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image for Lecture item typeUnder a Wartime Sky: Liz Trenow

  • VistEngland VAQAS
  • Self-assessed Accessibility Information

Lecture, Sat 14 Mar 2020

Liz Trenow

Liz Trenow


Under a Wartime Sky is an enthralling historical novel by Liz Trenow, based on the real-life events at Bawdsey Manor, a top-secret wartime research station.

It tells the story of the heroes behind the discovery of radar, an invention whose significance matched that of the more famous code-breakers of Bletchley Park in helping to win the Second World War. It is a novel about courage, belonging and hope.


1978: An eccentric, distracted looking man walks into a teashop in a Suffolk seaside town, wearing pyjama trousers beneath his overcoat. He orders tea and carrot cake, takes a bite and smiles. Just to check, he asks the waitress. ‘Why, the owner of course,’ she says. ‘Mrs Bishop makes all our cakes.’ He asks if she is available, as he would like to congratulate her in person. She is out at present but will be back shortly. As he takes out his newspaper, his hands are trembling. His thoughts are filled with his first taste of Kath’s carrot cake.

1936: Robert Watson Watt and a group of other brilliant young scientists are posted under the cloak of the greatest secrecy to a remote RAF base housed in a Victorian gothic mansion on the edge of the North Sea: Bawdsey Manor. They are there to develop and operate the world’s first radar, an invention which would become decisive in protecting Britain against German bombing raids in our ‘darkest hour’.

War is declared and Bawdsey Manor is on the front line for German bombers. In this febrile atmosphere an unlikely friendship develops between Vic, a shy boffin and Kathleen, a cheerful local girl helping her mother in the kitchens. She tells him of her frustration at not being able to help the war effort, and he encourages her to apply to the WAAF and become a radar operator at the station.

It is a demanding job made all the more stressful by the ever present threat of bomb raids, and the rudimentary and unreliable radar systems. One evening, during the Battle of Britain, Kath tracks a plane which is acting strangely. RAF Spitfires are launched and the plane is shot down. That night, the bomber piloted by Kath’s brother fails to return.

1978: Thirty years later in the teashop, Kath appears. The next hour will prove the most important of their lives.

Baby changing facilitiesCoach parties acceptedCredit cards accepted (no fee)Credit cards accepted (with charge)Disabled toiletsEducation/study areaFacilities for groupsFacilities for educational visitsGift shopOn-site cateringOn-site light refreshmentsPicnic sitePublic toiletsRegional Tourist Board MemberWelcome HostWheelchairs availableAccepts groupsFacilities for conferencingFacilities for corporate hospitality

Event details

Dates Times
Sat 14 Mar 2020 15:30 to 16:30


£5 concessions (27 years and under)


Essex Book Festival


Lewis Gardens,
High Street,


See location of Firstsite on Google mapsSee location on Google maps

Map reference: TL 999252  Lat: 51.88968 Long: 0.90477

By Road:
Follow signs to the Town Centre.

Accessible by Public Transport: 1 mile from Colchester Town station


  • Baby changing facilitiesBaby changing facilities
  • Coach parties acceptedCoach parties accepted
  • Credit cards accepted (no fee)Credit cards accepted (no fee)
  • Credit cards accepted (with charge)Credit cards accepted (with charge)
  • Disabled toiletsDisabled toilets
  • Education/study areaEducation/study area
  • Facilities for groupsFacilities for groups
  • Facilities for educational visitsFacilities for educational visits
  • Gift shopGift shop
  • On-site cateringOn-site catering
  • On-site light refreshmentsOn-site light refreshments
  • Picnic sitePicnic site
  • Public toiletsPublic toilets
  • Regional Tourist Board MemberRegional Tourist Board Member
  • Welcome HostWelcome Host
  • Wheelchairs availableWheelchairs available
  • Accepts groupsAccepts groups
  • Facilities for conferencingFacilities for conferencing
  • Facilities for corporate hospitalityFacilities for corporate hospitality

Self-Assessed Accessibility Details


  • YesDesignated parking for guests with disabilities
    • YesWithin 50 metres approx. of entrance
  • The surface of the car park and pathway leading to entrance:
    • Yesis solid
  • YesDrop-off point for guests outside entrance
  • The route from the parking area to the entrance:
    • YesIs flat (i.e. without steps)

Public Areas

  • Level access (no steps/thresholds) or access by ramp or lift:
    • YesFrom the entrance to reception / ticket area
    • YesTo a specially adapted public toilet suitable for wheelchair users
    • YesTo the gift shop
  • YesGood contrast between the floor and walls
  • YesContrast markings on clear surfaces such as glass doors
  • YesBaby changing facilities
  • YesVisitor information available in large print (14pt and over)
  • YesHearing loop installed in public areas


  • YesSeating available for visitors with limited mobility
  • YesClear signage
  • YesEffective lighting for visually impaired visitors
  • YesGood colour/tonal contrast for visually impaired visitors
  • YesRoutes/pathways suitable for wheelchair users or visitors with limited mobility
  • YesDisplays at suitable height for wheelchair users / children
  • YesAudible alarm system


  • YesEntrance is well lit
  • YesAutomatic door at the main entrance


  • YesLevel access (no steps/thresholds) or access by ramp or lift to cafeteria
  • YesGood contrast between the floor and walls
  • Restaurant / cafe provide meals for visitors with special dietary requirements:
    • YesSugar free (diabetic)
    • YesGluten free (coeliacs)
    • YesLactose free (dairy free)
    • YesNut free
    • YesAdditive free
    • YesVegetarian
    • YesVegan
  • YesSeating suitable for wheelchair users, ie moveable and good height for person sitting in a wheelchair
  • YesHigh chairs for children
  • YesChildren's menu