THE NIGERIAN FIELD SOCIETY (UK BRANCH)
Report for 2010
Chair: Professor Rob Oldham, Treasurer: Mr. Geoff Partridge, Secretary: Miss Sheila Everard
Membership of the UK Branch continues to flourish and although sadly, we have lost members through old age, we still recruit new people and attendance at meetings is strong in spite of the distance people have to travel.
AGM and Spring Meeting, Hatfield Herts. 24th/25th April 2010:
Twenty Three members attended the AGM held in the hall of St Ethelreda’s Church. The meeting was followed by a guided tour of the church which is dedicated to a 10th century Saxon princess. The church dates from medieval times and has strong connections with the Cecil family who have provided senior statesmen to the Nation from the 16th century. Our visit was followed by lunch in the cafe at Hatfield House and a tour of this magnificent establishment. Queen Elizabeth 1st first heard of her accession to the throne in the gardens of the old hall. The evening was spent convivially together at dinner in a local hostelry.
On Sunday members gathered at Gobion’s Wood, a nature reserve owing its existence to a group of enthusiasts who raised sufficient funds to purchase 222 acres of huge estate which was being sold for property development. The original group formed the Gobions Wood Trust and later gifted it to the Hertfordshire and Middlesex Wildlife Trust in order to preserve it for posterity. The rain eventually drove us all to Brookmans Park Hotel where Bernard Spatz gave us a talk on the history and development of this valuable local amenity. Many of our members are also involved in similar enterprise and a lively and informed discussion ensued. We are grateful to Eve and Peter Lloyd for organising the meeting.
Summer Meeting, Alnwick 19th/20th June 2010
Thirty members gathered in Alnwick Castle in June for a tour of this splendid, relatively new garden. Alnwick castle is second only to Windsor and has been occupied by the Percy family since 1309. In medieval times the castle was an important bulwark against Scottish invasion. In 1996 the present Duchess of Northumberland commissioned the Belgian Wirtz brothers to design the new garden and it has now reached maturity.
In the morning we split into two groups to watch the huge cascade, computer controlled, perform a variety of impressive spurts and patterned fountains beginning at the top and ending at the reservoir at the bottom where excited children race through the showers and collect water in little toy trucks provided by the establishment. The various features of the garden include a Serpent garden with polished steel sculptures creating curtains, whirlpools and towers of water. A bamboo maze, a rose garden, tantalisingly, just in bud as the cold weather had delayed flowering. I visited again, just two weeks later when all was in full bloom and the effect of both colour and scent was stunning. Above the fountain, a walled garden has a huge variety of plants and adjacent, is a poison garden where guides reveal and warn visitors of the dangers of plants which can be used for medicine or for more sinister purposes. An enormous tree house has a restaurant, video displays of the history and features of the garden and various walkways and swaying rope bridges in amongst the foliage.
The castle is a huge crenellated bastion. It features in the historical plays of Shakespeare as the home of Harry Hotspur and in more modern times, the setting for films (Harry Potter, Elizabeth, The Dark Knight) as well as hosting the Antiques Road Show. Our evening dinner at Blackmores in Bondgate without is just beyond the tiny medieval gate that until 1971, took all the main traffic north on the A1, before the bye pass was built.
On Sunday, a guided tour of the medieval town was followed by a visit to the huge Barter Bookshop situated on the old railway station where you may read in comfortable chairs by a huge fire; a model railway circulates the room overhead.
Autumn Meeting Bideford Devon, 10th/12th September 2010
In contrast, thirty one members travelled south to Devon where we were nearly all accommodated together in the Royal Hotel, Bideford. A coach was provided on Saturday morning to take us to Dartington Crystal Factory in Torrington. This venture was set up by the wealthy American owner of Dartington Hall in south Devon and her Yorkshire husband in order to provide work for this rather undeveloped area. We were lucky to find workers in, doing overtime to complete a Christmas order, so we had a good opportunity to see this intricate process in action. The working space is rather cramped but such is the harmony of the workers, they pass easily in and around one another, carrying rods of molten glass in smooth choreographed motion, not one drop spilt or one exposed limb burned.
From there the group were transported to the nearby Royal Horticultural Gardens at Rosemore. The garden was begun in 1988 after a gift by Lady Anne Berry of her 8 acre garden and an extra 32 acres from which the various RHS demonstration gardens have been developed. Numerous small gardens demonstrate various purposes and planting styles; at the lower end there is a superb ‘hot’ garden, with a stunning display of flowers and foliage in purples, reds and oranges. All was afire!
On Sunday most of the group met in Clovelly, a picturesque fishing village built in a gravity defying manner on a steep hillside leading down to the harbour by the sea. A new visitors’ centre welcomes visitors and a large car park is provided as there is no hope of driving anywhere near. The village streets are so steep that even today residents and tradesmen use sledges to pull their loads up and down the hill. Donkeys still ply one section, but now only for tourists. Our thanks are due to Anita and John Appleby for organising this varied and very interesting weekend.
We are sorry to announce the death of one member, Mr RG Mares in 2010.
Programme for 2011:
AGM and Spring meeting, Keswick, Cumbria 7th/8th May 2011, organiser Rachel Nicholson
Summer Meeting, Dungeness, Kent 11th/12th June 2011, organiser Steve Graham
Autumn Meeting, Montrose, Angus, Scotland 10th/11th September 2011 organiser Avril Simpson
The UK Branch welcomes Society members from other branches to its meetings. Anyone interested should consult the secretary (address on the front page).
Sheila Everard (secretary)