A group of hardy Birders, joined by members of Andover U3A, braved wind, rain and peak groundwater levels to visit the Swindon Lagoons Nature Reserve in February. This recently established Reserve on the site of the old Thames Water sewage works on the River Ray is managed by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and is not open to the public. The visit was led by the WWT warden who first explained the unique history of the 15 lagoons on the 23 hectare site and then guided us to the two viewing hides.
There were plenty of waterfowl including teal, widgeon, gadwall and little grebe. Herons peered down from four nests high in the trees and cormorants, kites, egrets and gulls swooped above. Taking advantage of a break in the rain we then walked through the extensive reed beds which hosted buntings and warblers. The warden regaled us with the spring-time antics of the large cuckoo population and also described the Trust’s participation in research into microplastics entering the food chain – he has to collect and label the faeces from the mice, vole and shrew populations! As the sun came out we walked through the grassed areas which are home to many grass snakes and slow worms, under the watchful eye of a photogenic peregrine falcon perched high up on an electricity pylon.
Taking lunch at The Three Trees Café in Chiselden, all agreed that this was a most interesting, and unusual, outing.
They have a number of permanent exhibits including a rare Roman enamel cup, ancient Saxon burials, hop picking and brewing, the 1643 Battle of Alton - with a Civil War era helmet, breastplate and sword. Plus the notorious tale of Sweet Fanny Adams – many of us would have heard of the saying “sweet Fanny Adams”, but not knowing it originated from the very sad story of a young girl named Fanny, brutally murdered for no known reason. The museum is also the home of a very rare piece of Anglo Saxon artefact, known as the Alton Buckle, this was exquisite in detail. It consists of a silver gilt body with filigree wires and set with AD Cloisonné garnets and glass. Its centre panel design is gold filigree on a gold base. Archaeologists have dated the buckle to 6 / 7th centuries and it is one of the very finest examples of Anglo Saxon craftsmanship ever found
The group all felt that this was most certainly one of the better museums visited and I believe we all learnt something new.
Now all fully refreshed, we moved onto the Allen Gallery. This is home to one of the best collections in the south of England of ceramics, porcelain, pottery and tiles dating from 1250. In addition, they hold an excellent collection of perfume bottles, medals, shoe buckles and much more. They have a cabinet
holding a wide range of Wedgwood and porcelain figurines, some from the great British producers: Bow, Chelsea, Derby and Worcester.
Any U3A Member is very welcome to join us on any of our monthly outings. I suggest keep checking the webpage for up-to-date information of places that may be of interest to you.
AHA - Excursion Co-ordinator