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Trinity Men’s Fellowship Eccleshall - Staffordshire

25th January 2019   AGM and talk.

A good turnout of the members from 7 o’clock in the Parish Room for the Annual General Meeting to be followed by a talk on “Life for a Jewish Family in Nazi Germany”. Unfortunately the speaker, Lester Stuart had, unexpectedly,  to accompany someone to the A&E Dept. So at the last minute our Vice Chairman, Peter C. stepped in, without a projector, and gave us a most interesting talk on the development of penicillin.

Prior to the start of the meeting there was time for a cuppa and a chat.

Some members, anticipating the new level of subscriptions, went to the front to pay the Treasurer for their 2019 membership.

The Officers took their seats at the front and the meeting commenced.

The Committee was elected, click here for details.

There was an excellent turnout of members for this meeting.

Peter gave an excellent talk on penicillin, from it’s discovery by Fleming in 1928, through it’s development by Florey and Chain. Then how progress developed quickly due to WW2 with the help of Mouldy Mary, leading to mass production in the USA. Dorothy Hodgkin worked out the structure of the molecule which in turn led to the production of synthetic penicillin, no longer depending upon the fungus. Well done Peter!

A small group of members gathered, in wonderful sunshine, at Holy Trinity, to clear the churchyard of Christmas and Remembrance Day wreaths. However, this year there were also a large number of broken branches, blown down during the windy winter. After a briefing by Ron we set off on our tasks.

The February talk. This had been put forward by a week as the PCC were updating the loft space and the Plank Room??? during the "normal" meeting week. After some initial business, including an appeal to help out in the library when it becomes a Community run facility, which was well supported by the membership, we had an excellent talk from Shaun Farrelly entitled "The Americans in Stone during WW2".

It was quite fascinating to hear how the Americans were drawn into WW2 after Pearl Harbour (I refuse to spell it the American way!) and then how the local "halls" used by munition workers were taken over by the Americans to house their bomber and fighter crews as they arrived in this country to do their final training. Using some excellently researched photographs and diagrams Sean took us through how the Americans arrived here, using modified liners such as the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary, a couple of bright sparks pointed out that Sean had confused photos the two ships and was corrected on the number of funnels! These ships carried an enormous number of servicemen, 20,000 at a time sleeping in bunks which were stacked four high.


We were then shown photographs and drawings of the planes flown by the Americans and Sean pointed out the dangers and the losses suffered in the daylight raids. Finally, we looked at the memorials to the Airmen but there is not one in this area even though so many came into the country through this route. Superb information and really well presented, well done Sean.

16th February 2019

15th February 2019

29th March 2019

Walk in the Eccleshall Area, including The Dells

The meeting place for this month’s expedition into the wilds of Eccleshall was the Little George where we all met up for coffee prior to the start. As usual we split into two groups, one group opting for the shorter walk and the other group for the longer walk. At 10:30 we set off  over the pedestrian crossing and up Gaol Butts. This hilly road was quite a struggle for some of us for whom this was the first real “walk” of the year. At the top we saw the Junior School and we headed for a narrow lane just to the right of the school playground. This lane provides access to a couple of farms and also has an entrance to the grounds of Johnson Court.

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We turned left through a white wrought iron five bar gate into the grounds of Johnson Hall and went along a stark avenue of trees where the branches were bony limbs of wood with scrawny fingers of twigs at their end. Still no sign of their leaves. Over to the right a strange wooden tower came into view. It was constructed using logs and thick branches. Nobody seemed to know why it was built and what was its function?

As we looked backwards we saw the Hall in all its glory. Ray pointed out the Ha-Ha which is a recessed landscape design element that creates a vertical barrier to livestock, while preserving an uninterrupted view, of the landscape beyond, from the Hall.  A little further on we came to a large pond with many wildfowl, mainly Canada Geese and Coots, a high percentage of them were basking in the sunshine on the far bank. We continued onwards on the footpaths over the fields until we came out on the A519 Newport Road. This is quite a busy road and we were thankful that there was a proper footpath along the side.

In a short while we turned right into the delightful, narrow Wincote Lane. All along the hedgerows there were the gorgeous white flowers of the Blackthorn hedges and in the grassy verges were several large clumps of daffodils in full flower. We walked past the entrance to Wincote Estate Farm and spotted two lovely horses in the adjacent field. To our right we were told that there were to be elephants visible? Much to our disappointment it turned out that it was Elephant Grass! Huge acreage of land around Eccleshall were set aside for this crop to power the Biomass Power Station, but the amount taken in seem to have declined?

Almost at the top of the rise there was a gorgeous cottage on the left and to the right there was the entrance to a drive. This long drive is also a public footpath which leads eventually to The Dells. Much of the work carried out to open this path, and many others, was carried out by John Allen, who unfortunately passed away at the end of February 2019. We owe John so much for his tireless work in Eccleshall with the Parish Council, the Scouts and TMF, where he was our Walks Leader for many years. We walked through yet another kissing gate, they are SO much easier than stiles, and down through The Dells. Many trees and branches had been blown down during the winter and these proved to be quite a hazard as we made our way down the slope. Fortunately, the good weather we have experienced recently had dried the path, so progress was at least non-slippery or wet and muddy!

As we came to the end of the Dells we met up with the group on the shorter walk. This had been planned and as a whole group we paused. Peter, our chairman, said a few words, as did several other members, in remembrance of John.

We were soon going past the school again and then straight through the new Overton Manor Estate. Very few of us knew that there was a route through the estate into St. Chad’s Road and then eventually back to the Royal Oak, where we met up with those members who were not walking today. We had an excellent lunch.


We gathered for the expedition, in the carpark of the Junction Inn at Norbury, where coffee was served from the boot of Ed's car. The weather seemed a little threatening so waterproofs were donned and we set off in good heart along the canal towpath.

There were many more canal boats present than I would have expected from previous visits, but we found out that they were arriving for the Norbury Canal Boat Festival next weekend.

After a walk of about 3/4 mile, we came across the famous bridge which carried the road over the canal. Perched on a lower arch was what was possibly the shortest telegraph pole in the country ....... unless you know better? It is no longer used by the telephone companies but has been left there as a curiosity. We climbed up quite a steep incline at this point to cross over the canal using the road bridge. It came as quite a shock after the leisurely stroll along the level towpath.

We turned to the right just after crossing the bridge. Here there was field after field of newly planted trees and one striking feature which we did not expect to find..... a WW2 Pill Box. One wag suggested that it was to prevent the German U-Boats attacking from the canal system.

As we made our way along the route we were still amazed at the number of young trees. Then we came to more mature woodland. Here the bluebells made a magnificent sight. Vast swathes of light blue covered the ground beneath the subtle greens of the opening tree leaves.

A little distance along this road we came to a most confusing structure. A large rectangular plot surrounded by water. A little way up there was a notice which told us that it was all that was left of Norbury Manor. It was Built early in the 14th century and demolished in 1838. A little way on we saw into the garden of a cute bungalow. The whole area had interesting displays arranged in a delightful manner, including this attractive milk cart. We approached some more woodland and spotted a strange structure in the trees. Apparently, this is designed to change the carbon dioxide concentration round different clumps of trees. The project is being run by Birmingham University. If you wish to find out some more about this project just click here

As we moved through the woodland it became apparent why there were so many young trees earlier. This area was being well managed and we had reached the felling area. The mature trees had been cut down and they were sorting out the land. This digger was creating/restoring a stream. As a result of the logging vast piles of timber lined much of the next part of the track.

We crossed the canal again, this time going under the water. After another steep climb, we were back on the towpath. So peaceful as we made our way along this famous part of the canal, the mile long Shelmore Embankment. While the contractors tried to complete the mighty task, the bank slipped and collapsed many times. By early 1834 this section was the only uncompleted part of the whole canal. It took five and a half years' continuous work and was finally finished in 1835, many months after Telford's death. There are flood gates at each end to close the channel in case of a breach. Throughout its existence there have always been stability problems, which still exist today. The whole length is lined with mature trees now, and their roots do help. This was not the case in the canal's early years.

Soon we arrived back at the Junction and headed for lunch. The food was good if a little slow to be served. I had finished mine before some had even received theirs!


Friday 26th April 2019

Walk in Norbury Junction area. Lunch at the Junction Inn

Great Honour to our First Chairman and Life Member

David Beswick.


On Maundy Thursday 2019, David attended St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, where he was presented with two leather purses containing Maundy Money, by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  We are all so proud of David and his achievement.


After the meal, following our monthly walk, David gave a moving talk about his visit to Windsor and the presentation itself. He brought along the two purses, one red and one white, containing the specially minted Maundy Money.

The Wrekin Crew go Over the Top

Ray and Ed had made extensive reconnoitres of two routes, one around the edge of The Wrekin and the other over the top. Of course all 14 walkers decided to go over the top, such is the confidence (or foolhardiness) of our group. We gathered at a small car park which had been cleverly excavated into the hillside. Warm drinks and biscuits were available. Spot on time we set off up the wide paths which snaked their way up the hillside. These provided vehicular access to the aerial mast at the top, albeit powerful 4x4 vehicles would be required. As we progressed upwards we were overtaken by many other walkers, joggers, cyclists and even some toddlers! But nevertheless we eventually arrived at the top. What a magnificent achievement and so worthwhile. 


The views were wonderful and we gathered at the cairn where all the interesting locations were indicated, plotted on a metal plate. Photos were taken to record our achievement and then all we had to do was descend back to the pub for lunch. What a paradox. Well, there are downhills and there are precipices. This was a long steep descent with loose footing. Walking poles were certainly needed, well done Ray for telling us to bring them. Most of the walkers managed a fall or two and your correspondent suffered from dehydration having mistakenly left his water bottle in the car. Eventually we reached the road. Almost there we thought, wrong again, another two-mile hike along mainly ascending country lanes. At last The Huntsman was in sight, what a relief. 

TMF and Stiles! Friday 28th June 2019 Swynnerton


On what had been promised to be one of the hottest June days on record a (Fool)hardy group of 13 (unlucky for some) walkers assembled in the carpark of the Fitzherbert Arms at Swynnerton.


We had our coffee from the back of Ed's car and then we set off.  Ray was showing us his new SatNav gizmo thingy, which of course nobody understood but we all pretended we did and acted amazed at its features. It’s first real test came only 100 yards from the carpark, down Early Lane, where we all walked past the Village Hall until the satnav grabbed Ray by the throat and indicated that we had, in fact, missed the first turning. So, retracing our steps we took a narrow footpath called Williams Walk which led into a large housing estate. There were many lovely wide footpaths between an abundance of bungalows. We discovered that the estate was built upon the site of the Royal Ordinance Factory residence of Frobisher Hall.


After skirting the local cricket pitch and we were soon in open countryside. The fields were full of various crops, maize, barley, wheat, rapeseed and some were left as pasture. Soon we were in woodland which was quite a relief from the scorching sun. As we came out of the wood we saw to the right what appeared to be an air-raid shelter, possibly for the factory workers? In the distance we observed some landfill going on. On top of the hill we could see what appeared to be a digger or dozer of some sort, levelling the ground.



We then came to the first of MANY stiles! Many Many stiles.............. We arrived at a road, over a stile of course. It was the Swynnerton Road and we walked along a wide grassy verge for quite a while,  passing a landfill site on our right. Suddenly the SatNav grabbed Ray again and we turned off the road to the left, into a narrow path through a wood. The path had large brambles and nettles all along the edge. I was so glad I had not opted for shorts as had some members who were now regretting their choice. Eventually we came to open fields again and skirted around the various crops.


After more stiles, some of them, double ones, we traversed a field of cows with some trepidation as they had calves with them, but they turned out to be very friendly. Right at the edge of the field we spotted a Confusion of Guinea Fowl (thanks for that Google). They were having dust baths. We had seen a hare, a buzzard, a yellowhammer, orchids, and all sorts of other flora and fauna. The fields which had been left fallow looked beautiful, covered in a multitude of wildflowers. In the distance we could see the boiler house chimney and water tower which are remains of  Frobisher Hall.


Suddenly we were back in the village and were amazed to see the Swynnerton Hall and two churches, Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Mary’s, so close together. As we entered the inn we saw that the non-walkers and short walkers were already well established with their drinks. Thanks to Ray and Ed for their stalwart work leading the walk and once again thanks to Chris for stepping in and doing the work of our Chairman and Secretary who were on holiday!

Memorial Plaque for John Allen.

During the evening of 26th July 2019, the memorial plaque for Life Member and Walks Leader, John Allen, was dedicated by our own David Beswick. As a remembrance of John’s work in keeping open the many public rights of way in the parish and his leading of the walks for many years, the plaque has been mounted on the finger post by the Lych Gate of Holy Trinity.

TMF members and their guests made their way down to the Lych Gate

Peter said a few words as our Chairman.

Here Janet, John’s widow, indicates the position of the plaque on the fingerpost next to the Lych Gate.

David Beswick (in the Lych Gate) dedicated the plaque to John’s memory.

All returned to the Parish Room for the excellent buffet supper so professionally prepared by Brenda.

Photographs of the dedication and supper provided by Ron Biggs

Activities 2019

We had a great day for our August walk in the Seighford area. We met up at The Hollybush where coffee was served in the bar. Ray then informed us that the short walk would be in the nature reserve at Doxey Marshes. So the Long Walkers set off from the Inn, leaving the short walkers to "get on with it". The longer walk was mainly on narrow traffic free lanes, green lanes, footpaths through fields, with just the odd foray onto roads with passing vehicles.  We came across a field which contained what appeared to be hundreds of random large metal hoops. As we came closer to the field it was obvious that these hoops were arranged to form large tunnels and on closer examination we saw that there was staging at about waist height. The problem was solved when we spotted that there were plants on the staging - STRAWBERRIES!

We continued on over a stream, which of course members had to gaze into, reflecting upon the pranks they used to get up to when playing near streams as "lads". Continuing along the lane we spotted a house with an unusual feature on the side wall. It appeared as if a person was trying to break out by walking through the wall? There were metallic hands, feet and a head on the exterior of the wall. As we came closer to Seighford we saw the famous Water Buffalo and there were some young ones in the field, a mother and her calf were particularly curious to see us. ? In the distance we could see the aerial on the top of Cannock Chase. We then walked for quite a long time along lovely green lanes until we reached a bridge over the main West Coast railway line. It is a very busy line and we saw many trains passing in the short time we were there. Ray also pointed out the remains of a medieval village in the next field. Continuing along the delightful lanes we suddenly had our progress halted by a concrete “road” over which we had to cross. However, the cattle, which had obviously used this track to get back to the farm for milking, had left a continuous slick of “waste”. It was anticipated that the Chairman would throw down his anorak in a Sir Walter Raleigh gesture, but we were disappointed and had to “tippy-toe” through the mess. We soon reached the ford in Seighford, it is remarkably deep for a ford! From here it was just a short distance back to the Hollybush and meeting up with the "short walkers" and the "lunch only" members. The meal was excellent and the company great! Thanks to all involved with the organisation.

August Walk - Seighford

'Cast your mind back to the last week in September - uproar in Parliament after the High Court judged the proroguing to be unlawful, dark clouds and flash floods locally - ten hardy souls set off from the Cock Inn at Woodseaves for the monthly TMF walk.


Ed Ranson led as we ventured in the rain via lanes and field paths in the direction of High Offley. One slight navigation error prompted the appearance of a stick-waving lady farmer who, seeing our by now slightly bedraggled appearance, kindly put us right. Our next pausing point was by The Anchor pub where we took on water before continuing along the canal to Loynton.

The conversation was lively and wide-ranging and, before we knew it, the sun was out and we had covered almost 5 miles and were back at the Cock Inn where we joined the short and non-walkers for an excellent lunch.


Vice Chairman Peter led the grace which included tributes, following their passing, to member Derek Aldred and to Gladys Grey, wife of founder-member the late Don'.   PW

September Walk - Woodseaves

A wonderful visit today to the JCB World Headquarters.  We were ushered into a smaller dining room where a full English breakfast was served - excellent way to start a trip!


Then we were issued with our High-viz Jackets, goggles and listening packs. Split into two groups of ten we set off with our tour guide. The listening packs were great as they enabled us to hear every word the guide said, even in the most noisy environments. We were told how the company started up and how it started by making simple trailers using ex-WW2 surplus materials such are aeroplane wheels/tyres and corrugated iron which was flattened to make side panels.


The whole history of the development was shown using some magnificent examples. One remarkable exhibit was a full scale model of their largest excavator made out of thick steel wire. We saw the world's fastest diesel powered car. Unfortunately the record breaking Fastrack (as seen in the recent Guy Martin TV programme) was not on display.


Next we went to the production lines.  We saw how little stock they actually held on site as most items are brought to the site using the JIT system (Just in Time). In the hydraulic ram section we saw the new welding techniques which fuse parts by spinning one against the other which is static - amazing! All the Hydraulic rams are made here for all the plants around the world, some 500,000 per year. We then went down a production line in which they were producing chassis parts, painting and assembling the vehicles. A masterpiece of logistics and design. You can see all the photos by clicking here

November visit to JCB

We set off from the Little George, over the pedestrian crossing and up Gaol Butts. This is quite a pull up hill and quite difficult for many of us. Straight over the road at the top and down a little lane next to the Bishop Lonsdale School. Then a sharp left turn into the grounds of Johnson Hall. As we moved along the path we could look back at the hall.  On our left there was a large pond, probably stocked with fish in the old days to feed the inhabitants of the Hall?

Continuing through the narrow wood and along the fields we eventually came out on the road, the A519, leading towards the hamlet of Wooton. At this point we observed a most interesting house. It was in the form of a cross and we were reliably informed that at one time four different families lived there, one in each leg of the cross and that the kitchen was in the centre, shared by the four families. As we progressed along Wooton Lane a halt was called for our now obligatory "Drink Break". This is just one of many new processes which have been introduced, as part of TMF Safeguarding, to protect our somewhat elderly membership.

As we entered the next field we saw two badly broken stiles. It is such a pity that some of the stiles are not repaired before they get into this state. Perhaps these stiles will be reported and repaired before our next visit? 

We gathered together in the rain for a bedraggled group photo and then made our way to the Stafford Road. At the new roundabout we turned into the Sancerre Grange estate. Here we were amazed at the positions of some of the houses, so close to the road and roundabout. Surely they can not build any more houses in our little town after this estate is completed?  We then came across the playground. On a fine day members would have been rushing to use the facilities but today we were concentrating on getting out of the rain and into the Royal Oak for our meal.  In the Royal Oak the tables had been arranged into one long table and here we met up with our short walkers and our "lunch only members". The meal was most appetising and the steak and ale pie left little room for a pudding! Overall an excellent walk despite the rain and conditions underfoot. Thanks to Ray, Ed and Rob for all their organisation which ensured that everything went so smoothly.


October -Walking in the Rain