Thursday, 23 September 2021

Women's Institute Roundup

Women's Institute Roundup


OUR president welcomed members to the parish hall on the evening of February 21 and thanked them for the renewal of their memberships, taking Benson WI into its 92nd year.

Forthcoming events within the village were discussed along with some of the interesting trips and workshops in the current issue of News & Views.

Among the forthcoming village events is a Benson patients panel called “Matters of life and death” at the parish hall on May 12 where members would be helping with refreshments.

Members agreed to also provide refreshments for village events in June (a history group blue plaque installation and exhibition) and November (end of the First World War centenary commemoration).

Our local outings organiser had arranged visits to the River & Rowing Museum in Henley, to see The Winslow Boy at the Oxford Playhouse and a Maundy Thursday afternoon tea at Lily’s Tearooms in Dorchester for which the members showed their appreciation.

Visits to Tiggywinkles hedgehog sanctuary, Wantage Museum and a local donkey sanctuary were in the planning.

Members were updated on the recent “Making your WI the best it can be” workshop, which was attended by three members.

Members were interested to learn that, nationally, 37 new WI branches had been set up recently.

Our speaker for the evening was welcomed.

Bert Pridgeon talked to us about “How to bluff your way in English local place names”.

He explained the derivation of the names of some familiar Oxfordshire towns and villages, including our own Benson (Bensington) which had been mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles of 776 and the Doomsday Book of 1066.

He also explained how, following invasions over thousands of years, the languages of the invaders had influenced many of the place names with some Celtic names still existing in Cornwall and Wales plus Old Norse place names in the North-East.

Mr Pridgeon concluded his talk with a quiz on the structure of local place names after which members were able to pursue the subject with questions over refreshments.

Our next meeting will be on March 21 when it will be the occasion of our annual meeting with a light-hearted quiz to follow.

This meeting will be a chance to review the past year, elect a committee and look forward to what to expect in the coming year.

Visitors and new members are always welcome. Details of our programme can be obtained from Brenda Hallett on (01491) 838584.


AT February’s meeting, we welcomed John and Lindsay Mullaney to talk about Reading Abbey.

The talk set the scene of what the abbey would most likely have looked like, and even sounded like, before covering the most recent discoveries and some of the stones found through the Hidden Abbey Stones
project. It is not so surprising that some of the most visibly interesting stones from the abbey ruins have made their way into personal collections or into the safe keeping of local churches over the many years it has been abandoned.

Next month, we will hold our annual meeting, where the results of the year-long competition will be announced, a new committee will be elected and a few shared decisions will be made for the year ahead.

We will follow this with a traditional quiz.

Ladies are very welcome to visit our friendly group. We meet on the third Thursday of the month at 7.30pm, which helps avoid child-care issues, at Church House, Prospect Street, Caversham. There is usually easy parking and a lift to the first floor meeting room.

For more information, visit
hwzj6zy or search for “Caversham WI”.


OUR February meeting was well attended considering it was a cold winter’s evening!

A welcome was given to members, new members and Suzanne Stallard, our speaker.

Suzanne spoke about her love of knitting and yarns, which began when she was a child. She learned to knit at the age of five with her grandmother as her teacher.

She had brought samples of her work to show us and they were passed around the room for folk to see.

Her Fair Isle knitting was amazing and her use of colours fascinating.

Thanks were given to Suzanne for her talk by Valerie Holden.

Refreshments were available for everyone and then the business of the evening began.

Jill Dibben gave a report on our visit to The Mill at Sonning to see My Fair Lady, a very good production which everyone enjoyed.

A report on the quiz was given by Margaret Keen. Our team came second out of 40 teams, which was amazing! The team enjoyed the evening.

Social event dates were given out — coffee, lunch and the knitting, book and art groups. A nice selection for our ladies.

The February competition was won by Ann Jones, with Hazel Blackburn second and Kate Walmsley third.

Members were reminded about bean pole day in Caversham Court. Members promised to bring preserves for our stall.

We meet at Caversham Heights Church hall, on the corner of Highmoor Road and Woodcote Road, on the first Tuesday of the month, beginning at 7.45pm.


ON Wednesday, February 21, vice-president Maureen Rothery welcomed members and speaker Stefan White, whose talk was entitled “Skulduggery in the shrubbery”.

Members listened to his informative and often amusing and inspiring talk about the machinations of the sad but true story of the Tradescant family.

John Tradescant the elder (1570-1638) was a pioneering English naturalist, gardener, collector and traveller.

He began his career as head gardener to Robert Cecil, the wealthy 1st Earl of Salisbury, of Hatfield House, who initiated him by sending him to the Low Countries for fruit trees.

On his return, he planted 453 cherry trees, 500 mulberry trees and 1,600 lime trees.

Later, Tradescant was gardener to the royal favourite George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, remodelling his gardens at New Hall in Essex and at Burley-on-the-Hill.

He travelled to Arctic Russia in 1618, bringing back plants and cuttings, and in 1620 he travelled to the Levant and Algiers during a military expedition against Barbary pirates (known as Corsairs).

These pirates ruled the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines as far north as Cornwall and southern Ireland for more than 300 years, capturing ships’ crews into slavery in north Africa and even raiding deep ashore.

The English navy failed in its attempt to defeat them. At one time there were more than 3,000 Englishmen, women and children in captivity in Algiers awaiting ransom release.

Tradescant returned to the Low Countries on Buckingham’s behalf in 1624 and took part in the ill-fated siege of La Rochelle with Buckingham.

He sailed to Virginia in America and brought back yet more plants, such was his enthusiasm and passion.

After Buckingham’s assassination in 1628, Charles I engaged him to be keeper of His Majesty’s gardens.

Tradescant and his son John the younger travelled the known world, bringing back new and exotic plant specimens for the earl’s gardens.

In the course of their travels they also acquired a remarkable collection of curiosities that included botanical, geological and zoological items as well as man-made objects.

They had a stuffed example of the dodo said to be the last living in Europe.

In 1634 they housed their collection in The Ark in Lambeth, a prototypical “Cabinet of Curiosity”, a collection of rare and strange objects that became the first museum in England.

It was a difficult time in UK during the Civil War with the execution of Charles I and this is where the skulduggery comes in.

The wealthy antiquary scientist Elias Ashmole “acquired” the Tradescant collection by devious means despite the fact that when John the elder died in 1638 his will stated that he left everything to his son John, whom he had trained as a gardener.

The Ashmolean Museum came into existence when the Elias Ashmole gifted “his” collection to be merged with that of Oxford University in 1682.

He did so “because the knowledge of nature is very necessary to human life and health”.

It opened as Britain’s first public museum and the world’s first university museum.

From their botanical garden in Lambeth, on the south bank of the Thames, Tradescant and his son introduced many plants into English gardens that have become part of the modern gardener’s repertory.

A genus of flowering plants (Tradescantia) is named in his honour.

Both Johns were buried in the churchyard of St-Mary-at-Lambeth and the churchyard is now established as the Garden Museum.

Stefan accompanied his talk with interesting slides, including one of a vegetable in the shape of a lamb!

He shared many anecdotes, for example, the poor people of that time sold their urine, which was used for tanning leather, hence the expression “piss poor”.

Stefan was thanked and invited to share a delicious tea with members prepared by Ginny Foden and Jean Brocklebank.

The next meeting will be held at Crazies Hill village hall on Wednesday, March 21 at 2.30pm, when the annual meeting and a quiz will take place.Rank and file members of Cockpole Green WI represented the group at the East Berkshire quiz night at Knowl Hill on January 30 with a parallel competition at Padworth.

Both venues offered delicious fish and chip suppers and lots of laughter.

Our team was Helen Perry (organiser), Sheila Brocklebank, Maureen Fennemore and Judi Rowlands.

Our questions included rounds on animals, Berkshire, women of achievement, picture puzzles for TV programmes, past and present and, finally, 7 up (one answer, two, three etc).

Our questionmistress was Penny Anderson.

There should have been 21 teams but one ended up in Padworth instead so that in total between the two venues there were 42 teams and 168 competitors.

There was a lot of scratching of heads as the questions were fired at us and as we marked another team’s answers at the end of each round there were a lot of groans. How could we have been so stupid… except we weren’t because we won! We came top out of both quiz venues.

We exited the hall clutching our prizes (bottles of wine) in a state of disbelief. Wow!


MOVE it or Lose it! Midwinter and icy cold winds — it was hardly weather to tempt us outdoors for a healthy walk.

Instead, members gathered at our February meeting to listen to Chris Dyer and Fay Vidler of Elite Body Transformations and learn how simple exercises can improve muscle strength and balance and thus help to prevent falls.

Chris’s advice to elderly members is: “You’re too old not to exercise!”

He began his talk with some depressing statistics about the adverse affects of a fall, in both quality of life and resulting health problems, inspiring us all to take action.

One in three elderly people falls every year, resulting in loss of confidence, depression and the inability to live an independent life.

He stressed the importance of muscle strength, balance and flexibility, adding that exercise helps to prevent osteoporosis and improves cardiac health.

The exercises he recommends are simple and safe. The important thing is to do them regularly and stop if you are in any discomfort.

So, while sitting down, we began by building up our arm muscles with some alternating forward punches — an excellent way of dealing with any aggression!

We followed these with strengthening our thighs and calves — again, we were sitting safely as Chris emphasised that it was essential to do only as much as we felt was suitable for ourselves.

We ended with simple movements to strengthen the back.

Those who were sure they were safe were able to do these standing, while the others remained seated.

We all felt that this was a very worthwhile afternoon. Each member was given a simple exercise sheet to take home with Chris’s advice about safety ringing in our ears.

Many thanks to Chris and Fay and Elite Body Transformations.

Our annual meeting will take place at Greys village hall on March 21 at 2.30pm.

This year we are celebrating the centenary of votes for (some) women and in September Jane Stubbs will be coming to talk to us about this.

It’s important to remember that WI members had the right to vote for their officers long before this.

For more information, please call (01491) 575836 email


FEBRUARY’S meeting was warm, welcoming and surprising: we entered the hall to find five smart military uniforms on display.

They were the possessions of our speaker, Kerry McNamara, who joined the Household Cavalry at the age of 16.

Kerry explained that he had grown up in a small village in Wales and had been surprised to be accepted into the regiment.

After 11 months of initial training and getting used to living away from home, he was extremely proud to have his family present at his passing-out parade.

He learned to ride and was later on parade with the mounted regiment for Trooping the Colour, numerous state visits and the opening of Parliament by Her Majesty.

We were shown photographs of Kerry in full uniform carrying the standard.

After three years in Windsor with the armoured regiment, he served in Bosnia and travelled to Egypt, Turkey and America with the army.

His talk was enjoyed by our members and we were curious about his uniforms and badges.

Kerry left the army five years ago and is experiencing life in “civvy street”.

Ann Lazur gave the vote of thanks.

The business of the meeting was conducted by our president Jo Martin and we were reminded that the branch is responsible for providing Lent lunch (soup and cheese) in the village hall on March 3.

Our representative for the Slade Group, Liz Jarvis, is standing down and this role will be taken on by Helen Balkwell and Helen Grubb.

Plans are underway for our centenary celebrations in April 2019 and sub-committees are being formed to prepare for this.

This year, we will be supporting Hambleden village where there are plans to celebrate the marriage of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle on May 19.

Members were reminded of the change of date for the art group.

Teas were provided by Suzie Livesey and Sue Walden — a good time to socialise.

Accessories were on sale — a last chance to pick up a bargain and help branch funds.


FEBRUARY’S meeting was held on a very cold day and, unfortunately, in a very cold hall.

Sadly, the death of Rachel Evans was announced by president Pat Eades.

Rachel had only been a Harpsden member for a few years but nevertheless the news was sad.

On a lighter note, it was a pleasure to wish Diana Hex a very happy 90th birthday.

A coffee morning will be held on Friday, March 9 at 23A Blandy Road, Henley. The cost is £2 and coffee and cakes will be available from 10.30am.

The proceeds will be divided between the Associatede Country Women of the World and a final donation to the Denman Appeal.

This year, the ACWW will be raising funds for its latest project, which is in Ghana.

It aims to improve the nutrition of children under the age of five and to empower women by alleviating their poverty through self-help development activities.

It is hoped to raise more than £3,000 in Oxfordshire.

An appeal went out for any information on the making of the Harpsden banner.

Fortunately, on looking at the back of the banner, it was discovered it was made in 1991 but it would be nice to know by whom.

News & Views gave information on the annual meeting in Oxford on March 28. Shirley Weyman will be the Harpsden delegate.

There was still time to book for the art taster in Benson on April 12 (cost £9).

The Royal Horticultural Society’s spring festival is being held in Malvern on May 12. A coach will pick up at various stops (Nettlebed for Harpsden members). The cost is £39 for society members and £42 otherwise.

Harpsden’s reading Group will meet on March 21 at Shirley’s house.

The next Beechwood Group meeting is being hosted by Stoke Row WI on April 12 at 7.30pm.

The speaker is expected to divulge many interesting and humorous anecdotes from his days as a fishmonger in Reading’s “Smelly Alley”.

Our afternoon speaker was the ever-knowledgeable Elizabeth Hazeldine who told us about the seamier side of Henley from the 1600s onwards.

The plague in London affected Henley as the barges bringing supplies also brought the plague. The town was shut off for 30 days and body collectors were necessary to remove the 420 people who had succumbed to the disease.

Cholera was also prevalent in 1832. It wasn’t until 1890 that sewage in Henley improved with a pumping station being built and then later on water being made available indoors.

Miss Hazeldine told us about the body of a lady being found in the River Thames. She was wearing beautifully embroidered clothes and the only clues to her identity were the initials
“A B” on her clothing.

She is buried at Holy Trinity Church in Greys Hill.

In 1665 almshouses were built and were occupied by homeless people, often after being a tenant of a tied property and losing their jobs and consequently their home.

In 1790 the Henley workhouse was established. This is the building at the Townlands Memorial Hospital site that is currently being extensively renovated and turned into luxury accommodation. What a turnaround!

Miss Hazeldine was thanked by Patricia Williams for an interesting and informative talk.

The competition was for a “Memory of Henley” and produced several very old postcards depicting Henley’s roads. The winner was Di Painter with Shirley second and Judith third.

On March 14 the annual meeting will take place when the new committee is elected. It is hoped that some new faces will join those members who are prepared to continue on the committee.

The competition will be for “A spring flower” so the “top table” should look very beautiful that day.

The meeting will be held at Harpsden village hall, beginning at 2.30pm.


KATIE, our president, welcomed members and guests to our February meeting and updated the group on next month’s vote for the president and committee.

Members of the current committee have all said they would be happy to stay on for another year.

We hope to have a stand at the May Fayre in Henley again this year.

Katie then introduced our speaker Jane Stubbs, author of Thornfield Hall, who had come to speak to us about “The battle for votes for women”.

As the centenary of this historic event is March, and those ladies have strong links to the beginning of the WI, we were all looking forward to the talk.

At the very beginning of the movement, Queen Victoria was absolutely against it, stating that “The Queen is anxious to enlist everyone who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of women’s rights with all its attendant horrors on which her poor feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feeling and propriety”.

Thank goodness for ladies like Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett.

It was an inspiring talk and a lively discussion followed.

Once again we all had a lovely evening, even though the HOT WI was actually quite cool due to the heating not quite being up to the job on the night.

Everyone enjoyed a restorative cup of tea/coffee or glass of wine and cake to warm them up afterwards (thanks to Sue Morrison and Nicola Taylor for the yummy cake).

Our next meeting will be at Sacred Heart Church hall in Vicarage Road, Henley, on Friday, March 16 at 7.30pm.

For more information, email or find Henley-on-Thames WI on Facebook.


ON February 7 president Frankie Macmillan welcomed members to the annual meeting.

The current members of the committee were willing to serve for another year (apart from Edna Ansell who has regretfully had to resign) and were voted back into office.

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

The financial statement prepared by the treasurer was read in her absence by the secretary and showed our accounts are in good order.

Unfortunately, we did not raise as much money as we hoped last year, despite it being a festival year. We will therefore have to do a little fund-raising this year.

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

The secretary then gave a detailed report on the activities of the institute during 2017.

We had a wide range of interesting speaker subjects during the year, from pearls to the Albert Hall, forensics to ballet, bees to Britain’s mammals and a vicar’s wife from Germany.

We also took part in the Wargrave Festival and had an outing to Loseley Park.

The president thanked the committee and members for their continued support and hard work.

The vote of thanks to the committee and president was given by Pam Ziffo.

Our guest speaker for the evening was Linda Fawke with a talk entitled “Becoming a writer”.

She explained she had always loved writing and would write anytime and anywhere.

Linda writes both fiction and non-fiction. She started writing on her retirement from her professional life as a pharmacist in industry. Until then all her writing had been scientific.

Embarking on a correspondence course with the Writers Bureau, which covered a wide range of writing, she found it was very commercially biased as they actually expected her to sell her work.

Fortunately, she did sell a number of non-fiction articles to magazines, including Berkshire Life and Reader’s Digest, among others.

Linda explained that finding out what the magazines want is important and that it is extremely difficult to get fiction published.

She discovered National Novel Writing Month, which happens every year and challenges a writer to submit 50,000 words written in the month of November.

This task completed and the manuscript submitted, Linda’s husband welcomed her back to the real world by opening a bottle of champagne!

She then had the rough outline of a story and decided to work on it.

She edited it, expanded the plot and the word count (a novel is about 80,000 words) and got it into as good a state as possible.

After exploring the publishing world, publishing houses, editors and agents, she was introduced to an editor who looked at the novel and suggested some improvements and recommended Linda self-published, which she did.

She then read us the prologue to her book, which is called A Taste of His Own Medicine. The sequel comes out later this year.

Linda certainly shared her passion for writing with us and we wish her every success with the new novel.


GRAHAM KIRBY stepped in at the last moment and gave us a fascinating and informative talk on the history of coins.

We were able to handle ancient coins, many of which told us the story of times past with pictures. Some of the coins were large and others tiny.

We will now look more closely at the coins we use today and realise the information they give for future generations.

Irene Lindsay and Miriam Armstromg supplied an enjoyable tea and Irene was brought spring flowers.

Our annual meeting will take place at Peppard war memorial hall on March 14 from 2pm.


OUR annual meeting took place on February 12.

Daphne Austen, our president, opened the meeting and welcomed all and our guest Wendy Robinson, a Denman representative.

Apologies were given for Caroline Leeming, June Shelton and Blanche Williams.

Prior to the meeting, 17 members enjoyed a delicious lunch provided by Carol Wissett, Rosemary Pratt, Irene Parker and the committee.

The minutes of January’s meeting were read and duly accepted.

Enid Light has tendered her resignation from the committee after many years as secretary. She was genuinely thanked for all her work. Irene Parker and Pat Sly are now sharing the secretary’s job.

The result of the vote for the resolution to go forward to the National Federation’s annual meeting in June is “Mental health matters”.

A quiz evening had been held at Knowl Hill where our team, though not winners, had not disgraced themselves and enjoyed the occasion hugely.

A 2019 “village book” is to be produced and members were asked to produce drawings, photos etc. Jim Bland is to be asked for the latest on Remenham.

Future dates include a “ladies’ lunch” on May 21 and a talk called “Mrs Beeton, my sister” at Woodley on May 11.

Joy O’Brien was awarded the cup for the most helpful member.

Birthday posies were presented to Anne Francis, Irene Parker, Yvonne Stevens, Joyce Tivey and Carol Wissett.

Several WI policies were put forward and discussed, such as “our membership and committee, how to behave” and “safeguarding children and vulnerable adults”.

It was decided that WIs do not work with either group unless they have representatives from the relevant associations. Both were voted on and carried.

Anne Francis then presented the financial statement up to December 31, 2017.

After all our expenses and several charitable donations to Camp Mohawk, Denman College, Remenham parochial church council and Berkshire WI headquarters, our finances showed a small profit.

We were reminded we must continue to fund-raise as the cost of our monthly meetings amounts to £1,000. The accounts were examined by Richard Fletcher, who is happy to continue for a further year.

Anne Francis was sincerely thanked for all her work and for the excellent outings she had arranged, which were much appreciated.

Irene Parker read the annual report and was duly thanked.

Wendy Robinson took us through the voting. Daphne Austen is to continue as president and members of the committee are to stay the same with Jen Terry the only new member. All carried.

Wendy Robinson gave her Denman report, saying the college had hoped to raise £2 million but had so far had raised £500,000. The appeal closes at the end of March.

Judy Palmer thanked Wendy and presented her with a small bouquet.

Our next meeting will be on March 12, when Vanessa Davis will give us “Exercises, all for you”.

The meeting ended with much happy gossip.


PRESIDENT Margaret Pyle welcomed all members and visitors to our February meeting on a rather cold but sunny afternoon.

She then handed over to the secretary Mary Robinson, who drew our attention to various items in Berkshire WI News.

These included the spring annual council meeting to be held at the Palmer Building of the University of Reading on Monday, April 9 when the speaker will be Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE.

There will be other speakers and topics covered so it should be an interesting morning.

Mary also mentioned a photographic workshop on Friday, March 23 and a talk about glaucoma on Tuesday, March 27 plus other items taking place during the year.

The treasurer Judith Sharp then reminded us that subscriptions for 2018 were due, while the balance for the visit to The Mill at Sonning would be due at the March meeting.

She told us that the raffle at the January meeting cleared £27 and the bring and buy table raised £15.40. Thanks to all who donated. Several blankets and baby clothes for the Royal Berkshire Hospital were also donated — keep those knitting needles going as there is never enough!

Margaret Pyle went on to tell us that, unfortunately, two of our members, Rita Bush and Jennifer Poska had passed away.

The book club met in February and the Scrabble group met twice. In January, the film club saw Darkest Hour, which was enjoyed by all.

Margaret then introduced our speaker Alix Booth, who spoke about “Entertaining children through puppets”. This proved to be a very entertaining show.

Alix had with her many different hand puppets and she told a story about the sounds that animals make. As we were supposed to be three-year-olds, it was very funny.

Finally, everyone was given a hand puppet and Alix demonstrated how to use it before the afternoon finished with about 50 women doing the hokey cokey with their puppets!

Many thanks to Alix for a very entertaining afternoon which put a smile on all our faces.

Finally, we came to our usual cup of tea and biscuit and the raffle draw.

The next meeting will be on March 7 and will be our annual meeting.

We meet at St Barnabas’s Church hall, Emmer Green, on the first Wednesday of the month at 2pm.


PRESIDENT Joan Jolley opened the February meeting with her usual warm welcome. We had one visitor and Joan hoped that she would enjoy her afternoon with us.

Outings secretary Sue Lines gave an update on forthcoming visits to Burford, Leander Club and Kensington Palace.

Public affairs secretary Janet Matthews updated us on the progression of last year’s resolutions and what, initially, will happen with our choice for 2018.

Our speaker this month was Kamran Irani, chairman of SERV OBN, a rapid response medical transport service delivering blood, platelets, plasma, samples, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, X-rays, scans, breast milk and other urgent medical items out of hours, free of charge in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Northamptonshire.

Riders, both men and women, are on call from 7pm to 6am each weekday and for 24 hours on Saturdays and Sundays and public holidays.

They are all volunteers, working from home on a rota system.

The “blood bikers” save the NHS thousands of pounds each year because otherwise hospitals would have to use taxis or couriers, or even take an ambulance off the road to deliver these items.

SERV is a registered charity and receives no government funding, relying on donations and sponsorship.

Eddie Stobart fans take note — each motorcycle is named after a famous lady in medicine.

Kamran’s cycle was called Sophia Jex-Blake, a tenacious fighter for women to have the right to become doctors.

He was an excellent speaker, obviously very proud of SERV, and we were all very impressed with what he told us about this little known, unseen emergency service.

A lovely tea was served by hostesses Eve Staley and Rachel Lloyd.

The flower of the month competition was won by Pauline Watkins with a spray of mimosa and Pippa Hughes won the competition for an heart-shaped object.

Our meetings are held at Shiplake Memorial Hall every third Wednesday of the month at 2.30pm, except August.

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


OUR president Jenny Ward welcomed 47 members, three guests and our speaker Tom Way to the February meeting.

Cards had been sent to members who were unwell or needed support. The 120 items we collected for Nomad had now been delivered. This is a Henley charity which supports families and young people.

Our treasurer reported that subscriptions for the year had been received and were being accounted for in the usual way. She explained how the subscription was used.

Gill Hayward reported on the February coffee morning and told members what a special occasion it was.

We donate funds raised at our monthly coffee mornings throughout the year to local community projects.

This year, we were proud to be able to support six such causes.

A cheque for £150 was given to each of the following: Sonning Common Lunch Club, Club SC (youth club), First Responders, the Friends of Sonning Common Library, Greenshoots and Headway Thames Valley.

Each cause sent a representative to receive their cheque and each said how much the donations were appreciated and how they would be used.

The village hall looked spring-like with daffodil table arrangements made by Sue Hedges.

There were the usual sales tables offering books, costume jewellery, craft items and hand-made greetings cards as well as seasonable produce and gifts on offer from our regular visitors from Greenshoots.

There was a lovely smell of coffee coming from the kitchen.

Gill told members that she and Alison Bishop had started the village coffee mornings under the umbrella of our WI in 2013 to enable anyone to join us for a cup of coffee and a chat.

She was delighted with their continued success and that they were now a regular and popular village event that our WI was proud of.

Gill thanked the fund-raising committee, comprising Wendy Dean, Jane Handley, Chris Marsh, Sandra Rhodes, Barbara Sadler and Rose Prynn, for their hard work and support.

Also thanked were the members who help each month in so many ways and also the members who come each month for a coffee and a chat, bringing with them friends and neighbours who may not be able to go out very often.

Our WI is very proactive in supporting the WI campaign to help alleviate loneliness. Everyone agreed that it had been a wonderful morning. Marion Bayliss reported on the craft group whose membership is now 16.

We made “Bev’s boxes”. Beverley Porteous had the almost impossible task of teaching 16 ladies how to do this.

The boxes are made by folding two sheets of craft paper in a very intricate pattern so they need no glue or fixings. It is purely the manner in which it is folded that keeps the box together.

Everyone produced a box or two and was very pleased with their efforts.

It was lots of fun and, at times, very frustrating but Beverley did a super job of passing another skill to the craft club.

Next month we will be making felt brooches and will have a demonstration by Sue Hedges of how to make a hand-tie of flowers.

Sue Hedges reminded members that Age UK would be starting a film club in the village hall and the first film would be Mamma Mia!

Films will be shown on the fourth Thursday of each month at 2.30pm and the screenings will be open to all (with refreshments).

Jenny Ward updated members on the Denman Appeal, which closes at the end of March. She explained that the funds were needed for the upkeep of the building.

Sonning Common WI has sent just over £2,000, which was raised at car boot sales.

Jenny explained the “Denman Dip” to new members and details with envelopes could be found on the information table.

Alison Bishop then introduced our speaker.

Tom Way is an award-winning wildlife photographer and spends six months of the year working in Africa.

However, on this occasion he spoke about photography in the UK and the wonderful wildlife we have in our own countryside.

He showed some wonderful slides of birds and animals. There were red kites, buzzards, deer, foxes, badgers and owls as well as some absolutely wonderful pictures of kingfishers, which are so difficult to spot.

He spends hours in hides or up to his waist in rivers and he can wait days for the perfect shot. He talked of getting the lighting right by getting up before dawn for the sunrise and also at the end of the day for the sunset. These hours were his favourite time to be out and about.

Tom did not set out to be a wildlife photographer but soon realised that his hobby was what he wanted to do full-time.

He now has a very successful career in wildlife photography and we were privileged to share some of his wonderful work.

We were able to purchase some of his greetings cards featuring the animals and birds from his slides.

The vote of thanks was given by Barbara Asher who said the presentation was interesting and entertaining and provided an understanding of the sheer effort and determination that wildlife photographers need to get the right shot at the right time.

The competition for a love poem was won by Barbara Pike with Jenny Ward second and Ruth Whittaker third.

The flower of the month winner was Jo Denslow. Jenny closed the meeting and wished everyone a safe journey home.


WE had something of a “knees-up” our 62nd birthday last month!

The four-person folk group Pandemonium entertained with appropriate songs, including Knees Up Mother Brown and My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean.

We even did the actions to “Heads, shoulders, knees and nose” (who wants to touch their toes anyway!)

We heard a few announcements, including details of the group meeting which we will soon be hosting and the extra interest groups we run.

We will hold a coffee morning on March 24 at Woodcote community hall between 10am and noon to raise funds. We always get a steady flow of regular customers.

This was followed by our birthday supper, to which we had invited a few extra guests plus Pandemonium, and featured an iced birthday cake, cream scones and the usual savoury selection surprises.

In March we will hold our annual meeting, when we elect a new committee and hear reports of the past year and we can look through the current scrapbook to remind us of our many activities since 2016.

We will also have a representative from Riding for the Disabled to tell us about its work locally to help disabled children enjoy horses and ponies. Members were reminded to bring a horse-related item for the competition and a fish-related one for the group meeting.


IN February we had an interesting talk by Catherine Jones, alias Kate Lace.

She told us what had prompted her to join the Women’s Royal Army Corps.

After having a family and retiring from the army, she decided to try her hand at writing. She joined forces with Annie Jones to produce several books.

She is now a successful author under her own name, Kate Lace and the pseudonym Fiona Field.

Our WI had our new year’s party at the Social Club in Watlington. We were all warmly welcomed and sat down to enjoy the delicious food as we caught up with friends.

Our stitch & knit group went to Lady Sew & Sew in Henley, where we restocked our stashes. Afterwards we moved on to the Field Kitchen in Nettlebed for a tasty lunch.

We will have a coffee morning on March 17 at 10am in the Drop-in Centre in High Street.

There will be delicious home-made cakes to go with the coffee, so please come and support our WI.


TWENTY-SIX members attended our February business meeting, which was followed by a talk called “Royal weddings” by Catherine Sampson.

She spoke not about the more recent and forthcoming weddings but looked back as far as 1297 when Joan of Acre married her first royal husband (she followed him with two more).

Elizabeth Woodville secretly married Edward IV in 1464, George I (1714-1727) had two wives before marrying a third time.

This was a lively and entertaining account through the centuries which filled in some of the history we missed at school.

We held a coffee and cake morning at the Art Café on Saturday, February 17 which was well attended and raised funds for the Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed which we shall be visiting in March.

Other events we are looking forward to include our 65th birthday lunch in April and our annual outing in June.

These are in addition to our normal monthly business meetings.

One of our resolutions at the 2017 National Federation’s annual meeting was on the subject of “Alleviating loneliness”.

After discussion, several members have now volunteered to organise a sub-committee to put various suggestions into action.

Whitchurch Hill WI has been instrumental in organising the Pang Valley Group, which comprises seven WI branches that meet a couple of times a year and may combine on certain events.

It is planning a cheese and wine evening plus a speaker in May and will hold its annual meeting in October.

We have business meetings with a speaker on the third Tuesday of most months and we also plan a social or craft morning, or possibly a walk and pub lunch, usually on the first Tuesday of the month.

Our monthly meetings take place at Goring Heath Parish Hall, opposite St John’s Church on the B471, starting at 10.15am.

Visitors are welcome. For more information, please call 0118 984 1696.


ANN LARDEN welcomed the members and all our guests to our 74th birthday meeting.

The tables looked lovely with the spring flowers, thanks to Margaret Carter.

Jo Seymour and Sylvia Parr ran the raffle.

Our handbell ringer Carol Wheeler — Carol of the Bells — had us singing along with everything from Adele to The Sound of Music. It was mesmerising!

We had a wonderful tea organised by Shirley Bryant, Sally Lambert, Jenny Gough, Kathy Brewer and Patricia Solomons.

Celebrating their birthdays this month were Shirley Bryant, Jean Taplin, Jean Walker and Sylvia Parr who received buttonholes made by Hazel Tagg.

The lunch club will be going to the Perch and Pike at South Stoke.

In May our homes and gardens group will be visiting Waterperry to see the lovely gardens and enjoy some retail therapy!

Come and join us at Woodcote village hall on the third Wednesday of the month at 2.30pm. Just turn up as we would love to see you.

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