Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Around the WI

Around the WI


OUR president Yvonne welcomed all members to our February meeting.

After discussing WI business and forthcoming events, she introduced our speaker for the evening, Judy Gibbons, of the Island Donkey Sanctuary, a charity which was formed in 2000 and is run entirely by volunteers.

Not only do the volunteers care for about 140 donkeys, many of whom have been rescued from the meat trade, they are also responsible for fund-raising, running the tea room and welcoming visitors.

As it costs £1,200 a month to run the sanctuary, there is a continual need to raise funds and events such as table-top sales, craft fairs and collector fairs are held almost every weekend.

Money is also raised from the sale of refreshments at events.

The sanctuary has just built its own hospital, complete with an operating theatre, vets’ area and two stables.

All the donkeys are named and have different personalities. Each has a “special donkey friend” with whom they are paired for life.

None of the donkeys is allowed to breed, although some are taken into the sanctuary when they are already in foal.

Donkeys have been provided to local churches for Palm Sunday and carol services and one was even used in an opera with Pavarotti at Covent Garden.

Judy was very knowledgeable and has an obvious passion for and is dedicated to the welfare of the donkeys.

She encouraged members to visit Island Farm and advised that members of the public can adopt a donkey for £15 per year.

After thanking Judy for such an interesting and informative talk, refreshments were served before the meeting closed.


AT our February meeting, we welcomed Alan Copeland, who returned to show us “Eccentric London” part two.

Who knew there is a lighthouse looking down on St Pancras station, or that there is a Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice in Postman’s Park, which was opened near St Paul’s Cathedral in 1900?

This enlightening talk was followed by a review of the local and national WI events that are coming up.

Many members are keen to attend the WI fair at Alexandra Palace in London on Saturday, April 1. There will be a huge variety of stalls and workshops to intrigue and to explore.

It is open to the public and a coach is being organised to leave from Caversham/Reading. If you would like to join us, do get in touch.

Next month, we look forward to a social evening with games and a quiz.

New members are very welcome to join our friendly group. We hold meetings on the third Thursday of the month at 7.30pm, which helps avoid childcare issues.

There is easy parking and a lift to the first floor meeting room at Church House, Prospect Street.

For more information, please call secretary Romayne Flight on 0118 947 5176.


ON Wednesday, February 15 president Adrienne Rance welcomed members and the return of guest speaker Tom Way, who gave a fascinating and enthusiastic talk called “Exciting wildlife from around the world”.

After finishing university, Tom went travelling in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and it was in the last of those that he discovered a passion for photography.

He only had a small camera then but the photos he took inspired him so much that he knew that this was the profession he wanted to follow.

An enthusiastic young man, he set up his own business exhibiting his work and leading a number of photographic wildlife safaris to destinations such as Zambia, Kenya and Uganda.

Tom showed us many amazing slides.

The first, taken in 2013 in Borneo, featured an orangutan mother with her baby.

Tom explained that he always tried to “understand” the character of an animal, its intelligence and quirkiness and, in this case, the natural cuteness of the baby.

A lot of his understanding comes from looking at the eyes as he senses the strong bond between mother and infant, which in the case of the orangutan can last up to eight years.

We saw a photo of a silverleaf gorilla holding her infant, who was a startling ginger colour — it will only look like its mum after about a year, when its hair turns dark.

Tom was in Uganda in 2015 when he took a photo of his first mountain gorilla.

He was delighted to tell us that the government now charges tourists £750 an hour to see the animals in their natural habitat.

The money raised goes to gorilla conservation and also to the locals as an alternative to destroying their natural habitat by chopping down trees etc.

Tom saw meerkats in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, where temperatures can reach 45C during the day, causing them to scurry back down their burrows. The meerkat TV adverts show them as being very sociable which they are, living in clans.

They always have a sentinel, standing upright looking out for danger.

They are intelligent animals and if a predator is spotted, the sentinel will give a different squeak (bark) to identify a hunter approaching.

In 2013, Tom went to Zambia in search of the perfect hippo photo.

While trying to achieve this from a boat, he stood up, accidentally hit his tripod and, to his horror, saw the tripod and very expensive lens sink into the murky river water.

For a young photographer just setting up his own business, this was a great setback and explains his personal reason for not being fond of hippos!

Tom went to the east coast of Sri Lanka to film blue whales, the largest animal on earth, which feeds on tiny shrimp-like creatures called krill.

The whales are not easy to find, as Tom discovered. It’s only when they come to the surface to exhale used air through a blowhole in a cloud of spray rising up to 9m that they are visible.

It took a lot of patience and skill for Tom to capture the water dripping off the whale’s tail but the result was a spectacular photo. The tail size of some would spread the breadth of the village hall!

Another journey took him to the Falklands to see the king penguins caring for their young.

The sunrise and sunsets there helped to create amazing photos.

Tom was enchanted by the gentoo penguins, who are also resident in the Falkland Islands and are smaller than king penguins.

In the photo he showed us, they seemed to be jumping for joy in the waves but that was not the case as there was the risk of becoming a meal for the lurking sea lions!

Tom talked of the drama of hundreds of wildebeest shuffling around, preparing to cross a river when one animal finally entered the water and the masses followed.

Then, to his surprise, they turned round and crossed back, causing him to leap into his vehicle for safety.

Tom admires the leopard for its stealth and power and the lion for its great power and beauty.

He has a photograph entitled “view to a kill” of a lion and lioness sharing a tender moment, which provided a popular purchase for a Valentine’s Day’s gift!

To take a memorable photo it takes a lot of time and patience — at times just a few shots, at others more than 3,000 to get the perfect image.

Tom had an impressive display of work, which tempted many members to buy his unique photos of animals in their natural wild habitat. If you’d like to know more about his work and see some of his stunning photos, visit

Members enjoyed a delicious tea prepared and served by Gina Foden and Sheila Williams.

The next meeting will be held at Crazies Hill village hall on Wednesday, March 15 at 2.30pm when we will hold our annual meeting followed by an entertaining quiz.


THE numbers for our February meeting were, sadly, depleted by sickness and best wishes were sent to absent friends.

Jo Duncan, of the Greys village hall committee, encouraged us to join the Great British Spring Clean taking place in Greys on Sunday, March 5, meeting at 2.30pm by the cricket pavilion.

She reminded us that Lady Brunner, our former president, had initiated the Keep Britain Tidy campaign.

Merryl was thanked for her hard work putting together our 2016-17 programme and she asked members to complete the tea rotas for the year.

A birthday posy was given to Val, our president.

Everyone agreed that last month’s speaker, Elizabeth Hazeldine, had been remarkable and maybe some members would join her on her Henley walks.

Those wishing to go to the meeting of the Beechwood group of WIs in Sonning Common village hall at 7.30pm on March 30 were asked to add their names to the list.

Val introduced our speaker, Clive Williams OBE, whose passion for history led him to research the fascinating story of the Nabobs of Berkshire, the name given to employees of the East India company.

Many of them made their fortunes in India during the 18th and 19th centuries as traders, soldiers and administrators.

Some fell victim to the hostile climate but others returned home and bought great houses and estates to show off their wealth.

They were often looked down on as the nouveau riche. Indeed, the name Nabob gave rise to our words “snob” and “nob”.

Clive’s presentation showed many of Berkshire’s 31 stately homes and their owners.

Of those properties still in existence, the best known are perhaps Major Marsack’s Caversham Park, now home to BBC Radio Berkshire, and Basildon Park, which belonged to Sir Francis Sykes (Baronet) and is now a National Trust property.

School history lessons about the movers and shakers of the time didn’t cover Clive’s amusing anecdotes about them!

His explanation why Berkshire was chosen by so many of the Nabobs on their homecoming was because they associated almost entirely with each other due to their unpopularity.

Also, being near London, Berkshire was convenient for those who became Members of Parliament.

At the time, the county was known as the “English Hindustan”.

Clive’s extensive research is covered in his book The Nabobs of Berkshire, which he dedicates to his grandsons in the hope they will derive as much enjoyment from studying the past as he has.

Our annual meeting will be held at Greys village hall on Wednesday, March 15 at 2.30pm when we will welcome Pat Eades, our WI adviser.

Come along with your ideas, questions and enthusiasm for the future of our own beloved Greys WI.


OUR February meeting became the first of the year as our January meeting had been cancelled due to poor weather conditions.

Our speaker was Graham Horn who gave a talk entitled “England in miniature”.

This was fascinating and supported by interesting photographs of the Isle of Wight.

We learnt many interesting historical facts about the island’s geography and geology. A vote of thanks was given by Niki Mainds.

Teas were provided by Lois Howden, Liz Jarvis and Frances Emmett.

Following the talk, we had a great deal to discuss as we have a busy year ahead.

Here are a few of the activities that we are planning for early 2017:

March 9 — Our speaker will be Frances Benton talking about “The history of pearls”.

March 25 — WI members will be providing soup lunches in the village hall as part of Hambleden’s celebration of Lent.

April 12 — Members will have the opportunity to visit Highclere Castle (of Downton Abbey fame).

Hambleden WI has more than 60 members. In addition to our monthly meetings, members are also involved in a drama group, book club, art group and walking group (Hambleden Hikers). Groups generally get together once a month.

We welcome new members. For more information about Hambleden WI and to see our programme for 2017, please visit


THE February meeting was presided over by Di Painter in the absence on holiday of Pat Eades.

Di gave birthday greetings to Joan Hoyes, Janet Wise, Suzanna Rose, Diana Hex and Ann Lincoln.

Attention was drawn to items in News & Views, namely the Oxfordshire Federation’s annual meeting at Oxford town hall on March 28, commencing at 10.45am.

The speakers that day will be Vera de Menezes, talking about her experiences of fleeing from Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda, and Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine, who will give her views on all matters royal.

On April 1 the WI Fair will be held at Alexandra Palace. There will be workshops, seminars, theatre demonstrations and shopping opportunities available.

The cost to members is £31.50 and there will be pick-up points for the coach at Nettlebed.

On May 10 the first outing of the season will be to Longleat house and park and, once again, there is a pick-up point in Nettlebed. The cost of £40.50 includes transport and entry to Longleat.

The Beechwood Group will hold its first meeting on March 30 (7.30pm) and Sonning Common WI will be the hosts. The speaker’s theme is “Musical”.

Harpsden WI’s reading group will be meeting on March 15 and the Sunday lunch group continues to meet on the third Sunday of the month.

Members are reminded that at the March meeting there will be a bring and buy stall. Any saleable items are welcome, especially cakes and preserves.

Di introduced the speaker, Ann Borrowdale, who is an exam invigilator.

She began this work in 2005 when her two children had left home for university.

One envisages an invigilator sitting reading a book while the students have their heads down answering the exam questions.

However, this is definitely not allowed nowadays when there are so many opportunities to use technological aids secreted about oneself.

All mobile phones have to be handed in before the exam begins and if this is not done the student is disqualified from the exam.

An invigilator has to make sure that the room is clear of all helpful material, such as posters — Mrs Borrowdale once spotted some on the ceiling of the room being used so she just hoped for the best!

Not even pencil cases are allowed to be taken into the exam room unless they are see-through. Spectacle cases have to be checked in case the lens cloth has some helpful hints.

Bottles of water must not have labels attached and if the student is in doubt about this the invigilator will come round and cut them off!

Mrs Borrowdale once came across a student who sat down for the exam and proceeded to answer all the questions even though he had never studied the subject.

The title of her talk was “The invigilator who set fire to his trousers” but Mrs Borrowdale kept her audience waiting until the final minutes to reveal why.

It transpired that this particular invigilator had been fumbling with a cigarette lighter in his pocket as he stood watching the students and then wondered why he was getting rather warm until finally his trousers ignited!

Shirley Weyman proposed a very warm vote of thanks.

The competition was for “A memory of school”. The winners were Jean Newman, who had bravely brought a page of her school report for all to see, and Judith Young who had brought her only school prize, a very dilapidated cookery book.

The next meeting will be on March 8 when the new committee will be formed.

Robert Treharne Jones, press and publicity officer for Leander Club in Henley and an international rowing commentator, will be providing an insight into his eventful life.

The competition will be for “Your favourite brooch”.

The meeting will be held at Harpsden village hall, beginning at 2.30pm, so do come along.


On Friday, February 17 our president Katie welcomed us all to the meeting and read out a letter from the national president welcoming our new group to the WI.

There was an update on the committee’s work on our new logo, which it is hoped will be ready for the next meeting.

Katie then introduced our guest speaker Liz Felix, of Liz Felix Millinery in Reading Road, Henley.

Liz started her business as a milliner at her home 23 years ago but her passion started when she was much younger and she spent many happy hours on a Saturday morning trying on hats in Reading.

She grabbed the opportunity to open a shop in Henley in 2014 and makes hats for one and all, including our Prime Minister, but keep that under your hat!

She went on to talk about the various materials and tools that are used in hat-making, showing us lots of examples that she had brought with her.

Liz makes bespoke and off-the-shelf hats but said that no two hats were exactly the same as she likes to make each one original in some way.

After the talk Liz let us all try on the beautiful array of hats and gave us some great tips for keeping them on when the weather at Henley Royal Regatta is, shall we say, less than perfect!

Our next meeting will be at King’s Arms Barn in Henley on March 17. New members and visitors are always welcome. For more information, please email or just turn up and ask for Cheryl.


ON February 1 president Frankie Macmillan welcomed members to the annual meeting held in the Hannen Room.

The current members of the committee were all happy to serve for another year in their present roles and were voted back into office.

They are as follows: Frankie Macmillan, president; Jan French, vice-president; Wendy Porter, treasurer; Pat Jones, secretary; Carol Evans, programme secretary; Edna Ansell and Gina Foden.

The financial statement prepared by the treasurer was presented in her absence.

The good news was our accounts were in a fairly stable position despite 2016 not being a festival year when we attempt to raise the majority of our running costs.

However, we look forward to starting the new financial year in a secure position with the prospect of the bridge evening and cake stall at this year’s festival, which will hopefully raise further funds.

The proposal for the adoption of the statement was accepted. Tom Smith was proposed as auditor for the present year and that was agreed.

Our secretary gave a very comprehensive report of our activities in 2016, mentioning talks on “Berkshire beyond the obvious”, “The emergence of England”, “Animal behaviour”, the group meeting and outing to Stratfield Saye House, the evening of laughter and song with opera singer Patricia Purcell and the annual garden party.

There was also a talk on ballet by our member Sue Drew and our Christmas dinner.

Pat also mentioned our charity fund-raising for Age Concern, the Associated Country Women of the World and the Pink Ribbon Foundation.

Our president thanked the committee and members for their continued support and said she was very pleased that we had had such a busy year.

The votes of thanks to the committee and president were given very eloquently by Pam Ziffo.

There followed a talk entitled “Home safety fire checks” by Duncan Knight, who is a volunteer worker for the Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

He gave advice on how to make our homes safer and offered a free inspection from a member of the fire service for anyone over the age of 65 who felt they might benefit.

He gave some advice on the placement of smoke alarms and the danger of leaving dishwashers and washing machines running when there is no one at home.

Many fires in the home are started by dishwashers left running when the house is empty or the occupants are in bed.

The next meeting on April 5 will include a talk by Tony Weston on the life and times of the Royal Albert Hall entitled “Mushrooms and a marathon”. There will be a bring and buy stall in aid of the Associated Country Women of the World.

Mill Green, Wargrave WI meetings are held in the Hannen Room, Mill Green, on the first Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm unless indicated otherwise. Visitors are always welcome; please do come along if there is a subject which particularly interests you.


JUDY GIBBONS, chairman of the Island Donkey Sanctuary in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, gave us an informative talk about the charity, which cares for more than 200 donkeys.

The sanctuary is run by the founder John MacLean helped mostly by volunteers.

Visitors would certainly enjoy spending time meeting these delightful creatures.

A delicious tea was supplied by Barbara Scullard and Judy Gordon Graham, while Ann Holt brought a colourful flower display.

Our annual meeting will be held at Peppard war memporial hall on March 8 at 2pm.


OUR February meeting started with the the usual business.

Firstly, the committee told us of their future plans and the decisions of Berkshire as a whole on which resolution to send forward to headquarters.

There were six resolutions to vote on and the most popular was the one about prevention of hygiene products which produce little polystyrene beads which get into the food chain of sea mammals etc, so this was sent forward and will be discussed and voted on at the national federation’s annual meeting in June.

Our speaker Richard Poad was welcomed. The subject of his talk was “Grandma flew Spitfires”.

Richard explained that it wasn’t his grandma that he was talking about but those who joined up in 1939 who are now grandmothers.

The Air Transport Auxilliary was started in 1938 by Gerard d’Erlanger who saw the war coming and lobbied his friends who could fly, usually the better-off girls, some who were circus girls etc.

They were a very international group, from the dominions, Poland and the US.

By 1939 he had recruited 1,000 men and eight women.

The latter were all ace pilots but were only allowed to fly open cockpit planes, such as Tiger Moths.

By 1941 they had proved themselves and could fly all types including Wellington bombers.

Their training was very basic and they were issued with a small booklet entitled Ferry Pilots Notes.

The women spent hours every day delivering planes, mainly Spitfires, all over the country.

In 1945 Lord Beaverbrook said these women had contributed as much to the war effort as the men in the front line, keeping planes where they were badly needed, from the headquarters at White Waltham to vital locations around the country.

At the end of the war, the men were awarded OBEs. The women were made MBEs and didn’t get equal pay until 1943. Also it wasn’t until 2008 that the survivors received an ATA badge.

One or two of these amazing women recently celebrated their 100th birthdays.

Their motto was “Aetheris avidi”, which means “Eager for the air”. Should you wish to find out more there is the Maidenhead Heritage Centre with the Air Transport Auxiliary exhibition and archive with Spitfire simulator flights.

Richard was heartily thanked for a fascinating talk, so much enjoyed by all, especially the 10 men who joined the meeting.

In March we will hold our annual meeting, which will be preceded by lunch, as usual at Remenham village hall.


PRESIDENT Margaret Pyle welcomed all members and guests present at our February meeting.

She went on to say that the record of the January meeting was available for anyone who wished to read it.

She thanked Pat Butler for the table flowers and said that these would be included in the raffle.

Secretary Mary Robinson reminded us about the spring council meeting which is to be held at a new venue, the Palmer Building on the University of Reading’s Whiteknights campus, on April 3.

Apologies were received from treasurer Judith Sharp who was on an outing in Oxford. We hoped she had an enjoyable day.

We were reminded that subscriptions are due for 2017 membership.

The Scrabble, book and walking clubs all met during the month.

Members of the cinema club saw two films during January, Collateral Beauty and La La Land.

There is to be a Berkshire WI weekend visit to Denman from Friday to Sunday, July 28 to 30.

The courses arranged are: World street food with Peter Lien; Singing folk songs with Kate Eckersley; and Blenheim and the Churchills with John Vigar.

Details of these courses are in the February edition of Berkshire News.

Arlene Riley has kindly agreed to arrange a visit to the Mill at Sonning Theatre on June 22 to see Don’t Dress For Dinner, a comedy by Marc Camelotti which has all the hallmarks of the classic French farce — marital infidelity, misunderstandings and mistaken identities among the upper class.

Thank you, Arlene, and we hope it is as successful as our visit last year.

Next came our speaker, Linsey Evans, who gave a very detailed talk about “Planting for year-round colour”.

Linsey is a garden designer and showed us three gardens in the Thames Valley that she had planned with before and after pictures.

She told us how important it was to plan everything to the last detail and then went through the different types of plants, from herbaceous to grasses and bulbs with others in between, showing slides of each one and also the best planting position.

Thank you, Linsey, for a very informative talk.

Finally, there was tea and biscuits followed by the raffle.

Meetings are held on the first Wednesday of the month at St Barnabas’ village hall in Emmer Green at 2pm.


PRESIDENT Joan Jolley opened the meeting with her usual warm welcome.

As several of our ladies were quite poorly, she stressed the importance of keeping the committee up to date if any member becomes unwell.

She was sure that a get well note, or an offer to help, would always be welcome.

The first meeting of our newly formed Beechwood Group will be held at Sonning Common on March 30 at 7.30pm.

Susan Lines gave preliminary details of planned outings as follows:

March 9 — Kenton Theatre with dinner at Strada before the performance.

May 3 — Bombay Sapphire distillery tour, Whitchurch.

June 5 — Royal Horticultural Society garden, Wisley.

June 26 — Riverside Museum at Blake’s Lock.

This month’s speaker was Ellie Dickens, immediate past president of the Society of Shoe Fitters, talking about “The relationship between feet and shoes”.

This may have sounded like it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea but she was enthralling.

Ellie freely admits that her feet are not her best feature. Wearing a size 10 shoe as a teenager gave her both heartache and a hatred of shoes but also the determination to overcome everything.

Firstly, she gave us an elementary lesson on foot anatomy, with an array of facts that surprised us all.

One, not too well known, is that there are a quarter of a million sweat glands in feet, excreting up to half-a-pint of moisture daily, hence the need to wear clean socks daily and to rotate the wearing of your shoes. (Trainer-wearing teenagers please note.)

Then we were told how shoes are constructed. A good pair of shoes can have more than 100 component parts, while some cheaper shoes have just 30.

She stressed the importance of well-fitting shoes, which support your feet and also benefit your whole musculoskeletal system.

Ellie gave us so many fascinating facts. Did you know, for example, that the difference in shoe size is only one-third of an inch (also called a barleycorn)?

Or that our feet may be up to two sizes larger from the time we finish growing to when we end life or that shoes do not “give” lengthways, as the old saying goes?

I can highly recommend Ellie to other institutes.

She was warmly thanked by Carol Willson.

A lovely tea followed, hosted single-handedly by Jackie Dulewicz.

The flower of the month was won by Joan Jolley with some welcome and spring-like snowdrops.

Paula Benham was the winner of the monthly competition for “a paperweight”.

Meetings are held in Shiplake Memorial Hall every third Wednesday of the month (except August) at 2.30pm.

New members and visitors are always welcome. For more information, please call the secretary on (01491) 410256.


PRESIDENT Jenny Ward gave a warm welcome to 42 members and nine visitors who were all very interested to meet and hear our speaker for the evening talking about hedgehogs.

She said how pleased she was to see everyone and especially welcomed our visitors.

Our treasurer Anne Croxson reported that she had nearly finished her accounts for the year and that she had all the subscriptions for the following year.

Jenny thanked Anne for keeping our accounts in good order, especially at this busy time of the WI financial year and said she really appreciated how much work was involved. This received a worthy round of applause for Anne.

Jenny showed the members a letter from Henley MP John Howell, congratulating Sonning Common WI on our splendid effort in raising more than £700 for local good causes.

She said she had been surprised to see the letter from the House of Commons pop through her letterbox! It was very rewarding to receive his congratulations.

Gill Hayward reported that thank-you letters had also been received from the beneficiaries of the donations we had given out at the February village coffee morning that we host.

Jenny reported that the first meeting of the newly formed Beechwood Group would be hosted by Sonning Common WI on March 30.

Reports were given on the success of the darts group, the Scrabble group and the new craft group.

A reminder was given to members that the annual meeting would be held at the March meeting and outlined the important and enjoyable role played by members of the committee.

Anyone else interested in learning more about this role was invited to speak to Jenny or one of the other members of the committee.

Alison Bishop then introduced the speaker, Hugh Warwick, who spoke about “The decline of hedgehogs”.

He spoke very passionately about his subject and members learnt many new things and many myths were exposed.

Only old and ill hedgehogs have fleas and these are the ones we sadly see, usually by the roadside.

Hugh has been studying hedgehogs for more than 30 years and has written several books.

A study produced every two years on the plight of hedgehogs has shown that there has been a 50 to 70 per cent decline in numbers.

Most members agreed that they saw far fewer now than years ago.

There are several reasons that hedgehogs do not thrive, not least that they are killed by badgers, habitat change and roads.

Hedgehogs root along perimeters of fields, gardens etc and with today’s small enclosures, the habitat for their survival is severely depleted.

A project has been created called Hedgehog Street.

One of the aims is to get holes about 4in in diameter put into the bottom of fences in parks, school grounds, golf courses, new housing developments etc. — in fact anywhere there is a barrier making it impossible for the hedgehogs to roam freely and form the necessary habitat for survival.

After dark, hedgehogs walk miles in pursuit of food and mating partners. This was discovered after the project used infrared cameras and time
sensitive equipment to film them.

It was fascinating to see a slide which showed how much ground they cover at night.

We were requested to log any sightings on the Hedgehog Street website so the project can study the scale of the decline in different areas of the country.

Hugh was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about his subject and he conveyed this in a serious but also highly amusing presentation, delivered quite quickly in order to fit everything in.

He invited questions from members and there were plenty, which he answered fully. We were all fascinated by the subject and if time had permitted, would loved to have heard more.

Margaret Pyle gave a sincere vote of thanks and the members showed their appreciation with much applause.

There was then a break for refreshments and the raffle took place.

The wildlife photograph competition winner was Val Rook who had brought a photograph of a chameleon.

The flower of the month winner was Angela Thorn with Jo Denslow second and Chris Gibson and Jenny Ward joint third.

The president thanked everyone for coming and wished them a safe journey home.


FOR our 61st birthday meeting we were entertained by an octet featuring reed instruments, a guitar and a double bass.

We had given them the title of “Splendid Saxophones” and they certainly lived up to it.

It was a special evening of tunes we knew, mostly jazz-influenced, and told in story form by travelling around the United States.

Did you know the Paris in the title of April In Paris is actually in America and not the French one?

They concluded with an unusual version of Happy Birthday before we moved on to a supper befitting our celebrations, complete with superbly iced cake.

Mingling around the room, we enjoyed the social time before the competition and raffle.

Some Oxfordshire Federation events were booked and the details of the next group meeting and the coffee morning fund-raiser were announced.

Members of the swimming, craft and book clubs have been busy and folk have enjoyed table games in between our monthly meetings.

Nice weather prevailed for our snowdrop walk and tea and the diners club members enjoyed their meal out.

All in all, a pleasant way to spend a chilly month. We now look forward to spring with our annual meeting next month when the new committee will be elected and we will play a game to ensure another lively occasion.


AT our evening meeting in February, our speaker was Christine Green, who gave us the short history of “Paper cutting” and then gave us a demonstration of her art.

Several members joined in the demonstration and produced some very good examples of this creative craft.

Earlier in February, we had our New Year dinner, which was held at “The Social”. The atmosphere was lovely and the food was served piping hot, with a glass of wine.

Afterwards we had a chance to chat and catch up with the news of Watlington, all with coffee and mints.

Some of our members went to to see the pantomime Pied Piper in Wallingford and were treated to the usual good performance with lots of “Oh no”s and “behind you”.

As March 8 will be our annual meeting, we will not have a speaker, but will have a beetle drive after concluding the business. The competition will be for a handmade beetle.

We meet at Watlington town hall at 7.30pm and would love to meet you if you are thinking of joining our WI. For more information, please call Kath Gomm on (01491) 612939.


A SERIOUS subject delivered with humour and fascinating information entertained members and guests at the meeting on the third Tuesday in February.

The subject was “40 years of catching smugglers” as Malcolm Nelson told of his interesting, bizarre and sometimes hilarious or sad experiences as well as the many ways that officials have of pinpointing travellers who are determined to evade the law.

He gave us an insight into how customs officers, both uniformed and plain clothes, and their highly trained dogs, select passengers who they think might be carrying illicit goods of various sorts, what are the telltale signs and how the guilty ones give themselves away.

Our business meeting, which covered the usual financial matters, indicated that with our increasing membership we have a healthy balance and are now able to make some donations.

Members were asked to think about their favourite local charities for consideration.

Our first fund-raiser will be on Saturday, March 18 when we will run a coffee and cake (homemade of course) morning at the Art Café in Whitchurch from 10.30am to 12.30pm. This will be in aid of the Helen and Douglas House hospice for children and young adults. All are welcome.

Members are looking forward to a guided tour of Reading Abbey in April while the annual outing in June will be to the Savill Garden in Windsor.

March will be our annual meeting, when we hope to persuade some new members to join our committee.

We will have a talk about the history of the WI and Denman College and members will also hear about the range of speakers we have lined up for the coming year.

Meetings are held at Goring Heath parish hall, opposite St John’s Church on the B471, on the third Tuesday of the month, starting at 10am. For more information, please call 0118 984 1696.


ANN LARDEN welcomed members and our guests from other WIs to our 73rd birthday meeting on February 15.

The tables were decorated with daffodils and catkins, a sure sign that spring is on the way. Audrey played the piano as we sang Jerusalem.

Birthday buttonholes were presented to Shirley Bryant, Jean Walker, Jean Taplin, Carole Shelley-Allen, Sylvia Parr and Rose Spencer.

We had a wonderful tea thanks to Shirley Bryant, Audrey Hawthorne, Carole Shelley-Allen, Sylvia Atkinson and Vivian Stevens.

The lunch club this month is going to the Highwayman.

Several of our members will be attending a First World War day at Benson, where Sir Hugo Brunner will be giving a talk about his father Felix, who served in Flanders.

He will be followed by Ruth Rogers, a puppeteer who was the head of Joey in Warhorse.

We were entertained by Pandemonium, a wonderful group who had us singing along with all their folk songs, including lots of Scottish ones — much to Betty’s liking!

We meet on the third Wednesday of the month in the Woodcote village hall. Please come and join us in all our activities.

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