Around the societies: June 2018

May 30 2018
Around the societies: June 2018

The latest news from local organisations.


THE Wells Macular Support Group was joined by a special guest at its recent monthly meeting.

Helen McCann, a fundraiser for Guide Dogs, visited the group with her own guide dog Alfie to talk about her experience living with retinitis pigmentosa and competing in marathons. Helen recently took part in the London Marathon and raised more than £10,000.

Retinitis pigmentosa leads to a slow and irreversible loss of vision. Sight loss occurs because a gene responsible for maintaining the light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye is missing half of its DNA. The condition, which is currently untreatable, affects around 15,000 people in the UK.

The Wells Macular Support Group meets on the last Friday of every month, from 10am-12pm, at the Denning Room, Union Street, Wells BA5 2PU. The group is organised by local people, in partnership with leading sight loss charity the Macular Society. It is one of more than 350 groups of its kind in the UK which aim to offer information, encouragement and friendship to people who are affected by macular conditions.

For more information on macular degeneration, call the Macular Society’s Helpline on 0300 3030 111 or email


HAVE you ever wanted to play Rapidough, Scrabble, Blockers, cribbage, Uno and many many more? Well what are you waiting for, come to Wells Board Game Group at the Cheese Yard Cafe at West Horrington.

We run every second Wednesday of the month from 7pm-9.30pm. We have also started meeting once a month to have a fish and chip supper at the cafe before the games start. However, you don’t have to do this, just turn up for the games.

As you can see, we are a very sociable group. If you have some games, bring them along, or if not there are always plenty available. It’s only a £1 charge.

For more information, phone Linda Bird on 07849 688040.


WELLS & Mendip Astronomers will present a talk by Mark Woodland BSc (Open) MinstP FRAS, A Presentation on Astrophysics, at Wells & Mendip Museum in June.

Astrophysics is all around us. The talk will explore aspects from spacecraft navigation to black hole photography, other worlds, and parallel universes.

The talk is open to the public and all are welcome – join us as we take a voyage through the astrophysical universe. Members free; non-members £3; families £5; students £2.It will take place at the museum at 8 Cathedral Green, Wells BA5 2UE, on Friday, June 15, at 7.30pm.


AT the AGM held at Wells & Mendip Museum on May 1, Jan Hayward, outgoing president, reported that Wells WI has grown in the last two years. She gave thanks to Chris and Jenny for their efforts in putting the programme together, Kathryn and more recently Jane for arranging walks, Jenny and Wendy for the craft sessions which are to be taken up by Karen, Anne for setting up the book club and Debbie and Vicky for fundraising events which included a walking treasure hunt for dementia care, a tea party at Jane’s, two Macmillan teas and the collection of shoe boxes at Christmas.

We now have a good social media presence, thanks to Kimberley, with our Facebook page and WhatsApp group.

Zoe and Angela have worked hard over the past three years providing refreshments for our monthly meetings, but we are now looking for other volunteers to take this on.

More recently we hosted a summer banner parade to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Somerset Federation, with 350-400 WI members parading from the cathedral to St Cuthbert’s Church, where tea and cakes were provided. Thanks are due to the Wells WI ladies who baked cakes, Wookey Hole WI ladies who served, and two ladies from St Cuthbert’s Church who provided and served the teas and coffees.

Jan finished by thanking everyone for making her two years as president so enjoyable.

Jane Pyatt thanked Jan for her two years as president and invited nominations for the role.

In the absence of any other nominations, Jan proposed Jane to be president for the coming year, this was seconded and agreed by members.

Jane agreed to take on the role for 12 months, but stressed that she would not stand for another year. Wells WI will then need someone else to take on the role to avoid having to disband.

Jenny proposed a summer outing Saturday visit to the Hauser and Wirth centre in Bruton where there is a exhibition of works by Alexander Calder, on Saturday, August 18. The visit will include a tour of the gallery at 10.30am. Jenny invited ideas for lunch and will check whether a picnic may be permitted.

Sam informed members of a choir concert to be held by the Wells Good Afternoon Choir on Saturday, July 7, at 7.30pm at St Cuthbert’s Church. This is a fundraising event in aid of the charity Hope Tomorrow which provides a chemotherapy bus, enabling 20 patients a day to receive their chemotherapy close to home rather than travelling many miles to hospital.

Den, chair of the Labour Party in Wells, spoke about their involvement in raising funds for the food bank in Wells, and in working to improve welfare for older people and trauma awareness in refugees in Bristol.

Jane spoke about the upcoming Wells Theatre Festival whose patron is Dame Judy Dench. She suggested two performances for us to attend as a group, Chopping Chillies at the Almshouses on July 14 or The Great Train Robbery at Cedars Hall on July 12.

The meeting closed with a SWISH swap event and refreshments.

Val Pettman


THE lecture room of Wells museum was ram-packed for Wells Civic Society’s May meeting, when Colin Price talked about the railways in Wells, particularly the days when this tiny city had no lfewer than three stations, and a smaller population than now.

Having thanked Clare Blackmore and Julia Wood for their help in compiling his archive material, Colin gave his audience a fascinating whistle-stop tour of how this concentration of steam came about in the mid- to late-1850s, and how Priory Road came to have a station, soon followed by Wells station which was only about 100 yards away, these being followed by the famous strawberry line with its Tucker Street station in 1870; an astonishing explosion of development within a 20-year period.

Rapid development certainly, but perhaps joined-up thinking was not too much in evidence, since one thing the three lines, the Somerset Central, the East Somerset and the Cheddar Valley, did not do was connect with each other. Priory Road was the Somerset Central terminus of a short branch line from Glastonbury, Wells station was the terminus from Witham on the East Somerset, and Cheddar came in from Yatton and did, indeed, transport vast amount of strawberries.

In fact, the use of railways was originally conceived as a vehicle for the moving of goods, not people. Besides strawberries, locally hewn stone was transported, and the railways had a real influence on the local economy and employment.

Even Buffalo Bill’s circus was brought by train to Wells in 1905, as was Bertram Mills’ in the early 50s.

But, of course, it all came to an end with Dr Beeching issuing his Special Notices and there has been no rail activity in Wells since 1963, and there is now not a great deal of physical evidence of their existence. Colin wonders if some of the railway buildings might not have been worthy of greater preservation.

There was, however, a City of Wells locomotive, number 34092, which has been restored and preserved in running order, although it now lives in East Lancashire, while a Tucker Street station sign, pointing the way to it, recently fetched £2,400.

But, with his collection of black and white photos of that earlier age, one notable one being of many young Wells men boarding a train to sign up in 1914, Colin had shown us not just those iconic little railways but another picture of Wells, its rural aspect and lack of development. He has a tremendous facility for mentally superimposing onto those old photos the current landmarks, and could tell us where notable modern buildings now stood; the leisure centre was just one of many instances.

The next meeting of the civic society marks a slight change of plan. Cedars Hall was to have been the venue, but as many members have been to it, the nearby pavilion, by the same architect, is where the society will meet for a look at this new building, and for prosecco and strawberries to mark the end of the society year.

This will be at 7.30pm on Wednesday, June 13. Further details about this event or the society in general can be obtained from or or Chris Winter on 01749 673610.

Richard Hanks

Picture: Helen McCann and guide dog Alfie with members of the Wells Macular Support Group