All posts by CEDu3a

▷ Upcoming National u3a talks

1 November
▷ Andrew Hanson : Top 10 things to measure

4 November
▷ Martin Eales : The Geology of sedimentary rocks. Part 2: Marine rocks

8 November and throughout November
▷ Maria Chester : Ancient Civilisations of the Americas – The Maya

9 November
▷ Ron Knott : The Numbers you eat: natures favourite numbers in fruit and veg

10 November
▷ Introduction to cryptic crosswords
▷ National Army Museum : The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior

10 November
▷ Maths activities and games

16 November
▷ Chris Winner : How to crochet a Christmas tree

22 November
▷ James Morton : London’s gangland

30 November
Catherine Stevenson : Why did the Spanish Armada fail? – Part 1

2 December
▷ Martin Eales : The Geology of sedimentary rocks. Part 3: Limestones, coals, oil & evaporites

6 December
▷ Linda Shannon : Boys will be girls …. ‘those squeaking Cleopatras’

7 December
▷ Martin Whillock : Astronomy – what’

▷ Volunteer with us

Volunteering opportunities from October 2021

The following opportunities are now open to members in preparation for when we return to having Monthly Meetings in the Union Church.
Monthly Meetings Organiser (previously Brenda Dardelin, who is now concentrating on the Beacon database)
The Monthly Meetings organiser arranges the hall bookings and checks that all the volunteers with specific roles (e.g. refreshment organiser, audio visual equipment) will attend the meeting.
See the full Role Description here. If you wish to investigate this opportunity further, please contact the volunteer co-ordinators Jenny or Beatrice at Brenda will be on hand to explain the role in detail and answer any queries.
Light Refreshments Organiser (previously Liz London, who has taken over Events Catering)
The Light Refreshments Organiser heads a group of volunteers who organise supplies and prepare, serve, and clear away tea, coffee, etc, mainly to people attending the monthly meetings in the Union Church. Liz will talk you through the Role Description and pass on a list of volunteers who have helped in the past.

If you are interested in this opportunity, please contact the volunteer co-ordinators Beatrice or Jenny at

Birdwatching excursions

Our excursions

October 2021

Despite the slightly dubious weather forecast and the challenge of avoiding petrol queues en route, Birdwatching Group 1 had a very enjoyable day by the Thames estuary at the Thurrock Thames Nature Park, watching waders probing the muddy foreshore, kestrels hunting overhead, charms of goldfinches flitting from tree to tree, and container ships coming and going at the nearby port. And the weather stayed fine until literally the last minute dash to the car. Birdwatching Group 2 visited the College Lake Nature Reserve, near Tring.

September 2021


The Birdwatching Group 1 outing in early September was to Amwell near Ware, where the hides are finally open again so we had a good spot to eat lunch and watch for birds. We were rewarded by a reed warbler hopping on the hemp agrimony just below us, and a common sandpiper flying in (though so well camouflaged against the stones). A highlight of a short woodland walk was a family of weasels scampering across the path in front of us, and the butterflies and dragonflies were out enjoying the sunshine.

August 2021


To Rye Meads Nature Reserve for Birdwatching Group 1 – luckily we were in a hide when showers passed through. Highlights included the common sandpiper posing for us, and Mrs Kingfisher stopping for a second or two before taking her catch into her chicks in the nest burrow …

June 2021

June’s Birdwatching Group 1 outing was to one of our favourite RSPB reserves at Rainham on the Thames estuary. Visiting on such a rainy day at least meant we had the trail and hides pretty much to ourselves. And the birds still had to come out in the rain to keep their growing families fed. Nice weather for ducks, frogs and snails, it turned out, if not very good for photography!

May 2021

Birdwatching Group 1 outing to the Lea Valley on Friday 7 May : the weather was perfect and May is a fabulous time for birdwatching. Sadly our planned visit to the new Discovery Centre was scuppered by a power outage (possibly related to the chaps we watched climbing a pylon!), but there was plenty to see and hear: hundreds of swifts, hobbies hunting for insects low over the lake, many different types of warbler, goslings and cootlings, and the song of the nightingale.

September 2020

Birdwatching Group 1 returned to one of our favourite reserves, RSPB’s Rainham Marshes in Essex by the Thames. Highlights of the day included Whinchats, Starling flocks, Marsh Harriers, Hobby and Garganey. Lovely to be back out together again, especially as the sun came out to play too!

March 2020

The weather gods definitely looked kindly on the Group as we ventured to a lovely Essex Wildlife Trust reserve with fine views across the Thames estuary. Hundreds of Avocet were feeding on the mud as the tide receded, along with Shelduck, Redshank GreyPlover, and swirling flocks of Dunlin. We encountered Pipits, Dunnocks, Linnets and Finches in the scrubland, and saw Kestrels and Buzzards hunting. We even spotted a Green Woodpecker creeping up a telegraph pole. A great day in the spring sunshine!

February 2020

The birdwatchers ventured out to Two Tree Island, near Southend-on-Sea, which was reclaimed from the Thames estuary in the 18th century, later used as landfill, but now reclaimed again as a nature reserve. The sun shone all day, silhouetting the hundreds of waders rather beautifully (but making identification rather tricky at times!).

We totted up some 47 bird species seen during the day, a new record for us we think. Highlights included Brent Geese (overwintering from Siberia), huge flocks of Knot moving between the lagoon and the mudflats as the tide receded, Teal hoovering in the mud, and a stunningly marked juvenile Marsh Harrier. All to the wonderful soundtrack of Skylarks ascending and Curlew and Redshank calling across the marshes.

January 2020
For the first outing of the year we stayed local, with a scenic walk from Kenwood to Highgate, taking in some woodland, heath and several ponds along the way. We were accompanied by the sounds of cawing Crows, chattering Magpies, squawking Parakeets, squirrels rustling in the leaves, and melodious Robins guarding their territories. But more interesting sights were a Mandarin Duck, a Heron in the middle of the heathland, and – easily most excitingly – a Kingfisher. We enjoyed a very welcome hot drink at Le Pain Quotidien before making our way home, many of us on foot, in glorious sunshine.
Excursions 2017-2019

▷ Chessington to Cheam

A smaller than usual but select group of Middle Way Walkers met to walk from Chessington South to Cheam. In the morning our path took us through open fields, Castle Hill Nature Reserve and Ewell Court Park where we crossed a stream via an 18th century Packhorse
Bridge. We then followed the banks of the Hogsmill River having at one point to cross it via stepping stones, although no-one was unluckly enough to fall in despite the attentions of a lurking photographer. After a packed lunch in Bourne Hill Park we carried on through the Churchyard of St Mary the Virgin and eventually arriving in Nonsuch Palace. This was the site of the former village of Cuddlington which was razed to the ground by Henry VIII to make way for the Palace and its hunting grounds. The Palace itself is long gone. Charles II gave it to his mistress, Barbara Countess of Castlemaine who sold it off bit by bit to pay off her gambling debts. We finished our walk by visiting the Mansion House formal gardens with it’s spectacular rose pergola and amazing trees. This walk had a little bit of everything, open countryside, rivers, woods, nature reserves and a Palace.

▷ Americana

The Americana Group met at the Great Northern Tavern to listen and discuss a diverse selection of songs about the states of American, and Mexico, and the provinces of Canada.
The playlist:
Willie Nelson : Georgia On My Mind
Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits : Jersey Girl
Doug Sahm : Is anyone going to San Antone
Nanci Griffith : Lone Star State of Mind
Neil Young : Ohio
Chris Rea : Texas
Frank Zappa : Montana
Rhiannon Giddens : Waterbound
Gordon Lightfoot : Alberta
Del McCoury & Doug Grisman : East Virginia Blues
Bill Neely : Texas Law and Justice
Neil Young : Alabama
Nina Simone : Mississippi Goddam
Neil Young : Helpless
Emmylou Harris : Leavin’ Louisiana
B52s : Private Idaho
Chastity Brown : Colorado

▷ Wine … and Much More


The newly formed Wine …and Much More group kicked off in style in October with their first proper tasting, following an informal inaugural event in September to welcome new members, taken from the long waiting list of the two existing wine groups. The tasting focused around the wines of Tuscany, with a focus on Chianti of course, but also tasting Tuscany’s most famous white wine, Vernaccia, with its long history going back to medieval time. It was a revelation to many and one which is now on some members’ shopping list. With Chianti, the group learnt the difference between Chianti, Chianti Classico, Riserva, Superiore, Selezione, and Chianti Classico Riserva, to name a few of the most popular styles. Quality wines from time-honoured vineyards were tasted, to much approval from one and all. And the mystery of the black cockerel found on the label of Chianti Classico bottles only, was finally unravelled. A supper of Tuscan-inspired dishes followed, to much approval from one and all!

▷ Walking the Stour Valley

October 2021
Stour Valley : a 'watery' walk

Members of the Longer Walks Group returned to the village of Roydon, previously visited in 2019. The railway station here is somewhat unusual in that the up platform lies in the county of Hertfordshire while the down line is in Essex, meaning we had to cross the county line to start the walk. The excitement this caused, resulted in a number of walkers failing to notice the barriers of the level crossing were closing while they were still on the tracks! Fortunately, everyone reached the Essex side before the Stansted Express hurtled by but it certainly made for a thrilling start to the walk.All was calm however as we joined the towing path of the Stort Navigation.

The towpath was well made, level and dry, and the group made good time as we headed east along three different waymarked routes (Harcamlow Way, Stort Valley Way, Three Forests Way), passing the occasional lock and meeting the occasional narrow boat travelling in the opposite direction. After just over an hour, we reached Parndon Mill. The current building was completed in 1900, although there has been a mill on this site since at least the time of Domesday Book. However, Parndon Mill’s long history of flour production is now over. These days, the building provides studios and workshops for artists and others working in the creative industries.

We were now walking along the edge of Harlow New Town, which judging by the cranes that dominated the skyline, seemed to be undergoing something of a construction boom.
As we crossed the busy A1184, we left Harlow behind and after continuing along the towpath for a short way, peeled off to follow the Three Forests Way into Pishiobury Park, our lunch spot for the day. Now managed as a ‘country park’ by the local council, Pishiobury was once a large estate attached to the house of the same name, and its beautifully landscaped grounds are thought to be at least in part the work of the renowned Capability Brown.
Refreshed, we returned to the Stort, and our route took us north past the town of Sawbridgeworth and back out into countryside. We were now following the east bank of the navigation, which with is meanders and water meadows looked more like a natural watercourse than a canalized section of the river. A very pleasant stretch to walk in the weak afternoon sun. In fact, this tranquil landscape accompanied us for the final hour of the walk, until suddenly as the towpath crossed beneath a railway line, we exchanged rural for urban, as we entered the town of Bishops Stortford.