Sunday, 20 June 2021

Around the WI



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

Forthcoming trips and events were discussed before our speaker for the evening, Sam Mallett, was introduced.

Starting her working life in the gift shop of a local garden centre, it was not long before Sam realised her true passion was for the horticultural side of the business and 18 years later she was sharing with us her extensive knowledge.

Sam had brought along a varied selection of plants, split into two sections to demonstrate those suitable for sunny and shady parts of the garden.

I think many of us left with plans and ideas to give our gardens a makeover, aided by lots of Sam’s helpful tips.

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

Our next meeting will be on March 16 when we will have our annual meeting in conjunction with celebrating 90 years of Benson WI.

If you would like to join us you will be made most welcome. For more information, call Lin on (01491) 836800.


IT was a cold, wet afternoon for our February meeting but a warm welcome greeted us in Greys village hall.

Attention was drawn to the Oxfordshire Federation’s annual meeting on March 23 and members were reminded that the British Heart Foundation would have a stand there and needed donations of unwanted or broken jewellery to raise funds. Our president Val hoped to attend.

Members were invited to add their names to the list of those going to the spring lunch at Badgemore Park Golf Club.

The meeting voted against the amalgamation of the Witheridge group of WIs, to which we belong, and the Chiltern Group. A volunteer to arrange group meetings was required.

Merryl had arranged for photographer Jim Donahue, who had visited Greys some time ago, to return in October, to tell us about his book, An American’s Portrait of Henley.

The summer outing was discussed and members were in favour of a river cruise while visits to gardens could also be arranged.

The committee had spent time assembling some 60 toilet packs for the Royal Berkshire Hospital from items donated by members. These were labelled as “Donated by Greys WI” and would shortly be delivered to the hospital.

At the invitation of Val, Penny Noble, who is the president of Stoke Row WI, editor of News & Views and a volunteer at Greys Court for the past 15 years, described her time spent going through the Brunner family archives.

She passed round a few of the many photographs in the collection, including an elegant portrait of Lucy Morgan in court dress.

The family had bought the mansion in 1937. Originally, the property had no windows on the ground floor which would have been used for animals in the 1500s when the entrance was via a curtain wall to Lady Brunner’s bedroom!

Lady Brunner, the granddaughter of Sir Henry Irving, gave up her actress career six months before her marriage, at age 21, to Felix in 1926. He succeeded to the baronetcy in 1929. They both spent their time volunteering in many spheres. She was chairman of the National Federation of WIs and president of Greys WI and founded Denman College, which they financed.

During the Second World War the couple used their ballroom as a dormitory for evacuees and had a school teacher come in to give lessons to the children.

The first Greys village fete in 1949 was opened by Kenneth More while the Keep Britain Tidy campaign in 1955 was another of Lady Brunner’s initiatives for which she was awarded the OBE.

One of the last photographs to be passed round showed Lady Brunner on her mobility scooter, a 90th birthday gift from her sons so that she could continue to enjoy her cherished gardens.

The competition to guess who was who among the members’ childhood photos caused much discussion and hilarity.

Our annual meeting will be at Greys village hall on Wednesday, March 18 at 2.30pm, followed by a crochet workshop under the capable guidance of our treasurer, Doreen. Bring your crochet hooks and join in. The competition will be for six decorated fairy cakes.


PRESIDENT Margaret Spratley opened the February meeting by welcoming members and introducing our speaker Catherine Campbell, who gave us an introduction to yoga and meditation.

All members joined in a mini yoga class ending with meditation, which everyone enjoyed. Maureen Cleary gave the vote of thanks.

Sarah Williams explained to members about the new website that she is designing to promote our WI.

The walking group organised by Frances Emmett had thoroughly enjoyed a snowdrop walk to Swyncombe, followed by lunch.

Members were advised of the summer outing to Hampton Court Flower Show in July.

Teas were kindly provided by Sue Livesey, Christine Banbury and Sue Walden.

If you are interested in coming along to a meeting or simply want to learn more about the WI, members are on hand to provide more information. Call either Helen on 07839 539605 or Jo on 07803 505665.


THE February meeting was held at Henley Golf Club when 36 members enjoyed a very tasty lunch.

Chef Ian, Sophie and her staff were all thanked for their attention and professional handling of the occasion.

Business was kept very much to a minimum by president Pat Eades.

She reminded members that the next meeting of the book club would be on March 16 at 31 Blandy Road and the Sunday lunch group would meet on March 20.

The Oxfordshire Federation’s annual meeting is being held in Oxford on March 23 and transport can be arranged for anyone wishing to attend.

There is plenty going on in the county in the coming months.

A ramble will take place in and around Radley on April 26 and again on May 12.

The federation has a weekend at Denman College from November 18 to 20.

Perhaps some members might enjoy a singing workshop in Cassington village Hall on May 31, or an indoor bowls day on April 13, or maybe a croquet taster day in Abingdon on May 18.

Then again, there is a needle felting day specifically for beginners at the Tackley office on April 12.

Any foreign notes and coins brought back from holidays can be sent to the Tackley office for the benefit of the Associated Country Women of the World charity, which the WI supports.


A VERY well attended annual meeting took place on February 3 at which the previous committee kindly agreed to remain for a further year and was voted back.

Frankie Macmillan will serve as president and Jan French as vice-president with the other members being Wendy Porter (treasurer), Pat Jones (secretary), Carol Evans (programme secretary) with Edna Ansell and Gina Foden.

The financial report was presented by the treasurer and approved. Our bank balance is quite heathy but we have no fund-raising efforts planned so far this year.

The secretary gave a very comprehensive report on another successful year for Mill Green. The highlights were the centenary baton lunch in April and the outing to Syon House in June.

Our president gave her report and thanked the committee for their hard work. Member Doris Firth then gave a very sincere vote of thanks to the committee and president. We did not have a speaker for the annual meeting, so the evening concluded with refreshments served by two new members.

The programme for the next year is as follows:

April 6 — “The Emergence of England”, speaker Jayne Windmill

Bring and buy for Associated Country Women of the World

May 4 — “Animal behaviour”, Valerie Bennett

WI resolution discussion

May 12 — Group meeting, Knowl Hill village hall

June 8 — Stratfield Saye House outing, 10.45am–3.30pm

June 15 — Coffee morning, 10.30am-noon. Bring and buy

July 6 — “Tales of the Opera”, Patricia Purcell

August 3 — Garden party, 2.30pm-5pm, venue to be announced

September 7 — “Bali Pink Ribbon Foundation”, Gaye Warren

October 5 — “This thing called ballet”, Sue Drew

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

December 7 — Christmas dinner, Sansom Room, 7.30pm

January 4, 2017 — Members’ meeting

February 1 — Annual meeting

Mill Green, Wargrave WI always welcomes visitors and new members. Our meetings are usually held in the Hannen Room, Mill Green, on the first Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm.


MEMBERS were delighted when Chrissie Phillips- Tilbury, who chairs the Village Gardeners, gave us an interesting and amusing insight into the wonderful community enthusiasm and hard work of the residents of Sonning Common.

Stan Rust, himself a keen gardener and photographer, gave us a view with his slides of the shops and businesses with their splendid array of plants and flowers in front of them.

Residents’ gardens also have attractive displays of flowers which can be found in every nook and cranny around the village.

Starting in 2010 with at least 20 helpers, Sonning Common won silver gilt in 2015 in the Britain in Bloom competition.

Barbara Scullard and Pauline Collins provided an enjoyable tea and Shirley Hartley Booth a beautiful arrangement of spring flowers. Next month we will have our annual meeting.


WE were warmly welcomed to our February meeting by president Margaret Pyle, who thanked Margaret Caldicott for the table flowers.

Margaret said the record of January’s meeting was available for all who wished to examine it.

She then reminded us of the spring annual council meeting to be held at the Hexagon in Reading on April 13. If anyone wished to attend, the cost was £10 in advance or £12 on the door.

There is a trip to the Mill at Sonning Theatre on June 30 to see a matinée performance of It Runs In The Family, a farce by Ray Cooney. The cost of the ticket includes lunch before the show.

There will be a trip to Denman College in the autumn which will include a lunch, tour and cookery demonstration.

The Scrabble, knit and natter, cinema and walking groups continue to meet.

The book club’s next book will be Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre.

We hope all these groups will continue to thrive.

Margaret then introduced our speaker Tony King whose talk was entitled “If Dickens had a camera”.

This was a very well presented talk (with slides) about the history of photography with some very old photographs of London, including a selection of the places featured in Charles Dickens’s novels.

Tony also had photographs of how the old London stations looked when they were first built.

Thank you, Tony, for a very interesting talk and we hope to have you back again in the future.

We had the usual bring and buy table which made more than £20.

The meeting concluded with the usual cup of tea and biscuit followed by the raffle.

We meet at St Barnabas’s Church Hall, Emmer Green, on the first Wednesday of the month at 2pm and visitors are very welcome.


PRESIDENT Joan Jolley warmly welcomed members and visitors to the February meeting.

Because our speaker had to be in St Albans for another engagement later that evening, we appreciated that she did not want to be on the M25 at 5pm.

Joan, therefore, began the meeting by introducing Frances Benton to give us her superb talk called “Tears of the dragon”.

Quite a few local institutes have already heard her talk and seen all the beautiful pearl jewellery she sells, so I thought I would delve into her many other “strings”.

Joan is an extraordinarily busy woman. She lives in the Burgundy region of France but travels very extensively.

When she is not on some remote, exotic island buying pearls, she has a “day job” as the development director for the Avison Ensemble, the foremost exponents of 18th century music played on period instruments.

Joan gives her pearl talk free to WIs nationwide, personally hand strings all the jewellery (an art she learned in China some 25 years ago) and is a popular Denman College tutor.

Net profits from the sale of jewellery go to the Jabulani Project, a charity set up to feed, clothe and house Zulu street children in Durban, South Africa. She is a passionate supporter and visits the project regularly.

All this and bringing up a family too! If your institute has not heard Joan speak yet, book her immediately.

A lovely tea was served by hostesses Wendy Talfourd-Cook and Yvonne Watson. Frances Lefebre won the competition for a piece of pearl jewellery and the flower competition was won by Joyce Vernon.

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.


THIRTY-SEVEN members and three visitors were welcomed to our February meeting by our president Sue Frayling-Cork.

Our treasurer Anne Croxson reported that subscriptions for 2016 had now been received. She reminded members that each WI is allowed to keep £18 from each subscription and the balance is sent to the Oxfordshire Federation for its expenses.

From the balance kept by each WI, deductions for the following year include hall rental, speakers and our members’ copies of News & Views.

Anne said funds were okay but our fund-raising activities should be kept up, which was agreed by all.

Last year had been a more expensive year than usual due to our centenary celebrations and bursaries.

Gill Hayward, chair of the fund-raising committee was very pleased to report that £900 had been raised during the year 2015/16.

It had been agreed that the proceeds from our coffee mornings last year would be shared with local community projects and at the latest coffee morning cheques were presented to Greenshoots, Club SC (youth club), First Responders and Sonning Common Village Gardeners.

The groups were represented by Frances Hill, chief executive of Greenshoots, Carol Viney, of the Club SC committee, first responder Chris Brook and Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury, organiser of the Village Gardeners.

Following the coffee morning, Sonning Common WI received a letter from Henley MP John Howell congratulating us on our fantastic contribution to local projects.

It was a really nice acknowledgement and memento for our archive, together with the photograph published in the Henley Standard.

Our next coffee morning will be in the village hall on Wednesday, April 6 from10.30am to noon.

Sue Frayling Cork thanked the retiring chair of the fund-raising committee, Alison Bishop, and presented her with flowers for her outstanding contribution.

Jane Handley, our minutes secretary, informed the members that she and her husband Eddie were creating greetings cards from recycled cards and asked members to let her have any they no longer wanted.

A super display of her cards was available that evening for members to purchase, which they did. Another great fund-raiser and thanks were given to Jane and Eddie.

The cards will be available at all meetings and coffee mornings.

Jackie Cheffings and Gill Hayward will be starting our own darts matches shortly. A location has been found and names of players taken. I don’t think there will be many shouts of “180” but we will have fun!

Sue Frayling-Cork reminded the members that it would be the annual meeting in March and she encouraged members to seriously consider coming on to the committee. Without a committee, there would be no WI.

She assured them that they would receive a very warm welcome and their contribution could be as much or as little as they wanted. New ideas were always welcome.

Sue also reported on the latest update she had been given on the Townlands Hospital redevelopment.

Sue Hedges gave a report on her recent stay at Denman College. She had used her bursary from Sonning Common WI to pay for part of the course making willow garden structures.

She stayed in the Oxfordshire room, which had a lovely double bed and was very comfortable.

The course instruction, the meals and the friends she made were all wonderful and she encouraged members to apply for courses, either day or residential.

Sue also reminded members that there were a few tickets left for our members’ day in March.

We were then introduced to our speaker, Jane Probitts, chair of the National Federation’s craft committee.

She has held many positions within the WI at local, federation and now national level and has worked tirelessly in all the areas that she has covered.

Jane was known already to some of our members as she is a member of Stoke Row WI. She has a passion for our WI college, Denman, and spoke of its history, including its purchase.

Sir Richard Livingstone, Lady Denman and Lady Brunner of Greys Court were all instrumental in bringing Denman College to the WI.

We were shown slides of the college accommodation, the teaching rooms, the bedrooms and all the facilities available. The course lecturers are top in their field and come highly recommended.

Jane spoke of the very necessary maintenance of the old Georgian buildings and that it has been, and continues to be, an ever more expensive task to maintain.

We are so lucky to have this incredible building offering courses in more subjects than space available to list them. From singing and dancing to craft, cooking and academic lectures, there is a course for everyone. The college course book contains details and copies were available.

Jane explained the various bursaries available to members and gave encouragement to apply for them.

Denman College is so close to us, in the small village of Marcham, near Abingdon. Members come from WIs all over the UK to attend. We all agreed that it was a treasure that could not be lost.

The vote of thanks was given by Beverley Porteous who said how much we had enjoyed Jane’s enthusiastic and passionate picture of Denman College.

Names were taken for our team to enter the Sonning Common village quiz on March 18.

The competition for an unusual silver object was judged by Jane Probitts and was won by Wendy Dean with a tiny silver box.

Second was Sue Frayling-Cork with a lovely spoon and third was Lesley Davis with a bracelet made from a pair of sugar tongs.

The flower of the month competition was won by Sue Frayling-Cork with Kathie Anderson in second place and Jenny Ward third.



WE celebrated our 60th anniversary with an evening of music from the past six decades, concentrating on the recordings that had made the charts.

A fun evening which brought back memories of our younger days or, in the case of some members, some songs that were around before they were born.

From Buddy Holly to Girls Aloud, we heard an amazing variety, interspersed with snippets of WI history.

A founder member from the first meeting in 1956 cut the cakes along with the current president and we enjoyed our supper as we chatted.

March will see our annual meeting when we may have some committee changes and we look forward to a new season of interesting meetings and events.

The diners club is now meeting up each month, along with our well-established craft, book, swimming and walking groups.


OUR speaker for the evening was Barbara Hateley, talking about “The Changi Red Cross quilts”.

She gave us a brief insight into the lives of the women and children imprisoned by the Japanese in 1942 at Changi Prison, Singapore.

As they were separated from their husbands, and not allowed to communicate, a way to let the husbands know they were still alive was through a woman called Ethel Mulvany.

They would make quilts for the military camp hospital and each woman could stitch a coded message or symbol into a patchwork square.

These quilts have been kept by the Red Cross and are now very fragile but they show the courage shown by the wives and mothers imprisoned in Changi.

If you would like to come and join us, we meet at Watlington town hall every second Wednesday in the month at 7.30pm.

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


MEMBERS had an unexpected social morning in February, when the speaker booked was unable to arrive due to a last-minute car breakdown.

Seventeen members were present and the business, minutes, reports etc were disposed of with alacrity, leaving the members to chat, inspect the bring and buy stall, look at the books which are on loan (with charges going towards the Associated Country Women of the World charity) and contemplate the delightful entries for the flower of the month competition, which was won jointly by president Frances and Jenny Plumb.

The next meeting on March 15 will be our annual meeting and we are asking members to put their names forward to join the committee — not an onerous duty as the meetings are held in members’ homes with tea and biscuits.

Our programme for the next year will include talks on “The history of Reading Abbey”, “Hedgehogs”, “A passion for pearls” and a variety of other subjects as well as our annual summer trip, this year to Waterperry Gardens in June.

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

We have a wide variety of activities, so come along and find out what we do. For more information, please call 0118 984 1696.


WE met on February 17, a cold and wet winter’s day, for our 72nd birthday meeting.

It might have been dismal outside but inside it was cosy.

Jo Sutcliffe welcomed our guests and then Roger Selman played Jerusalem.

Birthday girls this month were Jean Walker, Jean Taplin, Rose Spencer, Sylvia Parr and Shirley Bryant.

Roger Selman entertained us on the piano as we sang along to some foot-tapping songs, which put us in the party mood!

The wonderful birthday tea had been made by Marianne Adams, Kathy Brewer, Betty Thomas and Monika Watters.

Margaret Carter had made individual cakes, all decorated with lit candles. They looked lovely on the tables which had been decorated with daffodils.

The lunch group are meeting at the Butcher’s Arms at Sonning Common.

We meet on the third Wednesday of the month in the village hall, so please come and join us.


ON Wednesday, February 17 president Adrienne Rance welcomed members and our guest speaker, well-known former local resident Angela Hodgson, who gave a very interesting talk called “China revival” about her hobby of restoring chipped or cracked china to its former glory.

Angela’s love of china started many years ago as a result of her parents retiring from farming and entering the antiques trade.

Sometimes they bought china that was damaged and needed restoration.

Angela discovered great pleasure in restoring ornaments, which are precious and often of great sentimental value to their owners.

In 1990, she started attending classes once a week for two years in order to hone her skills and start restoring ceramics on a more commercial basis.

Her first attempt was a dalmatian with a missing leg, so it was quite a challenge to make it whole again.

Angela illustrated some of her work with photographs and a table with a selection of china she has restored.

Members learnt that restoring china takes a lot of skill and patience as well as glueing, painting, sanding down and finally glazing and polishing.

Angela said the first thing to do was remove all the old glue using boiling water. Never attempt repairing cracks using superglue as this was very hard to remove if you make a mistake.

Repairing anything that is white was difficult as there are so many different shades whereas patterned china is more “forgiving”. Angela said she once repaired a piggy bank that had been damaged three times, so her advice to the owners was to move it to a safer place!

She has worked with a local collector, who had some items that were more than 3,000 years old.

When our local Wargrave antique dealer heard of Angela’s skills he gave her three large willow pattern plaques that had languished in his shop for three years to repair. After being repaired the plaques were snapped up.

One of the most difficult and smallest pieces she had tackled was a pepperette which had been broken into 11 pieces. Broken horses were also very challenging.

A useful tip Angela mentioned was to never put repaired china into a dishwasher as eventually the cracks will start to reappear.

She prefers to paint the ornaments by hand before glazing them several times until the match is perfect, then polishing them, preferably using something made from silk.

Angela now lives in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, and has turned one room of her home into a workshop to accommodate all the equipment she needs and the space to leave ornaments to dry out before the next process.

While members enjoyed the usual good tea, served by Fiona Birdseye and Ruth-Mary Vaughan, they chatted to Angela and asked her questions while admiring varied samples of her truly amazing handiwork.

Our annual meeting will be held at Crazies Hill village hall on March 16 at 2.30pm. After the election of officers, there will be an entertaining quiz as well as the usual delicious tea.

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