Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Around the WI



YVONNE, our president, welcomed all members and visitors to our July meeting.

Forthcoming trips and events were discussed before Monica Watkins was introduced, who had come along to involve members in “seated exercises”.

As it was Monica’s birthday, we all sang Happy Birthday before joining in with lively exercises set to music.

It was not long before “seated exercises” became “standing exercises” for many.

Yvonne thanked members for attending and said she was looking forward to seeing as many as possible at the August cream tea.

We all enjoyed the evening and Monica was thanked for such an entertaining meeting.

Benson WI meets at the village hall on the third Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm. Please join us, you will be made most welcome. For more information, please call Lin on (01491) 836800.


AT our meeting on July 15, president Adrienne Rance welcomed the members, guests Ruth May, Fiona Birdseye and Sheila Williams and the speaker Adam Miles, a funeral director.

Mr Miles gave a very entertaining, illustrated talk about his “dismal trade” and the history of his profession.

A local resident, he works for the family business and the family’s connection to funeral directing goes back to 1916.

His sister is also involved and both of his daughters have expressed a wish to join the business in due course.

The word funeral comes from the Latin word “funus”, which means “torch”. The Romans believed that torches showed the deceased the way to their eternal home.

Records show that funerals, or “dismal traders” as they were then known, date back to the 12th century and initially were for only the aristocracy and were very elaborate affairs.

Mr Miles showed us a painting of a medieval cortege. Carts were used for the poor and as coffins were expensive, they were available for hire.

During the Great Plague of 1665, there were so many deaths that the bodies had to be buried in mass graves, often referred to as “plague pits”. One such pit was discovered recently when workers on the Crossrail project unearthed skeletons in Farringdon.

Mr Miles talked about an eccentric dentist Martin van Butchell (1735-1814) who, when his wife Mary died, approached two doctors, William Hunt and William Cruikhank, to see if they could preserve her body.

They injected her body with preservative, then embedded it in a layer of plaster of Paris and put it in a glass-topped coffin. This was an early example of modern embalming.

The dentist then put her body on display in a window of his home to attract more patients.

However, when his second wife complained, the body was given to a museum and eventually ended up at the Royal College of Surgeons.

Mrs Butchell’s body slowly deteriorated and in 1941 was destroyed during a German bombing raid.

In the 19th century, it was not an offence to steal a body, which encouraged William Burke and William Hare, two Irish immigrants based in Edinburgh, to take bodies and give them to a Dr Knox for dissection for his anatomy  lectures.

The pair were paid £9 per body but eventually they went too far and started murdering people. They killed 16 people before they were caught and put on trial in 1829.

Burke was hanged while Hare served a short prison sentence.

Their 10-month killing spree highlighted the need to expand the legal supply of medical cadavers and the Anatomy Act was introduced in 1832.

After Prince Albert died in 1861, when he was only 42, Queen Victoria went into mourning. For the rest of her life she chose to wear only black clothes and the nation chose to adopt the colour for funerals.

By 1850, the dead in London caused great concern due to overcrowding, so it was agreed to build a massive cemetery outside the capital.

The site chosen was Brookwood and it was even equipped with its own railway station. With a station at Waterloo, the train became a popular way of transporting coffins and mourners to the cemetery.

Members were surprised to learn that there are flat rocks in Cornwall known as coffin rocks, where mourners carrying coffins could rest.

In 1905, the National Association of Funeral Directors was established and it now has more than 3,000 members.

Their promise is to always guarantee the highest possible service for families mourning the loss of a beloved family member.

Mr Miles showed us a photograph of himself when he was the association’s president wearing the chain of office. He was the youngest ever president.

He said he was startled when asked how it felt wearing a chain worth more than £50,000 as he had no idea of its value.

Today, almost half of all funeral parlours are owned by families.

Mr Miles’s own great grandfather worked until he was 97 and he recalled how the old man always carried a little black book with him.

What Adam didn’t realise until his great grandfather had died was that he wrote down the name of every person who had died leaving behind just one family member, as he made a point of always visiting the person left alone.


IF the sun shines on the righteous then Greys WI must be good!

After several gloomy days, we were blessed with a warm and pleasant afternoon to enjoy our garden party at our president’s home.

We relaxed in the fresh air, admiring Val Mundy’s horticultural skills as we scratched our heads for answers to the tricky treasure hunt clues. The bear’s breeches (Acanthus mollis) floored all but the expert gardeners among us.

After games of bagatelle and darts, tea was served. What a delicious spread awaited us. The cake makers had been busy with meringues and differently flavoured sponges; others had prepared sandwiches, sherry trifle, fruit jelly and endless cups of tea.

The afternoon concluded with a raffle and presentation of a gift voucher to Val to thank her for sharing her home with us for the afternoon.

Although there will be no meeting next month, our secretary Janet Leaver has arranged for some of us to visit Milletts Farm Centre on August 11.

To continue the Oxfordshire federation’s WI centenary celebrations, on the afternoon of September 15, the county’s 140 WIs will parade banners from Christ Church Meadows to Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford for a service.

Our president Val Mundy and committee member Millicent Gibby will represent Greys WI.

Our next meeting will be at Greys village hall on Wednesday, September 16 at 2.30pm when we will learn about the work of the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance. Why not come and join us?


NO meeting was held in June as the centenary celebrations for the Buckinghamshire federation were held at Waddesdon Manor and 33 members took a picnic and gazebo to join in the special day that had been planned.

The gardens and house were open to enjoy and after a relaxing lunch we wandered around to see all that was on offer.

Margaret, Anne and Eileen had been to the Albert Hall for the national federation’s annual meeting the previous week and were able to fill everyone in on the details.

The day had been exhausting but stimulating and memorable and made them feel proud that they belonged to such a friendly organisation.

The July meeting was held at Lacey’s Farm in Frieth when the members gathered to hear an interesting talk by Gideon Lacey on the workings of the dairy farm.

The farm was purchased in 1882 and Guernsey cows were bought at Reading market.

This herd now produces 6,000 litres a week of very nutritious milk, which is also made into yoghurt, cream and ice cream and is sold in independent stores as well as at the farm shop.

They then walked out to see the calves and cows and had a demonstration on the milk processing by Shelagh, Dawn and Debbie.

Shelagh had organised a delicious cream tea with strawberries to round off a very enjoyable evening, all set out in a barn with candles and flowers.

Jeanne Keene, who has been president of the branch several times, was celebrating her 90th birthday but unfortunately was unable to attend so Jenny Byrne had made a cake to be enjoyed by her family and friends later that week.

There will be no meeting in August. The next meeting will be at the village hall on September 10.

On September 16 there will be a special centenary celebration at the sports pavilion from 2.30pm to 4.30pm with a tree planting, a special exhibition and tea.

On September 22 there will be a bridge drive in the village hall. Tables are organised by Liz Jarvis on (01491) 412111. So there’s a lot to look forward to in September.

Frances Emmett wished all members a wonderful summer and sent her best wishes to all those who had been unable to attend the farm visit.


WHAT were all those weird hats doing at the July meeting?

Surely, after donning her Buckingham Palace hat at the June meeting, president Pat Eades had not brought her entire millinery collection for inspection? Thankfully, all was revealed later in the meeting.

It was very strange that only one member in the total membership of 40 had a birthday in July and greetings were duly given to Anne Thornton. The visit to Greys Court to see the five centenary roses donated by the South Chiltern Group was disappointing as the roses had not been planted in the position that had been promised.

It is hoped that they will be moved in the autumn to a position that can be viewed from the house.

Pat pointed out various events taking place throughout Oxfordshire, especially at Denman College.

She will be going to the “Evening with John Craven” at Radley College on September 26 and has spaces available in her car for anyone wanting a lift.

On September 15 a celebratory event will take place at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford and four members from each WI are invited to attend.

Banners will be paraded through the city centre to the cathedral and, after short speeches and music, the singing of Jerusalem and the National Anthem will bring the event to a close.

Notice was also taken of the Norway day to be held in Stanford-in-the-Vale on November 26 and of the music taster day in Benson on October 13.

Shirley Weyman has organised a Sunday lunch group and they would have their first outing in July. Shirley was also to host the sewing group and the book club.

Those members wishing to visit the Regal Cinema have been put in touch with each other to arrange their  programme.

The South Chiltern Group meeting is being hosted by Harpsden WI on September 30 when members are invited to bring along any antique items.

The speaker Steven Bruce will then talk about some of the items and advise about “Buying and selling at auction”.

The speaker for the afternoon was Richard Snailham, whom several members had heard in past years at Townswomen’s Guild meetings in Henley.

In 1977 Richard had undertaken a journey along the Silk Route in north-west China and commenced his journey in the mountainous region of Shinjang.

He showed slides of his travels and in the Turfan region the Uighurs, whom he called “the hat people”. This was the reason for his display of many types of hats, which he invited members to put on after his talk.

The Turfan region is the second lowest place on earth with many minarets and mosques. It has a wonderful climate for growing Hami melons.

The vote of thanks was given by Suzanna Rose, who had been on one of the guided tours which Mr Snailham had done in South America.

The competition was for “something Chinese” and was won by Audrey Fox with Di Painter second and Maureen George and Jean Pryke third equal.

The August meeting will be our centenary celebration event.

The entertainer will be the first female member of the Inner Magic Circle. She has said that she will probably be sawing someone in half, so it should be a very interesting afternoon. Members are urged to bring visitors and a “bring and share” tea. The meeting will be held at Harpsden village hall on August 12 at 2.30pm.


IN the year of the WI’s centenary, Pangbourne is also celebrating with its 94th birthday, having being set up six years after the first WI was formed in Llanfair PG, Anglesey, when people were still recovering from the First World War.

It seems very apt then that our speaker for July should be demonstrating an age-old craft which is making a resurgence â?? the art of woodcraft, which was once common-place.

Chris Allen, of Oneday Woodcraft, is knowledgeable but still developing his skills, using coppiced unseasoned green wood to make all manner of items, such as scoop spoons, spreaders, goblets and crooks.

Field maple is used to make whale scoops, so called because the handles are shaped like a whale’s tail.

Chris uses alder and ash to make his bowls and our ladies particularly liked his willow gypsy flowers, which he said were popular.

Chris started his hobby less than 15 years ago by whittling simple spoons but soon built his own shave horse and pole lathe.

The pole lathe was the centuries-old method used to turn green wood with little effort and without the noise, dust or danger of modern mechanised equipment, using age-old tools, chisels and callipers.

Clearly Chris has a passion for working outdoors and for the preservation of woodland and forests from where his raw materials are obtained.

He offers a variety of workshops, courses and lectures in green woodcraft and is eager to share his knowledge of the history of the subject and of “bodgers”, who were known for their particular expertise.

So if you go down to the woods today it might not be a teddy bear’s picnic you’ll find, but Chris whittling away and planning his next adventure into leathercraft.

What a very pleasant talk.

To continue with our celebrations we enjoyed afternoon tea with a lovely decorated birthday cake made by our president Judy Schurer.

We enjoyed pleasant conversation with our guests from Whitchurch WI, president Frances Lestrange and secretary Patricia Dent.

Birthday presents were given to all members and guests who received a lucky number on arrival. This was followed by a raffle.

Later in July our members would be looking forward to a trip to Avebury Manor, including Avebury Museum and Stone Circle.

We welcome visitors and new members to our meetings, which are held at Pangbourne village hall on the second Tuesday of the month at 2.30pm.


EVERYONE enjoyed the afternoon spent in Hilary Roberts’s delightful garden.

Only once did we briefly have to rush indoors out of the rain.

Items of interest included an invitation for lunch at the Waterfront Café in Benson and a list of the bursaries available at Denman College for which members were encouraged to apply.

Four members applied to join in the extended centenary celebrations at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, where two members might carry the Peppard WI banner. Tickets were sold for a “soup and a sweet” fund-raising lunch to be held on August 12. This will be at a member’s home and is in lieu of an August meeting or visit.

Food will be home-made by the committee and members are requested to bring a friend (or two). Pimm’s will be served along with tea, coffee and soft drinks.

Interested members are at present reading their first book in our newly formed book club â?? The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville, winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2001.

Book Club members will meet at Liz Waterfall’s house on August 13 to exchange views on the book.

Outside again we had a scrumptious tea provided by committee members. Everyone had been requested to dress up as if attending Buckingham Palace to celebrate 100 years of the Women’s Institute, which added to the ambience of the afternoon’s gathering.

Our buddy groups clubbed together to provide five scrumptious baskets of goodies for the raffle. Photographic evidence was collected for our scrapbook.

Our next meeting will be at Peppard Memorial Hall on September 9 at 2pm when the speaker will be Roger Shaw, who will talk about “The Oregon Trail”. Please feel free to join us.


AS our president Margaret Pyle is recuperating from an operation, vice-president Margaret Seal welcomed everyone to our July meeting on a very hot afternoon.

We had a bit of a topsy-turvy meeting as the speaker was first.

She was Jennipher Marshall-Jenkinson, who spoke about “Taking the healthy option”.

This was not only a talk but a demonstration of microwave cooking.

Jennipher explained that all food cooked in a microwave is healthier than traditional methods in that the food retains more vitamins.

She went on to cook two main courses and two desserts.

The first main course was chicken in apricot sauce with rice and vegetables and the second was salmon with rice and vegetables.

The two desserts were chocolate cake with a black cherry filling and chocolate sauce and small chocolate cakes.

We were then invited to taste what had been cooked and it was all very delicious.

Back in the meeting, Margaret Seal said that a record of the June meeting was available for all to see.

Our attention was drawn to two items of correspondence concerning the Stella Austin Cup Competition for “a card for a special occasion” with an entry fee of £6 and closing date of November 17 and a flyer for the Chilterns Craft & Design Show at Stonor Park from August 28 to 31.

Treasurer Doris Goddard reported that she had completed 167 emergency packs for the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading and that she had sent a letter of thanks to the dentist in Sonning  Common for a donation of four large sample boxes of toothpaste.

Birthday buttonholes were given to those members with July birthdays.

A short walk around Clayfield Copse had been arranged and there would be the usual two scrabble meetings during the month. We then had our usual cup of tea and biscuit, although on such a hot afternoon there was quite a call for a glass of water, followed by the raffle draw.

We meet at St Barnabas’s Church hall in Emmer Green on the first Wednesday of the month at 2pm and would be very pleased to receive any visitors.


BY tradition, the Shiplake WI summer party is held in July and this year was no exception.

The president Joan Jolley, resplendent in matching dress and hat, welcomed the ladies, many of whom were also in colourful summer dresses and hats.

The hall was decorated with WI bunting and the tables were prettily decorated with pale summer flowers in miniature sacks.

A special thanks to Ursula Davies, who always helps with the flower arrangements.

A cool fruit drink was served to start the afternoon.

Some county business was covered with Joan pointing out the most interesting items on the newsletter â?? John Craven, the Norway day and the music taster morning.

Shiplake WI news included the date of the next walk, an outing to West Green House gardens and an open weekend at Bishopswood silversmith centre.

Irene Crawford then gave a wonderfully animated description of her visit to Buckingham Palace in June to celebrate the WI’s centenary.

It was quite a windy day and that made a few hats fly around like frisbees.

Subtle security checks were carried out on arrival and then the visitors were encouraged to wander around the gardens and enjoy the wonderful rose beds.

The arrival of the royal guests was the highlight after which an excellent tea was served.

Irene particularly remembered standing beside a Beefeater and admiring his beautiful costume complete with ruff and gold braid.

She thoroughly enjoyed herself and explained that she had felt proud to be part of the celebrations and thanked Shiplake WI for choosing her as its representative.

While tea was being served members were reminded to look at the display of photographs of many of the ladies taken when they were children. These were not named and everyone had fun guessing who was who!

The tea was the usual excellent spread of sandwiches, savouries and cakes. There was some time for the ladies to chat and complete the quizzes.

Joan Jolley then thanked everyone for making it an excellent afternoon. The tea had been provided by many of the members and the committee was thanked for organising a lovely summer party.

There will be no meeting in August. The September meeting will include a talk on medical detection dogs. The competition will be for an ornament of a dog. Visitors are always welcome.


FORTY-ONE members and three visitors were present at our July meeting.

We all enjoyed meeting up with our WI friends, especially as it was a lovely summer evening and members had been looking forward to the speaker and her “companion” who were both sitting very quietly awaiting their introduction.

There were lots of “ahhhs” from the audience as the companion was especially cute.

Our president Sue Frayling-Cork opened the meeting and welcomed members and visitors.

She read out a letter that the committee had agreed to send on our behalf, expressing concerns in respect of the wording of the 2015 resolution and there was general agreement. The letter will be sent to the Oxfordshire and national federations.

Following the treasurer’s report, our secretary Sue Hedges reported that she had received an email from Sue Nickson saying how grateful she was to have attended our July coffee morning to promote her recently published book on the reminiscences of residents of life on Kingwood and Peppard commons after the Second World War.

She said that the book had created lots of interest and everyone was very enthusiastic to learn more about the history of the commons.

Sue also gave an update on our little yellow duck project to back up our previous resolution “time to talk about organ donation”.

Fifty ducks have been knitted by members so far and we are on track to reach our target of 100.

Thanks were given to members for their support of this worldwide reminder to talk to our family and friends about our wishes in respect of organ donation. More information can be found at www.thelittle yellowduckproject.org

We were reminded that this evening was the last opportunity to purchase tickets for our summer outing in August to Mapledurham House and the Mill.

Details were given regarding the parade of banners and service at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford on September 15 in celebration of our centenary year.

Our September meeting will be our own celebration and the theme will be “10 decades of the WI” and members can dress to suit an era of their choice or just wear a hat.

This evening will be a happy and fun event to look forward to after the summer break.

Some of our members had attended the rally in Henley to support the Save Our Beds campaign for the new Townlands Hospital. A decision by the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group is awaited.

We had another successful village coffee morning in July. Our next one will be on Monday, October 5 as we do not have one in August and the village hall is being decorated during August and early September.

Members were reminded that we will have a tombola stall at Binfield Heath Flower and Dog Show on Saturday, August 29. Names were taken for volunteers to help on the day and thanks given.

Sue Frayling-Cork then introduced our speaker and her “companion”, who had slept through most of the business but woke up when her name Teaka was called.

Rosemary Edginton had come to talk to us about the valuable work that Hearing Dogs for Deaf People does in helping the increasing number of people with hearing difficulties â?? one in six of the adult population.

Teaka is a miniature poodle and her breed is very popular for this training as they are very intelligent and don’t moult.

The charity is a small organisation and does not receive any government funding.

Rosemary is a volunteer and looks after brood bitches in her home.

Teaka has had one litter of puppies and all five of this litter are now in their final stages of their sound work training and will be going out to a deaf person’s home within the next few months.

They are trained to alert recipients to everyday sounds such as the telephone, doorbell, mobile phone, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, traffic and lots more.

It is a difficult time when Rosemary has to say goodbye to the puppies after eight weeks but she knows that they are going to be trained at the Hearing Dogs for Deaf People centre and will, after training, make an immense change to a deaf person’s life.

The total cost for the working life of one of these dogs is £45,000 to £50,000 and much fund-raising has to be undertaken through speaking to groups such as the WI, donations, sponsorships and corporate funding.

The charity is very proud of its volunteers who assist with fostering, training, dog walking, socialising and all aspects of the dog’s invaluable contribution to make a fantastic difference to the life of a deaf person. Our members thoroughly enjoyed this talk and their applause was very enthusiastic.

Teaka had won quite a few hearts and after the talk, she received much attention.

Carol Williams gave a very warm and sincere vote of thanks to Rosemary and Teaka who had brought this worthwhile charity to our attention and wished them success in the future.

After the raffle and refreshments, our president wished everyone a healthy and happy summer.

The competition for a dog ornament was won by Gill Hayward. The flower of the month completion was won by Kathie Anderson, with Wendy Dean and Ann Holt joint second and Sue Frayling-Cork third.


OUR garden meeting went very well. Despite a threat of rain, we managed to enjoy ourselves in the lovely garden of our member Angela Spencer-Harper and her husband Bob.

They were splendid hosts and everyone had brought something to add to the supper table.

A light-hearted quiz around the garden kept us socialising until the light faded in the evening.

We arranged for us to be represented at the celebration at Christ Church, Oxford, on the WI day in September when we will parade our banner and attend the service afterwards.

Six members’ birthdays were noted, with flowers for each of them as always.

Although we have a break from official meetings in August, we are getting together for two walks, one with an evening meal afterwards and one with a tea at the invitation of another member.

We reported on the success of a fund-raising lunch for visitors, a guided tour to see the WI displays at Greys Court (yet another member took us round, with lots of stories about the family and house) and, of course, the flower festival where we had a lovely display in the chapel.

All these events were held with help from members.

Our next such venture is in October when we will again be seeking assistance at a lunch we are catering for.


OUR speaker for the evening was Amanda Wood with a talk entitled “Hidden tribes of India”.

She talked while showing us some excellent slides about these tribes who live outside the main areas of habitation, with their own cultures and religion.

Margaret Rhodes had represented us at a garden party at Buckingham Palace hosted by the Queen in recognition of the centenary of the WI.

She gave us an enthusiastic account of her day and told how delighted she was to have met Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

Our next meeting will be at the town hall on September 9 when our speaker will be Bill Heine on “Heinstein of the airwaves”.

For more information, please call Kath Gomm on (01491) 612939.


THE speaker at our July meeting was Corry Starling, the miller of Mapledurham, who gave us a fascinating overview of the watermill at Mapledurham House and its long history.

There has been a mill on the Thames there for more than 1,000 years and the one we can see these days still has equipment and machinery dating from more than 100 years ago.

The mill still runs as a commercial enterprise, in spite of being a listed building, and produces wholemeal and white flour.

In conjunction with the talk members had produced an assortment of home-baked goods â?? bread, buns, cakes etc, which the miller duly judged. First was a wholemeal loaf, second was a fruit cake and third were some scones.

We heard an entertaining report from our member who had been to the Buckingham Palace garden party, although “the hat” was not in evidence.

A serious discussion is taking place concerning the possible withdrawal of the local bus service. Letters have been written and we are still awaiting replies.

Our plans for the next month or so include a barbecue on August 18 (friends and family will be welcome), a walk and lunch at Benson on September 1 and our WI Pang Valley Group meeting on September 16.

We will have a WI information table at Whitchurch fete on August 29.

In October we will have a talk called “How to take better photographs” whether by camera, smartphone or whatever other means. Meetings take place at Goring Heath parish hall on the B471, usually on the third Tuesday of the month. Visitors are welcome. For more information, please call 0118 984 1696.


SHIRLEY welcomed the members on a lovely summer’s afternoon.

Birthday buttonholes were presented to Iris Lewis, Monika Watters, Patricia Solomons and Rose Metcalf.

Barbara George wishes to thank everyone for their good wishes, support and help during her recent illness.

Our speaker this month was Emma Darke, of the Blue Tin farm shop, who told us about the history of the shop and all the hard work involved. Emma had bought with her a wonderful array of goodies.

This was followed by a lovely tea thanks to Gillian Seymour, Hazel Tagg and Gill Woods.

The winner of the competition for an unusual old tin was Marianne Adams and the bloom of the month winner was Judy Williams.

The lunch group had been to the Pack Saddle and the walking group had been out and about in Nuneham Courtenay. The chance to chat group had met at Marianne’s and put the world to rights.

Our garden meeting in August will take place at Mapledurham House and mill and will include a cream tea, so we hope for a sunny afternoon.

We will be back in the village hall for our meeting on September 16. New members are welcome.

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