Another enjoyable after lunch speaker at Camberley & District Probus

I’ve mentioned here before that I’m a member of Camberley & District Probus Club – click on the link to find out more about it. Let me know in the comments section if you’d like to check us out at a lunch.

It’s a monthly luncheon club that has an after lunch speaker to entertain us. I enjoy the company of members at lunch. Yesterday I sat next to a friend with whom we shared our youthful train spotting experiences, which was huge fun. Not sure that I could hold my dear wife’s attention on my recollections on this topic for more that a nano second.

Anyway, back to the point of this article. The speaker was Alan Grace, who’s talk was titled Berlin – The Tale of an Extraordinary City, 1931 – 1989. It seemed a big subject for a short after lunch talk. It turned out to a wizz through pre war Berlin, the 1938 Berlin Olympics, the post war Berlin airlift, ending with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Alan Grace spent thirty-six years with BFBS [British Forces Broadcasting Service] in Germany. His talk picked out some of his experiences, one of which was about the award of Mutter Kreux, or Mother’s Cross in English. Something about which I knew nothing. Wikepedia has this about the cross.

In recognition of the substantial importance a woman’s role and motherhood was in support of a strong Germany the Cross of Honour of the German Mother was introduced in Berlin on 16 December 1938 by Adolf Hitler. The crosses were awarded annually on the second Sunday in May, Mothering Sunday. There were three classes of cross: Gold Cross for mothers with eight or more children: Silver Cross for mothers with six or seven children, and Bronze Cross for mothers with four or five children.

Hey ho, not something that I feel we in the UK would do, although my dear wife tells me that the Russians did similar things. Here’s a photo of the crosses that Alan displayed, an a better photo of them from the internet.

Visiting a museum of Americana near Bath

It’s always good to experience something new, and so it was that last week, in a party from Camberley & District Probus Club, we visited the American Museum and Gardens at Claverton Manor, near Bath.  Here’s their description of the museum.

With its remarkable collection of folk and decorative arts, the Museum shows the diverse and complex nature of American traditions. The American Museum takes you on a journey through the history of America, from its early settlers to the twentieth century. It is the only museum of Americana outside the United States, and was founded to bring American history and cultures to the people of Britain and Europe.

The Museum is located in an area of outstanding natural beauty, with spectacular views over the Limpley Stoke Valley and the River Avon. The grounds total some 125 acres, of which 35 are open to visitors.

My report is a snippet of some of the Museum’s presentations of American living during the 18th and 19th centuries. Also for 2019 the Museum has a temporary display in the Exhibition Gallery of Kaffe Fassett’s ‘Quilts In America’ and Thomas Kellner’s ‘All Shook Up’ photo montages. The quilts will be the subject of a separate report, coming shortly.

The scenes of the parlours of American life contain high quality items from the actual homes they seek to represent, which give a fascinating insight into American life. Well worth a visit, for the extraordinary high quality of the exhibits throughout the Museum. Oh, and the café is good too.

It’s a museum and gardens. The planting schemes are a delight, in talking with the gardeners we learned that they’re planting 32,000 bulbs, many of which are Alliums, and Muscari. Last year they planted 36,000 bulbs, surely making this a garden to visit at any time of the year. Here are my photo snippets,

Friends, wives, and partners enjoy a 50th anniversary dinner

Yesterday evening we were among the 120 or more at the Camberley & District Probus Club 50th anniversary dinner. A pleasurable way to celebrate the anniversary among friends and their partners.

There are Probus Clubs throughout out the country, and indeed in many other parts of the world. The clubs are locally based. In our area we have Camberley & District Probus Club, Surrey Heath & Frimley Probus Club, and Surrey Heath Ladies Probus Club.

Why three clubs in Surrey Heath? Well, the membership of Camberley & District Probus Club grew too large for suitable lunchtime venues, hence Surrey Heath & Frimley club. Being founded as a club for men, although many Probus Clubs are now mixed, a ladies Probus club was founded, which has the largest membership of all three clubs.

The founding of Camberley & District Probus Club, 50 years ago, marks it out as one of the earliest clubs in the country. A celebratory dinner marked the anniversary, at which the presidents of Surrey Heath Ladies Probus Club- Tricia D’Souza, and Surrey Heath & Frimley Probus Club – Stan Oates, were guests of Camberley & District.

Here are a few photos of the evening.

The pleasures of visiting Haynes International Motor Museum

Last week, in a party from Camberley & Ditrict Probus Club, we visited the Haynes International Motor Museum near Yeovil.

It’s a museum for the whole family, with children interests well catered for. The entrance leads into a spacious area with a handful of exhibits to whet the appetite. Leading down from the entrance is into Café 750. The quality and variety of the food is very good. For us ‘oldies’, it’s pleasing to see the standard of food on offer is good almost everywhere now. Years ago it generally wasn’t good.

We lunched in the café. We were attracted by the description of the ‘full English’ breakfast. Not having had one for a year or more, it was our choice. We we weren’t disappointed – see photo 1.

The museum layout is more adventurous than one might have expected. There’s a Red Room – entirely full of all red sports cars. There is a good selection of American cars, including a couple of spectacular ones. In the museum’s Memory Lane of post-war British cars [in photo number 7] is a 1950’s Ford Popular in light green. One of these was my first car, and boy wasn’t it basic. I’ll relate my best story about this car later on this week

Meanwhile, I’ll not carry on describing things, but allow a brief number of my photos to give a flavour of what is there to see.

The Battle of Britain Bunker in Uxbridge deserves a visit

We made our way to the Battle of Britain Bunker in Uxbridge last week, with friends from Camberley and District Probus Club.

I’m sure many of you will know about this, once secret, bunker, which housed RAF Fighter Command’s No.11 Group Operations Room throughout the Second World War. How many, though have visited it? Not many I suspect.

The London Borough of Hillingdon Council invested some £5-6 million on renovating the Battle of Britain Bunker, and creating a visitor centre. The complex opended to visitors in 2018.

It’s a museum to be proud of. Not only is the visitor center of laudable quality, the exhibition and museum exhibits present the story of the RAF Fighter Command, radar, and the Dowding system are as good.

The highlight is the visit to the Operations Rooms in the bunker. The website says,

The Operations Room was where most of the RAF’s side of the Battle of Britain was co-ordinated. Key decisions that would decide the fate of the nation were taken in the bunker throughout 1940 and it was thanks to the tireless work of the plotters and controllers that the RAF’s fighter pilots managed to keep the Luftwaffe at bay.

The Operations Room, in reality, a series of rooms on two levels some 60 feet (18 metres) underground, is reached via 76 steps. The plotting room with its large map table, squadron display boards, balloon and weather states, is exactly how it was when Winston Churchill visited on 15 September 1940.

The star of the visit is the story told by a guide of the Battle of Britain, and how the Command Center worked. Unquestionably, this is a great place to visit. Not too easy to find, but a good cafe provides refreshements on arrival. Here are my photos of our visit.

Demonstrating home cider making

At Camberley and District Probus Club, of which I’m a member, meets monthly for lunch, after which we are regaled with a post lunch talk.

At our post October lunch  it was not a talk, but a complete demonstration of cider making. To add to the entertainment Dr Nevin J Stewart, founder of Juice and Strain, competed with a colleague to see who could juice 10 kilos of apples in the fastest time.

Speed wasn’t the point of the demonstration, it was ease of use, and using the effective and cheap equipment. Members were given a glass of the apples juiced and a glass of cider. Both excellent. A feature of the Juice and Strain method is the clarity of the cider produced. Dr Stewart puts this down to the separation of the apple juice from the crushed apple remnants, which in doing so removes the enzyme that tends to make cider cloudy.

Here’s Dr Stewart on the left in a photo juicing apples. and a copy of the front page of his flyer. There’s a YouTube video of the process HERE.

A short video for steam engine buffs

At the end of August, in a party from Camberley & District Probus Club, we lunched at the Swan Hotel in Arlesford, and then took a journey on the Watercress Line [the Mid Hants Railway] from Arlesford to Alton and back again.

On the return journey from Alton to Arlesford we enjoyed a cream tea. Hmm, not much exercise, plenty of food – a fish and chip lunch, and and cream tea to follow. Lunch excellent, and the steam train journey good fun too, especially with the cream tea.

Growing up in a railway town gave me a love of steam engines, and so experiencing the noise, smell, and steam of steam engines is an occasional treat.  I, therefore, couldn’t resist making a short video of the Southern Region Schools Class ‘Cheltenham’ arriving at the font of our train to Alton.

Enjoying two London postal adventures

Two postal adventures enjoyed by us yesterday. Both were in London, the new Postal Museum and the Mail Rail.

Riding on the Mail Rail was the main attraction of our London visit with a group from the Camberley and District Probus Club. Our visit included a guide from the Museum of London, who was helpful in describing the parts of London with a strong postal heritage. Our guide directed us to a replica Penfold post pillar box located on the west side of St Martin’s Le Grand at the junction with Angel Street in the City [See photo on right]. The green box was unveiled by HRH The Prince of Wales and commemorates 500 years since the first Master of Posts in 1516.

Here are my photos of the Postal Museum – should note that it has an excellent cafe, which is a must for museums, don’t you think.

The Rail Rail was fun. I’m compiling my video clips of our mail rail ride and associated history, which I’ll post later. Unfortunately, combining video clips into a meaningful story takes longer than I wished it would. Never mind that, here are a few images of the mail rail.

The Golden Milestone in Rome

Our presentation on renovating the Surrey Heath milestones, that’s by Reg Davis and me, to Camberley and District Probus Club, went far better than Reg and I had anticipated. Funnily, it’s the first opportunity we’ve had to talk about milestone renovation project, so we should thank the club for taking a chance on two old blokes.

I won’t put the presentation here, as it’s not really the right format for it. What I will do is share with you some parts of our presentation. I began our talk by describing the history of milestones. Here’s that history.

The Romans introduced milestones throughout their empire. Remains of them have been found in France, Spain, North Africa, Israel, and of course in Britain. The Romans laid good quality, mostly straight, metalled roads in Britain. Their key purpose was to move soldiers and supplies quickly across their Empire.

They indicated distances by erecting milestones.  “A Roman unit of distance was the mille passum, which translates to ‘thousand paces.’ A pace was five Roman feet, meaning a Roman mile measured 5,000 feet. Hadrian’s Wall is 80 Roman miles long, and each mile was marked by a milecastle fort. These were used for controlling the movement of people, goods and livestock along the Wall.”¹

The first Roman milestone was erected in 20 BC in the Forum in Rome, from which all road distances were measured. It is known as the Golden Milestone – Milliarium Aureum. While no proven evidence of this pillar remains, a reference in Plutarch’s, Life of Galba, refers to an imposing gilded column. There are some supposed fragments of Milliarim Aureum in the Forum in Rome.

Here’s a photo of the fragments in the Forum, and the imagined Golden Milestone.  [Click on image to expand].



A racy stretch of road for stagecoaches

I’ve been much involved of late in preparing a short talk, along with my chum Reg Davis, about our work on renovating milestones in the borough.

It’s quite taken over my life, causing me to make errors in blog posts. Normally, it’s not a problem for me to prepare a talk. This talk is, however, to my peer group of wise and learned old gents of the Camberley and District Probus Club, and that’s pressure.

My part of our joint talk is more about the history of milestones and such. To lighten my talk I found this story of stagecoach travel along the A30 from Bagshot to Hartford Bridge. Here’s a view of the A30 in early 1900’s near where Blackbushe Airfield is now, and a print of two stagecoaches passing one another on this stretch of road. [Click on images to expand.] The print of the stagecoaches is important to note in the story.

Taken from ‘The Exeter Road’ by Charles Harper, 1899, and in The Camberley News 23rd November, 1990

An old passenger travelling from London to Exeter, having had an uncomfortable coach ride, quits the coach at Bagshot, congratulating himself on being safe and sound.

Approaching a waiter he says, “Pray sir, have you any slow coach down this way today.” A slow coach covers 8 miles in an hour. The waiter replied, “Why, yes sir, we have The Regulator down in an hour.”

He has breakfast, and at the appointed time the coach arrives.  The waiter announces that The Regulator is full inside and in front.  “But, sir”, he says, “You’ll have the hind dickey all to yourself, and your luggage in the hind boot.”

The old gentleman passenger again congratulates himself, prematurely, for they about to enter Hartford Bridge Flats, having the reputation of the best the best five miles for a coach in all of England. The Coachman ‘springs’ his horses, and they break into a gallop which does those five miles in 23 minutes.

The coach being heavily laden forward, rolled in a manner which it is quite impossible to find a simile, and the passenger utterly gives himself up for gone.

In the midst of its best gallops, halfway across the Flats, The Regulator meets the coachman of The Comet coming the other way, whose coachman has a full view of passenger in the hind dickey and describes his situation thus, “He was seated with his back to the horses, his arms extended to each extremity of the guard rails, his teeth set as grim as death – his eyes cast down toward the ground, thinking the less he saw of his danger the better.”

In this state the old gentleman arrived at Hartford Bridge, where he exclaimed he’ll walk to Devonshire.