This section provides an opportunity for members to share their personal experiences in words and photographs on any topic.
Members and guests enjoyed another very successful day at Charlton Hall near Shaftesbury when Mr. Antony Penrose visited us to talk about his parents, the legendary Lee Miller and her husband Roland Penrose. The talks were outstanding and at times quite moving, we were shown some fascinating photographs which had been taken by Lee, and her artistic friends from 1930s -1970s. We learnt about Roland’s work as a surreal artist and Lee’s work as a fashion model, then her progression to a fashion and fine art photographer. During the Second World War Lee became a war correspondent for Vogue, covering events such as The London Blitz, the liberation of Paris and the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. Lee’s childhood had been blighted by abuse and after her experiences during the war she suffered from clinical depression and post traumatic stress disorder, but eventually battled her way through to a calmer life becoming a gourmet cook and providing photographs for her husbands biographies on Picasso and other artists. As always, this was a very sociable day with everyone chatting, getting to know other members and discussing the talks over a delicious lunch.
The Silk Mill at Whitchurch was established on the banks of the River Test in the early 1800s and has recently undergone extensive restoration. The grass upon which we were standing had been put in position the day before our visit and was perfect, green and weed-free, unlike many of our own lawns which are in a sorry state after the long hot summer. After a very welcome cup of coffee, our guide explained that the chalk stream, mill pond, leat and race, with Frog Island in the middle, are micro-managed throughout the year to ensure that the quality and flow of the water is pure.
Grayling, brown trout and Mallard ducks pootled about in the river as we learned that fast flowing water produces tightly-woven silk and slow flowing water gives a much looser weave.
After a fascinating morning at the Silk Mill, we then drove a short distance to The Bombay Gin Distillery where we had lunch on the top of a double-decker bus which has been turned into a cafe very successfully! After sampling a delicious quiche, salad and coleslaw, we headed off to the factory.
The Botanicals Glass Houses add a very contemporary look to the factory which was established in 1761 by Thomas Dakin. The constant warmth in the glasshouses is maintained by using the moist warm air rising from the copper stills. Butterflies from Africa live amongst the thick vegetation comprised of juniper, cassia bark, lemon trees, liqourice roots and other exotics all of which are used to flavour the gin. We saw tanks containing 100,000 litres of pure gin, 90% of which is exported – surprisingly, the UK market is only 10%.
At the end of the tour we enjoyed sampling a fruity cocktail in the late afternoon sunshine before our drive back to Dorset. Our thanks to Mary for organising an excellent day out!
Our Arts Society laid on a bus to bring 25 of our members to the Area ArtsFest in Devizes on 25th April to which over 400 people, members and non-members, came.
The exhibition was opened by June Robinson, our Chairman, and was filled with wonderfully talented artworks from 22 societies in the area, including three artworks from Blackmore Vale. Then Paul Atterbury, from the antiques roadshow, delighted his audience with a talk on “The Canal Age”.