Monday, 21 June 2021

Around the WI



FOR July’s meeting, members took part in our annual summer tea in Dorchester-on-Thames. This featured a traditional cream tea.

It was a very lively event with all the attendees contributing to numerous conversations on a range of topics, with the bonus of the fine weather making it a very enjoyable, relaxed occasion.

Benson WI meets at Benson village hall on the third Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm.

The next meeting is on August 17, when Judy Dewey will speak about Wallingford Castle and a little about Agatha Christie.

Visitors will be made most welcome if you would like to join us for that or our following meeting on Wednesday, September 21. For more information, please call Lin on (01491) 836800.


AT the meeting on Wednesday, July 20 vice-president Maureen Rothery welcomed members, our speaker Catherine Sampson and three guests.

Catherine, a family and social historian from Purley, gave a very interesting talk called “Berkshire Churches” about the locations of little known churches in our county and in Oxfordshire.

The churches were full of history and in many cases scandalous stories!

Catherine began with the “hidden gems”, many of which stand in the open away from current settlements. Some are hard to find.

She showed us a slide of the small, medieval Church of St Oswald at Widford, which was built around 1400 and is still standing even though the village itself disappeared years ago.

The next gem was St Thomas’s Church at East Shefford, which has beautiful medieval wall paintings.

Most of Catherine’s selection of slides showed churches in remote places with only the odd kissing gate marking a boundary.

There was one with no fences at all, where the only passing traffic today is sheep grazing.

St Margaret’s Church at Catmore is a small, isolated church on the Berkshire Downs.

It is mainly 12th century but was restored in 1845 and 1891.

Ancient cartwheel tracks are just visible in the stones of the path and don’t forget they had no electricity in those days, hence the extensive use of candles.

The original church at Nuneham Courtenay dated from the medieval period but by 1762 it was in a very bad state of repair and was demolished by Simon Harcourt, 1st Earl of Harcourt.

In 1764, a new church was built, designed mainly by the Earl himself.

He felt the parkland views were “blighted” by the presence of the parishioners’ homes, so he had new houses built a mile away along the turnpike road, despite the inconvenience of this being quite distant from the parish church.

Eventually, the villagers found this tiresome, so they built another church beside their new homes.

Catherine showed us a photograph of Frilsham Church, rumoured to have been built on the site of a pagan temple and noted for its unusual circular graveyard.

In Tudor times St George’s Church at Hatford and St Michael’s at Cumnor were associated with the lives and fortunes of the Seymour and Dudley families.

Much treacherous plotting unfolded including, in 1560, the unexplained death in unusual circumstances of Amy Robsart, wife of Robert Dudley. Her ghost is rumoured to have once haunted St Michael’s Church.

St John’s Baptist Church in Burford, ornately built with wool merchants’ wealth, is associated with an attempted mutiny in 1649 by soldiers supporting the Levellers political movement.

About 300 rebel soldiers were locked up in the church and three of the ringleaders were executed in the churchyard. The remaining prisoners were released but not before one of them had written their name on the church font.

In 1975 these executions were commemorated with a plaque on the church wall and “Levellers day” is now held in Burford town around May 14 each year.

Members were delighted to hear about their own local church, St Mary’s in Wargrave.

It dates back to the 12th century but in June 1914 it was burnt down and gutted, having been mistaken as a suitable target by the Suffragette movement.

The church was rebuilt with the original north door from the 12th century and the materials from the bell tower of 1635.

Catherine then gave us a short rundown of some “don’t miss” churches and concluded with St Mary’s in Swinbrook and its connection with the Mitford family.

The most well-known  Mitford was Nancy (1904-1973), a novelist, biographer and journalist known for her sharp wit and her novels about upper class life in England.

In the churchyard there is a row of gravestones of three of the Mitford sisters, Nancy, Unity and Diana.

Their parents and fourth sister, Pamela, are also buried here and there is a memorial to their brother Thomas inside the church.

A truly fascinating talk.

Members then relaxed over tea prepared and served by Carole Ellis and Hilary Kinnersley and took the opportunity to chat to Catherine about some more hidden gems.

Our next meeting will take place at Crazies Hill village hall on Wednesday, September 21 at 2.30pm, when we will welcome the return of Peter Baverstock, who will talk about “Recycling”.

Please remember to bring something for our bring and buy table.

We will be holding our annual bridge drive at the hall on Thursday, October 6 from 2pm to 5pm.

It is a fun afternoon with a delicious WI tea and a raffle for charity. All are very  welcome.

I look forward to seeing you all again as I know many of you have supported us over the years.


OUR last meeting before the summer break was our summer party, which was celebrated on a river boat cruising down the Thames.

We were joined by our speaker John Dunsterville who talked about “Rock ’n’ roll in a rocking chair”.

John played Sixties music and spoke about his musical career.

Members had brought plates of food which were shared on a beautiful evening. A fun time was had by all.

A vote of thanks was given by Molly Carter.

Members visited Hampton Court Flower Show on a very hot day and thoroughly enjoyed the show gardens, the delightful surroundings and the many retail opportunities.

The art group met at Harleyford and the walking group at Bovington Green.

Our next meeting will be on September 8 when the speaker will be former BBC correspondent Bill Hamilton. We meet at Hambleden village hall at 7.30pm and visitors and new members will be most welcome. For more information, call Helen on 07889 539605 or Jo on 07803 505665.


MEMBERS arrived at the July meeting all agog to hear about the Belgian detective, Monsieur Hercule Poirot, from the speaker later on in the afternoon.

President Pat Eades presented county welcome packs to three new members, Jean Newman, Liz Brent and Doris Tallon.

Doris was also celebrating her birthday in July, as was Anne Thornton.

The sad news was given of the deaths of Jean Pryke and Vera Gyselynck.

Jean had been a member for 45 years and had always been active in the WI. She will be greatly missed.

Vera had not been able to attend meetings in recent years due to ill health but had been a member for many years.

Pat gave a report of her attendance at the National Federation’s annual meeting in Brighton in June.

She had a very full day, having left home at 7am and not returned until 9.15pm.

Pat said there had been 5,000 WI members at the meeting, which was chaired by the national chairman, Janice Langley, who emphasised the importance of education during her speech.

It was mentioned that only three per cent of members use Denman College, when there are 6,375 WIs in England and Wales comprising 226,404 members.

Both the resolutions were passed, one regarding food waste and the other dementia care.

There were two high-profile speakers on the day — Baroness D’Souza, who is the Lord Speaker, and Rona Fairhead, who is chairman of the BBC Trust.

Pat said she had thoroughly enjoyed her day in Brighton and urged members to attend the next annual meeting in Liverpool on June 7 next year if they possibly could.

An invitation had been received from Sonning Common WI to attend their meeting on September 15 at 7.30pm. This WI will be joining the Beechwood Group from January 1.

Greys WI had also issued an invitation to their meeting in July.

Shiplake WI are running an outing to Chawton, the home of Jane Austen, on September 6 at a cost of £24. The final meeting of the South Chiltern Group (although technically soon to be defunct) will be hosted by Peppard WI on October 26.

New & Views contained information on Oxfordshire Federation events, including a murder mystery evening on October 3, Dr Phil Hammond on October 24 and a music taster at Benson on October 11.

“Africa Day” on November 14 will be presented by Frances Benton (the “Pearl Lady”) about the orphanage in Durban, South Africa, which she supports.

Dates for Sunday lunches and the book club were given out by Shirley Weyman.

There was a list for members to sign if they wished to be considered for bursaries to Denman College. The draw will be made at the anniversary lunch on September 14. There will be two bursaries available at £100 each.

It was then time to hear of Monsieur Poirot’s journeys. Certainly members heard about various European train trips but these were taken by the speaker, Nick Brazil, which formed a travelogue of his holiday by train from Pangbourne to Croatia.

Nick’s talk was entitled “In the footsteps of Poirot”, which had led to the confusion, but nevertheless his talk was very interesting and well illustrated with slides.

Using Eurostar and German trains for his journey, Nick’s first stop was in Brussels and thence to Munich by Intercontinental Express.

He urged that tourists should walk in the cities to obtain the best impressions and especially early in the day when the light is better for photography.

The journey continued to Ljubljana in Slovenia, with beautiful alpine scenery and art nouveau architecture. Lake Bled was a specially beautiful area.

Nick’s slides of Ljubljana depicted the grand entry into the immaculately kept cemetery.

Next stop was Zagreb in Croatia with Tyrolean-like villages along the river and crests on the roofs of buildings fashioned in tiles.

An unusual visit was to the “Museum of Broken Relationships” where an exhibition showed a shattered love letter kept in a bell jar.

Nick’s last stop was in Split in Croatia, having travelled for six hours and 300km on a single track line.

Split he declared to be the Jewel of the Adriatic.

Mary Burton gave a vote of thanks for a “gentle journey” across Europe.

The competition was for “A souvenir of a journey” and was won by Audrey Fox, with Sue Taylor second and Judith Young third.

The meeting in August will be held in the garden (weather permitting) of Shirley Weyman and is to be a bring and share tea.

There will be various activities in which to participate. As usual, the meeting will commence at 2.30pm.

The meeting in September will be the 75th anniversary event at Henley Golf Club, where lunch will be served at 12.30pm.

Members may foregather from noon. The speaker will be Andrew Peach, of BBC Radio Berkshire, who will no doubt have some interesting tales to tell of his broadcasting career.

On October 12 it will be a return to Harpsden village hall when the speaker will be Annie Assheton talking about her experiences on TV’s MasterChef.

The competition will be for “A decorated cupcake”. The meeting will commence at 2.30pm as usual and visitors will be made most welcome.


AS Remenham is host to a very busy late June and early July with Henley Royal Regatta and Henley Festival we have our outing at this time.

This year our treasurer Ann Francis had organised a lovely trip to Waterperry Park, near Thame.

A coach with 35 members and friends and members of other WIs set off from Henley Bridge.

The weather was not brilliant but in fact we only had a couple of short showers.

We were given a marvellous tour of the eight acres of the gardens.

The estate goes back to the time of the Domesday Book but over the years much of the acreage has been sold off.

The house has been altered, so that now it is a very elegant-looking Georgian mansion. It isn’t open every day but tours can be arranged.

The house was made famous in the early Thirties when Miss Havergal established her School of Horticulture for Ladies, which remained until 1971. She was particularly famous for her strawberries, which won many prizes at Chelsea.

Courses are still held all year round, from “How to make the most of your garden” to pruning .

We had a delicious buffet-style lunch in the restaurant after which we had time to visit the nearby church which has some exquisite original stained glass and box pews.

We also visited the gift shop, plant shop and museum of antique tools.

In all, we had a great day out.

We are now looking forward to our summer tea party on Monday, August 8.


WE were welcomed to our July meeting by vice-president Margaret Seal as our president Margaret Pyle was away in the Channel Islands (having a great time, we hope).

Margaret went on to say that Judith Sharp had agreed to be treasurer. Welcome, Judith, we hope you will enjoy the task.

She also said that the record of the June meeting was available for all to see.

The National Federation raffle tickets were on sale for anyone who wished to buy one.

Who would think that for just £1 you could win £10,000, an iRobot Roomba 875, theatre seats, a Singer sewing machine etc?

Cards have been received from Caversham and Chazey WIs thanking Rosehill for inviting them to our birthday party and, of course, the belly dancing display.

There is a report from Brenda Caborn about her time at the National Federation’s annual meeting for all to see.

The birthday buttonholes were then distributed. Happy birthday to all concerned.

The Scrabble group met twice in July and book club meeting was well attended.

The walking group met twice, hosted once by Rosemary Weekes and once by Liz Hutton.

The cinema group was hoping to see Absolutely Fabulous.

Unfortunately, the knit and natter group has closed due to lack of interest. Perhaps it will start up again at a later date. Our attention was drawn to Berkshire WI News in which several events were advertised, including a lunch at Grazeley village hall with Joyce Meader as speaker. Joyce is a historical knitting expert who owns an extensive collection of patterns dating back to 1817.

There was another outing entitled “Feel the silk — taste the gin”, which will take place on September 16 and should be a very interesting day out.

A Christmas craft workshop is to be held on October 15 with the choice of either quilted Christmas card, fabric tree decoration, foliage door hanging, fabric covered box, pomander or Christmas stocking.

A group of 26 from Rosehill WI attended a matinée performance of It Runs In The Family by Ray Cooney at the Mill at Sonning. This was a very enjoyable outing, starting with lunch and then the show.

We all went home with a feelgood factor and would like to thank Margaret Pyle for organising everything for us and making the day so successful.

Our speaker was Rosemary Edginton, who spoke about Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. Rosemary had brought along her miniature poodle called Teaka (the name came from the fact that she is like the colour of teak).

This was a very interesting talk about the history of the charity of which Princess Anne is the patron.

It can cost up to £40,000 to train a dog. Some dogs are trained as guide dogs for the blind as well as hearing dogs.

After the talk we had our usual cup of tea and biscuit before the raffle was called and the meeting was closed.

Our meeting in August will be at a different venue, the St Barnabas’s Church parish rooms, but we will be back in St Barnabas’s Church hall in Emmer Green on September 7 at 2pm.


JENNY WARD, our president, welcomed 40 members and five visitors to our July meeting and it was lovely to see everyone looking well and dressed in colourful summer attire.

The summer is flying by and, as usual, we will not be meeting in August, apart from our summer outing to Nuffield Place.

The treasurer’s and fund-raising reports were read out to our members.

Our June village coffee morning was again well attended and funds raised will go towards supporting local community projects.

The next village coffee morning will be on September 7 and proceeds will be forwarded to the Denman College Appeal.

There will be the usual sales table with costume jewellery, hand-crafted greetings cards, books, craft items and, on this occasion, an additional sales tables for bric-a-brac, flowers and floral arrangements.

Greenshoots will also be there with their seasonable produce of salad items and vegetables.

We would love to see members of other local WIs at our village coffee mornings (10.30am to noon). Details can be found under the miscellaneous sections of the listings page in the Henley Standard and the diary page of Sonning Common Magazine. Jenny also reported that she had been “car booting” for the Denman College Appeal, which is to maintain the building and grounds at the college.

Sue Hedges reminded members of the WI events happening this summer, which included our summer outing to Nuffield Place and the Huxley Cup (the National Federation’s floral art competition at Greys Court).

There were also details of how to obtain two free tickets per WI member to the BBC Countryfile Live event at Blenheim Palace.

Sue also spoke about the workshop she had attended on contemporary flower arrangements and she had brought along three of her own contemporary arrangements to show the skills she had learned.

They were quite different to what we are used to seeing but they had their own appeal and looked fresh, appealing and modern.

Jo Denslow reported on another successful month for the darts team who are having lots of fun and showing signs of improvement.

It was decided to carry on the darts sessions throughout the summer months as they were enjoyed so much.

Alison Bishop, our programme planner, reminded everyone that our September speaker will be Mary Gregory, speaking about the work of Associated Country Women of the World, which is supported by the National Federation.

Sue Frayling-Cork outlined details of a support group for carers called Rally Round and details could be found on the information table.

Jenny informed members that the committee was to hold an extraordinary committee meeting in August to discuss agenda items which needed more time than the usual monthly committee meetings allowed. Members were asked to suggest any ideas they would like discussed, i.e. additional hobby groups, programme suggestions etc.

The committee will also be discussing websites, posters, a resolutions co-ordinator and other longer-term plans.

Jenny then introduced our speaker for the evening, Rob Nickless, whose talk was entitled “The amazing world of the honey bee”.

Rob started by telling us how he became besotted with bees and how they had now taken over his life.

He was very passionate about his subject and spoke very enthusiastically about all aspects of the honey bee’s life and the fascinating production of honey.

Our members thoroughly enjoyed learning about every aspect of his life with bees and learned many facts about the incredible intelligence of bees and their mysterious habits.

Rob had brought along a beehive which had been dismantled to show every layer and how the bees lay their eggs, feed the queen and produce cells that are a perfect hexagonal shape which they measure with their feet and then stick the wax in with their saliva.

This summer has been a very good year for the production of honey but that is not always the case.

Bees are still prone to viruses and mites which can decimate a whole season.

Rob was thanked for speaking to us on a subject which was delightful to listen to and learn from, a very enjoyable presentation.

The “BRAsket” competition was won by Jenny Ward with Jenny Herman second.

The flower of the month competition was won by Jenny Herman with Jo Denslow second.

The president closed the meeting and wished everyone a happy and healthy summer.

l In our June report, it was stated that Lord Nuffield was born in Nuffield when it should have read “born in Worcester”. Our apologies.


WE had our summer garden meeting in a member’s lovely garden in Woodcote.

A perfect summer evening with the sun still shining complemented the barbecue fare and salads nicely.

As it was one of the best evenings for warmth and sun, we were able to watch a stunning sunset from the comfort of our seats and we enjoyed a good chatter over our food and drink.

Our customary quiz was fun to do in groups, with only one question completely foxing everyone.

Nine members had birthdays this month and were given a flower posy each to celebrate.

Although we have no official meeting in August we still meet if we want to go for walks and for the craft afternoon. This year there’s a treasure hunt too, along with lunches and teas. We have one more meeting in our village hall in September, when we will see some of Britain’s national parks.

After that we move temporarily up the road to the church for a few meetings while the hall interior is refurbished.

We look forward to seeing a new kitchen and other improvements which the village hall committee has worked hard to fund and organise.


PRESIDENT Frances welcomed 18 members, including one new one and a prospective member to our meeting on July 19.

As we had our annual outing in June with no business meeting, there was a considerable backlog to be attended to. Nine members gave apologies.

Birthday greetings and flowers were given to three members.

With our steadily increasing membership, our financial situation is improving and this year we will offer a Denman College bursary.Names were placed in a jug and the lucky winner chosen was Barbara Ayres who will be able to select a course at Denman to attend sometime during the next 12 months.

Members agreed that we would make a donation in September to the Denman College Appeal.

We received a report from our delegate at the National Federation’s annual meeting in Brighton in June, when the two resolutions were carried with sizeable majorities.

After the business part of the meeting, we all sat back and enjoyed a talk and demonstration by Christine Brewster on making baskets and potholders etc from recycled materials.

There was an enormous variety, ranging from small dishes to potholders, wastepaper bins to shopping bags, which were inventive, intriguing and colourful.

Members had brought in “something recycled” for the competition, which was won by Wendy Blow. The raffle winner was Margaret Palling while Liz Gibson won the flower of the month competition.

Our social event on the first Tuesday in September will be a walk from Wallingford to Benson followed by lunch at the Waterside Café.

Those not inclined to walk can go straight to the café and park there in time for lunch.

Whitchurch Hill WI will be running the coffee morning at the art café in Whitchurch on Saturday, September 24, offering home-made cakes, tea or coffee plus a raffle. Please come and join us between 10.30am and noon.

Our speaker in September will be Daniel Akamm, of the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, who will tell us about “Hedgehogs and what you can do to help them”.

Meetings take place at Goring Heath parish hall, opposite St John’s Church on the B471, on the third Tuesday of the month, starting at 10am.

We have a wide variety of activities and visitors are welcome. For more information, please call 0118 984 1696.


ANN LARDEN welcomed members and new member Joan Soans to the meeting on July 20.

Birthday buttonholes were presented to Monika Watters, Patricia Solomons and Carole Shelley-Allen as well as Iris Lewis, who was celebrating a special birthday!

We had a lovely tea thanks to Shirley Bryant, Jan Clegg and Carole Shelley-Allen.

The homes and gardens outing in July took the form of a Midsomer Murders tour in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire with Graham Horn, a blue badge guide.

The weather was lovely and so was the countryside and, in spite of the theme, we all came back!

Our thanks go to Shirley Bryant for organising this trip.

The lunch group this month is going to the Grosvenor Hotel.

Our speaker was Stewart Linford who spoke to us about chair-making.

He told us about the origins of the Windsor chair and how it was made and showed us examples of special edition chairs, which were beautifully made.

We all went home to get the dusters out and polish!

The bloom of the month competition was won by Patricia Jessup and the competition for a small wooden household item was won by Judy Williams.

We welcome new members. We will next meet in Woodcote village hall on the third Wednesday in September after our garden party.


ON one of the warmest afternoons of the year so far, president Joan Jolley welcomed 40 members to the annual summer party.

Ursula Davis and Lynn Boros had transformed the hall into an English country garden with fresh flowers.

The ladies entered into the garden party spirit with lovely summer outfits and some wonderful hats.

We were given a cool, refreshing drink on arrival and before the meeting we had the chance to buy raffle tickets for an amazing array of prizes. The proceeds of the raffle were to be given to the Saving Denman Appeal and at the end of the afternoon we had a very creditable £70 to send off.

After we had sung Jerusalem, Joan very skilfully arranged us all for a group photograph.

It was to be a clever picture of ladies in height order but the majority of us are in the 5ft 3in to 5ft 6in range, which didn’t help the composition! It must be a generational thing.

Joan went through the business part of the meeting and outings secretary Sue Lines gave us details of the planned visit to Jane Austen’s house in September.

We were asked to use our brains with two quizzes, one of which was “How much do you know about the Queen?” Apparently not as much as we all thought, except for Viv Ellis, the clear winner.

Finally, it was tea time and what a tea it was. The committee were our hostesses and the tables groaned with an array of tiny, crustless sandwiches, home-made savouries of all kinds and an assortment of cakes, cream scones and fruit tartlets that even the Queen would be proud to serve at one of her garden parties.

When Joan closed the meeting she said she hoped we all had a lovely summer and looked forward to seeing us in September.

Meetings are held at 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.


WE were glad to have a cool breeze wafting through Greys village hall for our Denman College fund-raising event on a very hot July 20.

Val, our president, showed us a lovely card signed by members of the Valley Road Primary School dance club.

They said they had enjoyed their afternoon with us in June as much as we had.

Decorated with flowers and balloons, the hall looked very festive and we welcomed visitors from Common and Peppard WIs to our cream tea provided by the committee.

It was a happy, social occasion, with a raffle prize for everyone, a simple quiz and a mixed tombola — a painless way to raise more than £150 for the Denman College Appeal.

A week after the meeting, three of us joined 112 Oxfordshire WI members at a literary lunch in Benson.

An excellent lunch was served to us by the Oxfordshire Federation trustees and WI volunteer caterers before author Eleanor Stewart told us about her extraordinary life from joining a French convent as a postulant, working in Liverpool as a nun and midwife to fiinally becoming a wife and mother.

Her talk was full and fun and her book, Kicking the Habit, is well worth reading.

Our monthly lunch at the Butcher’s Arms in Sonning Common was well attended and we enjoyed very good food and company. On August 19 we’ll lunch at the Waterside Café in Benson.

Greys Court is hosting the National Federation’s annual Huxley Cup flower arrangement competition which will be held in the Cromwellian Building on September 15 and 16 from 10am to 5pm.

Come and enjoy this creative display and see how the arrangements ranked in the competition. Free to National Trust members, £5 for WI members.

Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, September 21, when Will Readings is coming to tell us about his life as a human mole!

It promises to be an entertaining afternoon. Come and join us at Greys village hall at 2.30pm.

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