Learning is a lifelong venture, says North Norfolk's u3a chairman

The North Norfolk U3A walking group on a day out at Cley next the Sea. 

The North Norfolk U3A walking group on a day out at Cley next the Sea. - Credit: Supplied by North Norfolk U3A

The chairman of the North Norfolk University of the Third Age, David Riddle, writes about the charity's upcoming 30th birthday, and how it has adapted to these challenging times. 

North Norfolk u3a is one of more than 1000 u3a’s across the UK whose members are making the most of life in their “Third Age” by continuing their creative, social or educational interest together in a friendly and encouraging atmosphere.

North Norfolk U3A chairman David Riddle.

North Norfolk U3A chairman David Riddle. - Credit: Supplied by David Riddle

For people who are no longer in full time work or raising a family – that’s what we call the Third Age – u3a gives opportunities to make new friends and carry on learning.

You can develop long held interests or find new ones and have fun.

2021 is our thirtieth birthday as a local charity. Our membership has grown over those years and we are now one of the largest u3a’s in Norfolk, with more than 650 active Third Agers.

We cover much the same area as North Norfolk District Council, with members from Cromer to Wells-next-the-Sea and most places in between.

The North Norfolk u3a flemenco group giving a performance. 

The North Norfolk u3a flamenco group giving a performance. - Credit: Frederic Landes

Normally, every month we would have about 60 different interest groups meeting and enjoying learning together – Archaeology, Jazz, Mahjong, Ten Pin Bowling, Singing for Fun, Local History, Playreading, True Crime, Military History, Birdwatching, Petanque, French Conversation, Spanish for Beginners, Digital Photography, Current Affairs, Natural World – and many more.

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We also have a monthly meeting in Blakeney with a speaker – open to all members and a grand chance to socialise.

Of course the last year and a bit has been different, hasn’t it? Since March 2020 we couldn’t hold face to face meetings because of Covid-19 restrictions, but lots of our innovative and adaptable interest groups found new ways to carry on learning and enjoying themselves online.

Not many of us knew about “Zoom” online meetings in March 2020 but most of us do now.

It’s enabled us to do things we wouldn’t have done otherwise – one of our speakers came to us live from Dallas, Texas with a talk about Donald Trump.

But there’s an expression that has almost become an anthem in North Norfolk u3a - if you forget to turn on your microphone what you say can’t be heard, so out goes the message “David you need to unmute!”.

Our groups who do outdoor activities had some windows, including a day out with our walking group on a windy day near Cley next the Sea last autumn.

If indoors is more your thing, our fabulous Flamenco Group also gives performances.

We are non-religious and non-political, but that doesn’t mean we are not engaged with issues of importance.

In the last year, for example, we have had some fascinating talks on the environment and our impact on it - water and what we can do to conserve it (that was before the spring rains!) and how we can all recycle more as a contribution to tackle global warming.

Upcoming later this year we will have some eminent speakers on local history, the Victoria Cross Story, and the Fall of the Alamo (sorry, not with Davey Crockett) and others.

You don’t need any qualifications to join our interest groups – and you won’t get any through learning with us.

We operate on the basis that the teachers learn, and the learners teach – it is co-operative self-help learning, supported by the resources of the national organisation Third Age Trust of which we are part.

North Norfolk u3a is a great way to share your interests and be more active. For those who live alone, we are an antidote to isolation and loneliness.

For people who have just moved into North Norfolk we can welcome you into a friendly community, help you meet new friends and discover more of what this super place has to offer.

For a small membership fee of £10 a year, anyone in their third age can join and then take part in as many interest groups as they want.

Readers can find out more by looking at our website at www.northnorfolku3a.org.uk, where you can join online.