The University of the Third Age (U3A) was founded in France in 1972 and in the UK ten years later.

The U3A ‘movement’ has exploded in the past few years with branches being set up all over the country. St Albans alone has three U3As (Verulam, St Albans, Ver-Colne-Valley), with another, Chiswell Green, in process of arriving on the scene.

There are also groups in Harpenden, Redbourn and Wheathampstead. VERULAM Verulam U3A reached its first birthday on March 12 and has 570 members and 60 interest groups. The group has enjoyed trips to many places including Windsor Castle, the Poppy Factory and Westonbirt.

Theatre/concert trips have ranged from As You Like It at Stratford-upon- Avon to a Symphonic Rock Concert, and holidays from Llandudno to Budapest. Trips planned for later this year include Liverpool and Peru.

Groups vary from Antiques and Collectibles to Bowls, Exploring London to Film & Cinema, Canasta to Grumpy Old Men, Mahjong to Social Bridge, Tai Chi to Welsh Beginners, and many more.

The monthly talks, held at Dagnell Street Baptist Church also range widely, from Valerie Langford talking about the Abbeyfield Society, to Ian Keable on ‘The Vanishing Maidservant – an 18th century whodunnit’ and Geraint John on ‘The Olympic Legacy (sustainable development)’ to Andrew Thomas on ‘Whoops! That Shouldn’t have Happened (industrial hazards and their consequences) and Ros Clow on ‘Why are They So Weird? Lessons on Adolescence(ents) from cognitive neuroscience’ (many members recognised their teenage grandchildren’s behaviour here!) to Sieglinde Wilson on ‘The Palace of Westminster’. St Albans U3A St Albans U3A was formed in 1987 and has almost 1,000 members who take part in more than 100 interest Groups. As well as regular talks by guest speakers, there are specialist workshops and study days covering subjects as diverse as hand bell ringing, seasonal flower arranging and clay modelling.

There are coffee mornings and quizzes, and theatre visits and other outings (such as the Dickens festival at Broadstairs or the Living Legends Air Show at Duxford) and short breaks, including a tour of Flanders Fields and the Somme.

Groups decide their own programmes and members make a contribution. They bring people together to share and pursue learning in its widest sense and aim to satisfy the widest possible range of interests. Harpenden U3A in Harpenden is rather singular - it is thought to be the site of the first ever U3A meeting to be held in the country, in 1982. U3A in Harpenden is unusual, in holding a meeting every week.

There is usually a visiting speaker, or short talks from members, or there are debates, quizzes or discussions. There are special interest groups on a variety of topics, of course, occasional outings, and various other activities.

A small membership, compared with some other U3As, of less than 150, makes for a very companionable and participative atmosphere in the weekly meetings in the Harpenden Trust Hall. Visitors are always welcome. Redbourn Redbourn U3A has just had its first birthday and has more than 225 members. Monthly meeting feature talks on topics as diverse as Waddesdon Manor to An Actor's Life. The talks, which are open to all members and their guests are held monthly in Redbourn Village Hall .

There are 30 interest groups covering a wide range of interests ranging from architecture to wine appreciation, and meet where appropriate in members’ homes.

One of our most popular groups is the theatre group which is open to all members and has already arranged a number of visits to theatres in the local area. Forthcoming visits include the ‘Mousetrap’ and ‘South Pacific’, plus live screenings of plays, etc at local cinemas.

The group is organising a three day holiday to Norfolk and organised day trips such as one to Oxford for a guided walk of "Inspector Morse's Oxford”.‎ Ver-Colne Valley Ver-Colne Valley U3A have had a busy month. In addition to their regular programme of outings, events and activities March saw the culmination of their efforts to form a new U3A to help absorb their ever-growing waiting list for membership. Around 150 people attended a lively and enthusiastic meeting at Greenwood Park, where the new kid on the block, Chiswell Green U3A, was formally launched.

Outings for VCV members in March included a theatre trip to see “West Side Story” at Milton Keynes and a visit to the Welwyn Roman Baths by their Local History Group. Further afield, a group of more intrepid travellers from VCV headed to the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights. Meanwhile, back at base in Greenwood Park, the stay-at-home travellers were treated at VCV’s monthly meeting to a fascinating talk by John Wallington on “Antarctica”, with photographs of the scenery and wildlife.