Join Our Club - Wokingham

PUBLISHED: 00:16 05 February 2011 | UPDATED: 20:36 20 February 2013

Join Our Club - Wokingham

Join Our Club - Wokingham

Clubs and societies play a huge part in community life and Wokingham is no exception. Some of the town's organisations give us an insight into what they offer their members...

Wokingham is a thriving market town that has seen many changes over the years. Plans are currently afoot to regenerate the town centre and to build substantial developments 1,500 homes to the north and 2,500 to the south of the town.

Formerly a centre for brick-making and silk-making, Wokingham now focuses on software development, light engineering and service industries.

But its not all work in Wokingham we talk to a number of residents who spend their leisure time in a vast variety of ways from amateur dramatics to preserving the towns heritage.

A peal of bells

John Harrison is tower foreman of All Saints Wokingham Bellringers. He is so enthusiastic about his subject that last year he published a book, Living Heritage, focusing on 300 years of bells, ringing and bellringers at the church. John started his bellringing career as a teenager more than 50 years ago.

He said: Ringing itself is a combination of mental and physical activity and theres a huge raft of tradition associated with it. We get a mixture of ages and many of the younger ringers are the grandchildren or godchildren of our ringers.

Mhairi Miller, 17, is the groups steeple keeper. This means she has to look after the bell installation keeping an eye out for wear on the ropes or any bolts that may work loose.

She said: My godfather and godmother are bellringers and I was fascinated when I was about nine, but I was told I was too young. I waited two years and started when I was 11.

The group has about 20 regular members and meets for practice most Monday evenings, ringing the bells twice on Sundays and on special occasions. Members also travel to other churches to ring different bells and take part in striking competitions.

The ages of the groups members range from 11 to 67.

Hitting the target

Archery is a sport where all ages can compete at the same time, and that is part of the attraction for Denis Jones, chairman of the Bowmen of Burleigh, based at Cantley Recreation Ground, Wokingham.The group has more than 90 shooting members including more than 20 juniors one of the largest junior memberships in the south east.

Denis, who is still an active archer at 82, and shot for the county until he was 80, said: I got into archery in 1963 when I was working in a photographic shop in Reading. Someone came in to ask for binoculars and when I asked him what he wanted them for he told me it was for archery. He didnt buy the binoculars on that day, but that weekend I was on the archery field!

The club caters for all ages, both male and female, from ten to eighty plus. It started at Windsor Forest Stud, Burleigh, Ascot in December 1977, moving to Cantley Park in 1990.

In the summer, there is a club evening on Wednesdays and often archers shoot on a Friday evening as well. A club shoot is held every Sunday from April to October.

The group shoots indoors every Sunday from October to March.
A large proportion of the Berkshire County archery team are club members and the group and has had a number of international archers.

Behind the lens

Peter Odds interest in photography started through his career in PR and he has been chairman of the Wokingham and East Berkshire Camera Club for the past 10 years. The group started as part of a social club from British Aerospace, based in Bracknell, taking up a new HQ at Cornerstone, Norreys Avenue, Wokingham in 2005. Since then, the club has gone from strength to strength, growing from about 20 members to 50.

Peter said: It has been quite a success story. We have three judges on the Southern Photographic Federation, which speaks for itself. The club offers a rich mix of competitions, talks, outings and practical photographic sessions. It is a member of the Southern Photographic Federation and caters for all levels of photographic skill from the highest standards required for inter-club competitions to the newcomer to photography.

The club meets at The Cornerstone, on the second and fourth Thursday of the month from September to June. Membership gives the opportunity of learning from others the principles of taking and making good photographs.

Back in 2006, the club embraced the digital age and obtained an Awards for All lottery grant in 2006 to purchase a computer and a digital projector. The group is a member of the Southern Photographic Federation and takes part in many inter-club competitions.

The clubs website gives many examples of their photographic work and their activities.

Treading the boards

Now in his second year as chairman of Wokingham Theatre, Nigel Lawson Dick, says he loves theatre and being involved with it. His other major role in the group is as a director.

He said: If you are directing you are creating a bit of art form which hopefully, 1,000 1,500 people are going to see and enjoy. You take them into another world for a couple of hours.

Wokingham Theatre started life as the Wokingham Players in 1947. From 1962, it was based in two old army huts in Norreys Avenue until moving to a purpose-built theatre, at Cantley in 1986, which was financed by fund-raising and a loan and grant from Wokingham District Council.

During 2000, a major extension project was undertaken to increase seating capacity to 144. The group currently has about 200 members, but could always do with more.

Nigel said: Our main task at the moment is to renegotiate our lease with the council who own our land. We originally had a 42-year lease and our new theatre opened in late 1986. We would now like to improve and extend the building again but with such a short remaining term that is not a sensible course of action for an investment which may be more than 250k. We are therefore in discussion with the council about agreement on a new longer term which will enable us to plan ahead.

Working to protect the town

The Wokingham Society is a civic organisation dedicated to conserving the heritage of Wokingham while working constructively towards its development. Peter Must has been its chairman for just over a year.
He said: I got involved through a local residents association when I objected to the proposal to build more than 120 dwellings at Wokingham Cricket Club in Wellington Road. I found support from the Wokingham Society, so I felt I ought to support them by joining!

The Society, which was founded in 1963, has helped to save several fine buildings from demolition or unsightly modification, and has successfully proposed sympathetic restoration of external features.

At present, the Society is engaged with two major development plans, one for large housing areas to be built in the north and south of the town, the other for regeneration of the town centre. It has close dialogue with the local councils and residents associations. An open meeting is planned on Wednesday, March 16, this year to discuss the future plans for the town centre.

From its funds, it is able to make grants to local initiatives such as fairs, heritage events and conservation groups, and it has installed 13 blue plaques around the town to commemorate individuals, and specific buildings. A Blue Plaque Trail Guide is available from the town hall information centre or the societys website at

The society also publishes a number of books about Wokingham. The latest publication is Bygone Days, by the late Ken Goatley, a noted town historian. Copies are available from the information centre or via the website.

Preparing for lifes challenges

The Life Skills Project is a group of about ten teenage girls who meet at Wokingham Youth Centre in Reading Road on Monday nights from 6.30 8.30pm. Co-ordinator of the project is Cyril Sansum, a youth worker for more than 20 years.

The project looks at all kinds of issues from where members spend their social life to first aid and homework.

Cyril said: The girls learn life skills such as healthy cooking, food safety, baby sitting, disability awareness and sexual health.

They recently did a blindfold walk from Winnersh to Wokingham in aid of Building for the Future, a charity for disabled children. They had to put on a blindfold, and then learn to trust their guides to show them the way.
The group is looking for some new recruits and anyone interested, aged 13 to 14, can just turn up at the Monday night sessions.Other creative youth projects shortly to start at the centre are African drumming workshops and dance projects such as lindy hop, salsa and jazz.

Latest from the Berkshire Life