WEA in Leicestershire

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Forum at Loughborough, May 18th

David  Benjamin (598x640)

David about to start his talk

Members from across the county enjoyed a varied (if chilly!) day in Loughborough on Saturday May 18th.

In the morning, David Benjamin from Leicester University came to talk to us about Hereward the Wake. David’s home is in Boston, so he has a natural interest in an historic figure from his part of the world, and he has made a study of the historic sources that remain. He effectively revised any  notions about Hereward we may have carried with us from childhood, and also increased our knowledge of battle tactics at the time. The Bayeux tapestry provides many clues to this, as David’s excellent graphics demonstrated.

Most of us knew the romanticised story of Hereward based on Charles Kingsley’s book, but David explained that much of that was invention, and that the existing documents are often contradictory. We are sure that Hereward was a rather wild and troublesome young man, so much so that his father asked King Edward the Confessor to banish him. Hereward then made a life for himself as a successful mercenary, learning many of the skills he would later employ in the fens (fenns, fennes … the spellings are many and various!).

Hereward returned to England, and led an initially successful resistance to William, based on the Isle of Ely. The Norman battle techniques, with their heavy horses, were poorly matched to the terrain of the fens, and they made several disastrous efforts to bridge the water and boggy land. William then employed a much more effective strategy; he gradually eroded Hereward’s support by getting messages to his allies, and either with promises or threats, he managed to seduce most of them away. It seems that Hereward eventually retreated, and he drops from the historical record. Even the Hereward we know of who later married a Norman lady and settled down is probably not “our” Hereward, as it is unlikely that William would have been so tolerant of someone who had caused so much trouble. David took time to answer the many questions from the audience, and was warmly applauded for his talk.

Mandy Grocott then gave an update of some WEA matters, including membership fees, and the importance of feedback forms in helping to maintain quality, and demonstrate this to inspectors. Pat Parkin-Moore, Leicester Branch Chair took the opportunity to remind everyone that the play Pitmen Painters is coming to Curve, Leicester from 10th June. It’s about a group of working men in a mining village who begin a lifetime of painting when they join a WEA Art Appreciation class. Pat has already seen the play at the National Theatre and said how wonderful it was.

After lunch popular geology tutor Gerry Shaw gave a brief introduction to local geology, and passed round samples of rocks both local and from elsewhere for us to examine and try to identify. We then wrapped up warmly (it’s May, this weather is ridiculous!) and ventured into the busy market place to begin our “rock around Loughborough”.

walk 5a1

Gerry, in the blue cap, directing our attention to the fine stone used on this bank,

We found loads to look at – and Loughborough residents could not believe how many fascinating  examples of local and imported rock we passed by so often without noticing them. There were slabs of a shiny polished rock from Norway, with the most beautiful iridescent pieces in it, rocks with little anomalies we’d  never spotted,of which Gerry explained the origin, slate both Swithland and Welsh, South Charnwood diorite …. we were amazed at how much there was to see.

The walk finished with a visit to the local museum in Granby Street, where there were displays of local geological specimens, including casts of our most famous local fossils. Charnia was first identified by a local schoolboy, in rocks previously considered too old for fossils, making  Charnwood famous in geological circles throughout the world. You’ll have seen it on TV recently in David Attenborough’s program about the origins of life. Gerry then finished by going to the base of the Carillon to look at the paving stones there. On finding that the Carillon was open for visitors, some of the more energetic visitors, and Gerry too, decided to climb to the top for a good view of the mechanism that works the bells. Everyone agreed that it had been an interesting and rewarding day.

Thanks to Andrew Nickeas, Loughborough Member, for the photos

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