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Nigerian Field Society


Report for 2011

Chairman Professor Rob Oldham; Treasurer Mr Geoff Partridge; Secretary Miss Sheila Everard

The last increase in the annual subscriptions to the branch to £5.00 does not appear to have deterred members as the total remains quite high at 116; 39 of these are joint subscriptions making the actual membership 155. Considering the distance members have to travel to meetings held all over the country, the average attendance of 31+, is very satisfactory.

AGM and Spring meeting –Keswick Cumbria , 7th/8th May 2011.

Thirty six members and three guests attended the AGM at the Skiddaw Hotel Keswick followed by lunch and a tour of the local mining museum. In the Lake District, volcanic activity has resulted in a wealth of mineral deposits; twenty of these are of significant commercial value. They include graphite, lead, barium, tungsten, coal and iron. The museum recorded the exploitation of minerals from prehistoric times to the present day.

A short walk took us to the Pencil Museum, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. We entered through a replicated graphite mine after a talk about the 350 year history of the manufacture of pencils. Legend has it that a violent storm which uprooted trees, exposed a strange black material; shepherds found it useful for marking sheep. A cottage industry making pencils grew by stages to the founding of the first UK pencil factory in Keswick in 1832. Pencils are now manufactured near Workington but the museum preserves the fascinating history and attracts 80,000 visitors a year. One exhibit of especial interest was a wartime pencil given to all servicemen flying on active service over Germany.  The pencil concealed a rolled up map and compass where the eraser tip should have been; those shot down and attempting to escape back to UK would have an invaluable tool. This wartime secret was never discovered by the Germans.

The following day the group visited ‘The manor of the Valley’ Dalemain. This beautiful house, originally C16th but later improved and extended, is the private home of the Hasell-McCosh family, descended from the original purchasers in 1675. A Fulani hat hung from the stand in the hall but we never discovered why. An annual, international marmalade competition is held here and we were able to sample and buy the exhibits in the tea room afterwards.  The gardens, landscaped along a stream, were a delight. Elsewhere an Elizabethan knot garden and a children’s garden provided more variety. Spring bulbs and flowers gave colour as we were too early for the summer displays of roses.
We are grateful to Rachel Nicholson for planning the weekend.

Summer Meeting at Dungeness Kent 11th/12th June 2011

35 members gathered at Winchelsea Lodge, East Sussex for a most interesting and detailed study of Dungeness.  The event was organised by Steve Graham and included guided visits to the Nature Reserve and the RSPB site. The large area of shingle built up over centuries of long shore drift is still growing and 5 lighthouses have been built to keep up with the changes. One section is an SSSI with many rare and interesting plants growing in abundance in the protected areas. On Sunday we had two lectures about the Romney Marsh area. Terry Burke secretary of the Romney Marsh Research Trust talked about the mediaeval landscape of Romney marsh and two of the churches we visited the previous evening, Fairfield and Brooklands. Climate change in the C13th altered much of the landscape and subsequently former ports such as the Cinque Ports, ( providing the King with ship services) have silted up.  In mediaeval times, Rye was the largest town in the south of England having a population of 4000 people, the same as it has today. The second lecture on the post glacial evolution of the Romney marsh was given by Professor Martyn Walker from Kingston University. He explained how the marsh and particularly the peat had been formed from a pre-glacial forest, subsequently submerged by the sea as the ice melted.  Later, we visited Pett Level Beach where peat, laid down between 6000 – 4000 years BC including alder stumps and branches of the same age could be seen on the surface.

Autumn Meeting in the Montrose area, 10th/11th September 2011

This meeting in Angus Scotland was attended by 22 members; many stayed together in the Northern Hotel Brechin, where we were royally fed and watered. Our first meeting was at the House of Dun, built by William Adam in the early C18th for David Erskine, Lord Dun. Significant alterations were made to the house by John Erskine Kennedy and his wife Lady Augusta FitzClarence whom we learned was the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Clarence, later William IV who preceded Queen Victoria on the throne of England. William had many children with his much loved mistress the actress Mrs Jourdan but no legitimate heir, hence the succession of Victoria to the throne when William died in 1837. It was Lady Augusta’s walk set in a deep ravine that we followed in torrential rain when visiting the garden. She had also planted the magnificent row of Wellingtonias at the front of the house, soon after they were introduced to Britain in 1853. In the walled garden, a strange hanging structure turned out to be a hanging game larder shaded by lime trees.

Later that evening we had a lecture from Sheila  Mann, on Violet Jacob Erskine, an accomplished poet. Violet, born in 1863 spent much time with the estate workers, learning their dialect. This inspired some of her poetry which captures their language and way of life. Always unconventional, she travelled the countryside alone on horseback, gathering material for her work.

The following day we visited the Montrose Wildlife Reserve, situated along the edge of the Montrose Basin. This large sea inlet is rich in nutrients and was used in the past to raise mussels, for salmon and eel netting, salt panning and hunting waterfowl. Now protected from commercial exploitation, it provides a perfect environment for migrating and resident birds, as many as 50,000 migrants pass through the basin each year. One of the best equipped visitor centres in the UK, it provides telescopes, binoculars and a great deal of information at all levels of interest.
Finally, in what can euphemistically be described as bracing weather, the group visited St Cyrus Nature Reserve. In contrast to the Montrose basin, the visitor centre is small, a former C19 lifeboat station.  We crossed the bridge, built in 1985 by the Gurkhas and were blown like autumn leaves along the beach in what may have been the last puffs of Hurricane Katrina. Returning along the quieter path on the other side of the dunes, we passed the C13th  Nether Kirkyard where a jilted poet had shot himself and a watch hut,  built in former times to prevent the theft of bodies for medical research.

News of members
Sadly the following have died: A.A. Wilson Reading (13th November 2010 and R.W. Fishwick, Devon (12th February 2011).

Programme for 2012
AGM & Spring Meeting, Birmingham University - Friday 13th /Saturday 14th April 2012. Organisers are Brian Hopkins & Evelyn Murphy.  A talk and visit to the Danford Collection has been arranged.
Summer Meeting, Chichester, West Sussex 14th/15th July 2012.  Organiser is Brian Hopkins.
Autumn Meeting, Conway North Wales, 8th/9th September 2012. Organisers are John & Maggie Hall.

Programme for 2013
AGM & Spring Meeting, Bristol Area, 20th/21st April 2012. Organisers, Barbara Ryder and Janet Kirk.
Summer meeting:’ West Africana Road Show’ with a display of items owned by members,   date and venue to be arranged.
Autumn meeting: Faversham Kent, 14th/15th September 2012. Organisers  Geoff & Dinah Partridge.
Members from Nigeria who will be in the UK and who would like to attend are very welcome.  Please contact the secretary via address in the Journal.

Sheila Everard

2023  Nigerian Field Society