Oxford Centre of the National Trust
Report on the Holiday to North Wales
22nd October saw thirty-one intrepid adventurers from the Oxford Centre embark on a holiday to North Wales in glorious sunshine. Our first visit was to Chirk Castle, situated on a hill overlooking the Cheshire and Shropshire plains, Built in the reign of Edward I, it has medieval towers but inside the family rooms are 17th and 18th century. In the gardens the clipped yews and herbaceous borders were lovely.
The next day we had a surprise visit to the parish church at Bodelwyddan. It is known as the ‘Marble Church’ as there are fourteen varieties of marble there and the pulpit, lectern, pews and choir stalls are beautifully carved in wood. The imposing steeple, 202 ft, overlooks the Commonwealth War Graves, so many of them Canadian soldiers who died of influenza after WW1.
We carried on over the Menai Strait to Anglesey and Plas Newydd, the ancestral home of the Marquess of Anglesey. The stunning 58ft mural by Rex Whistler and also the exhibition of his work, were the highlights of the property, which overlooks the Menai Strait. The landscaped gardens were designed by Humphrey Repton.
On Wednesday morning we had a scenic journey along the Conwy Valley in beautiful sunshine, past the elegant stone bridge at Llanwrst to Betws-y-Coed for a short stop. Then it was on to the Llanberis Pass and back past the slate quarries in the Ogwen Valley on our way to Penrhyn Castle, with its exuberant interiors, extensive grounds and industrial Railway Museum. Many people explored the walled garden. On our return journey along the coast we had views of people competing in the World Sea Angling Championships on the sands.
Thursday saw us at Bodnant Garden, where the spectacular autumn colours and many other horticultural features were very photogenic. Then on to Conway with its variety of attractions. At least one member of the party walked all around the city walls. Some people went to the castle and many to Aberconway House, while others sat on the quay and watched children fishing for crabs. We came back via Llandudno.
The first rain we had was on Friday but it cleared up at Attingham Park, the imposing Georgian mansion in acres of parkland with walled garden, splendid stables and one of the best National Trust shops.
Our accommodation at Bodelwyddan Castle was interesting – many single members were surprised at the enormous queen-size beds, while one lady remarked that she lost her husband in theirs! We could not fault the food which was excellent and plentiful. Our driver, Gordon, entertained us well and ensured that we all arrived and departed safely at all our various destinations.
Many thanks must go to Nesta for arranging such an enjoyable holiday to the Land of her Fathers – who will forget her pronunciation of LlanfairPG? We all appreciated the amount of hard work she put in on our behalf.
Oxford Centre celebrates 50 years with a Farming and Wildlife Symposium
On 25th September a Roundtable Symposium chaired by OCNT President Dr Nick Brown took place in the Halford MacKinder Lecture Theatre in the Oxford University School of Geography and the Environment. Speakers who discussed ‘The Future of the British Countryside: food production and conservation’ were Dame Helen Ghosh (Master of Balliol College and former Director General of the National Trust); Mr Richard Bramley (Yorkshire farmer and a member of the NFU Environmental Forum); Dr Paul Jepson (Oxford University School of Geography and the Environment); and Mr Tom Curtis (3Keel, an Oxford-based firm of sustainability advisors specialising in working with food systems, supply chains and landscapes).
From the 1940s food production was central to agricultural policy, but the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy imposed restrictions and requirements on farmers. With the changes inevitable after Brexit, there is an opportunity to move in new directions with more emphasis on enjoying the countryside and the benefits nature offers for our well-being. The National Trust is a custodian of 70% of the land and accepts a role to discuss with other green NGOs the cultural value of landscape in addition to supporting a thriving agricultural industry.
As a practising farmer Richard voiced his concerns that farmers’ voices are not adequately represented in discussions about future policy. Farmers are caught between the requirements for food, conservation and tourism. Food has never been cheaper, but consumers rarely consider where their food comes from or how much it costs to produce.
There is now an opportunity to frame a new policy for a managed landscape which balances natural assets to provide a personal ‘embodied’ experience in natural settings (away from commercial pressures and technology) with our other assets – efficient farmers and other rural enterprises, ensuring sustainable management of resources.
New thinking is needed, and if our politicians seem unable to address the issue, other organisations should create opportunities for collaborative innovation.
Summary by Felicity Peacock
Visit to Lord Leycester Hospital, Warwick
Our visit to Warwick in September was a great success. We were welcomed in the Great Hall of the Hospital with coffee/tea and biscuits and then had an introductory talk by one of the ‘Brethren’. The chapel was built in 1143 and the adjoining 15th century half-timbered buildings were used by the medieval guilds of Warwick.
In 1571 Robert Dudley acquired them as accommodation for wounded soldiers in the Elizabethan era. It is still used as that today although there are only eight ‘Brethren’ now. We had a guided tour of the Great Hall, Guildhall, Chapel and Gardens, all of which were absolutely fascinating with facts of their history.
Most people made their way to the Collegiate Church of St. Mary, where we were made to feel very welcome. The whole building was decorated with poppies to commemorate remembrance of those who have lost their lives during conflicts. There were thousands of poppies – knitted, crocheted, painted or made of paper. The regimental Chapel has six glass screens at the entrance – each one was covered, front and back, with red poppies. In the Beauchamp Chapel pupils from the local primary school had decorated most surfaces with a variety of memorials: ‘Thank You for our Freedom’. It was all very meaningful and made us all reflect on the sacrifices made for all of us. A very thought-provoking experience.
Visit to Mary Rose Museum
Forty-six members of the Oxford Centre of the National Trust set off for Portsmouth on 25th April. The destination was the Mary Rose museum sited in the Royal Dockyard, which is also the home of HMS Victory and HMS Warrior. The Mary Rose is now managed by a separate organisation and is no longer part of the Dockyard. Gordon, our driver had a smooth journey and was able to park nearly opposite the gate into the Dockyard to set down his passengers. This meant crossing a dangerous road but the Portsmouth authorities have not managed to find a solution to this problem yet. We then had to queue for up to 15 minutes to have our bags searched as there was a heightened security alert following the bombs in Sri Lanka.
The rest of the day passed without incident and we were amazed at the way that the remains of Henry VIII’s flagship have been displayed together with a huge number of artefacts brought to the surface after spending nearly 500 years on the sea bed in the Solent. After the ship was first raised in 1982 it was necessary to spray it for many years with water and chemicals to preserve it. Now all the sprays have been turned off and the signage and display of artefacts in addition to interactive screens enable one to gain a real insight into what life was like in the British navy in the 16th century. There were many cannons and cannon balls to view and the details of how they were fired were made clear. There was an explanation of the surgery carried out by doctors without anaesthetic of course, and the way that food was stored and prepared could clearly be seen. Live animals were kept on board and the butchers provided the cooks in the kitchen with fresh meat. There was even a dog to catch the rats during the voyage.
Close by there were cafes where we could have tea or coffee or a more substantial lunch. The more energetic members went into Portsmouth and had a look round. The less active were content to look at the other attractions in the Dockyard or to try and catch a glimpse of any of the modern naval vessels which happened to be in port that day. The return journey was as trouble-free as the one in the morning had been and everybody declared that it had been an excellent day out.
I am writing this letter as our fiftieth anniversary is drawing to a close. By the time you read it we will have had a special lunch at Brookes Restaurant and we will be looking forward to the AGM in the Magdalen College auditorium on 19th March. We are delighted that Nicola Briggs, the regional director of the London and South East region of the National trust is coming to speak on this occasion. I do hope that there will be a good turn-out for this event – please remember that coffee will be served from 10.15am and this will be followed by the business part of the meeting and the raffle draw at 10.45 before the talk starts by 11.15am. This earlier start time should enable us to finish close to the usual time.
I am very pleased to say that we have had some response to our plea for new members of the Committee so there will be some changes later in the year when final arrangements have been made. There is still room for more people to join. This would help to spread the work load as at the moment some people are having to do more than their fair share particularly Felicity Peacock.
A good variety of visits have been planned for the summer and I hope that everybody will find some venues which they will enjoy. It is encouraging that all the trips planned for the spring have attracted sufficient support to be viable and so none have had to be cancelled. We are always keen to receive ideas of places that people would like to visit provided that they are not too far away and that we have not been there too recently. Please pass on your thoughts to any trip leader or another member of the Committee.
Di and I wish you a very Happy Easter and let us hope for some good weather.
OCNT 50th Anniversary Lunch at Brookes Restaurant
Oxford Centre of the National Trust celebrates its 50th Anniversary as a Supporter Group for National Trust members, having started in 1969 as a University Society.
A celebration cake at the lunch on 11th February is cut by the longest serving member of the Oxford Centre, Miss Joan Howse. Joan attended the first meeting in 1969 at Wadham College.