Association of Open University Graduates


Jane Austen Tour



Chickens at Cogges Farm




Bodleian Visit


The Bell Tower Chichester



Bombay Sapphire Botanical Selection






News of AOUG in the South (02)

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Jane Austen in Oxford Tour

In late July a good number of us from the North of the Region went on the “Jane Austen in Oxford” tour. As many will know, it has recently been the two hundredth anniversary of her death, as she passed away on the 18th July 1817 in Winchester. So we felt it was a good idea to learn about this famous author who commented on society through the medium of the novel.
Jane’s connection with Oxford actually started before she was born. We learned that her parents, the Revd George Austen and Cassandra (nee Leigh), first met each other at the university. George was studying at St John’s College gaining a fellowship there while Cassandra’s father was Rector of All Souls College. Henry Austen, one of Jane’s many brothers, also went to St John’s. Although women were not allowed to go to university in this period, Jane was taught for a while in one of the buildings of the university, namely the Principal’s lodgings of Brasenose College. Jane and her family moved on many occasions. Her last home was in Chawton near Alton, an area not far from where she was born back in 1775.
After this we all went to our favourite watering hole of The Mitre, many having the cream tea.
There is an exhibition of Jane’s life and work at the Bodleian Library – Weston Library in Oxford until 29th October 2017.

David Cox




Cogges Manor Farm.

A small group of us returned to Oxfordshire to visit Cogges Manor Farm in Witney. The site has been occupied since Anglo-Saxon times but the current Manor House and farm buildings date from the 1600’s. The buildings show how the farm adapted to changing agricultural trends with the farming of crops and housing of animals that worked the land. The house itself is built from Cotswold stone and includes a garden area with the equipment available for a game of croquet. Two members provided much amusement by taking part in a game!  Inside the house you could see how then original kitchen was equipped and whilst we were visiting a group of primary school children were having a lesson in Victorian cooking.

More recently Cogges has been the location for Downton Abbey’s Yew Tree Farm and has been used for filming on a number of occasions. One room in the house is devoted to photographs from filming and a video showing the location team and what influenced their decision when making the choice to use Cogges.
There are many different types of chickens to see as well as a couple of pigs, a few sheep, goats and a Shetland pony and her foal. There is an extensive orchard and a beautiful walled garden which included fruit, vegetables and flowers. As our visit took place on a beautiful sunny day the walled garden looked particularly splendid. 
After our visit we enjoyed coffee and cake in the well-stocked café whilst enjoying the peaceful surroundings. Cogges runs a number of events throughout the year and comes highly recommended for a visit.

Jayne Littlejohn


Bodleian Library

A small group of Oxford members recently visited the Bodleian Library to see two of the current exhibitions – one on Harold Wilson and one on Bodleian Treasures. The latter exhibition was an opportunity to see some of the rarer items that the library holds including a copy of the Magna Carta and items from the women’s suffrage movement. One of the more interesting items was a book of drawings of insects made from viewing the insects under a microscope. Apparently, to keep the insects still to allow time to draw them, the insects were provided with alcohol, so the drawings are actually of drunk insects! Apparently a tot keeps an insect still for about an hour!

The Harold Wilson display is to mark the Centenary of his birth and comprises photos, documents and a couple of pipes! One of the most interesting documents from our point of view was a document referring to the possibility of starting a ‘University of the Air’ – the organisation that was to become The Open University.
After an interesting viewing we moved on to enjoy lunch at The Mitre. For those that are interested an exhibition that started the day after our visit and runs until mid-September is called ‘Shakespeare’s Dead’ and marks four hundred years since his death by looking at the theme of death within his plays. I shall definitely be going back to view this.

Jayne Littlejohn




Visit to Chichester Cathedral

A group of us joined with a couple of members from Region 01 for a handshake visit to Chichester Cathedral.  A visit to the Cathedral is rewarding in many senses – there has been a church on the site since Norman times, with a previous cathedral having been sited, in Selsey, some ten miles away. After the Norman Conquest, cathedrals were transferred to places with larger populations; as a result, constriction started in Chichester in 1076 and was completed in 1108. The 13th Century Bishop, Richard of Wych, was canonised in 1262 and a shrine established until 1538, when it was destroyed. It was restored in 1930. The cathedral has interesting installations and artefacts, dating from the 1300s to 1998 – Romanesque sculptures dating from the 12th Century in the eastern part of the nave, a somewhat controversial tapestry by John Piper from 1966, a window by Marc Chagall of 1978 (based on symbols from Psalm 150), the Gustav Holst memorial of 1934 set in the floor in the north transept and the Sailors’ Chapel of St Michael dedicated in 1956.

By a small distance, the cathedral is the widest in England (due to transepts having been added after the main building was completed). The 15th Century spire collapsed in 1861 and was replaced within five years (it is the only English cathedral which can be seen from the sea) – this partly explains the separate Norman bell tower which stands a few feet to the north – again, unique in England.

Although there was no evidence at the time of our visit, peregrine falcons have nested in the spire since 2009.

Mike Bechley







Bombay Sapphire

On a bright February morning a dozen members joined together to visit the Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery in Hampshire. It was good to welcome a number of new faces to this as well as some long-time supporters. The distillery moved to Laverstoke Mill in 2014 from its previous location in Warrington. The surroundings are rural and peaceful and we enjoyed a guided tour of parts of the distillery including the history of the brand and some of the work involved in selecting the botanicals that are an important part of the process to make Bombay Sapphire gin. We spent some time sniffing different botanicals such as the expected juniper berries and citrus peel and perhaps the less expected ingredients of liquorice, coriander and grains of paradise. Many of these botanicals can be seen in the glasshouses at the mill which were designed by the same gentleman who designed the 2012 Olympic cauldron.
The process of gin making was taking place in two of the smaller stills. As it was early in the day, the air was not too heavy with gin fumes – apparently later in the afternoon the fumes can become quite strong! We saw the meters installed by HMRC to ensure that all duty is paid on the spirit – the concentrated gin passes through these meters before pouring through the spirit safe where the master distillers test the gin on at least an hourly basis to ensure it meets the expected quality. One of the spirit safes we saw was the original safe designed by Mary Dakin, who was integral in the making of the original gin recipe the company used. It was in 1831 that the Dakin family used vapour infusion to capture the flavour of the botanicals used to make the gin that still forms the basis of Bombay Sapphire gin to this day.

Laverstoke Mill, where the distillery is based, has an interesting history of its own. For many years it manufactured the paper for bank notes and also the bank notes themselves for countries in the British Empire. The main stills for today’s gin production are housed in India House, which used to produce the bank notes for India. Many of the buildings have been restored but there is also work still required, including the restoration of what were originally workers’ cottages on the site.

After learning more about the history of the Mill itself we adjourned to the bar where we were provided with a complimentary cocktail based on the flavours we had indicated as our preference from the botanicals we had sniffed at the start of the tour! For those not driving this was an alcoholic cocktail but I can confirm that the non-alcoholic cocktails were very refreshing. Drivers could then collect a “take-home” bag with a small bottle of gin and a bottle of tonic water to enjoy of an evening.

It was a thoroughly enjoyed visit which we will definitely repeat in the next couple of years, especially as we had the opportunity to meet a number of new faces who we will hopefully see at other Portsmouth gatherings.

Mike Bechley


Executive Representative – Vacant

Local Contacts:
Oxford and Area - Colin Reed 01235 815548,   Mobile 0775 2932 182 (Event days only)
Portsmouth and Area - Mike Bechley 023 92552087, Mobile 0781 915458. Email