Something significant happened in February when I visited two groups in Wetherby & District U3A on the same day.
One chilly, sunny and beautifully bright Tuesday morning in February, armed with my walking boots, a few extra layers of clothing, I made my way to the Parkway Hotel on the outskirts of Leeds.
As I looked around I could spot other people gathering in the car park, donning extra layers in preparation for the morning’s walk.
However, the first walk of the day was into the Hotel to book lunch in preparation for our return, for this was Walking with Lunch Group 3.
We gathered together, chatting amiably introducing ourselves to each other. The group membership is quite large and inevitably there is a different mix of people on each walk.
Jenny Douglas, our Guide on this walk, explained the walk, three-and-a-half miles in length, would cover ground through and around Golden Acre Park.
We set off and within a very short time we came to Adel Dam Wildlife Park, administered by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. A magic place to remember for the future.
I hadn’t visited Golden Acre Park since about 1985 with my own children, so was delighted with this opportunity to explore.
Jenny had researched the history of the Park in preparation for the walk and told us it started life as an Amusement Park in 1932, with a range of outdoor leisure facilities, hoping to match the success of the recently opened Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
However, it closed at the end of the 1938 season and lay derelict until 1946 when it was bought by Leeds City Council and over the years has become one of the foremost horticultural experiences in Yorkshire.
Continuing through the gardens and woods at a gentle pace we chatted together and enjoyed the sights, the wildlife, and the sounds of the countryside. The walking surface was excellent, and we encountered many other walkers of all ages, parents with pushchairs, wheelchair users and dog walkers which says much for the facilities in the Park.
We discovered Paul’s Pool, built in the 1820’s as a fish pond for Cookridge Hall. There was talk of Matthew Murray, the innovative engineer who played such an important role in the development of the Flax industry in Leeds.
The Group organiser, Janet Heath, told me how members within the group take responsibility for leading walks on a monthly basis, always somewhere different, but always concluding with lunch.
Over lunch, at the end of our most enjoyable walk I had the pleasure of the company of John Wilson and his wife and we discussed John’s Group, Psychology but more of that later.
I drove back to Collingham to join Music Appreciation Group 2, who meet twice a month. Music has always played an important role in my life but when I asked David Jenkins, the Group’s Leader, about his interest in music, he expressed it by saying music is my life.
I had no idea what to expect from the meeting, however, I need not have had any concerns.
We met at David’s house and after being introduced to each member of the group, I heard that the theme of this meeting was Bring your own. Each member had brought along two pieces for the enjoyment of the group. The aim of these meetings is to introduce each other to music with which they may not be familiar. Everyone listened intently to everyone else’s choice of music.
Member’s individual choices were fascinating, some familiar - Ella Fitzgerald and Benjamin Britten - others of whom I was totally unaware, for example Brian Havergal, the British composer and Martha Argerich, the Argentinian pianist.
During the discussions David encourages members by being controversial himself. This approach results in open minded, supportive, fun and illuminating conversations.
One member of the group, recently returned to Wetherby after many years, says he finds it a wonderful town, and sees retirement as a real opportunity to enjoy and explore old and new interests.
Visiting both these groups has done exactly that, encouraged me to explore the history of my local area and widened my appreciation of new musicians.