Winter Walk

posted 21 Feb 2018, 03:27 by Phil Williams   [ updated 21 Feb 2018, 03:30 ]

Having received an e-mail from Ivan on the Tuesday prior to the Friday walk as follows: -

“I have walked round the intended route and to my horror there is a vast amount of slippery, gooey deep mud and bearing in mind other walks with mud problems, I feel we would be better to cancel this walk. I would hate to see anyone fall or be inconvenienced by the walk.”

However, the meal is still on, food has been ordered as per menu requests so please turn up at the Green Man by 12:45 to eat at 1:00.

So, we all met, 25 of us, at the Green Man, on what turned out to be a very nice day. Although the service was very slow, we
eventually left at 15:50, the food was good and seemed to be enjoyed by all; being topped off by Audrey Rootham’s non-menu sweet, spectacularly presented Fresh Fruit Salad. The time spent together of course gave us the time to put the “world to right” with there being much laughter throughout.

David Bowater

Magical Fine Dining Experience

posted 21 Feb 2018, 02:54 by Phil Williams   [ updated 21 Feb 2018, 03:01 ]

On Monday 22nd January 2018, the first event of the year at Walmley Golf Club was well attended by around 70 Probus Members, together with their wives and partners. Everyone arrived early allowing
plenty of time to stock up with drinks for the evening and to have a good natter with colleagues before being called to sit down at our allotted tables.

Our four-course meal was pre-booked and we were aware that Pascal Parize was chef for the evening. He has an excellent reputation having trained in a Michelin starred restaurant in Beaune, France, and has been operating the catering franchise at Walmley Golf Club since 2014. The meal lived up to our expectations with excellent service.

Once our starters were served we quickly found out the mystery Magical content of the evening. Kris Krendo, our magician for the event, has many years of experience working as a professional magician and is a member of the world renowned “The Magic Circle”. During the meal Kris went to each table in turn to show us an array of card tricks, which had us all mesmerised by his talents. The gales of laughter coming from each table he visited indicated to everyone that he had instantly broken the ice and created a terrific and hilarious atmosphere in the room.

We very quickly arrive at the end of our festivities having enjoyed a most scrumptious meal with Magical entertainment. Big thanks to David and Pam Cross for all the hard work involved in setting up this event for us.

Herby Boyle

Lichfield Visit

posted 17 Jan 2018, 01:32 by Phil Williams   [ updated 17 Jan 2018, 01:35 ]

We arrived early with our President Pete and his wife Sue and after finding some Car Parks full, I managed to find the most expensive Car Park in Lichfield only £8!!

At the Cathedral, we gathered outside but shortly found a number had sensibly gone inside out of the cold. There was a short prayer and then we were regaled with some very interesting history. The Guides were excellent, unfortunately they had to contend with a full scale Organ (5037 pipes) maintenance activity but they pressed on regardless!

The Cathedral is the only mediaeval Cathedral with 3 Spires and is the Church of St. Chad who was Bishop of Mercia and in 669 he moved from Repton to Lichfield. The first Cathedral was built in 700 AD. Starting in 1085 through the twelfth century via Saxon/Norman/Gothic, rebuilding began in 1085 and finished 140 years later. The walls were originally painted red and figures gold.

A lot of history surrounded the Civil War when the Cathedral came under several sieges by the Royalists and caused immense damage requiring the Spire to be rebuilt etc. The Victorians carried out massive refurbishment. There are some excellent Statues to local famous people like Darwin/Johnson/Garrick and the South Staffs Regiment and quirky items like crevices in the walls and mouths of stone figures for sharpening swords!

We then adjourned to Egos for a swift well organised lunch and then back up the road to Erasmus Darwin’s Museum (his Grandson being the famous Charles Darwin). Quite a character with 15 children (2 by his mistress), born in 1731 married his first wife in 1757, built a new Georgian Palladian house in 1761, made a great deal of money as a Physician and turned down the chance to be Physician to the King. He was however very generous to the locals not charging them but went far afield to places ie Chatsworth House and charged these people accordingly. He was a pal of Josiah Wedgwood and
other members of the Lunar Society and invented a variety of items including a water tank cistern, a steering mechanism for carriages adopted by cars 130 years later. Also a speaking machine and a canal barge lifting system. He was also a celebrated Poet.

We had split conducted guide tours up and down the House including the extensive cellars where Erasmus would use a speaking tube to call up for refreshments. We didn’t have to use it as our very welcome cuppa was waiting with bikkies at the top of the house.

Our President thanked Roger and Sue Dudley for a fascinating look back at amazing local history on our doorstep.

Robin Hart

Christmas Yuletide Dinner

posted 10 Jan 2018, 01:46 by Phil Williams   [ updated 10 Jan 2018, 01:49 ]

Grounds Country Sports Club coped well, as on Wednesday 6th December, the red tide of Maney Probus descended in force on their warm & welcoming hostelry, for our Christmas Yuletide gathering. As usual the bar was packed with most preparing their throats for the impending carol service. 

Numbering some 75 colourful members, all being amply fed, from the excellent buffet offering of chicken, beef or vegetarian option all with the trimmings, followed by delicious desserts, mince pies with coffee or tea. Worth a mention here was the way we were looked after by David, Anne, Zoe & Meg.

In keeping with the season, we had a Christmas Quiz, won, after a tie break by Table 2, prizes, bottles of chocolate liquors, these bright sparks made up of Pam & David Cross, Val & Mike Herridge, Sue & John Weston, Derek Haywood and Bob Johnson. Knowing the men involved I'm sure the ladies won it for them.
This followed by Morgan Perkins, an 'Old Blue Eyes' type singer, crooning most of Frank's well known songs, easy listening, to which many, led by Bob & Dot and Peter & Susan, managed to do a sort of waltz? down the central gap between tables. Morgan then led a carol service, thoroughly enjoyed by all culminating in the 12 Days of Christmas, with each table allotted a verse, so it doesn't take much imagination to understand the rivalry, but as the S.A.N.A (self appointed neutral adjudicator and I'm writing this report, so?) without doubt Table 4 won. Knowing from the tone deaf there will be some dissent, so reasons, Table One (Table 1) still suffering from losing quiz 'sudden death' challenge with Table 2, who I think had started on their winnings. Table 3, plenty of volume, with loss of clarity but they came second. Table 4 brilliant, just brilliant. The rest of the tables tied in 3rd place, to elucidate Table 5 lacked baritone and depth. Table 6 stumbled over some of the words and was a bit pitchy. Table 7 was a bit like 6, but a lot of 'clatter' and mumbling. Table 8 late with their verse, struggled to keep up, timing issues. However it was, a close run contest.
I must confess I looked for Frank Cole just to check which top coat he wore, I didn't recognise him having now been told he was heavily disguised, sporting a fine beard, which suited him.

Finally I must mention how tremendous the ladies looked. Our grateful thanks go to Peter and Susan Knights for organizing such a treat. 

Bob Din 

Skittles Night

posted 27 Nov 2017, 02:03 by Phil Williams   [ updated 27 Nov 2017, 02:17 ]
Despite 54 members and guests getting a drink before dinner it was all very civilised. On Friday 10th November, it was not a survival of the fittest or those with the sharpest elbows to get served first-most unlike Probus members!

After we had found our tables and discovered who were going to be in our team for the night’s events, things soon settled down. Food then served was of the usual excellent quality with a choice of chicken curry or beef casserole for the main course followed by a choice of three desserts. There were, of course, several members who went back for second helpings.
The main event of the evening then commenced with six teams of either 8 or 10 with adjustment being made for the team with only 8. John kept a close eye on the play ensuring that those cheating, cheated fairly! In the second round despite Bob Johnson scoring 2 strikes and a score of 25 out of 27, it was not good enough for his Red Team to be overall victors. Many
thanks to Arthur and Sheila Showell, the scorers, who could not be bribed despite our best efforts.

After the physical exertions of the skittles, we then settled down to exertions of the mind to complete the 100 question quiz. After
another hard fought contest, the overall winners of the evening were the Yellow Team consisting of Roger and Sue Dudley Bob and Dot Frisby, Mike and Val Herridge, Alan and June Jones and Trevor and Pauline Smith.

Many thanks to John and Linda for organising another splendid evening of skittles.

Ken Batson

Autumn Walk

posted 27 Nov 2017, 01:29 by Phil Williams   [ updated 27 Nov 2017, 02:02 ]

Well, on Wednesday 1st November, here we are with our summer holidays behind us, getting ready for a peaceful run into Christmas, and Maney Probus thinks up an Autumn walk taking us through woods, along a canal and across fields, even a section of the Military Firing Range.

31 walkers met at the Tame Otter Pub in Hopwas near Tamworth, to begin the tour of the countryside. First we pass St Chads Church with its mock Tudor exterior and then on to Hopwas Hays Woods, the woods have been in existence since 1222 and was Crown property until c1550. We paused to see the site of the Woodmans House in the distance.

Leaving the wooded area we see Packington Hall Farm piggery field (it was good to see these animals in open fields) onto the Army firing range (at this point we were a little concerned as we made haste across the range without being fired upon), but our leader did assure us that he had checked with the barracks earlier that there were no plans to use the range that day.
Along the journey we also came upon a series of old WW2 pillboxes which can be seen when passing by Hopwas Wood Bridge. At first, one has to be puzzled as to the reason they were positioned where they are, they did not appear to be defending anything but I am assured that they were a part of the Western Command Stop No 5.

A rest was then taken near to a wind turbine, where we had a break for refreshments and after, continued on our journey on well used pathways designated for walkers such as ourselves.

We then made our way along to the tow path of the Birmingham/ Fazeley Canal pausing to pass the time of day with one or two couples chugging along very peacefully.

Our journey on the canal pathway took us under several bridges namely Hadmore House Bridge, Tamhorn Park Bridge and Hopwas School Bridge, and we noted the storage space of stop planks for blocking the canal when it needs to be drained, built into the inside of the bridges themselves.

We passed private houses which had wonderful views of the canal and it’s slow moving barges.

We returned to the Tame Otter for a late leisurely meal, for walkers and non-walkers which was most enjoyable.

A question (was it 4.5 or 6.5 miles) - who cares.

Peter Knights then thanked Frank Cole for organising the walk, which was enjoyed by all.

Mike Herridge 

An Evening with Geoff Tristram

posted 18 Oct 2017, 02:23 by Phil Williams   [ updated 18 Oct 2017, 02:27 ]
Geoff Tristram is a studio artist and commercial artist of great talent. He has had great experience over forty plus years and has enjoyed success locally nationally and internationally.

The evening of Friday 13th October, began with the potato man and we brought our own drinks and other snacks. With the lights down Geoff then gave his illustrated talk of his whole life from childhood to the present day. He had worked on a huge variety of commissions over the years including the designing of British stamps commissioned by The Queen and commissions for very wealthy families abroad including Italy and the USA. He had also done a great number of commercial jobs for jigsaw puzzles, the labelling and packaging of products with household names and portrait work for famous football stars such as Alan Shearer and Stevie Bull. Although he took us through it all and it showed a very successful career, he is a modest and genuine man.

As we found out he is also a brilliant raconteur with a great sense of humour. The story, the style and the ambiance made it a great success and we were all very grateful to Geoff.

David Mclean

Dudley Canal Tunnel

posted 18 Oct 2017, 02:01 by Phil Williams   [ updated 18 Oct 2017, 02:21 ]

On Friday 6th October, twenty eight members and friends gathered for coffee at Dudley Canal Tunnel and Limestone Mines before joining a 72ft long narrow boat full
of anticipation as to what the day would bring. Prior to joining the vessel everyone was supplied with a hard hat and Captain Brian introduced himself along with his two assistants whose principal jobs were to operate the four locks through which we had to pass after leaving the Dudley tunnel, which is 2800 metres in length.

Skipper Brian commentated throughout the 3 hr journey in the electric battery powered metal craft equipped with metal seating down each side. A powerful spot-lamp on the prow and low powered strip lighting along its length provided illumination.

At the beginning of the journey, we passed many limestone shafts and various caverns including the Singing Tunnel, opened by Blue Peter personnel as recently as 1984, where we were treated to a laser show specially put on for our benefit. We also saw the ‘original light at the end of the tunnel’ to indicate which tunnel leads back to base at a junction of four tunnels.

Thereafter we entered the narrow dark lengthy Dudley tunnel itself with stalactites on the rounded ceiling and calcite on the walls, the colour of which changed as to which minerals the water surrounding the tunnel had passed through. Spiders were observed hanging from the walls and the occasional bat was also present.. A
sense of eeriness prevailed as the narrow boat crept noiselessly through the dark water with dank walls in close proximity. At the invitation of the skipper four stalwarts from our party, working in pairs, legged us along for some 200 yards before we eventually left the tunnel to negotiate four locks and subsequently reached our final destination at Merry Hill wharf where we alighted from the vessel to join the coach to return us to our starting point.
Finally we all enjoyed a somewhat late lunch with the usual friendliness and banter in abundance before departing to our respective homes.
Our heartfelt thanks go to Herby and Pam Boyle for organising this fantastic day out, for which the contents of this report cannot possibly do justice as to what an enjoyable and indeed fascinating trip was experienced by all.

Tony Wells 

Black & White Tour

posted 18 Oct 2017, 01:36 by Phil Williams   [ updated 18 Oct 2017, 02:19 ]

We all met, 36 of us, at a very wet Sutton Parade Car Park by 08:00am, on Thursday 28th September, but the clouds were already departing to reveal what was to be a glorious day for the time of year. Our
coach driver Lee then decided to take us via the M5, much to our consternation, but it worked out well, to our first stop being the National Trust – Berrington Hall, Nr Leominster. The Hall was built in1781 by Thomas Harley following the parkland in which it sits being designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, including one of his famous walled gardens.
Upon arrival, being split into 4 parties of 9, coffee/tea was served in the Edwardian Tea room, then a half hour guided tour of “below stairs”, our guide being extremely interesting was very knowledgeable on his subject. This then enabled the remaining time to be spent exploring upstairs, where the lavishly period decorations, furniture, paintings, marble columns, ceilings and magnificent glass dome, were such a contrast to the below stairs plain but yet well-proportioned rooms for the staff. Amongst this Georgian grandeur was a modern artwork called “War & Pieces” made from porcelain, sugar, plastic and a few Star Wars figures, showing an envision of a war banquet.

The last but not least part of the visit was of course the gardens, which includes numerous orchards and of course the walled garden with the original central pavilion being replaced with a modern geometry octagon shaped summer house which resembled a giant pineapple.

Having checked that all were on the coach, we set off for Leominster, where we picked up our guide Justin, to start the 46 mile Black & White tour. We passed through numerous villages, including the pretty village of Eardisland on the River Arrow, Pembridge with its timber framed
buildings along its main street, Lyonshall from where we had a view of a section of Offa’s Dyke and of course Wales in the distance, we arrived at the Burton Hotel Kington, everybody ready for lunch which was enjoyed by all.

Again, being refreshed, we started our return leg back to Leominster, the village of Eardisley being first, to which our guide Justin told us of the famous 900-year-old hollow Great Oak, then Kinnersley and Kinnersley Castle, onto Sarnesfield, where Charles 1’s King’s Carpenter, the builder of Grange Court in Leominster and many other Herefordshire buildings, is buried in their church yard. On the way into the next village Weobley, we saw how the houses where originally, being Pink and Black; here we alighted the coach for a walk round, it is the largest village on the route, but it still has its charm as one shop had on its door - “ OPEN 10am Till Fed Up – KNOCK NEXT DOOR IF CLOSED”
Off again to the smallest village of Dilwyn, a population of only 800, with its small church, having only one service per year to keep it consecrated. Our final destination being back at Leominster, where we stopped for coffee/tea before heading back to Sutton. Although the traffic was very bad, Lee our driver took us home via the M42, only being 20 minutes later than scheduled.

David Bowater 

Middleton Hall

posted 18 Oct 2017, 01:28 by Phil Williams   [ updated 18 Oct 2017, 01:34 ]

Thirty Probus members and wives arrived almost in convoy at Middleton Hall on 21st September for a memorable visit to this local famous venue. The arrival time had been altered in order to avoid the promised rain which was due to arrive later in the day.

We were split into two groups and one did a garden tour whilst the other did a house tour, after coffee the groups did the other tour. Some fortunate members who chose the garden tour did that tour in the dry, the second garden tour got slightly damp.

The Hall dates back to pre- Norman times and was mentioned in the Domesday Book. For a while the Knights Templar took over the Hall and grounds. In 1493 Sir Henry Willoughby began some 400 years of Willoughby ownership.
By 1980 the Hall was in total disrepair and was perhaps fortunate not to have been demolished or even left to just fall down. The Middleton Hall Trust was formed and the lease is cared for by this charitable trust and is operated by a dedicated number of volunteers. These volunteers have lovingly restored both buildings and grounds, and indeed there is still much to be done. Much research has been carried out and piece by piece the history of the Hall is recorded.

We were fascinated by the various doorways, and aspects of original building work, now lovingly restored. The Great Hall, of Tudor design, was particularly impressive and is used for weddings and concerts.

We were told of the work by John Ray, who was a great philosopher, writer and taxonomist. He has been called the father of English natural history and was perhaps the forerunner of the Linnaean method of plant classification. He was a graduate of Cambridge University and became a lecturer at Trinity College. John later spent time travelling and working on his book about insect life. He had previously produced his History of Plants. Although not as well known as Charles Darwin, he was very influential in the world of natural history.

After lunch and the changeover of tours, those of us on the garden tour had drawn the short straw, the promised rain had arrived. Joanna began this tour sheltering under a tree before handing over to Andy the Gardener. Joanna and Andy are the only paid workers at Middleton and they are to be congratulated for the work they do. Andy told us that he didn’t mind the rain, he was very often working in pouring rain. However, he too spoke to us under cover where possible and he also paid reference to John Ray and pointed out a yellow rose named after the great man. He indicated the Mulberry tree of some great age and pointed out the heated wall in the walled garden.

I am sure those of us who went on this wonderful excursion will wish to repeat this visit at a later date, and those who missed out should make a date to visit.

Our thanks to David for the chance to make this visit and see the work that so many have done willingly as volunteers. As a group, we should be proud that four of Maney Probus are so proactive in the project.

Ivan Ellis 

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