I joined the newly formed Barnet u3a in 2008 and I offered to help with outings as I had some experience. From September 2008 we started offering our own ‘exclusive’ outings and these proved extremely popular from the outset. We worked on the basis of about one a month pretty well up to Covid putting paid to our activities.
We started designing our own overnight trips: that November we went to York and Harrogate having designed our own itinerary. Up to the pandemic, we had three of these trips a year on average. I then explored the idea of group cruising and in April 2014, 57 of us sailed round the British Isles. Six more ocean cruises have followed, and post-Covid, we recently returned from Iceland. The largest number I took on a cruise was 118 to Norway, when we were joined by members of another u3a.
During this time our outings have been varied: NT properties, abbeys, cathedrals, castles, stately homes as well as smaller ones where we have been welcomed into privately owned interesting and historic properties. Gardens have featured a lot as have places linked to the war such as Bletchley Park, which has been particularly popular and we have returned several times over the years. Trains, boats and planes have been enjoyed as have various museums and exhibitions, with Thames cruises providing great interest both in wonderful sunshine and heavy rain! Not forgetting the need to just enjoy ourselves and laugh, we have been to the Brick Lane Music Hall, Thursford Christmas Spectacular and musical museums. We even discovered that many of our members like a little flutter on our visits to Ascot and Newmarket. Food is always a great attraction so we make sure that special treats are often included, cream teas being particularly popular.
Our trips have been a challenge as I always like to find things a bit out of the ordinary and ‘quirky.’ A lot of research goes into the itineraries.
Many of our trips have been within England and Wales, but also across the channel where we have explored Monet’s Garden, visited First and Second World War sites (including laying a wreath at the Menin Gate) and we have explored the Belgian Ardennes. There were two coach trips to Floriade as demand was so high, likewise the WW1 anniversary. We have been to North and South Wales, where we including a banquet at Cardiff Castle and visited the Royal Mint and in Anglesey we were entertained at the birthplace of the WI. We have explored many counties – Northumberland to Hampshire, Lincoln to Cornwall, Kent to the Lake District and many in between.
There is always plenty to learn, lots to laugh about – above all are the friendships that have been made and the satisfaction when someone says ‘without the trips, I wouldn’t get a holiday’!