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UPDATE - March/April 2023

From the Committee …

I recently joined in a meeting with other Devon u3a groups, which was all very interesting. Some groups have less than fifty members, with the larger groups of over 1,000 members experiencing problems finding venues large enough to hold their monthly meetings.

Many Groups, regardless of size, have problems with finding members to take on Committee and Group Leader roles. Following discussion on how to encourage members to take on these roles we then looked at various Groups' websites. I must say that I have never felt more proud of Culm Valley u3a than when they looked at our site "fantastic", "amazing", "brilliant", "why can't we all have a site like this" were some of the comments received. We are fortunate to have such a brilliant site, so please take time to look at it and familiarise yourself with all that it has to offer – click here.

There is lots of information on forthcoming events for the different Interest Groups as well as contact information for Group Leaders and much more. Sue also spends a great deal of time each month compiling the monthly newsletter, UPDATE, which is also a great source of information on what the Interest Groups are planning and what they have done over the past month.

The Third Age Matters magazine (TAM) is published five times a year. Have a look, there are some interesting articles and it is available online completely free, or £3.50 for the five editions printed and posted to you.

We are expecting the next Monthly Meeting with Ann Widdecombe to be very well attended, so it would be helpful, if you are planning to attend, that you renew your membership before the meeting, by Bank Transfer to give our Membership Secretary time to process your renewal. Go to the Culm Valley u3a site click here, scroll down the page to the Membership Renewal section. Your new membership will run from 1st April 2023 - 31st December 2023, and your membership card will be available to collect from the meeting following your renewal.

The May meeting will be on FRIDAY 5th MAY due to the hall being used for local elections on Thursday 4th May. The speaker will be Julia Tremlett from the NGS telling us all about The National Gardens Scheme in Devon.


Photos, Phones and Files Workshop

On Wednesday the 8th March about 20 of us met upstairs at The Hayridge for an extremely helpful workshop created and delivered by Andy Arnold.

Andy created a comprehensive workshop mainly for Interest Group Contacts, to help us grasp how to understand and use the cameras on our mobile phones, to their full capability. We then learnt how to save and name our photographs to help us remember what they were about. What he taught us will also help with the photos which are sent in for the CVu3a newsletter and website.

Thank you Andy for taking so much time to develop and deliver such a well constructed and methodical walk through the world of Photos, Phones and Files. I am certain that everyone benefited from your wealth of knowledge and guidance, and that what we learnt will not only help with u3a photos but personal photo taking too.

Photos, Phones and Files Workshop participants

From our Groups Co-ordinator

Welcome to all our new members as well as those of you who renewed your membership. We must be doing something right! Maybe it’s being part of one or more of our 21 Interest Groups.

I know that some of you joined just to come along to hear speakers presenting on wide and varied themes at our Monthly Meetings. In a way these meetings have become our 22nd Interest Group, under the guise of catching up with friends, making new acquaintances and of course learning about new and interesting things from our speakers.

In whatever way you may be involved in our u3a I hope that you are enjoying yourselves. We all deserve a bit of ‘me time’ don’t we?

All our Interest Group contacts do a great job, working behind the scenes to make the Groups fun and interesting for their group members. I know that the time they give, is very much appreciated.

Do you have an idea for a group or even a single workshop, which you would be interested in participating in?

  • Do you have a skill that you would share with fellow members?

  • Could you teach us about Bird Watching or Astronomy?

  • Could you explain how Cryptic Crosswords work, or facilitate a group focusing on Mindfulness and Meditation?

  • Do you know the rules of Short Tennis, Pickleball, or walking Football/Cricket?

  • Or perhaps you know someone who knows these skills and could ask them to teach interested members.

  • Or a few members may like to join together to learn one or more of these activities and then create a group of enthusiastic members!

Whatever your thoughts or ideas please do get in touch.

Thanks, Barbie.

News from the Interest Groups


In February the craft group took on a project to make Luna Lapin felt rabbits. This project to some was out of their comfort zone, but with encouragement from all we have managed to finish them. So no armless rabbits left in a room unfinished and forgotten. We usually arrange a new project each month but we decided to extend this project into March and some have started on a second rabbit.

Learn to Draw

The group is going great guns, with much progress being made. Where once we heard “I Cant draw” we are hearing “wow” “that’s amazing” and “I’m hooked”!Whether drawing upside down, trying continuous line drawing or working only with negative space, progress is being made in leaps and bounds. One member even decided to draw the inside of her boiler (which was being serviced) …. it was remarkable. Enthusiasm and commitment in abundance continue to make the sessions productive, interesting and fun.

If you are interested in learning to draw why not put your name down on the waiting list for the next Learn to Draw course which will start in September. If you can already draw and want to develop your drawing skills take a look at the information on page 10 about a new group, called Draw It! starting in May.

Creative Writing Group

The creative writing group has had its second get together and the hot topic was Lockdown. The phrase used by Boris was ‘we are all in this together’ and yet we had three very different interpretations of what happened to each of us under those restrictions. We went from house moves, to documenting life to family photos with cream cakes.

Art in Action

Our friendly group meet twice a month to paint, we use different mediums, each having their own preference, watercolour, acrylic, oil or pastels and we are not afraid to try something new. We share tips on art and give encouragement to each other, which adds interest to the group.

Sue Hooper-Lawrie has left the group, she will be missed. Sue got us off to a good start last year which helped us a great deal, we will keep the momentum going. New members are most welcome, if you like to dabble in a little art no matter what level please join us.


For our February meeting we met at Bridwell Park. This had a twofold benefit; our instant challenge was to photograph anything in the park which caught our eye and then back to the Orangery where the coffee is infinitely better than mine. The instant challenge should produce such varied images. It is fascinating how we all see different photo opportunities.

Over coffee we judged the previous months subject which was 'gold'. It seems we all spent the month scouring the county for gold items to photograph.

The group did us proud with photos ranging from gold ceilings, golden sunsets, gold shoes and even a golden Buddha. The winner this month was Linda Probert for her amazing photo of cliffs and sea.

Our instant challenge was 'perspectives or illusion'. I love miniatures and so we had many props to play with. If you have a miniature postbox and a full size envelope can you make it look to scale? Or could you take a tiny deckchair and a beach photograph and make it look like an authentic beach scene. The answer is yes you can, although it takes forever to get the perspective right.

The winning photograph and the winning photographer!

Gardening and Walking

The Gardening and Walking groups enjoyed a joint outing to Snowdrop Valley on Exmoor. Ten of us lift shared from various locations to meet at The Rest and Be Thankful, Wheddon Cross. Those of us who came from Cullompton were treated to a delightful drive up the Exe Valley (when not on the look out for potholes!).

Following roads and footpaths we passed Cutcombe church where a cross of snowdrops and crocuses heralded delights to come. We then dropped steadily into the valley to be greeted by a truly amazing sight of swathes of snowdrops along the banks of the pretty river Anvil. It is thought they were introduced into the valley by Benedictine monks from nearby Dunster in C13th as a symbol of Candelmas (2nd Feb). What a treat they left for us to ponder, admire and photograph. Described by one member as "whoppers" many of us were green with envy, debating the performance of our own snowdrops and where we might be going wrong.

Crossing a bridge we then followed the opposite bank of the river before a steep ascent up a muddy path back to Wheddon Cross. Although it was half term we were pleased that the valley was not overcrowded, that we had our walking poles and that we didn't descend this way.

On our return we were greeted with a very warm welcome and good food at the aptly named Rest and Be Thankful pub, and all agreed how fortunate we are to live near such a stunning location.

Behind The Scenes

Devon Traffic Control Centre

About 40 of us visited Devon County Council's road network operation control centre at Great Moor House on two days recently, kindly hosted by their Control Centre Manager. From a relatively small room and in front of a panel of live screens, we were given a detailed explanation of the huge network of roads and bridges under DCC's control and how they manage the day to day incidents, accidents, roadworks, closures and diversions, abnormal loads and everything else which falls under the Control Centre's remit. Bus lanes, parking tickets, keeping drains clear, gritting and road signage, you name it they manage it!

A complex job involving considerable interface with other bodies (police, national highways, pot-hole contractors etc) and highly regulated by laws in terms of what they can and cannot do, we came away perhaps with more empathy for their role in keeping our roads clear and traffic moving.


Firstly, I must thank Barbie for talking about the various interest groups at the February meeting. It was only then that I learnt Jason Fox (Foxy) of the SAS - Who Dares Wins, was coming to the Great Hall, Exeter on the 17th February. I booked online for the two hour programme entitled Life at the Limit tour and we were not disappointed. Jason Fox spoke about his upbringing, joining the marines at sixteen, life in the SBS, SAS and being medically discharged after twenty years, through PTSD.

Then began a new journey as one of the divers who found the lost treasure of Captain Kidd and filming Channel 4’s SAS– Who Dares Wins. He’s completed several charity challenges including a record breaking row across the Atlantic, walking to the North Pole, then a 2,000 mile kayaking the Yukon

river plus a 49 mile trek, through Alaska and Canada. The talk was backed up with photos and film of his experiences.

Jason Fox is also a successful author and Sunday Times Bestseller with B attle Scars and Life under Fire. On leaving the Great Hall, there was a collection for Rock2Recovery. This charity is described in the programme as Our mission is to save and change the lives of those in our Armed Forces, our veteran community, 999 services and their families, who are affected by stress. Ben, my grandson in law, is in the Army Air Corps and I told him how Keith and I found Jason Fox so interesting. He agreed and told me he had met him – when they climbed Ben Nevis. Linda Grantham


We made our long awaited visit to Higher Cherubeer, which was canceled last year due to the storms. After it was featured the following week on Gardeners World I was determined that we would go this year. It was just amazing to see how much some collectors were prepared to pay for a single snowdrop. Despite the weather, The National Collection of cyclamen species, beautiful Hellebores and over 400 snowdrop varieties did not disappoint us.

Nine members attended a talk by Anne Swithinbank at Broadhembury Village Hall. Annie writes "Members of our Group joined Broadhembury Gardening Club to enjoy a fascinating and informative talk from Anne Swithinbank about "Gardening under Glass". Anne is a well known professional gardener living in Devon who previously worked at RHS Wisley, and is still a regular contributor to Gardeners Question Time on Radio 4 and Gardeners World magazine. Her talk to a packed audience was relaxed and informal taking us through the siting of a greenhouse/conservatory, equipment needed for successful growing under glass, the best conditions - caring for crops and the inevitable pests and diseases. Lots of techniques, tips and ideas associated with greenhouse growing alongside some splendid photos. A great motivational evening."

Do you enjoy drawing?

An Interest Group with a difference ...

  • Ever wished you could create your own hand drawn Christmas or Birthday cards?

  • Ever wished you knew how to draw water or a diving Kingfisher?

  • Ever wished you could draw one of your pets?

  • Do you need inspiration to draw or to start drawing again?

Well read on …..

What is Draw it?

A group for those who can draw and want to learn how to draw something specific e.g. water, glass, birds, perspective and so much more. Drawing workshops will last 2 hours and cover a wide variety of subjects/topics. You will be encouraged to suggest suggest topics or subjects too!

When and where will the group meet?

The 2nd and 4th THURSDAY of each month from 10:00 to 12:00 in the Club room, Willand Village Hall.

How will it work?

A calendar of subjects/topics will be made available and you can book onto any that interest you. You can become a regular member of the group or drop in and out of the group depending on the subject/topic of each session. YOU MUST book by the Booking Deadline date to ensure a place is available for you at the session.

What will it cost?

£3.50 per single session, £6 for 2 consecutive sessions or £10 for 4 consecutive sessions. The cost covers room hire, refreshments and occasional materials.

Will I need to bring anything?

YES! You will need to bring your own drawing materials i.e. sketchbook or pad, drawing board, graphite pencils / charcoal (or whatever you use to draw with) eraser, ruler, blending stick, (and any colouring media you use, if you want to).

How do I secure a place on the workshop/s I would like to attend.

Click on Interest Groups tab, find Draw It and click on it. Go to the events at the bottom of the page, find the date of the event you wish to attend, click on it and click on the RSVP button to book your place.

If you have any questions about this new group please get in touch with Sue.

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