Pat Lake – Chairman and Board Director
Anne Barnes – Treasurer
Jackie Ring – Secretary
Gwen Wright – Committee Member
Sylvia Adams – Committee Member
Dorothy Kirkham – Committee Member
The AGTO Southern Branch covers an area to the south and west of London to the south coast. We hold four meetings a year at different venues throughout our region, plus some fam visits which can be outside of the area. These are a useful opportunity to visit a venue with a view to returning with our groups, but also the chance to network with other GTOs to discuss relevant issues or concerns, such as legal issues and insurance, and also to exchange ideas and recommendations for visits and trips. We have about 100 members, many of whom are active in arranging a variety of group events, such as days out, short trips and longer holidays both in the UK and overseas.
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2023 Branch Meetings and Fam Visits
In November we held our 2023 AGM at the MERL (Museum of English Rural Life) in Reading. The Meeting was preceded by a morning visit to Reading Museum where they have a wide variety of exhibits, including a full-size copy of the Bayeux Tapestry and a collection of Huntley and Palmer biscuit tins. A guided walk through the town via local historic landmarks, including the Abbey ruins, Reading Gaol and the canal, and which led us to the MERL. After the meeting we had a guided tour and browsed around their different galleries and many objects.
Our most recent Fam Visit was on a lovely sunny day in September when we went to Brighton. We first enjoyed a ‘flight’ on the i360 for wonderful views of the Sussex coastline and countryside. There was then the opportunity to explore the town, before we had a tour of the magnifient Royal Pavilion in the afternoon.
Our summer meeting and fam visit was to Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, near Chichester. An informative film and guides explained how Tangmere came into existence, and its vital role during World War II and what it has been used for since. We heard stories of the Squadrons which were based here and the many brave individuals who flew, as well as Special Operation Agents who left here for France on secret missions. A tour of the museum gave us the chance to see the many exhibits and displays, and to ‘have a go’ ourselves by sitting inside cockpits and simulators. Their guides will also visit local groups to give a talk.
2022 Meetings and Fam Visits
After a delay of over two years we were at last able to hold our Branch AGM at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden last October. This was an extremely interesting day with a talk by Stephen Mason from Travlaw who explained the implications of the new Travel Package Regulations when organising our group trips. Speakers from the London Transport Museum included Siddy Holloway who told us about their Hidden London Tours into disused underground stations. Their depot at Acton also arranges tours for groups. We then explored the variety of exhibits, including trams, buses, tube trains, etc.
2022’s Summer Branch Meeting and Fam Visit was arranged by Visit Portsmouth and gave us the opportunity to see a variety of venues in the city. After our meeting at the D-Day Story we had a tour around the museum to see the Overlord Tapestry and LCT 7074, the last surviving landing craft tank. This was followed by an exciting vintage bus ride to the Spinnaker Tower with its fantastic views for a (literally) High Tea, and then on to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for the afternoon.
We were very pleased to visit the magnificent Blenheim Palace in Oxforshire in April where we were well looked after by the staff and given guided tours of the garden, the Churchill Exhibition and the Palace, where some of the costumes from the film The Favourite were on display. One of our guides around the palace was the late Duke’s butler who shared some ‘behind the scenes’ stories with us. Special events during the year include Jousting and Pageants, Flower and Car Shows, Music Concerts as well as their annual Christmas Lights Trail around the gardens and in the palace rooms.
We held a very interesting and enjoyable Branch Meeting and Fam Visit to Windsor and Eton at the end of March. The meeting with a buffet lunch was held in Windsor and Eton Brewery. This was followed by an introduction to Eton Walking Tours, a trip on the Thames with French Brothers, and a performance at Richmond Theatre, who also offer guided back-stage tours. The wide variety of things to do in the town offers different itineraries for our groups.
2021 Meetings and Fam Visits
Our 2021 AGM at Brooklands Museum in Weybridge last October was well attended. We were very pleased that Wendy Hartley-Scarff, AGTO’s CEO, joined us for the meeting. She explained more about AGTO, how it operates and supports its members, and answered questions. Brooklands Museum were extremely welcoming – after our meeting in the Bluebird Room, we enjoyed a delicious lunch, ‘flights’ on Concorde and a tour around the cars. There is much to see and do at the museum, plus they also arrange special events, such as themed Italian, Vintage and 40’s days.
In July 2021 we held our first face-to-face Branch Meeting in about 18 months at Painshill Park, in Surrey. It was good to meet everyone again after such a long time, and catch up with each other’s news and plans. The meeting was followed by a guided tour of the beautifully landscaped 18th century garden, with its lake, grotto and follies. Painshill hold special events during the year, such as music concerts and plays, ideal for groups, and especially for those who may prefer to continue being outside.
In June 2021 a few of our branch joined other AGTO members on a short break to Heythrop Park, kindly hosted by Dunwoods. This included visits to some of the lovely Cotswold villages – and super live entertainment each evening.
For more details about our Branch or Meetings, please contact Jackie Ring, Southern Branch Secretary, on 01483 824450 or firstname.lastname@example.org