After an introduction in the reception area we entered the impressive main Ceremonial Hall. Zoe explained the many facilities available to families and to funeral directors, and then expertly fielded a lively question and answer session. We then moved to the smaller ‘Oak Room’ which is used for smaller ceremonies but can also be used for streaming live video from the Ceremonial Hall so that family members including young children and distressed or autistic adults can view the proceedings without disturbing others.
We then moved into the Cremator Hall to see what happens ‘behind the scenes’ and this was the highlight of the visit despite the two piles of ‘tester’ empty coffins and the cold room full of Pure Cremations customers waiting their turn. There are currently two cremators, which cost £1M each, and there is capacity for two more. There is a small viewing area for those faiths such as the Hindus whose funeral rites include watching the coffin in the flames. We were able to watch the coffins being loaded into the cremators and then look through the viewing glass to see the effect of the 800 degrees heat. The less squeamish members were then able to see the ashes being raked out and prepared for storage (a unique fireproof ceramic identity disk is placed in every coffin). This reinforced our impression of the care and consideration given to every aspect of the cremation process. On a lighter note, Zoe did also show us the fascinating collection of heat-proof artificial hip and knee joints which they have collected from the cremators.
Our visit ended with refreshments and a vote of thanks for a most interesting and informative visit.
Most of us had never heard of Arqiva prior to the visit, but that did not deter a near capacity (for them) group gathering at the premises for a keenly anticipated visit. Some of us vaguely knew that they were involved with some sort of ‘communications’, so we had everything to learn; and what an informative & interesting visit it proved to be. The company is involved with digital radio, digital ground & satellite TV plus mobile phone communications.
After coffee our hosts comprehensively explained the various business sectors they cover commencing with mobile ‘phones and the change to a higher frequency necessitated by the advent of ‘5G’; this involved them in considerable (millions) of additional expenditure to duplicate the existing network to ensure continuity of service. They showed us film of mast construction using helicopters to fly in the pre-fabricated components, giving a clear impression of what it is like to work at 1000+ft. the network of a small number of very high masts host receiving & broadcasting dishes for most of the phone retailers such as Vodaphone, O2, etc which then pass on signal traffic to a larger number of smaller masts which in turn pass it down to the local masts from which we take our messages and calls.
Similarly with digital radio in which they appear to own critical patents which allow them to be monopoly broadcasters for the BBC, Classic Radio & all the many small local stations. The TV relaying service was graphically illustrated when we visited one of the control rooms where a dizzying wall to ceiling display of hundreds of small screens gave a snapshot of then current traffic. We learned that some stations readily available on our TV sets at home are based abroad & the entire content channelled via satellite & Arqiva masts to our living rooms. Foreign correspondent features & interviews on news programs in real time are also facilitated by Arqiva.
Our hosts provided an excellent buffet lunch, for which we were very grateful and we eventually left at about 3.00pm with greater knowledge than when we entered. A truly educational & entertaining visit.
Posted by Norma Bryan
One of the newer TVBC mini-buses, with Leslie at the wheel, took us on a sunny day to Richmond, where the Poppy Factory is located. Initially we had an hour or so to look around the historic town, where the ancient centre is well preserved and delightful, although some members preferred shopping!
We met again at the factory where they provided a light lunch, & subsequently commenced the tour with a short film about the history of the poppy as an emblem of the great sacrifices made in many wars, but particularly WWI. The poppy, inspired by the famous poem ‘In Flanders Field ‘ by the Canadian John McCrae and initially used in the USA, but now confined to the UK & Commonwealth has been used since 1921.
They make about 6m poppies each year which are all sold to the British Legion, a separate organisation, who produce some 42m standard ones themselves. The factory also produces all of the poppy wreaths used on Armistice Day & the special corsages & boutonnieres worn by the Royal Family & Commonwealth guests at the Remembrance Day parade in London.
All poppies made at Richmond are still assembled by hand, providing work for disabled employees, now reduced from a peak of 180 to about 30 today. Our group had the opportunity of assembling their own standard poppies and see a demonstration of how the larger ones are put together and buy for a donation. Profits are channelled into assisting retired veterans, with a many recent grants going towards resolving combat stress related problems. Many hundreds of retired service personnel now undertake a full & active role in society as a consequence of the help given them by the Poppy Factory.
Everyone on the tour said they enjoyed the visit and our collection contributed to this fine work.
On Tuesday 9th April in very wet weather 17 intrepid Questers arrived at the impressive Home Bargains Distribution Centre at Solstice Park near Amesbury. We were greeted by the young Human Resources Director who gave us a very interesting introduction to TJ Morris Ltd - the parent company which is the largest independent grocer in the UK, selling fresh and frozen foods as well as household goods. Over 30% of their lines are end-of-range branded goods bought in bulk from the original manufacturers.
Headquartered in Liverpool and originally concentrated in Northern England, there are now nearly 600 Home Bargains stores around the country and in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The business is still privately owned and run, with three generations of the Morris family now in executive roles. The company does not advertise! Until 2015 all the distribution took place from Liverpool but due to the rapid expansion and success of the company the Amesbury centre was built to service the southern and western areas of the UK. The company is still growing rapidly and the Amesbury site has the capacity to deal with many additional stores as they come on stream. Currently they already service over 150 stores, from Penzance to Swansea to Great Yarmouth, with plans to grow this to 400 stores.
These and the loaves then went in to the ovens and while they were baking 6 more volunteers tried their hand at bread plaits, much to the amusement of the audience. Their efforts may have owed more to the Generation Game than to Craft Bakery, especially when it came to dipping the finished plaits into a mountain of poppy seed, but they did all eventually make it into the oven, together with a batch of bread knots embellished with ground sweetcorn which our hosts somehow produced while keeping up a running commentary on proceedings. While these were all baking, we were treated to an excellent buffet lunch, following which we were able to inspect, and take home, all the finished products. Safely back in Andover by 14:00 all agreed that it had been a fascinating, educational and enjoyable outing.
Anton U3A Group News
Reports and records of Groups' activities.