Events in 2009

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2009 Annual Gathering - Somerset

17th-19th April 2009

The inspiration for this year’s Gathering was the slim non-fiction book Come to Somerset. Writing in the Souvenir Programme, one of the organising team commented: '... if Society members are coming to Somerset we should try to identify the 'spirit of place' that is the key to Malcolm Saville's most successful works.'

They certainly did! 66 of us were treated to a fascinating and varied programme of events and activities that contributed to a busy weekend. First, a Friday walk to Glastonbury Tor led by Alan Stone who certainly knows his adopted county. Then on to our hotel to pick up welcome packs and enjoy a buffet supper, before an entertaining slide show entitled 'Scenes of Somerset' given by a local photographer, Peter Triggs, followed by the Book Fair and time for general socialising. Saturday began by boarding coaches for Wells, the smallest city in England, where we had some free time to admire the magnificent cathedral and moated Bishop's palace, together with a little retail therapy in the bustling Market Square. Then on to Rodney Stoke below the southern slopes of the Mendips, for an excellent pub lunch at a hostelry of the same name. The party then split. Some spent the afternoon at Cheddar, energetically climbing Jacob's Ladder perhaps, whilst the remainder enjoyed a Somerset Levels coach tour with a well-researched commentary provided by Jo and John Pentney; this truly was rural Somerset beyond the motorway. We met up again at Hecks Cider Farm in Street, for a short tour and tastings with more excellent hospitality that was hard to resist, even after a good lunch and with the prospect of the fabulous feast later. Fortunately, digestion was helped by the brisk walk back to the hotel and time set aside for book readings by Colin Harding.

After the feast, the Society Players presented a dramatization of Mystery at Witchend. This thrilling performance was based on the 1943 BBC adaptation, further adapted by Jenny Aitken. With sound effects provided by audience participation, it brought the house down and was a fitting finale to a very full day. Requests for auditions have already been received for the next production.

The 'Gang' on Glastonbury Tor

Members in Wells

Yorkshire Dales Weekend

5th-7th June 2009

21 Society members enjoyed a sociable evening meal at The Fountain Hotel in Hawes on the Friday evening at the start of this enjoyable weekend excellently organised by David and Marjorie Cashmore. One of the main topics of conversation was inevitably the weather, which as is often the case for Society events, was unseasonably inclement. The last person who arrived for the evening meal had a tale of his car thermometer dropping to one degree on the Buttertubs Pass and showed photographs of the snow covered ground.

On the Saturday there was a choice of walks; one for the slightly less energetic of about seven miles and a longer one estimated at approximately 12 miles.

The 12 miler set off from Muker, where members had a quick search for a clog making cobbler in a house with fifteen stone steps outside. A suitable building was identified but there was some discussion on the number of actual steps. As no agreement could be reached the walk began and the party headed along Swaledale and steeply uphill onto The Fells towards Crackpot. Unfortunately, very early on it became evident that the very wet weather would effect the planned activities. No sooner than everyone had breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the first very steep climb, it became obvious that their way was blocked by a raging torrent which normally should have been a perfectly crossable stream. So scrambling back down the way they had just come an alternative route up to Crackpot was chosen. On arrival, the ruins were explored, photos taken and the group then headed towards Buzzard Scar and The Kirk. Again unfortunately too much water in Swinner Gill prevented access to the cave, so soggy sandwiches were eaten in a torrential downpour near to the ruins of the miners' cottages, which sadly didn't provide any shelter from the driving rain and cold wind. After lunch as 5 of the party set off back downhill, a breakaway group of half a dozen did try again to reach The Kirk by climbing the opposite bank of the Gill but again were defeated by the sodden conditions. Eventually the group became one again in the tea shop (standing room only) at Keld and having warmed up headed back up hill and down dale to Muker.

Meanwhile, the less energetic party set off from Keld, and in drizzly rain followed the Pennine Way footpath round the side of Kisdon Hill, eventually dropping down into Muker in time for lunch at the Farmer's Arms. After lunch, the weather improved somewhat and the intrepid explorers set out across the flower meadows, across the Swale by a footbridge and followed the river upstream to visit Bildi Hill Smelt mill where Swinnergill Beck reaches the Swale. From there, a steep pull up the track took us to Crackpot where someone had carved the initials M S into a stone slab! Was this the work of vandals in the other party? Finally the Coast to Coast footpath was followed back into Keld where we feasted on tea and cakes.

Another enjoyable evening was spent at The Fountain Hotel and members swopped tales of their two walks. There was even a slide show of some of the photographs taken that day on the shorter walk.

On a drier Sunday morning a slightly reduced number of members met in Hawes to enjoy another walk -- this time an eight mile circular route. This initially took them up Burtersett High Pasture south of Hawes and crossed the Roman Road, to take in the views of Semer Water, Yorkshire's only natural lake. The much improved weather, although it was still jolly chilly, made it a much more pleasant day's walking compared with the day before, however the hills seemed much steeper for some.

The gold stars for the day go to the two J's; one of whom seemed to lead the way for most of the day even though she had a fractured arm in plaster; and the other lady who kept going even after deciding to take an unexpected dive in a slippery, pebbly stream breaking her spectacles in the process and becoming very wet and consequently cold in the chilly conditions.

Silver stars should go to everyone who helped rebuild the walls after they had to be partly dismantled to help the party climb over them to try and get back on track. Enough said!

Bronze stars for everyone who kept going and finally, a combination of all three to the walk leaders, Marjorie and David Cashmore, who provided a fabulous weekend.

A report from our special correspondent

The Buzzard Scar in Hawes weekend was my second time out and about with the Malcolm Saville Society and I enjoyed it a lot. On the Friday me, dad and June met with the group in the local pub and had a late tea then went to our hotel. The following day the group split with some going on the short walk (7 miles) and the rest going on the longer walk (12 miles). I went on the short walk but our group sadly did not have Ian in it. It was a cold but nice day out and I managed to take many photos (being appointed the photographer). Again we ended our day in the pub where I showed the full group a slideshow that I had made, with pictures of the group and surroundings. The final day of the weekend the whole group united to go on a walk with big hills, lovely views and spectacular fields of flowers. I hope to see everyone again at the Hertfordshire weekend.

Josh Bannister 13

Fifteen Steps?

An Uncrossable Torrent

Crackpots at Crackpot

Lunch Time at Muker

Flower Meadows near Muker

Our Special Correspondent

Treasure and Trouble Weekend

28th-31th August 2009

The weekend started in style at one of the best pubs in Dedham, The Marlborough Head, which dates back to 1455 and was originally built as a merchant's house. We had a room to ourselves in which to enjoy a good meal in congenial company, and there we met our first surprise guests: Frances and Kate Anderson, daughters of Max Anderson who was the Director of Treasure at the Mill.

On Saturday morning we parked up at The Wooden Fender pub in Ardleigh, which was offering coffee and breakfast to early arrivals (superb organization.) Here we were joined by three more guests: Merrilyn Boorman, Hillary Dean-Hughes and Harry Pettit who as children starred in the film, although their words were spoken by professional thespians. We then completed a four-mile circular walk that took in many of the locations featured. At Slough Farm, Hillary willingly posed for photographs and at Spring Valley Mill, Harry entertained us with some fascinating childhood reminiscences and the present owner kindly allowed the more adventurous among us to actually explore the tail-race culvert where in the film, the treasure was found.

After an enjoyable al-fresco lunch (for once the weather was kind) we made our way to Dedham to meet local man, Reg Appleby, whose family has lived in the village since about 1550. On his very informative two-hour tour, he showed us many features that tourists do not usually see, but most of us recognized Mr Wilson's bookshop. Then there was just time to enjoy a cream tea, before driving back to Ardleigh and helping to set up the village hall.

The film evening that had been advertised locally, was without a doubt the climax of the weekend. Over 150 people turned up which was almost certainly a Society record. The event was a well-deserved triumph for Mike McGarry making his first ever power point presentation and Andy Prada who had master-minded the production of the Society's DVD. Andy pulled yet another rabbit out of the hat when he presented his recording of an interview in Cyprus with actor Richard Palmer, who played the young John Adams in the original film.

Sunday morning started with a long drive to Wheathampstead, about 65 miles west of Ardleigh, for a circular walk visiting Cross Farm, the model for Saville's fictional Seven Gates, and Westend Farm, his former home. It also included a lunch stop on Nomansland Common and locations that featured in Trouble at Townsend and Jane's Country Year. Thanks to the kindness of our host, farmer Will Dickinson, some of us had a rest from walking whilst enjoying a ride across his fields in a farm trailer.

Then in the afternoon, we assembled in the URC hall for another film show, again open to the public, which was well-supported attracting about 100 people. It included Trouble at Townsend and other short films of local interest. Our last evening together was spent at The Wicked Lady pub that featured in the film as The Crown and Thistle.

There was still more as Monday was a Bank holiday. After an even longer drive to Tring, our busy weekend concluded with a six-mile walk along the tow path of the Grand Union Canal, which formed the backdrop for The Riddle of the Painted Box and Young Johnnie Bimbo. Then as always, came the sad moment when we said our good byes and went our separate ways - until the next time!

The Treasure and Trouble Weekend was a very full programme, but it was superbly organized throughout and our warmest congratulations go to the team that made it happen: Jenny, Mike and Andy.

The Wooden Fender in Ardleigh

Spring Valley Mill

Bookshop in Dedham

DVD Publicity Team

The Pettit Family

West End Farm

Locks at Tring

Bog Centre Board Presentation

14th October 2009

We are delighted to report that the new and long-awaited display board featuring Malcolm Saville was presented to the Bog Centre, Shropshire, on 14th October 2009. It is a quality product, designed by Julie Makin around one of John Allsup's fascinating maps entitled 'Malcolm Saville's Shropshire - Land of Adventures.'

On a perfect Autumn afternoon below the Stiperstones and attended by Society members Lorna and Ian Dormer, Margaret and Bill Purvis, and Adrian Pearce, the Bog Centre's Volunteer Co-ordinator, Jacki Peacock accepted the board from Chairman Frank Shepperd

Outside the Bog Centre

The Welcome Board

Frank and Jackie with the board

The Long-Awaited Board!

Rye Bonfire Weekend

13th-15th November 2009

A good turnout of 46 members registered for this popular event, including six very welcome newcomers who had signed up for the first time, among them Virginia Bunker - who works in Kuwait and is our only member there.

On Friday evening we met up for an informal Bonfire Supper at The Hope Anchor Hotel. This is arguably the epicentre of Lone Pine Rye as Priors Holt is for Shropshire, for it stands upon the geographical site of the fictional Dolphin, which was architecturally modelled upon the much older Mermaid Hotel a short distance away. We were given exclusive use of the restaurant, which was ideal as those who had to travel a considerable distance could eat when they arrived, and the evening was enlivened by a not-too-serious pictorial quiz entitled 'Where was Penny?'

Saturday started at Rye's Heritage Centre with a showing of the audio-visual presentation featuring the town model. Most of us had seen it before, but it is a fascinating experience and well worth repeating. The day continued with 'Penny and Peter's Walk,' a tour of the town that incorporated the roundabout route taken by the girls that was so well described in Rye Royal. Our walk was even more leisurely with time to complete a treasure hunt, and a stop for coffee before climbing the church tower.

The afternoon had been set aside as free time. Some drove to Dungeness and some to Stone-in-Oxney. Others visited Rye's Book Fair that, coincidentally, was being held that day - and a few even managed to augment their collection of Saville titles. Then it was back to the town centre for the big event of the evening: procession, chairing-down, bonfire and fireworks. No words to describe it can better Saville's vivid description in Rye Royal, which although written over 40 years ago still remains remarkably accurate today.

We never found that coffee bar below a bookshop, where a pretty redhead and her boyfriend were selling bangers, but many did manage to crowd into a room above a coffee bar afterwards to enjoy mulled wine and nibbles. Not a bad substitute.

'Slinky's Walk' had been planned for Sunday - a trek from Rye to Winchelsea across the marshes on the north side of the military road - but an earlier reconnaissance found it very muddy after a week of heavy rain. So we switched to the Morton's walk out to Camber Castle, continuing on to Winchelsea from there. Just past the Strand Gate we paused at The Lookout. The earliest date spotted among years of graffiti scratched into its woodwork was 1953; despite an exhaustive search, we never did find J + P 1945!

Meeting up for lunch at The New Inn was alas, where things went pear-shaped! Unfortunately, it had changed hands only a few days previously and this had evidently created continuity problems resulting in slow service. So sadly, the last item on the programme had to be abandoned - a themed after-lunch stroll entitled 'The Smallest Town in England.' Many found Chelsea Cottage with its blue plaque though and some ventured to the site of The Old Mill before returning home.

Mr & Mrs Lighthouse on the Church Tower

Torchlight Procession

Camber Castle