February Ramblings in South West Shropshire10th-12th February 2017
Fortunately preceding Storm Doris by some 13 days, the weekend nevertheless presented interesting challenges in the form of snow and mud! Seventeen of the 28 participants gathered on the Friday evening at the Castle Hotel for a welcome meal before waking to a covering of snow the following morning. Undaunted (but with 2 late cancellations for illness and 2 late arrivals for car problems) 17 of us set out in light snow for a 9 mile walk in the hills and rolling farmland to the southwest of Bishops Castle, with hazy views across to both the Long Mynd and Offa's Dyke and a good introduction to the landscape that the Lone Piners would have recognised. Tracks, footpaths, quiet lanes, woods, green and sunken lanes and a section of the Shropshire Way, with a succession of climbs and descents, made for a varied route and, on our return, several of us enjoyed afternoon tea at Yarborough House book/record shop and coffee shop, others opting for beer and rugby instead. Later, the larger group gathered at The Three Tuns for a convivial evening meal.
2017 AGM21th-23th April 2017
The Society's Annual Gathering and AGM were held at The Old Ship Hotel, Brighton over the weekend 21-23 April 2017. 70 members took part in activities ranging from guided tours of the Royal Pavilion to riding on an open topped bus, together with entertainment presented by members. A full description of the whole weekend will appear in the next issue of Acksherley!
Malcolm Saville Literary Conference21th April 2017
The first literary conference on the life and works of Malcolm Saville took place on Friday 21st April at the Old Ship Hotel, Brighton – venue for the 2017 AGM Society weekend. Chaired by Frank Sheppard and organised by David Shields, the day began with the first of 8 presentations on various aspects of Saville’s books.
Penny Cooper began with an entertaining and personal reflection on her home county of Shropshire, much beloved by Saville himself of course: “They Changed Trains at Shrewsbury: a Celebration of Malcolm Saville”.
Phil Bannister followed this with an erudite discussion entitled “Shap and Beyond”, on the Cumbrian setting of “Strangers at Snowfell” ; this included some comparisons between Saville and the life and work of Geoffrey Trease, whose historical children’s books often featured that setting.
George Jasieniecki gave us a very original insight into the childhood and schooldays of the young “Len” Saville and his early life in Richmond – an area of the author’s life that most of us had little previous knowledge of.
After a delicious buffet lunch provided by the hotel, we eagerly resumed our seats for Pat Tubby’s talk on “What Shropshire Means to Me”, which described his journey of discovery with Saville and with Shropshire and Rye.
Alan Stone presented another original piece of research, this time into Saville as an environmentalist; he explored with us the literary evidence for Saville’s love of nature, birds and the landscape.
Perhaps the highlight of the day came next, with a short film of an interview with Rosemary Dowler, conducted by David in 2017; all of us present were moved by her eloquent and charming recollections of her father and her childhood. As an extra treat we saw a short clip of Saville himself being filmed in his garden as part of the 1976 BBC Songs of Praise in Rye – the first time most of us had ever heard him speak.
Wesley and Pam then presented their research based on a paper by Stephen Bigger; “the Bishops and Birds”, again looking at the birds and nature motifs in the books, as well as the treasures and friendships.
Finally David gave us a rare film clip of the 1951 festival of Britain Pleasure Gardens – the scene at the climax of “The Buckinghams at Ravensywke”; as that area of London has totally changed (save for the Royal Festival Hall) - a fascinating glimpse into a different era.
In conclusion, our first literary conference was a definite success and one which many of us hope will be repeated again very soon!
Come to Scotland12th-14th May 2017
In "Strangers at Snowfell", the Jillies were on the way north to spend New Year in Scotland. Ten members of the Society headed north of the Border to follow in the Jillies' footsteps and explore the delights of Edinburgh, although in warmer weather.
The event started on the Friday evening, with dinner in the dining room of an ornate Edwardian pub, The Abbotsford. Saturday morning found us at the largest Christian Aid book sale in the UK, with plenty of Savilles in evidence. Some of us stocked up on eagerly sought for volumes, while others indulged in coffee and cakes before reuniting in a private room in another Edwardian venue, The Kenilworth. Then we were off to the Botanics, where we were joined by a local member attending his first event. Our evening meal arrived very quickly, this time in a venue on Edinburgh 's historic Royal Mile - the route from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace.
Sunday morning saw our group split into two parties - one exploring the historic Holyrood Palace, home to Mary, Queen of Scots, and the other going for a walk and enjoying the spectacular views from Holyrood Park - before the group reunited for a guided tour of the Royal Mile. The weekend ended with another tasty and convivial meal on the Royal Mile.
Autumn Ramble in Ludlow/Hereford15th-17th September 2017
Ludlow was described by John Betjeman as ‘probably the loveliest town in England’ and was the destination for society members on a September weekend break. Ludlow features heavily in the first of the Buckingham series of books, The Master of Maryknoll and in the Lone Pine series such as Strangers at Witchend and The Neglected Mountain.
A disaster was narrowly averted when our venue for Friday’s evening meal was found to have Legionnaires Disease and was closed without notice. Luckily the knowledge of local society members came to the rescue and the evening was saved by a delicious meal at The Church Inn.
Saturday morning saw members take a walk through the town down to the Ludford Bridge and up Broad Gate to the Castle following in the steps of Juliet and Simon Buckingham on their way to meet Charles Renislau in The Master of Maryknoll.
Lunch was at De Greys (now part of the Wildwood chain) where Dickie and Mary ate in The Neglected Mountain, followed by an afternoon stroll through the picturesque Mary Knoll valley and back to Ludlow passing over the Ludford Bridge and The Charlton Arms where we were booked for dinner.
Sunday morning was the highlight of the weekend with a trip to Hereford on a 1950’s historic ‘Midland Red’ bus lovingly restored to its original condition. Peter catches one in The Neglected Mountain and Juliet hops on and quickly jumps off one while following Foxy to Hereford in The Master of Maryknoll.
This reliable old bus, not a fear of a breakdown here, brought us to Hereford and its famous Cathedral, the Wye Bridge and the water meadows, the site of the funfair where Juliet and Simon found Charles.
So the weekend ended with the bus bringing us safely back to Ludlow in time to go our separate ways. We left looking forward to meeting up again in Church Stretton in February for ‘A Murder near Witchend’!
Midland Red coach
Come to Rome and Orvieto8th-12th October 2017
Following our visit to Venice last year (the location of the first part of the Marston Baines’ novel ‘Dark Danger’) 13 members of the Malcolm Saville Society gathered in Rome on October 8th to explore locations mentioned in the second part of the book – and to have a great time.
Ably led by our guide, Marco, on a warm, sunny Monday morning we visited the Colosseum - a place both awesome & awful, its stones forever stained in blood. A key feature was the cross erected there, which gave Count Brindisi comfort as he was driven as a prisoner to the catacombs. Following a stroll through the history lasagne which is the Imperial Forum, we had lunch near the Spanish Steps, before heading for the claustrophic tunnels of the Domitilla Catacombs – one of the possible locations for the exciting climax of ‘Dark Danger’.
Relaxing with wine and nibbles on the 4th floor roof terrace of our hotel was a welcome precursor to a tasty meal in a local trattoria.
On Tuesday morning we were able to bypass the lengthy queues outside the Vatican museums, reserving our energy to spend several hours admiring the world-famous sculptures, glorious tapestries and beautiful pictorial maps. The final wonder was the Sistine Chapel – it’s easy to ignore the crowds when gazing upwards at Michaelangelo’s greatest masterpiece ... or is that the fresco of the Last Judgement painted on the front wall?
A fleeting visit to St Peter’s was followed by a free afternoon for personal sightseeing - or resting – with another pre-prandial drink on the roof terrace then another delicious Italian meal. Wednesday, for many, was the highlight of the week. We travelled about 60 miles north of Rome to the small mediaeval hilltop town of Orvieto, the location of the Buckinghams’ novel, ‘The Secret of the Villa Rosa’. The first sight of the west facade of the Cathedral was truly breath-taking, glowing with colourful mosaics and intricate carvings. There was plenty to see in Orvieto: winding, cobbled streets lined with ancient stone houses; ‘Orvieto Underground’ – caves hollowed out of the soft, volcanic rock; numerous beautiful churches and squares; the ramparts along much of which it was possible to walk; far-reaching views across the Italian heartland. And, of course, the Etruscan tombs which are so significant in ‘The Secret of Villa Rosa’.
As previously, drinks in the roof terrace and a lovely meal rounded off the day perfectly. We left Rome late on Thursday, many of us having spent the day on further personal sight-seeing. The Eternal City had lived up to its expectations – and I don’t think any of us will forget the beauty of Orvieto.