The Sylvia Townsend Warner Society Weekend June 2015

A small, but rather noisy, bunch of members met up on the Friday evening at a familiar venue, No 6 North Square in Dorchester. Conversation was wide-ranging, and huge platefuls were served, along with generous quantities of wine.

The AGM on Saturday morning was attended by the Journal’s new editor Peter Swaab, who explained his plans in detail (having dashed up from London that morning to do so). The retiring editor Helen Sutherland was thanked for all her work, as were Judith Bond and Judith Stinton, who are giving up their roles as Treasurer/Membership Secretary and Newsletter Editor respectively. A tribute to ‘the two Judiths’ sent by Peter Tolhurst was read out by our President Eileen Johnson (who informed us that she too will be retiring next year).

We are pleased to be able to announce that Judith Bond will be replaced by Jenny Wildblood as Treasurer and Vike Plock as Membership Secretary, while Judith Stinton will be succeeded by Jay Barksdale as Newsletter Editor.

It was a longer meeting than usual, leaving Lynn Mutti with only a short time to talk about Percy Buck and her research about his life. (Meanwhile outside the window there was a demonstration against the closure of some of the children’s services at Dorset County Hospital.)

We adjourned for lunch over the road at Café Jagos, and then spent the afternoon at Abbotsbury Swannery. There were plenty of ‘baby swans’ as the roadside signs called the cygnets, greyly fluffy and not yet in the ugly duckling stage. Four o’clock was feeding time, and some of us joined in, throwing wheat from the buckets provided over the white mass of feeding swans.

The meat of the swans tastes like mud we were told, and so we opted for more conventional (Italian) food at our evening meal at La Gondola in Dorchester, which seems to have been enjoyed by all.

On Sunday morning we met at Athelhampton House, which manages to show a certain grandeur while retaining a domestic feel. The gardens – like a series of rooms – are full of surprises, including a statue of Queen Victoria in all her finery, with the added decoration of bird-droppings.

Three of us sneaked off along the road to St Edward’s Church, a Victorian building now richly adorned with icons, and used by the Greek Orthodox Church. It was an unexpectedly exotic sight in a place formerly known as Piddletown. Church-goers in those days behaved differently. It was:

Into Church.Out of Church.Into Cat.Out of Cat. Into Piddle.

We, however, chose the Martyrs Inn, Tolpuddle, for a prolonged and very chatty Sunday lunch, well away from any water. Some members went on to the Martyrs Museum down the road; for the rest of us it was time to go home.

Judith Stinton