Monday, 4 November 2013

I join U3A

U3A, the University of the Third Age, a self help group for retired people who are still interested in learning about the world around them.  I put off joining my local branch for a couple of years and I have to say that walking into a room of 300+ elderly people is quite daunting, especially if you then have to admit to yourself that you are actually qualified to be one of them; yes, admitting that you’re a bit old.  Anyway, my local branch is thriving, 630 members and 85 or so different interest groups.  But amongst all the language groups, family history, music appreciation, bird watching, cookery, wine, etc, there was no church appreciation group.  Here’s a tip for anyone contemplating joining U3A: don’t let on that you are interested in or have any particular knowledge of anything.  I casually mentioned that I quite liked to visit old churches.  Suddenly I’m cajoled into organising a group.  Oh well, they are a nice bunch, very keen, quite knowledgeable, but it does take quite a bit more organising to transport 12 people off to the wilds of Lincolnshire instead of just co-ordinating dates between 2 or 3 friends.  It’s great though to see so many more people interested in our local heritage and we have seen some fantastic churches this year, 38 actually, well not 38 fantastic churches, maybe 4 or 5 fantastic ones and 30 odd really good ones.  But as I always say, even plain and ordinary churches have their own special felicitations, every one is different, every one has been built with love, or at least with the desire to do the best with what ever resources were available at the time they were put up, aggrandised, downsized, repaired, reordered or re-built.

U3A visit Stow Minster, our first trip

So where have we been?  We started with a re-visit to Holme, near Newark, still one of my favourite local churches, a fascinating late C15 small wool church in an area without wool churches.  Then another visit to the Jenkins 4 star Stow Minster, near Gainsborough, possibly the earliest church visited this year, Saxon origins, much Norman work, big but rather cold and austere.  On other trips we went to some glorious churches, including Brant Broughton (another 4 star church), Grantham (5 stars), and Louth (4 stars).  There were a few quirky ones as well, and I like quirky.  Alvingham and North Cockerington near Louth, two churches in the same churchyard.  Then there was Saltfleetby All Saints, near Mablethorpe, with its leaning tower and walls at all angles; very atmospheric but sadly ruinous.  I want also to note the wonderfully warm welcomes we got at some churches, particularly at Lambley, Sutton on Trent and Tuxford (all in Notts) and at Sedgbrook, near Grantham.  Guided tours of churches and cups of coffee on cold mornings are always very much appreciated and we were very grateful for the efforts of the local people we met there, especially when they had to come out specially to open up their churches for us.

Below are a few photos from this year’s trips with the U3A.  I hope to cover some of these in more detail in future articles, when I get time.  Retirement is wonderful but I just don’t seem to have the time these days that I used to have.  Is it because I’m actually doing more things or is it because I’m just so much slower than I used to be?  Probably both…

Home St Giles, late C15 and quietly grand
Holme: lots to see, wood carvings, stained glass, chantry chapel
The ladies of Holme
Stow: Ancient and austere
Stow: massive stonework inside

Brant Broughton: Grand and ornate, interesting carvings

Grantham St Wulfram: Seriously impressive, difficult to photograph!

Grantham: West front detail
Louth: Tallest spire in England? 

Louth: Wonderfully light and welcoming inside
Alvingham and North Cockerington: Two churches, one churchyard

Saltfleetby All Saints: Leaning tower and walls at all angles
Lambley: Warm welcome inside

Lambley: At the heart of the community

Sutton on Trent: Big, ornate and welcoming
Tuxford: Lots of history

Tuxford: U3A in learning mode
Sedgbrook: Yet another grand old church

Sedgbrook: Medieval carvings and screen

Click on any picture to enlarge it

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