In September 1996, after several months of preparatory work, the North Cotswold u3a was launched. The prime movers were residents of the beautiful Cotswold village of Willersey, Penny, John and his late wife Doreen. Initially, there were about 20 people involved, but, by the end of the first year membership had grown to around 100, with a wide range of groups including Art Appreciation, Madrigals and Bell Ringing.
Penny and John remain active members after many years in leadership roles along with several others from that legendary “first 100”. The North Cotswold u3a has been blessed with having a core of members who have given sterling service over many years. Doreen served in many roles and is particularly remembered for her work in developing the excellent choir. Former Chair and force of nature, Diana at the age of 88 still runs 2 groups, organises the annual Burns Night Supper, and is an active participant in 4 other groups. 90 year old Freda has run the handbells group for many years and is a very active member of Scottish Country Dancing. Since 1998 Alan and Phyllis have played an active role, on the Committee, as group leaders and participants. Phyllis served as Chair for two terms and many members will also remember the delicious food that Phyllis produced for so many u3a events- with help from many willing volunteers. There are many more of this ilk – too many to name.
Over the years membership grew to a peak of 415 in 2019 pre-lockdown with over 30 activity groups. As with most other u3as, the pandemic led to a fall in membership and currently our membership is about 360, though with the same number of activity groups as before. Membership extends throughout the North Cotswold area, including the larger villages of Broadway and Chipping Campden and a large number of smaller villages and hamlets, with meetings in a wide range of venues.
Covid concerns meant that it was not possible to celebrate on the exact anniversary, so our two events took place in December. On 2 December, a lunch was held at Willersey Village Hall, with Penny and John among the guests of honour. The need for safe spacing meant that attendance was restricted to 62, but all present enjoyed a fine two-course meal, followed by coffee. The afternoon was rounded off with a quiz from regular quizmaster, Keith, a former committee Chair and stalwart of our u3a. A thoroughly enjoyable occasion!
The previous committee decided to commemorate the anniversary by planting a tree, and Willersey Parish Council gave us permission to plant on the village green. On 20 December a Liquidambar tree was planted in a short ceremony attended by about 30 people despite the cold, damp weather. The formal planting was led by Penny and John followed by other long-standing members. The tree should grow to a maximum height of about 8metres over the next 25 years and it is hoped that it’s autumn foliage will enhance the beauty of the village green just as the u3a has enhanced the cultural and social life of the area.
North Cotswold u3a has a relatively new committee, elected in October 2021 and they hope to build on the work of their predecessors and also to retain the warm and welcoming atmosphere that earned North Cotswold its reputation as “the friendly u3a”.