways dance with clapping 👏🏼.
  • The Leaving of Liverpool to the tune the Merry Flirt. A 3 couple dance.
  • Liberty from The Yorktown Victory Ball, a 3 couple dance 1781 to the tune Bridle path.
  • Portsmouth a longways dance.

17.01.20 Happy New Year to June. With some more of Geraldine’s Birthday (2019) choices.

  • The Welch Dance a longways dance from 1790’s.
  • Soldiers and Sailors a longways dance (G)
  • For Rebecca a square set dance for 4 couples, constantly changing partners, until you get back home. (G)
  • and another of (G) Geraldine’s choices Prince William of Gloster’s Waltz. From 1801, reconstructed by Pat Woods 1958.
  • The Greenwich Pensioner a 4 couple dance from 1790.

Advance notice for Live Music event on Friday February 28th.

24 01.20

  • Whim of the Moment L/ways
  • Karla’s Waltz L/ways
  • My Lady Anne 3 couple
  • Braes of Dornoch 3 couple, with note to do it again on a future occasion.
  • Wooden Shoes L/ways.
  • Holborn March 

31.01.20 Elfrida recording

  • St. James’ Gardens L/ways danced twice, quick moves!
  • Wooden Shoes L/ways.
  • Shandy Hall 4 couple sets, circles & half stars.
  • Shepherd in the fields 3 couple sets X3.
  • Holborn March L/ways.

NOTICES. (more country dancing)

Monday 10th. Feb at Emmanuel Church hall at 7.30 Charity Night.

Friday 28th February Live music from Change of Key (Frank’s band)

Birdwatching Group AGM – 13th January 2020

1. Birds of the Galapagos Islands

Bill Hale gave a very interesting one hour talk on ‘Birds of the Galapagos Islands’. No one in the group except Bill had been there, and we were treated to Bill’s photographs of over 55 species, most of which are not seen in Great Britain, (except the Turnstone, the Sanderling and Cattle Egret).

Many of the birds seen are native to the Galapagos: G. Penguin, G. Hawk (the only bird of prey), 13 species of G. Finches including 2 species of G. Warblers, G Flycatcher, G. Dove, and G. Cuckoo, etc.

Other memorable birds seen were Short Eared Owls who predate the local Petrels, Albatross, Mocking Birds, Shearwaters, Oystercatchers, Blue Footed Booby, Masked Booby and Red Footed Booby, Flightless Cormorants and the Magnificent Frigate Bird, Flamingos, Herons (4 species) and the delightfully named Vermillion Flycatcher, etc., etc.

Bill’s immense knowledge of the ‘bird world’ made it an enthralling session, and he can rightly claim to know more than Darwin having visited all 16 of the Galapagos Islands, that’s 12 more than Darwin achieved!

2. Proposed venues for 2020

Peter Hatfield presented his list of proposed venues for birdwatching in 2020.  Seven of last years reserves are revisited in the year ahead but in different seasons, two sites not visited by the group in the last 4 years (Rivington CP and Sizergh Castle*) and three more venues not seen last year will be seen this year, (Speke Hall NT, Yarrow CP and Brockholes LWT).  (See ‘continue reading’ below for the full list.)

*Please note that Sizergh is an optional extra for seeing Haw Finches from 8.30 am. The rest of the group will start at 10.30 at Silverdale. The Sizergh group will aim to reach Siverdale by 11.00am.

3. Review of 2019 visits and sightings

Peter Banks presented the summary of visits and sightings for 2019.  Two of the visits planned for 2019 had to be changed and the December visit cancelled due to bad weather.  All of our group sightings are recorded on the group’s web pages and also logged at BirdTrack a national project run by the British Trust for Ornithology in partnership with RSPB (and others) that records distributions and migration movements of birds throughout Britain and Ireland and also is linked to global records.

4. BirdTrack update

Peter Banks reported that, because the group submits records to the online BirdTrack system, we receive a regular monthly email from the BTO.  As well as information about bird populations they also have useful links to other information and bird identification videos.  Peter has long felt these emails should be made available to other group members but unfortunately the U3A’s Beacon email system does not allow forwarding of emails received.  He suggested that an email group could be set up so that these emails could be forwarded from the group email address to members of the bird group who would like to receive them.

5. AOB

Peter Banks introduced a discussion about ways in which members of the group might be able to share information about local bird sightings.  (One of our group members who was not able to be present at the AGM had emailed to suggest such a group that people could ‘opt in’ to.)  Again this would need to be outside the U3A Beacon system as only group leaders can send Beacon emails.  Peter showed a few examples of the sort of sightings that could be shared:

The suggestions are:

  • A WhatsApp Group that members could opt in to so they could share information (requires a smartphone).
  • A group page where members who opt in could share photos of birds seen locally or on group visits.  Ideally this should have a link on the group webpage so everyone can view.  This will be investigated further to determine the best platform to use.


Thirteen members of the group attended this year’s AGM, and apologies were received from one other.  The list of attendees is recorded on the group’s database.

Peter Hatfield and Peter Banks, joint leaders.


Click ‘continue reading’ for the full list of planned visits for 2020 and the summary of visits and sightings for 2019.


Continue reading

January – Norse Mythology

The session:

 We agreed an earlier start time of 9:50 to avoid congestion in the car park, with an earlier finish.

Continued Norse Mythology covering Germanic and Scandinavian mythology with the topic of Odin.

1/.  Odin –

Odin became the Sky God, creator of the Universe, King of the gods.  He provided rules which had to be followed to protect against the chaos which still existed outside the organised world.  He visited Midgard, the world of men, to make sure the rules were being followed.

Over time he took on many attributes, physical appearances and roles, and had many aliases.  He also had magic skills and was a shape shifter.  He was a majestic figure with gravitas and dignity.  He was capricious, lustful and quick tempered and a rule breaker when it suited him.  He was also arrogant and boastful as related in the Song of Harbard.  A god but one with flaws.

He was very successful with women apart from in The Myth of Billing’s Daughter who outsmarted him.  She is portrayed as being duplicitous and treacherous for not wanting to have a relationship with him and using her wits to avoid him, a view which is much less acceptable now.

This was all in the context of a world where gods and men are doomed.  Great warriors would go to Valhall to await the final battle (Ragnarok), to qualify for this they would need to show their skills to Odin but the Norns (the three Fates) had already set down the fates of the gods and mortals.

We looked at two tales The Myth of Mead of Poetry where Odin gains a magic mead from giants by means of shape shifting, cunning and deceit and The Lay of Grimnir where again he did not reveal who he was.

Oden was married to Frig and they had a tempestuous relationship with neither being faithful to the other.

2/. Frig

Originally Frig was the goddess of fertility but her attributes changed over time too and she became the goddess of the home and protector of women whilst Freya became the goddess of fertility.

In February we shall continue Norse Mythology

Further Reading

There is a lot of information available on the internet by using simple searches.  These books are not in print but may be available second hand or from a library.


Brian Branston ‘The Lost Gods of England’ Thames and Hudson

‘Encyclopaedia of World Mythology’ Octopus Books

Past Meetings 2020

Wednesday February 12 :  Yes, we have no Galanthus – A talk by Steven Halliwell.

An interesting talk with a ‘poetical’ twist and some lovely photos of mass plantings of snowdrops from Banks Hall, Gresgarth Hall, Dunham Massey, Lytham Hall, Brantwood, Parcevall Hall and Hornby Castle. There are hundreds of varieties of snowdrop mostly developed from 3 species

Galanthus Nivalis (our native snowdrop) from Western Europe

Galanthus Elwesii from Eastern Europe

Galanthus plicates from Russia. 

Wednesday January 8:   The Walled Garden – A talk about Norton Priory 

A very interesting and informative talk given by Keith and Kathy Williams who have been volunteering at Norton Priory for about 30 years. The talk started with a brief history about the property and some interesting information about the numbers and roles of the gardening staff needed to look after the garden when it supplied all the produce for the main house. The only women working in the garden were  ‘Daisy grubbers’ which meant weeding all the gravel paths on hands and knees with special gloves which had hooks on the finger ends.   The talk then moved on to an illustrated look at how the garden has been developed and restored since the house was demolished and the garden abandoned in 1928. The walled garden is two and a half acres and has been redeveloped with reference to how Victorian walled gardens were generally arranged. The garden is divided into four quarters and includes various old varieties of apples and gooseberries as well as the national collection of quince, a croquet lawn and an orchard. The garden opens at the end of March is well worth a visit.

Search for a new Musical Director

We are a very friendly, sociable group with 35 Members and like to sing a wide range of music including; Musical Theatre, Folk, Sacred and Popular.  We enjoy the challenge of three part singing as well as a good unison sing-a-long at most of our sessions. We give one formal concert a year in the summer and organise the annual U3A Advent service. We are also regularly invited to sing at several local nursing homes.  We meet every Wednesday morning at Aughton Village Hall from 10 am until 12. (Broadly following school holidays).  We have a well organised team who take care of admin, finances and hall bookings.  We need someone who can inspire us, build on what we have already achieved and lead us along an exciting and rewarding musical path.

If you are interested in finding out more then please contact the U3A Choir Group Leader, Ann Henders, on 07847 364330.  Closing date for expressions of interest Tuesday, 21/1/20.

Please note there is no remuneration for this role.

Drama Group

Here we are at the end of our dress rehearsal for “Christmas Pudding”.  We hope you came along and enjoyed the “live”performance.

No time to let the grass grow – we are now in rehearsal for our next performance “Death By Paintbrush”, a whodunnit set in the 1920’s

Looking forward to seeing you on 24th or 25th April at Aughton Village Hall, ready to do some sleuthing.

Recent works

Here are some photos taken by Bill Soens of recent works by members of the Painting Group.

(Bill also produced a YouTube video of some of these works – watch it here)