Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Big Annual Quiz

By Jack Welch

It was that time in the Dorset Youth Association (DYA) calendar to once more come together for our Annual General Meeting (AGM) and to look back on the successes/challenges the organisation has faced over the past 12 months - and to also officially mark our 70th birthday! At WITS, there was much to look forward to - not only had we secured a pot of funding, with thanks  largely due to the Heritage Lottery Fund and other kind supporters including DCC, Dorchester Town Council Heritage Committee, Dorset Older Dorset Older Peoples Partnership Program, Microsoft and Little Waitrose Poundbury, but that also we will be presenting our work in an exciting and lively game-show format in the style of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' to all the important guests including Mrs Jean Lang Deputy Lord-Lieutenant,Catriona Payne – High Sheriff, Cllr Stella Jones – Mayor of Dorchester, Cllr Ray Banham – Mayor of Weymouth and Portland, Cllr Pamela Dixon – Mayoress of Weymouth and Portland, Cllr John Wilson – Chairman of Dorset County Council, Cllr Spencer Flower – Leader of Dorset County Council, Cllr Su Hunt – Chair of North Dorset Council, Cllr Malcolm Birr – Leader of East Dorset Council, Nikki Hislop – NHS North Dorset, David King – UK Youth, Barry Williams – Ambition, Helen Horsley – Homestart West Dorset, Harry Susser – Space Youth Project, Ben Ling – Crossways Youth and Community Centre, Val Widger – Loders Youth Club, Martyn Mullender – Portland Rocks CIC

Jack (dressed for action!) located
at the WITS stand.
Alongside Rosie, Alex and Michael, Jack was also taking a bit of time out from his busy studies in Winchester and came back to celebrate this one off special event. Hosted at DYA HQ, both they and the WITS volunteers created the Twitter hash-tag of 'dyaAGM' in order to commemorate this milestone year by promoting our evening to the widespread number of followers who couldn't come. As the proceedings got underway, it was a great reason to celebrate DYA overcoming the various cutbacks they've faced and both the Chairman and Director announcing we were stronger than ever (not least because of our fantastic grant!)Once the official business of the AGM was over, it was now time to present to our audience the various questions about Walking in Their Shoes to reach £1 million.
With both Jack and Alex dressed in their army tunics, they were certainly dressed for the occasion and Rosie also helped us point to the options the guests had to raise their hands to answer the questions. Although the prizes were gold coins (chocolate ones, that is), some of our guests did need a bit of encouragement to answer! But besides any niggles in the evening, as our live tweeting didn't quite go to plan, it was an evening to remember as we ensured the message of our project reached wider audiences and we felt that's what matters most.

At the Tank Museum

2nd September 2013 by Jack Welch

For members of our group today, it was an exciting return to one of our partner organisations, the world famous Bovington Tank Museum. The WITS team were able to visit some of the impressive exhibits and facilities the museum had to offer. Guided by their expert Education Officer, Chris Copson, the group were taken around an interactive representation of the various environments as they may have looked throughout World War I. Taken from the recruitment branches to the full horror of the trenches, the group were able to get a better understanding of what it might have actually been like to have walked in the shoes of a first world war soldier. 

As our tour came to a conclusion, the group felt it was time to take time-out, as we recovered from our guide around the trench exhibit. We ventured outside to sit near their show-grounds as crowds gathered for the afternoon showcase of various military vehicles and tanks. As well as enjoying the display and being made jump by some of he loud tank explosives, the group were also overwhelmed by a swarm of wasps whilst trying to eat their lunches!

Once the show was finished, the group returned to work to uncover some of the articles and records the museum archive had available guided by archivist Janice Tait. We viewed some of the first hand experiences of soldiers recorded in letters and postcards. We saw a map of trenches dug nearby for trainees to be trained in trench warfare. We made the startling discovery by viewing some photo's, that there was a German prisoner in war camp in Dorchester. This very interesting primary source material can hopefully be utilised in our geocache app and boxes .  
On the trail through Moreton Forest!
Once we said goodbye to Chris for his kind assistance throughout the day, we left in the mini-bus for a short drive where a number of us were dropped off to begin a small expedition across Moreton Forest and experience the genuine route a soldier would have taken while learning his filed craft training. As it was a beautiful, sunny day, the walkers had little trouble crossing this footpath and we made it back to a secluded pebble shore in the area with ease. Our project officer and another volunteer was waiting to greet us with a few refreshments, then it was time to return homewards again. Our Geocache team out be hoping that we are granted permission to  place a geocache trail in the area, so you can follow in the footsteps of Dorset First World War soldiers too.

Ashley and Edward inside a First World War tank


County Show Excitement

7/8th September 2013 written by Jack Welch

Douglas and Sara with two of our
visiting interviewees.

The WITS team took to the road this weekend, as we accompany DYA trustee, Ray Seymour, to one of the biggest Dorset events of this year, the Dorset County Show. Volunteers Sara, Douglas and Alex were our trio on the Saturday and following that, Jack was our second trooper alongside Douglas. And you read that right - thanks to the generous donations from the Bovington Tank Museum, we were able to get into the spirit of our project by dressing up in the First World War tunics and hats we were given. Our objective for the course of these two exciting days was to now put the oral history skills we learnt at the Dorset History Centre and put them into practice - amongst members of the public.

Vicky (facing back) and Jack capturing
the wartime memories of one
We were all sadly aware that capturing memories of First World War stories would prove to be quite a challenge, as all current survivors from the 1914-18 period have now passed on, meaning that all evidence from we captured would be second-hand. And that wasn't all, as we also found that many older people were never told the stories from their relatives, due to the sensitive nature that some of the returning soldiers were reluctant to share their experiences with their families and were stories that would sadly disappear with them as they died.

But, thankfully, there were to be some successes to be had from approaching the visitors who passed by. We had a man who told us of the story when his grandfather volunteered for service when he was underage and many other fascinating tales including one from the Retreat from Mons, the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Jutland have now all be captured for preservation in oral history recordings. In total, we managed to save 15 narratives that will hopefully be archived soon after our volunteer Michael Taylor with support from Julia Moore.

Also, we managed to promote the success of DYA's big 70th birthday, as we also had a loud speaker where Ray could attract the visitors from the day.

Some of our team at the Dorset County Show, Ray Seymour front far right did a great job attracting people to our stand

Pilgrimage in Cerne

4th September

Walking down to St. Augustine's
Another adventure for the WITS team this week, as we paid the village of Cerne Abbas a visit walking in the footsteps of our Anglo Saxon monk and first Bishop of Sherborne, St Aldhelm. Trying to piece together his movements is difficult as their is little written evidence or maps from this period of the "dark ages" We know he was busy visiting Christians in Dorset from 705 until 709 and going on his own pilgrimages during this time and earlier. So acting as history detectives armed with a few clues we searched for more evidence of an early Anglo Saxon presence in the area.

The village has some ancient paths converging on it and is a likely route for St Aldhelm to follow coming down from Sheborne on his way to Wareham to visit a nearby convent port and when he went on a long pilgrimage to Rome. Cerne Abbas besides being known for the famous giant on one of the hillsides, is also host to St. Augustne's Well which, founded later than our period but the spring would have been a source of clean water and could have been a  resting place in    St Aldhelm's time.

Outside the Saxon barn, otherwise
known as 'Beauvoir Court'.  

Besides taking in the beautifully preserved buildings of the different ages in the village, we also ventured up to visit a former Saxon barn, originally knows as 'North Barn' now known now as 'Beauvoir Court', as the WITS team found from their research that the building which could have been constructed as early as the 700's  as the stone work bears a striking resemblance to that of St. Lawrence’s Church, in Bradford-on-Avon near Bath dated 709. St Aldhelm as well as being a musician and poet was also a builder, did he help draw up the plans?! The building later became linked to the Benedictine Abbey gate built in 987 a little bit of stone work it left of arch join. The building, which has been well-preserved under the ownership of the Lord Digby, was also ran as a vet surgery. Left is the group could admiring its fine masonry from the outside.

Like many other aspects of our investigation, Cerne Abbas is one great puzzle yet to be unravelled...

A volunteer making a prayer wish at the
well that St Aldhelm may have rested by

The group resting at the well