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Event Reports

  • Science Study Day 2017


    On 14 June, Sevenoaks U3A Science Group held its annual Study Day at the Orchard Conference Centre, East Malling, on the theme of Climate Change: Facts, Causes and Consequences. The enthusiastic attendees, just short of 100 in number, came not only from Sevenoaks, but across Kent from Dartford to Rye. The programme opened with Sir Brian Hoskins (Grantham Institute, Imperial College) setting the scene with a comprehensive understanding of the latest scientific assessment of the changes in the earth’s climate. This was followed by John Halladay (Greenpeace) illustrating the impact of changes of climate on people and the environment; a presentation enhanced by his collection of graphic slides and personal experiences. Dr Swenja Surminski (Grantham Institute, London School of Economics) covered the social and economic impact on the UK, drawing on her own research into the economic consequences of flooding. Finally, a presentation by Sir Brian summarised previous attempts to reach international agreement on reducing the level of “green house gases” generated by human activity and its impact on climate change, together with his assessment of the importance of the December 2015 Paris Agreement. The presentations were followed by a lively question and answer session involving the audience and the three presenters including a small number of dissenting voices from climate change sceptics.

    August 2017

    SC-Image-B Hoskins (2)

    Speakers seated (L-R) Dr Swenja Surminski, John Halladay and Professor Sir Brian Hoskins

    SC-Image-B Hoskins (3)
  • Walking & Culture

    Walking-Culture-1In June Walking Group 1b undertook the interesting exercise of combining a theatre trip to the Chichester Festival with a 10 mile walk the next day.

    We all met up in the restaurant of the Chichester Festival Theatre and enjoyed an excellent meal before tackling Tennessee Williams’ “Sweet Bird of Youth” – a wordy play set in the 1950s which looks at failed ambition, lost youth and love, and the corruption and bigotry that lurks behind the American Dream. Meaty stuff!

    Well we certainly needed cheering up after that, so the next day we set off in perfect weather on a circular walk round Thorney Island which has an interesting history of military use. A small airfield was developed in 1938, and the Navy used it in 1976. Then in the 1970s it was used to house Vietnamese refugees, and is now the base for a regiment of the Royal Walking-Culture-2Artillery.

    However you see little of that on the perimeter path which, apart from one short “jungle” section with 6ft nettles, gave us glorious sea and estuary views. That brought us round to the Emsworth Yacht Harbour where we enjoyed a very good lunch. Then just a few more miles back to our cars.

    Meanwhile two of our non-walking partners were respectively enjoying a visit to The Pallant House Art Gallery (where a couple of actors were performing a little known Graham Greene play called “Yes and No”) and an aircraft museum.

    A thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating few days – our thanks to Elizabeth Purves for masterminding it all.

    Patrick Pascall
    September 2017

  • Tai Chi Group


    Tai-ChiThe Sevenoaks U3A Tai Chi group was formed in January 2013 as a direct result of interest shown by members in improving physical health after the London Olympics. We meet weekly at the St. Edith Church Hall, Kemsing and practise the 24 tai chi form.

    Tai Chi is commonly practised for its health benefits. Chinese people believe that the vital energy in all life (chi or qi) flows through each of us and that the amount of qi we each have determines our health. This ties in with the theory of acupuncture in which the body’s energy moves through channels/meridians which is affected by the wellbeing of all our vital organs.

    If a person suffers from stress, which blocks the flow of qi, this may lead to becoming tired and more susceptible to physical problems (bowel disorders, headaches, poor circulation or high blood pressure).

    There are different schools/forms of tai chi but the most popular is the 24 form, specifically combining the best of the various schools and easier for non Chinese practitioners to learn.

    The benefits of practising tai chi are: improve concentration, energy level & posture; learn to relax the body and mind; enhance mobility and balance.

    On the 1st July the group demonstrated the 24 tai chi form at the Seal Allotment Open Day .

    Magdalen Kit Fong Fry.
    Tai Chi teacher
    September 2017

  • Bongos, Timbales & Maracas



    On the afternoon of May 16th, 2017 a packed audience at the Otford Village Hall were treated to all the exuberance of Latin American Jazz served up by musicians from the jazz group PICANTE. Their performance had everything the audience could have hoped for. Great music expertly played underpinned a presentation packed with genuine insights into the origins of the Latin American sound.  Demonstrations were given of common rhythms and the note patterns which are the essence of the genre.  From Cuba we heard about Rumba and Mambo and later came Samba and Bossa Nova from Brazil. The message was reinforced as the audience itself became part of the performance, clapping along with these exotic rhythms or even trying out some of the instruments used.  Instruments like the clave (pronounced clarvay), cowbells, maracas or the pandeiro (a versatile tambourine from Brazil) emerged from drummer Marc Cecil’s ‘treasure chest’ for use by willing volunteers and rising to the occasion the audience as a whole was eventually drawn into the vocal refrain of ‘The Chant’, a standard Cuban number by the great Latin American performer Sergio Mendes.  The afternoon came to a satisfying conclusion with a rendition of Derek Nash’s musical impression of ‘dawn over Rio de Janeiro’ in a number called ‘Busy Bio’

    Harvey Mahn

    May 2017

  • Cycle Group Expedition to Southwold


    Cycling-1Inspired by a couple of our members we decided embark on a three day ride from Sevenoaks to Southwold. Six of us took part.  Wishing to stick to country roads and to keep as far away from motorways and the A12 as possible our first obstacle was the Thames. Not everyone knows that a little ferry runs from Gravesend to Tilbury every half hour! We just about squeezed our bikes on and it cost nothing for those with bus passes!
    Essex and Suffolk were relatively flat, the scenery improving rapidly once we left the rather barren wastelands of South Essex.  Our first night was in Chelmsford where we enjoyed looking round the Old Town in the evening before a good meal in a local restaurant.

    The second night was just north of Ipswich, and the final day took us through some of the finest countryside of Suffolk passing through delightful old villages looking as though they hadn't changed for centuries.  Finally we took a detour across the Dunwich marshes, sadly rather spoilt by a sea mist which chose that moment to envelop us all!

    Cycling-2Arrival at Gun Hill was closely followed by tea and cakes in a beach hut owned by one of the party. Then it was to local pubs for Adnams ale and a celebratory meal!   

    Patrick Pascall

  • Bluebell Railway Visit



    The Summer outing of Digital Camera 1 was to the Bluebell railway. Even though railways are considered by many as ‘Boys’ interest all of us enjoyed the experience. 

    The Bluebell Railway runs from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead and is organised by a few professional engineers but mainly by a band of very enthusiastic volunteers who spend days in the dark engine sheds mending and cleaning the elderly machines. Some of them also have the pleasure of playing at being a train driver and fireman. And don’t they enjoy it. The hard work they were doing with almost passionate care was inspiring One volunteer tells me he spends three days a week in the sheds since he had retired. Another was asked if he minded getting dirty and he said he enjoyed it as his wife never allowed him to.  All this enthusiasm shows in the overall quality of the railway and the museum. The museum, for example, is very professional in layout and information and contained many artefacts that date back to the early days of steam. A visit to is well worth it, particularly the ‘History’ page.

    However we went there to take photographs and this we did All this machinery both stationary and moving gave the members so many subjects to photograph. The platforms, signal boxes, luggage and other railway paraphernalia produced an atmosphere of the 1950/60 and all the group felt it.  It also gave us an opportunity to travel in1950’s carriages pulled by a steam train. At times I felt I was commuting again.

    As a personal aside, as a young ‘train spotter’ being up close to the engines whose numbers I so carefully under-lined in my copy of The ABC of Southern Trains by Ian Allen (who sadly died a few weeks ago) was pure nostalgia.

  • Royal Opera House Workshop


    ROH thurrockThe recent Royal Opera House Inspiration Day organised by the National Office attracted over 60 U3A members from across the South East and some Sevenoaks members attended. We were given a very informative tour of the workshops at the Thurrock site close to the Dartford crossing. This spacious new facility resulted from the need to relocate from their former East London site to make room for the Olympic Park.

    This facility is home to scenic painters, carpenters and metalworkers. Here they translate the designers' visions into reality, creating the many different sets that appear in the ballet and operas performed on the stage of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. The design and production process is complex as a stage set can incorporate up to 720 tonnes of staging and lighting equipment so the complete set is built up at full scale in the workshop with all the lighting so that the director can be satisfied that it meets his requirements.

    A further highlight of our visit was taking part in a workshop activity with a set designer to produce at 1/25th scale a stage set design for the Opera Hansel and Gretel. This kind of 3D model, similar to those used by Architects for building structures, is used to help directors to visualise stage set layouts and confirm requirements before the manufacturing drawings are commissioned.

    Adjacent to the workshop is a Costume facility where around 20,000 costumes are stored but it also includes workrooms for making costumes for Royal Opera House productions. This operates in partnership with South Essex College and offers students opportunities for training with the Royal Opera House. A number of apprenticeship schemes are offered in the various skills used on site to ensure long term continuity of skills for the future.

    We can recommend a visit to U3A members should the opportunity occur again.

  • Professional Photography Advice


    Click here to see an illustrated report of a talk given by Glyn Bareham to Digital Camera Group 2.

  • Industrial Heritage to Bewl Water

    Industrial Heritage Group Visit to Bewl Water SE Water Treatment Plant - 20th October 2017

    The Industrial Heritage group visited the SE Water Treatment Plant at Bewl Water to see how our water is cleansed and processed before passing into the main water distribution system for consumers. A number of us met up for lunch in the Boat House Bistro for lunch and enjoyed the outstanding view of the reservoir on a warm sunny autumnal day.

    Bewl water is currently owned by Southern Water and has a capacity of 31,300 million litres of water and is the largest body of inland water in South East England.  SE Water extracts water from Bewl Water and a number of local bore holes for treatment and supply to customers.

    The process of cleaning our water is a complex process where a series of chemical interventions are undertaken to remove debris, dissolved, hydrogen sulphide gas and suspended silt.  The first step is aeration of the water to introduce oxygen and the addition of the chemical Ferric Oxide to promote coagulation and flocculation of the unwanted material suspended in the water, a small dose of Chlorine is also added at this point. The flocculant floats to the surface of the treatment tanks and forms a sludge which is scraped off, and being rich in nutrients, is sent to farmers as fertilizer.   This step is followed by Ozonisation and filtering to remove any particles that remain in the water. A further step is to pass the water through and activated carbon filters to remove products from the ozonisation process. The final step is to chlorinate the water to kill off any bacterial matter. It is at this point that the water is clean, clear and ready for distribution to two closed storage reservoirs and onward distribution to consumers in the Weald of Kent.

    The output from the plant is impressive. It can treat and supply on average 565 million litres of water per day through 14,000 Km of mains pipe line (we were told the equivalent of pipes running around the M25 74 times!) What’s more the plant operates 24hrs per day, 365 days per year virtually unmanned. Whilst technical staff are able to monitor the plant it is controlled from a central HQ at Snodland.

    The reservoir capacity is able to meet current demand, but a forward plan is to build additional reservoir capacity near Canterbury to meet the anticipated growth in consumer demand over the next 25 years.

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