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  • Writer's pictureSue Hooper-Lawrie

UPDATE January/February 2024

February meeting speaker Graham Short.

Gave us an extremely interesting, informative, and entertaining hour and a half explaining the techniques used to allow micro-engraving. Graham keeps fit swimming every day to keep his heart rate down, then only works between midnight and 5am to avoid vehicle tremors affecting his still hand whilst engraving the lord’s prayer on a pin head or similar. Using a microscope @ 400x magnification. With many amusing anecdotes and name dropping, he’s been round the world engraving for the rich and famous, we were very much entertained, the time just flew by.

Our Speaker for Thursday 7th March is Ruth Croome, who will tell us about "The Work of Mercy Ships" 

T his talk explains how the world's largest charity -run hospital ships take life-changing medical care to the world's poorest.  We look at why the charity is needed in the first place, how it started, and how it operates today. Then we see some of our patients and the type of surgeries that are performed on board ship. And finally, we hear how Mercy Ships leaves a legacy in the countries it visits, and its ongoing need for volunteers. The content is inspirational, poignant and life-affirming.

Please take a moment to read this as it’s about YOU…

Some of our Interest Groups operate a process of shared learning, where each person in the group takes it in turn to host and present to the group in their home or at a local venue.

Thus, everyone participates in teaching as well as learning something new about the subject. Such an arrangement does not require everyone in the group to be an expert in some area - it just requires that everyone in the group is prepared to do some research on some aspect of the subject that they are interested in, or that they think might be of interest to the other members of the group.

In such groups the Group Leader doesn’t, “lead” the group in a conventional sense, but rather acts as a co-ordinator for the activities of the group - keeping a record of where the group is next to meet and the subject matter of the presentation, and they are the contact person for the group.

Could you do this for a gardening group or a cycling group?

Other groups involve a knowledgeable person, in a particular subject imparting their knowledge or skills to the other group members. In such groups it is usual for the subject ‘expert’ to be the Group Leader so that they can decide on an appropriate frequency of the group meetings, what topics need to be covered at each meeting.

Do you have a skill that you can share as a one-off workshop or a regular monthly group?

Do you have a passion for cryptic crosswords or are knowledgeable about bird watching for example? Others meet just to have fun or exercise! Our Walkers and 2 Strollers groups are popular but how about Pilates, Barn/Line dancing or chair. Yoga? Do you know anyone who could lead these sessions? Then there are those of us who aren’t members of a particular Interest Group at all but do appreciate coming along to our monthly meetings to socialise and enjoy our speakers. Members volunteer to drive, the less able us, which is a kindness.

Apart from the committee we also have a small group of members who every month, volunteer to put out the signage, facilitate our refreshments and are on hand for any issues with the hall that should arise. The hall caretaker now puts out and puts away the tables and chairs saving all our backs!

Whatever it is that you do, you are all most welcome at your Culm Valley u3a!

We are a great community group who all follow the u3a ethos of learn, laugh, live with fun and great enthusiasm!

Please do get in touch with your offers of help and ideas.

Thank you.

Barbie (Groups Coordinator)

News from the Interest Groups


Terry led our January walk and tells us ‘After the coldest night of the year, 15 of us slithered into the car parks at Ellerhayes, setting off along the river Culm to Columbjohn. The sun was out and some of us soon felt wrapping up very warm had not been necessary even if some did now have very cold feet. This section was largely level but frozen solid in places. One of the walkers had volunteered at Killerton and so was able to tell us more about the chapel and arch at Columbjohn the ancient home of the Acland family. By the bridge it was really lovely in the winter sun.

The walk along the road to Daneswood was pleasant - the scenery is quietly pretty, and the road wasn't busy. From Daneswood to Killerton we had a bit more traffic, but some NT workmen had left a gate open, so we hopped over a cattle grid and walked back across the parkland. The Stables Cafe was just right for refreshment (and to warm our feet) even outside. Suitably replenished we wended our way back to Ellerhayes bridge by various routes. We are fortunate to have such a lovely place literally on our doorstep.


‘The quiz group enjoyed a belated Christmas lunch at the Keepers Cottage on the 29 January, 22 quizzers joined for the first of what we hope will be an annual event. Although there wasn’t  a cracker, a piece of tinsel or Christmas tree in sight, we all enjoyed the cracker quiz jokes provided by Liz at the end of the meal, with the inevitable ‘groans’ and laughs these jokes  are famous for making, when the answers were either guessed or provided. The group have trialled an additional quiz meeting each month since the 1 September 2023, quiz meetings have been held every fortnight, instead of once a month, these have been very well supported and although the last of these extra quiz dates will be held on the 1st of March, we plan to run them again from September this year.’

Behind the Scenes

The first event of the year for Behind-the-scenes members will be a visit to Taunton Racecourse for the RNLI Charity Race Meeting. We will be accompanied by a guide who will explain how the racecourse is operated and the betting system. There will be no pressure whatsoever to place a bet, we are more than welcome to watch and absorb the atmosphere. The date is 26th March, meet at the racecourse around 12.30pm, the exact time to be confirmed, individual cost will be £11.00 per head. Please let me know if you wish to reserve a space.


A group of keen participants recently met at a member’s house for a one-off workshop to learn about and practice some calligraphy and lettering skills.   Everyone was enthusiastic and made some great inroads into developing their beautiful handwriting and lettering skills. We used several different types of pens, inks, nibs and paper to try out how each felt. Some soon decided on what was their favourite type of pen and paper. 

One member went home and on the same day produced this lovely poster ‘Enjoy Every Moment’.   It can take months or years of dedication and practice to perfect these skills, but just look at what you can do after a couple of hours practice.  I think these great examples from the workshop show great promise!


During the past two quilting sessions, some of the group have been continuing with their block designs - these have been the tulip flower and the latest, the drunkards Path - yes, it really is called that! There are many, many quilt block designs with weird and wonderful names. Some of the more experienced group members working on projects they had started independently. It’s good to see the different techniques used and share these experiences.

On one of the sessions, several of the group helped another member to start securing the backing of quite a big quilt, which she has been working on for many years.  It’s not unusual for quilters to work on some items for years. Many hands certainly started to make light work of this mammoth task, although there is still some way to go to finish the quilt.

Craft Group

The first meeting of the year was on 17th January and Jean set us off making ‘Pod’ Boxes. These little pods were a delight to make with some of the class already making them for Easter Egg holders. They can of course be made for holding more expensive trinkets! I think the pictures speak for themselves, thank you Jean.


ITCG Group

7th February, Andy Arnold advanced the members knowledge for the auto file saving of Microsoft and Apple word processing software, very enlightening.


We finished 2023 with an excellent Red Coat Tour of Exeter Quay in October; a fascinating historical walking tour of Bradninch, in November and our usual planning meeting in December (with mince pies and cream) at Padbrook Park Hotel. The weather was very wet on the afternoon of the Exeter Quay tour so, after pointing out many features from the shelter of the Victorian open sided fish market, the guide took us round The Old Custom House and gave a very entertaining slide show on the history of the quayside (which included singing along to sea shanties).

For our November walk around Bradninch we were guided by Warwick Knowles from Bradninch Historical Society and our walk included where the American troops camped in 1943-4; the site of houses that used to be shops as well as the more notable historical buildings of The Guildhall and St Disen's Church.

Our December meeting gave many ideas for places to visit in 2024 and we will kick the year off with a visit to St Nicholas Priory in Exeter at the end of February. Following the success of the Bradninch walking tour we are hoping to repeat this at other local towns and villages and a few of our members have contacted their local historical societies to make arrangements.

Many thanks Alison

Art in Action

"Art in Action have been busy picking up tips from each other and painting a still life. There is an interesting art exhibition on screen coming up at the Beehive on the 29th of February, get tickets online from Beehive if you are interested. It features Monet's gardens plus more.

 If you would like to join us twice a month to dabble in art, please contact Rachel. New members are always welcome.

Draw it

Some photos of our recent session From Fire to Phoenix


We hardy “outdoors type” 3rd agers, have been fortunate with the weather throughout the first few weeks of 2024, and whilst frequently cold, have enjoyed playing several games of vigorous Pétanque during both mornings and afternoon gatherings on most Fridays; great fun and good cardiac exercise are beneficial aspects of participating in our enjoyable sport!  

We are delighted and excited to confirm that through exploratory discussions initiated by our u3a colleague, Michael Wragg, the current Chairman of the Cullompton Community Association Trustees, Iain Emmett, has become a very keen advocate of installing two Pétanque courts on the edge of the Cullompton Community Association Carpark, close by the Cricket Club premises. These will be freely accessible for use by members of the public, and available for anyone to play Pétanque throughout the year! The main aim being to promote the sociable sport of Pétanque amongst young people and increase public awareness as a healthy activity, for persons of all ages and abilities. This being the fully publicised ambition of Pétanque England, the national body overseeing our sport in the UK. We are pleased to report that initial ground works are already actively proceeding.

 Whilst initial groundworks are already in progress, with the aim to have one lane open by Easter this year, Iain Emmett is now planning to make a submission to the Cullompton Town Council for financial funds to be allocated in support of this new project, for ongoing recognition of the new facility, both now and in years to come. To that end we are very keen to encourage ALL our CVu3a members, to compose a brief letter or email to Iain Emmett to register your full support for his request to the Town Council which will be of immense benefit to both present and future generations.

To write a letter - please send it to Iain Emmett, Chairman of the CCA Trustees, at 49 Station Road, Cullompton, Devon, EX15 1BQ

or send an email to

Whichever method you choose, your support will be much appreciated.


Thank you to Russ and Penny who hosted the group in their spectacular new kitchen.

The January get together left me smiling for the rest of the day! In preparation for our February meeting, which will be a studio session in Axminster, I took a bag of wigs and hats for the members to use. The idea being that it can be difficult to ask other people to pose or move in a certain way during a studio session and so we tried on the accessories and found new confidence in ourselves. I have not laughed so much for a long time and I cannot wait to see the resulting photographs from everyone. 

Our thanks go to the generosity of photographer John MacDougall who has offered his studio and even his cameras to us for the session.

Our photographic challenges last month were 'Black and White' and 'Christmas'.

We had three winners, Paul Snell, Paula Hyland and myself, but Paul actually took the trophy home for the month.

As mentioned before, our February meeting is on 26th February in Axminister can't wait to see the photographs we produce and we should learn quite a bit about lighting and the use of different cameras. We decided not to have models, but to pose ourselves, so the resulting photos should be fun.

Learn to Draw

Convergence lines, the triangular grid, gesture drawing, negative space – all these strange terms were a mystery until I joined the Learn to Draw course!  I admit I had originally had doubts as to whether the course was right for me but joined on the strong recommendation of someone who had already completed it.

We started with the basics, including how to hold your pencil, and discussed drawing materials and equipment.  We then worked our way through composition, light, and shadow, drawing techniques and perspective etc. expertly guided each step of the way by Sue.  It was reassuring to learn that there is no such thing as ‘cheating’ and that copious ‘rubbing out’ is not frowned upon!

The sessions are organised in a highly professional and inspirational way and are thoroughly enjoyable.  It is wonderful to see the progress of the participants and the amazing work produced, all with individual style!   Highly recommended!

Angela Wood

Blue Jay by Angela Wood

Committee Report

It is a quiet season now for all things ‘Committee’ with our first meeting being held on 27 March. Sue Greenhough will be back from her travels ready to steer us through the meeting.

We had a wonderfully entertaining afternoon in the safe and skilful hands of Graham Short, what an amazing world he works in. I was at the Birmingham College of Food and Domestic Arts 1974 – 77 and we used to often walk around the Jewellery Quarter on a Sunday. Little did we know what amazing creations were going on then. I don’t, however, remember having one of his suspect Russian Chocolate Eggs!!

We are very grateful to another Graham, the caretaker, who sets up the hall for us and packs away afterwards. The Committee pays him a very reasonable sum for this service, and we are sure our backs are very grateful too! We can all relax and enjoy our afternoons.

Marian Luck and I attended a Zoom meeting of the Southwest Region on 5 February to watch a presentation on ‘Fit for the Future’. This subject is up for consultation between January and April and seeks to make the contact u3a’s have with National Office easier and more effective. The proposals are to have a new u3a representative Council with 2 representatives per region/nation and 3 representatives from networks to consider u3a matters. There would also be a small u3a Board of u3a members experienced in oversight and compliance issues.

It is early days and there were mixed reactions on the day to the proposals with all agreeing that at the end of the day we want our members to learn and enjoy their membership with the u3a’s. How we get there needs to be as easy as possible in my view.

Well, there you have it, the Committee beaver away in the background keeping things on an even keel and we are here to help with any questions you may have.

Check onto our website from time to time for all kinds of useful information at:

See you next time.

Lorna Knowles (Business Secretary)

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