Saturday, 19 June 2021

Around the WI



ON a beautiful, sunny July afternoon, members enjoyed a delicious cream tea in Dorchester-on-Thames.

This was a far cry from last year when we had to dodge torrential rain and sit in front of roaring log fires to keep warm.

The speaker for our August meeting was Judy Dewey, who had come to talk about Wallingford Castle and Agatha Christie.

Judy’s knowledge of Wallingford’s history was boundless and particularly impressive in that she did not need to refer to any notes to remember various dates and data.

“Queen of Crime” Agatha Christie came to Wallingford in 1934, having purchased Winterbrook House, which soon became her main home in England.

It was from here that she wrote prolifically and became one of the world’s best-selling authors.

Our next meeting will be on September 21 when Mel Hawkins will give a talk entitled “House of colour”.

Benson WI meets on the third Wednesday of the month at Benson village hall. Please join us. For more information, please call Lin Reader on (01491) 836800.


ON Wednesday, August 17, some 25 members, husbands and friends gathered at Gibstroude Farm to board the coach for our summer outing.

This year it was to Lacock Abbey, village and the Fox Talbot Museum, near Chippenham, Wiltshire.

We enjoyed an amazingly hot and sunny day.

Passing through the small medieval village, we were enchanted by the houses dating back to the 18th century and even earlier on our way to the entrance of the estate belonging to the abbey.

We were free to wander around the extensive grounds of this country house, once a nunnery with monastic roots dating back to the early 13th century.

The nunnery was founded by Ela, Countess of Salisbury and was of the Augustinian order.

Most of us visited the museum first, celebrating the achievements of a former Lacock resident, William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877).

He was an amazing scientist. linguist and chemist but achieved fame as one of the founders of modern photographic processes.

In 1835 he created the first ever photographic negative of a small window at his home, Lacock Abbey, and all because he was not satisfied with his attempt at capturing images on canvas.

He wrote a book called The Pencil of Nature (1844-46) in six instalments, which was the first book with photographic illustrations.

He was married with two daughters, Ela (born 1836) and Rosamund (born 1837).

Both girls also liked painting and examples of their work were on display around the parkland on the day.

William died at Lacock Abbey on September 17, 1877, aged 77.

The visit to the abbey was a wonderful experience. In order to break away from Papal authority (and an inconvenient ruling by the Pope regarding divorce), Henry VIII decided it was time for monastic reform and dissolved all Catholic institutions in England during the years 1536 to 1541.

More than 900 Catholic establishments were closed and many were vandalised.

As this affected more than two million religious people across the land, Henry directed courtier and High Sheriff of Wiltshire Sir William Sharington (1495-1553) to organise pensions for them.

At the dissolution of Lacock in 1540 the Abbey estate and village were sold to Sir William for £783.

He immediately set about converting the upper floors into a private residence.

However, he retained much of the medieval fabric of the building, adding a three-storey octagonal tower, tall renaissance chimneys and a stable courtyard.

The cloisters were not touched and gave a glimpse of the austere life led by the nuns. Lacock Abbey passed into the Talbot family by marriage around 1832. Some of the revenue from selling off the church estate paid for new colleges. A priory in Oxford later became Jesus College.

In 1916 Charles Henry Fox bequeathed the estate to his niece Matilda (Milly) Gilchrist-Clark, who took the name of Talbot.

In 1944 Milly handed it over to the National Trust.

We were so happy that we could enjoy the history, glimpse the way of life for the nuns all those years ago, explore the grounds, enjoying the flowers, and appreciate the history of the Talbot family and their achievements.

So splendid is this estate that it has been used for many filming locations, including Harry Potter films, Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey.

The next meeting will take place at Crazies Hill village hall on Wednesday, September 21 at 2.30pm.

We we will welcome the return of Peter Baveystoke, 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 tp 5pm. It is a fun afternoon with a delicious WI tea and a raffle for charity. All are very welcome.

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


PATRICIA PURCELL was our guest speaker in July. She gave a very amusing, musical and insightful glimpse into the life of an opera singer.

She was born in Kirkintilloch in Scotland and began singing at the age of nine, taking part in competitions all over Scotland and northern England.

After an extraordinary stroke of luck, she was heard by a director of Sadler’s Wells in 1961 and offered a part in the chorus of Sadler’s Wells Opera in London. Thus began an exciting life as a travelling chorus member.

The highlight of her career was singing with the three tenors, José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti.

She worked with many more famous opera singers, including Dame Joan Sutherland and Kiri Te Kanawa.

Patricia’s talk contained many excerpts from the operas in which she had taken part, giving us a sample of her powerful voice.

She also told some very amusing tales of her touring days and of incidents which happened on stage.

These included one about an escaped circus animal, which was initially thought to be a bear but in fact was a Pyrenean mountain dog which was eventually caught after the stage was evacuated with the audience truly scared.

There were also many tales of the principal singers from the opera world with whom Patricia had a really good rapport and enjoyed working with and others who were not quite so accommodating.

In all, it was a very successful evening and the talk long overran our normal speaker time.

In a perfect setting, a gloriously sunny garden party was held at Heron’s Creek on August 3, superbly hosted by Philip and Kate Emerton.

There were 32 members and link members who enjoyed a delicious tea provided by the committee after a fruit punch provided by Pat Jones.

A thought-provoking quiz on wild birds was compiled by Jan French and enabled the party goers to view the pretty garden and river.

The prize for the most correct answers was won by Gina Foden.

Future events are as follows:

October 5 “This Thing Called Ballet”, speaker Sue Drew.

November 2 “Birds on the move, the wonders of migration”, speaker Brian Clews.

December 7 Christmas dinner, Sansom Room.

Mill Green WI meetings are held in the Hannen Room, Mill Green, Wargrave, 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.


FOR our July meeting members and friends met for lunch in the garden of our president, Liz Waterfall.

The theme was summertime, so members dressed in their garden party attire and hats. There was a competition for the best hat. The judges were two of our guests and the prize was won by Shirley Hartley Booth.

For our August meeting we had a special afternoon tea in Irene Lindsay’s garden.

On both occasions we relaxed in beautiful surroundings, enjoying the company of good friends in the sunshine.

Thank you to our hostesses for two happy and memorable afternoons.

Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, September 14 at 2pm but due to the refurbishment of Peppard war memorial hall, this meeting will be held at the parish room at Peppard church.

Our speaker will be Sue Nickson giving a talk called “In common memory”.

If you would like to join us you will be most welcome.


OUR speaker for the evening was Ruth Dunkin who talked about the Thames Valley Air Ambulance.

She gave a very interesting and enlightening talk with lots of facts and figures.

The ambulance covers Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, hence the new helicopter is called BOB.

The service now has a car to back up the helicopter when conditions do not allow it to fly.

The car and the helicopter are both equipped to a high standard, carrying blood plasma and equipment.

The cost of keeping these running is huge — one call- out costs more than £2,000 — so donations are vital.

Our next meeting will be a social evening, a bingo night, with drinks and nibbles — great fun! This will be in the town hall on September 14 at 7.30pm.

In October Adam Stevenson will be speaking to us about “An ordinary day”.


AUGUST is a quiet month for members.

With no business meeting, our efforts are concentrated on the barbecue which we hold each August in the garden of Goring Heath parish hall. Catering for the main course is done by the committee and other members bring along a splendid selection of sweet and creamy puddings.

More than 30 people attended this year as members and family and friends enjoyed a sociable evening with fine weather.

Looking ahead to September onwards, we shall have a walk from Wallingford to Benson, followed by lunch at the Waterside café.

Anyone not inclined to walk can go straight to the café a in time for lunch.

Normal business meetings resume on Tuesday, September 20, when our speaker will be Daniel Akam, from the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust.

He will talking about “Hedgehogs and what you can do to help them”.

Whitchurch Hill WI will be running the coffee morning at the Art Café in Whitchurch on Saturday, September 24 from 10.30am to noon. There will be homemade cakes and tea or coffee plus a raffle.

The third annual meeting of the Pang Valley Group of WIs will take place at Purley memorial hall on October 4. This promises to be a lively and entertaining afternoon.

Our normal 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 speakers and activities and visitors are welcome. For more information, please call 0118 984 1696.


KATHY BREWER welcomed members to our August meeting and hoped that Ann would be feeling better soon.

We met on a very hot summer’s day at the Butcher’s Arms in Sonning Common for afternoon tea.

It was good that so many of our members were able to come.

The birthday buttonholes made by Hazel Tagg were wonderful creations with feathers and beads.

The birthday girls were Marianne Adams, Ann Larden, Jo Sutcliffe, Dot Tyler, Pat Ferris and Judy Williams.

The competition for a pretty, decorated hat was won by Carole Shelley-Allen.

The lunch group are to meet at the Shepherd’s Hut in Ewelme.

We will be going to see Oliver! in Oxford in November with our homes and gardens group and in September there will be a trip to Chartwell.

We meet in the village hall on the third Wednesday of the month and new members are always welcome.

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