Our popular WHS Talks are held at the Balsam Centre, Balsam Park BA9 9HB (accessed from Memorial Hall Car Park), usually on the last Wednesday evening of the month.

Doors open 6.30pm with the talk starting at 7pm. Our 9 talks throughout the year range widely, covering local and national topics such as the Roman Villa at the Newt, life of a local vet in 20th century, restoration of Earl of Shaftesbury’s house, the Nuremburg Trials.

A brief round-up of previous talks are available if you click the “Previous Talks” button further down this page.

The programme is being constantly developed so do revisit this site, check out our Instagram or Facebook and look out for our eye-catching posters in various locations around the town advising forthcoming subjects.

Entry Charges (per person):
Members and under 18s: free
Non-members: £10.00

From time to time Special Talks are being booked. The venue for these is the Memorial Hall. Last year we heard from John Blashford-Snell, and enjoyed a live performance of Flamenco dancing. Charges for these talks differ from the standard Talks charge. Keep an eye on this site for details.

Special Talks (per person):
Members: free (donation welcomed)
Non-members: See listing for prices

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Community Action for Transforming Cale Habit

A gale of enthusiasm blew into the Balsam Centre on Wednesday 26 April in the form of Gary Hunt, one of the founding members of CATCH, “a community group committed to returning [the Wincanton stretch of] the River Cale to a self-sustaining ecosystem that is rich in bio-diversity and to be enjoyed by all”, as described on their website.

Some 10 or more years ago a handful of friends met up in The Nog Inn on South Street Wincanton with the broad brushstroke certainty that the River Cale, flowing through the town, needed local people to take care of it.  The first priority was to clear the fly tipped detritus that was the river’s then landscape.  As the scope of the group grew and its standing developed, the convivial Nog meetings moved to a more serious footing in the old club in Mill Street.

All these years later they have completely revamped a straight, tired, barren stretch of water and it is now a meandering, chattery channel full of life.  From once counting 4 fish in a given length of the stream, they have now lost count at over 160 during a recent resampling.  From deep still, verging on stagnant, areas, the constantly moving water tumbles its way round, over and by features put in to restore the natural course of a river, making it an inviting locale for wildlife and two legged mammals.

Working with Wessex Water, the Environment Agency, local farmers, Hawk and Owl Trust, Wild Trout Trust, Wandle Trust (a South London Group whose members have given of their time with help and advice from their experience), the group has grown and expanded its horizons.  It now regularly litter picks, kick samples the river, creates the meanders needed for the aquatic residents, checks the banks for a balance of light and shade and subsequently lops and pollards, plants and replants appropriate plants where necessary.  Sometimes unusual items are found, some of them historic such as an inkwell, others more modern and best put straight in the black sack, never to see the light of day (or night) again.

Gary’s background with Carymoor Environmental is undoubtedly an asset to the group.  A pictorial record, including fun moments, gave a flavour of what they do, the breadth of expertise in the group, and how much the group has achieved in the last decade.  Young people, children and families are frequently engaged with activities and special days with the hope that catching them young will ensure the future of the groups’ activities.

Major tasks have included altering the lie of the land near Hawker’s Bridge at the site of the old fall out from what was Cow and Gate’s factory, topped off with repainting Hawker’s Bridge.  A snippet of Wincanton History, rarely seen, was highlighted, in the form of the old ford that lies directly under said bridge.  A beautifully constructed, cobbled stretch.

One of the more recent projects is a Memorial Wild Flower meadow on an otherwise scranny piece of land beside Cale Park.  It is a work in progress but is starting to bear fruit flowers. Annual scything is preserving the rhythms of nature.

Other objectives include the creation of a by-pass for the fish at Shatterwell Shoots, particularly important with the renewed presence of brown trout in our river.  While otter spraint has been seen on the banks and some early risers have seen one, Gary isn’t one of the lucky ones, to his evident frustration.

While the Cale rises in Penselwood and flows to Marnhull where it joins the Stour, the stretch under the care of CATCH runs through our town.  It has been revived and restored to a healthy condition by a dedicated, enthusiastic and selfless crew and is now a serious benefit to many.  Gary recounted a tale of a woman sitting on one of the benches while her child played who told him of the benefit to her outlook on life from being in such an environment.

The laughter and “buzz” that abounded at this talk was testament to the passion that has successfully given the town its river back. Several people appeared to be caught up in the enthusiasm and may well be getting involved in the near future.

Who knows, Gary Hunt may return to us with an update in a further three or four years.

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