Monday, 03 August 2020

Women's Institute roundup

Women's Institute roundup


OUR new president Brenda Hallett welcomed members to the meeting in Benson parish hall on April 18.

She updated us on the formation of the 2018/19 committee, which is made up of the same members as previously but with some of those taking up new roles.

She advised that the Oxfordshire Federation chairman Pauline Goddard had stood down and we expressed our appreciation for her contribution.

Oxfordshire News & Views was discussed and there was an opportunity to sign up for forthcoming events.

Our small outings organiser had arranged lists for visits to the Tiggywinkles hedgehog sanctuary, Yarnton garden centre, Wallingford Museum and our local donkey sanctuary.

Our contribution to the Oxfordshire Federation’s Stitch in Time centenary wall hanging was discussed.

Our president advised members that she had attended the resolutions meeting in Cholsey as it would be relevant to our deliberations at our May meeting.

Brenda then introduced Becca Braithwaite, from Sue Ryder, who spoke about the concept of hospices and the range of services they provide.

Sue Ryder was born in Leeds, one of nine children, and had a Christian upbringing. When she grew up she worked to alleviate the sufferings in the slums and when the Second World War broke out, she joined the First Aid Nursing Corps.

When she returned to England she acquired her first home in Suffolk which provided nursing care and soon acquired other houses, including Joyce Grove in Nettlebed.

Becca went on to explain how the Nettlebed hospice operates.

There is a 12-bed inpatient unit providing 24-hour care, a day hospice and community nurses who are involved in home visits.

This last service is now being expanded as more and more people choose to be cared for at home.

Becca also spoke about the wide range of other services on offer.

Following questions, Brenda thanked her very much for a most interesting and informative talk.

The evening concluded with a raffle and refreshments.

The next meeting will be held at the parish hall on Wednesday, May 16 when we will have an opportunity to discuss the 2018 resolution “Mental health matters”.

On May 12 from 9am to 2pm in the parish hall, we will be supporting the Benson patient participation panel’s Matter of Life and Death event by dispensing refreshments.

On May 19 there will be “A great plastic pick-up” in Benson which our members are hoping to support given that one of the National Federation’s recent resolutions concerned the issue of waste plastic.


TO start the new WI year, we welcomed Sarah Moreland from Reading Voluntary Action.

She is based in Reading central library and the RVA team works with more than 900 charities operating in and around the town, so if you are thinking about volunteering but don’t know what local opportunities there are, these are the people to speak to.

With RVA’s assistance, we are planning to increase the role of Caversham WI in our local community.

If you’d like to know more you can meet us at the kiosk café in Caversham Court Gardens over the second weekend in June (Thursday to Sunday, June 7 to 10).

Next month’s meeting will feature the National Federation’s resolutions discussion. This time we will be discussing why “Mental health matters”.

There has been much positive talk about mental health and the ways that we can all help ourselves and others with our wellness.

We look forward to discussing ways that Caversham WI might be able to help too.

Ladies are very welcome to visit our friendly group. We meet on the third Thursday of the month at 7.30pm, which avoids childcare issues.

There is usually easy parking and a lift to the first floor meeting room at Church House in Prospect Street, Caversham.

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

For enquiries, please call our secretary on 0118 947 5176.


WE welcomed Irene Manson to the April meeting to give an entertaining talk on the history of shoes.

Irene had brought dozens of shoes to show members, from high heels to high tops, and from stilettos to filigree Cinderella slippers.

Margaret Keen formally thanked Irene.

Tea/coffee was served with some of the very nice birthday cake made by Margaret and the members sang Happy Birthday to celebrate Chazey WI’s birthday!

The competition was won by Margaret Keen with Ann Jones second and Helen Hudson third.

The winner of the competitions for the year was Valerie Wing.

The raffle was drawn and one of our visitors won a prize.

Our coffee morning venue was the Herb Farm in Sonning Common and lunch was at the Packhorse.

The book club met at the Caversham Rose, the knitting club carried on and the artists continued to meet.

A group of members attended the Berkshire Federation’s annual council meeting, which was held at Reading University.

The guest speaker was Dame Rabbi Julia Neuberger who was warmly welcomed by our Berkshire president and the audience.

She gave a very interesting and thought-provoking talk on “Combating loneliness”, which was very well received.

Irene was the last speaker to visit Chazey WI for an evening session as this month (May) the group switches to Wednesday afternoon meetings for the first time in its 36-year history.

We meet at Caversham Heights Methodist Church Hall on the corner of Highmoor Road and Woodcote Road in Caversham Heights on the first Wednesday of the month at 2.30pm. We welcome ladies to our meetings. For more information, send an email to


PRESIDENT Adrienne Rance welcomed members and our speaker to the meeting on Wednesday, April 18.

Jeff Nicholls’s talk was entitled “An audience with a mole”.

Once WI business was completed, members enjoyed listening to a fascinating and entertaining talk about this small mammal that has been around for thousands of years.

The presentation took the ladies into a mysterious world that lies beneath our feet.

Mr Nicholls, who developed a passion for the creatures as a boy when he used to catch them, said moles were adapted to a subterranean lifestyle.

They have cylindrical bodies, velvety fur, very small, inconspicuous ears and eyes and short, powerful forelimbs with large paws adapted for digging.

The mole is not seen very often. The heaps of soil (molehills) which it makes while tunnelling give its presence away. In medieval times it was called a moldewarp (earth thrower).

This struck a chord with members, whose lawns are sometimes ravaged in spring time.

Mole eat mainly worms, and other soil-loving bugs and grubs. They do not eat roots of plants or flowers.

They need to eat at least two-thirds of their body weight each day, otherwise they will starve to death.

They are active by day and night, almost continuously digging tunnels in search of food. A mole can run backwards through tunnels and turn right round by doing a somersault. Its velvety fur has no lay so can move in any direction so that the mole does not become stuck against the tunnel walls when squeezing through them.

Their eyes are tiny but sight is not that important for an animal that lives in darkness most of the time.

They have special stir hairs on their body called vibrissae which detect vibrations and a special organ on their nose called an eimers organ which informs them of environmental changes.

The females come into season only once a year — here in the warm south in late February to early March but later in the colder climates. The are fertile for only around 24 hours.

Members learned that although moles spend most of their life underground, they are not blind.

They live for about three to five years but normally only one of a litter will see the following spring.

In the past there used to be professional mole catchers to trap and dig up moles. They would sell the skins to be used for fur trimmings or garments, such as waistcoats. Mr Nicholls’s own waistcoat used some 260 mole skins to make. Mole catchers were once paid for each skin.

Moles are still being trapped but since 2006 the use of poisons is illegal and there are now very few professional mole catchers.

Mr Nicholls was joined on stage by his trusty companion Wart, an animatronic, who sat on a stool complete with his own microphone.

Wart looked like a mole only bigger, having been made especially for Mr Nicholls in America.

He was a unique character that interacted with Mr Nicholls and even answered questions from the audience. The members were enthralled.

Members then enjoyed a delicious tea prepared and served by Judi Rowlands, Maureen Fennemore and Anne Whittaker.

The next meeting will take place at Crazies Hill village hall on Wednesday, May 16 at 2.30pm, when the speaker will be Aldon Ferguson talking about “The GI brides of World War One”. All are welcome.


IT was the loveliest day of the year when we arrived for our April meeting and even lovelier things were to come when Frances Benton displayed and spoke about her collection of lovely pearl jewellery (more of that later).

But first, as always, our president Val warmly greeted us all and took us through the business and notices of the day.

Pauline Goddard has retired as the chair of the Oxfordshire Federation and has been succeeded by Jane Probitts.

We were reminded that subscriptions for News & Views were due next month and that we would be hosting the next Beechwood Group meeting on October 19 at 2.30pm.

The National Federation’s 2018 resolution is “The importance of care for mental health”.

Our contribution to the centenary wall hanging for the Oxfordshire Federation has been undertaken by Val and she has embroidered a dark green ivy leaf on a green square with our name and founding date stitched in orange thread.

The next lunch club, organised by Millicent, will be at the Shoulder of Mutton in Playhatch on May 8.

Pat Williams of Harpsden WI has sent an invitation to join their outing to Kelmscott Manor on May 31. The cost is £37 with a ploughman’s lunch available.

And now to the beautiful pearls, a grand passion for Frances Benton, who not only designs and makes the jewellery herself using only real pearls, but is also on a mission to raise money for a sensory room for a school for autistic children and teenagers, which she does by donating all profits from the jewellery.

Pearls come in so many different shades of pink, blue, gold, cream, grey and black and you can tell which shade suits you best by laying the pearls on the inside of your arm.

The ancients believed pearls were “dewdrops filled with moonlight”, or the “tears of Aphrodite”.

Cleopatra loved pearls, as does our Queen and there are pearls in the crown jewels.

A very rare teardrop pearl which went to auction many years ago sold for £600,000.

There are freshwater pearls and sea pearls but only one in 10,000 sea oysters will produce a pearl, which they toss out on to the ocean floor.

Frances says the ocean bed is littered with them. No scuba diving, ladies!

During a very tasty tea provided by Jennifer and Margaret, we had a great time trying on the jewellery and wished Margaret a very happy birthday.

Our next meeting will be held at Greys village hall on May 16 at 2.30pm.

Adam Roberts, professor of English literature at the University of London, will discuss the art of storytelling, from caveman to cartoons, and the importance of reading to children and grandchildren.

If you can get out of the house for a few hours in the afternoon (there’s never much on TV anyway), come and enjoy our speaker plus a nice cup of tea. We’ll be very pleased to see you.


OUR president Jo Martin welcomed 31 members and our newest member, Jeannie Hampton, to the April meeting.

Our speaker was Neil Flint, from the NHS Chiltern and Aylesbury Vale Clinical Commissioning Groups, who told us about local developments in Buckinghamshire’s healthcare.

Views and suggestions were sought from members.

The drama group is meeting this month and is preparing for some Christmas entertainment.

The Hambleden Hikers will be walking on Wednesday, May 9 and will be enjoying the bluebells around Skirmett.

Our book club is meeting on May 17 and will be discussing Dadlands by Keggie Carew.

A few members went to the Ridge WI, Slade Group meeting and enjoyed an interesting talk on everyday life in Russia — political issues were definitely not on the agenda!

Helen Balkwell gave an account to the group of our activities over the last year.

Sarah Williams and Helen Grubb are running a felt- making workshop on May 10 and, if there are more than six members interested, they will put it on again.

There are two trips organised — an evening visit to Luxters Vineyard on May 8 and to the Blenheim Palace Flower Show on June 22.

Our next meeting will be at Hambleden village hall on Thursday, May 10 at 7.30pm. This will be our resolutions meeting where we will be discussing “Mental health matters”.

The competition for the Wilson Cup will be a flower arrangement in a teacup.

For more information about our branch and to see our 2018 programme, please visit


PAT EADES presided over the first meeting of the new WI year when there was a slightly lower turnout of members. Were the absentees still on their Easter holidays?

Pat was happy to announce that a recently sadly departed member had left £500 for the benefit of all Harpsden WI members.

It was agreed that this should be used at the November meeting, which takes the form of lunch at Henley Golf Club.

News & Views contained the 92nd chairman’s letter from Pauline Goddard as she steps down and takes on other duties on the Oxfordshire Federation committee.

The resolution to be put forward at the National Federation’s annual meeting in Cardiff on June 6 concerns mental health issues.

Suzanna Rose from Harpsden WI was asked to speak at a discussion meeting at Cumnor village hall on April 21 as she is a specialist in this field of health.

The home and garden committee of the Oxfordshire Federation has an outing to Malmesbury Abbey on the July 12.

Ian and Barbara Pollard bought the abbey in 1994 and set about transforming the gardens. There are now more than 10,000 different plants on view, so this should provide a spectacular display.

Shirley Weyman gave her delegate’s report of the annual meeting in Oxford.

There were good speakers, a satisfactory financial statement and a pleasant, new venue. However, there was a distinct lack of toilets for the 400 people attending!

Patricia Williams gave details of a visit to Kelmscott Manor on July 31 at a cost of £37.

The warden of the Warburg Nature Reserve, near Nettlebed, entertained us with superb slides and an interesting talk on the work of the reserve.

The reserve opened in 1959 thanks to the enthusiasm of Dr Warburg. Vera Paul, who was a teacher at Henley Grammar School, was also instrumental in setting up the reserve.

It was originally a member of the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Naturalist Trust, now known as BBOWT as the “naturalist” has been replaced with “wildlife”.

Giles Alder took members through the seasons of the year, showing the plants available and the wildlife around at different times.

At present, in spring, there are beautiful anemones and bluebells. Later on, the orchids will flower with 15 different species being found at Warburg.

Giles’s photographs of these were so beautiful, as were the hellebores.

Various moths and butterflies fly around during the summer.

In autumn the woodlands turn to glorious reds, yellows, browns and golds and the views across the valley are stunning.

Red Kites and buzzards fly around the tree tops, making their distinctive calls.

There are barn owl boxes on the reserve and the chicks have been ringed for future reference.

Badgers are very active as they enjoy the wet weather — there has been plenty of that in recent months.

The nocturnal dormice, with their large eyes and whiskers, also have nesting boxes. There are several species of bat also.

It was a surprise to learn that there is livestock on the reserve — lovely Jacob sheep and Hebridean cattle.

A circular wildlife walk of one mile takes about 45 minutes, or longer if you take your time and linger. The slower you go, the more you see.

Volunteers are very necessary for the continued excellence of this reserve and if you feel like offering to help, call (01491) 642001.

Judith Young gave the vote of thanks to Giles for such a delightful talk.

The competition was for a wildlife picture and Joan Hoyes and Judith tied for first place.

The May meeting will be held at Harpsden village hall on May 9 at 2.30pm, when the resolution for the National Federation’s annual meeting in Cardiff will be discussed.

There will be a talk about Denman College, so if you have never been there, now is your chance to find out about its history and what goes on there.


AT our April meeting committee member Susannah welcomed everybody and gave an update on the May fair contributions and help with the stall.

Alison went through News & Views and then introduced our guest speaker Ravi Singh, a local nutritionist and fully qualified chef.

Ravi runs bespoke cooking classes in Henley (My Healthy Energising Kitchen) and had come to talk to us about eating for a healthy lifestyle while demonstrating some simple but delicious dishes.

He talked about developing a healthy relationship with food to help with disease prevention, weight loss or hormonal balance.

There was lots of good advice on how to utilise different herbs, spices and minerals such as selenium, which is a good stress-buster. It is found in milk so a soothing warm milk at bedtime is not just an old wives’ tale!

Ravi was knowledgable, interesting and interested. He answered all our questions while delighting our taste buds with his dishes.

Everybody had a fabulously yummy evening and left with several recipes to try at home.

At our next meeting on May 18 we are very excited to be having a Bollywood night. Please come along and bring a friend and your dancing shoes!

It will be held at our new venue, Sacred Heart church hall, Walton Avenue, Henley, just off Vicarage road.


AT our meeting on April 4, village Sue Milton gave a talk entitled “The five-day swan upping”.

This was illustrated with many wonderful photographs gathered by the speaker over the 21 years she has been following the event. There were also some historical records of the occasion.

Swan upping normally takes place in the third week in July. The course on the Thames is from Sunbury to Windsor, Marlow and as far as Abingdon.

The recording of swans, or rather who owned them, began as early as the 12th century.

Swans were brought to this country from the Mediterranean, possibly as gifts from one monarch to another. As the birds bred and their numbers increased, they were given as favours from the monarch to noblemen.

As the swans proliferated and flew off, it became very difficult to prove ownership, so marking the beaks with complicated patterns became the norm.

Later, nicking beaks was adopted and this method was used until 21 years ago when the RSPB stated it was a cruel action and stressful for the birds and it was decided to conduct a census using coloured metal leg rings.

The census also assesses the health of the swans and their cygnets. Education plays an important part of swan upping with schoolchildren along the Thames invited to meet the uppers to talk about the conservation of birdlife and learn about the boats used and the river.

There are now only three owners of swans, the Queen, with livery men dressed in red, the Worshipful Order of Vintners in white livery and the Worshipful Order of Dyers in blue livery.

The Queen's swan marker or master is David Barber, who is responsible for organising the census. It is an official office in the royal household.

A large triple skiff rowed as a randan carries the equipment needed for catching and ringing the swans.

These are followed by three larger craft with everything else needed for the expedition.

The press are taken in an umpire launch only for the first four days. On the fifth day the amateur photographers have a chance to take their own pictures.

Swans are trapped by the boats encircling small flocks and then holding them by the neck in order to inspect the metal rings.

In July the birds have lost their main flight feathers so cannot fly away and the cygnets have not yet developed theirs.

There were many amusing little anecdotes about the swan uppers drinking toasts to the Queen while standing in salute in moving boats at Romney lock and in various other locations.

Along with calling for coffee, lunch and supper at some riverside hostelries, it seems like a very enjoyable expedition.

The talk was very informative and well-illustrated by Sue’s wonderful photographs.

The vote of thanks was given by Kate Emerton.

A draw was held for the Denman bursary and the recipient was Sheena Vercoe. There was a bring and buy stall in aid of the Associated Country Women of the World.

The meeting in June will be our annual outing to Mottisfont and the national collection of pre-1900 shrub roses. The house, which was founded in 1201 as an Augustinian priory, is opening for viewing.


ELIZABETH HAZELDINE held all present spellbound as she told us about “Characters of Henley”. We could have listened to her all afternoon as she got us all interested in the history of this special town.

Veronica Townsend provided us with an excellent tea and Katie Anderson brought a lovely spring flower arrangement.

Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, May 9 at the home of Irene Lindsay from 2pm for our resolutions meeting.


THE April meeting opened with our president Daphne Austen welcoming all present.

There were five apologies, and four members received birthday posies — Daphne Austen, Caroline Leeming, Enid Light and Sue Sharp.

There were many notices, The Berkshire book is nearly ready. It includes a photograph of Culham Court and several local sketches by Judy Fraser.

There is a date for a tea party with Mrs Beeton’s sister to which several members are going.

On July 12 Remenham WI is having its summer outing to Hughenden Manor and a visit to Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. Members were asked for fund-raising ideas and ways to attract new members.

A report from the Berkshire spring conference — Dame Rabbi Neuberger asked members to remember the lonely and to try to visit as a chat means so much.

The Associated Country Women of the World is raising money to send sewing machines to the women of Pakistan.

Michael Longsmith reported success with the homeless in Reading by giving them shelter in double decker buses.

Our president then introduced Carol Wheeler, who is a handbell ringer and, surprisingly, performs solo. Her bells come from America and have plastic handles. They are expensive — a set of four bells costs £4,500.

Carol played along with many well-known pieces, including How Great Thou Art, Candle In the Wind, Beatles songs, Summertime, As Time Goes By and finishing with Jerusalem.

We were all invited to have a go and some did better than others!

Jen Terry gave an appreciative vote of thanks for giving us such a fun afternoon.

Tea, which was by provided by Jen and Sheila with a lot of help by Carol, was much enjoyed.

Our next meeting will be at Remenham village hall on May 14 at 2.30pm.

Annabel Hill will tell us about “Amazing times at Camp Mohawk”. All are very welcome.


WE were welcomed to our April meeting by our new president Arlene Riley, who extended greetings to all members and visitors present.

Arlene then said that the report for the March meeting was available for all to see.

Secretary Mary Robinson told us that the bulb order forms had been received and would need to be completed by June 1 if anyone was interested.

Mary also said that she had received a plea from the Royal Berkshire Hospital saying that it was desperately in need of blankets for the dementia patients. These need to be about 1m square, so come on, knitters, get those needles clicking!

Treasurer Judith Sharp informed us that the balance of the payment to the Mill at Sonning was now due.

Those wishing to purchase a 2019 diary should contact Judith — they cost £4.70. Judith also reported that in March the sales table and raffle had done very well, amassing a total of £50 between them.

We now have 65 paid-up members.

Arlene told us that Margaret Seal was unwell so no birthday buttonholes were handed out. The April birthday people will receive theirs with those who have birthdays in May.

The Scrabble club met twice in April and the book club once. There hasn’t been a suitable film to see but Barbara Wood will continue to look out for one. The lunch club hopes to meet in the Oracle in Reading sometime this month.

Arlene then told us of a bakery demonstration to take place next year (it is fully booked this year) and informed us that it would cost approximately £12 and a board would be sent round later for those who might be interested.

Margaret Pyle has agreed to be vice-president along with Barbara Wood.

Margaret is also working on providing information for the Berkshire village book to mark the centenary of Berkshire WI.

The business of the afternoon now over, we were then introduced to our speaker, John Caldecott who gave a fascinating talk (with slides) about “The history of Thomas Coram’s foundling hospital”.

The charity was founded in 1739 by Captain Thomas Coram, who wanted to help the abandoned children left dying on London’s streets.

Two of its patrons were William Hogarth and George Handel.

After telling us the story of the charity, John went on to say that he had been one of the children helped by the charity.

He attended school and was brought up in the harsh regime of the charity.

He showed us the uniform that he used to wear and this was made of a very hard-wearing cloth, which looked very smart.

A very interesting talk. Thank you again, John.

Finally, we had the usual cup of tea followed by the raffle.

The next meeting was to be at St Barnabas’ Church hall in Emmer Green on May 2 as we always meet on the first Wednesday of the month.


PRESIDENT Joan Jolley welcomed members to the meeting on April 18.

She started the meeting by introducing the speaker, Andy Thomas, whose talk was entitled “The mystery of crop circles” and they certainly were mysterious.

Andy explained that crop circles were known about in the 17th century and he showed some amazing pictures of crop circles from the Thirties and Forties. They became more evident in the Seventies and the pictures showed that the crops are laid flat and not cut.

So how were they created? Some people assumed it was the weather that causes them but their patterns became more complicated and by the Eighties it was clear they couldn’t be explained by weather alone.

By the Nineties the patterns became bigger and more complex, including hieroglyphics, and there was press speculation as to their origins.

Andy showed some comparison photos where the crop circle had been man-made and it was clear that the crops in these had been damaged but in the pictures of true crop circles there was no sign of damage.

Many scientific papers have been written about crop circles and some blame chemical imbalance or soil changes and some theories suggest wild animals or drones are responsible.

There have been 10,000 recorded crop circle formations and their locations have also given rise to theories.

In the UK there is a pattern of them on the chalk aquifers — one theory is that the underground water can create pressure or hot spots. There is evidence that some crop circles have appeared in just a few hours and experiments have been carried out to see how quickly a man-made crop circle can be made.

It can take a group of people many days to copy the design of an existing crop circle and it would not be nearly so accurate.

Crop circles are reported less in the press these days but that does not mean there are fewer of them, just that reporters are not able to explain them.

Some of the recent ones include binary code messages, symbols, rudiments of pi and 3D towers, making the whole phenomenon more of a mystery and more difficult to understand.

After the talk, Joan Jolley gave a short report on the Beechwood Group meeting.

Janet Matthews gave some information on the Oxfordshire Federation’s resolution, which is “mental health matters” and told us about the “plastic soup” campaign and the online survey about washing.

She also mentioned the food poverty and food waste debate and asked members to remember to donate suitable food to Tesco or Binfield Heath Stores.

Members were reminded to contact Pam Hudgell who would take the bulb orders.

In Sue Lines’s absence, Joan told the meeting about arrangements for the visits to Burford and Leander Club in Henley.

Joyce Vernon announced that the next walk would be on May 15 and the walkers would meet at The Maltsters Arms pub in Rotherfield Greys.

Joan then reviewed some of the items in News & Views.

After the business, members enjoyed a very tasty tea provided by tea hostesses Paula Benham and Barbara Rowlett.

The winner of flower of the month was Frances Lefebure with a pretty camellia and second was Joan Jolley with a tiny cowslip.

The winner of the competition was Viv Ellis with some intricate corn dollies. The May meeting will be the resolution meeting. Visitors are always welcome. More details about Shiplake WI can be found on the villages’ website.


APRIL began with our monthly village coffee morning, which is open to all.

In addition to a tombola and sale tables, we welcomed a representative from Age UK Oxfordshire.

This will be a regular feature, providing information and advice and the chance to recommend a film for itsdmonthly film club for the over-50s.

We welcomed Greenshoots with it regular stall selling produce and gifts.

That evening members of the darts group met at the Hare and Hounds for a game, refreshments and chat, though not necessarily in that order!

The next day the craft group was busy making hand ties under the guidance of Sue Hedges.

In the afternoon the Scrabble group met for a game and fun.

At our monthly meeting Alison Bishop introduced Simon Williams, who spoke on “Cons, conmen and ways to avoid them”.

In this humorous, but informative, talk Simon described some notorious conmen, such as Victor Lustig who sold the Eiffel Tower twice.

He made a fortune before he was finally arrested and sent to prison for 20 years. He died while serving his sentence in Alcatraz.

Simon described another conman, Charles Ponzi, an Italian living in America.

He conned people into believing they could double their money in 90 days.

He was a millionaire in six months thanls to people’s greed and being believable.

Bernard Madoff was another modern conman who is now serving 150 years in prison.

Simon warned if something seemed too good to be true it probably was as the art of the conman was to be believable.

With cyber crime now a growing menace, he suggested ways to be safe online, such as taking care not to respond to suspect emails, using virus protection and not storing personal
information on your computer. Simon finished demonstrating a heads or tails confidence trick which encouraged spending more and more after some early, engineered success.

The next week the Age UK film Seven Brides For Seven Brothers was enjoyed by a number of members and we were able to help with serving cake and drinks before the screening.

Our busy month finished by serving cake and drinks when volunteers returned from litter-picking as part of the Sonning Common spring clean.


YOU could say there was a strong element of luck at our recent meeting. In her annual meeting report from Oxford, our president and delegate Sandra announced that one of our members had won a cheque from the 400 club draw and our secretary had won the top table flower arrangement in the raffle.

Later, in our own meeting, the draw for the Denman bursary took place. The two lucky winners were Penny Noble and Sheila Griggs, who will now have the pleasure of choosing from the brochure a course to go on.

Our speaker was the enthusiastic beekeeper Steve Moll.

We found out that honey bees are the only ones of their species not to hibernate in the winter so if you see a bee out flying on a warmish day in winter, it will always be a honeybee, either from the wild or from a hive.

Many other fascinating facts emerged and we all enjoyed Steve’s illustrated talk.

The walk this month starts at the Herb Farm in Sonning Common, returning there afterwards for refreshments. The craft and book groups met as usual at the start of the month and diners went for an Indian meal locally.

The next meal will be at Loch Fyne in Henley and the next walk is in Pangbourne (hopefully the rain-soaked meadow will have dried out by then).

The craft and book groups will meet again slightly later than usual because of the bank holiday.

We collected our very interesting-looking programme cards and trips were signed up for over a splendid supper.

The evening finished with the raffle and competition results.

This month we were the host WI for a group meeting of seven local WIs.

We were pleased to see HOT (Henley-on-Thames) WI represented for the first time in the newish Beechwood Group.

The speaker was the fishmonger from Reading, who had many tales to tell, not all fish-related but amusing nevertheless.

We then treated the visitors to a proper tea, served on three-tiered cake stands, and this was very much enjoyed judging from the comments received.

Our president taxed our brains with a table quiz and gave out small prizes to the winners.

Our catering team and helpers had done a great job with the refreshments and were wholeheartedly thanked for their extra effort.

Table flowers featured in the raffle and each table had a lucky place number who took home the table flowers, also supplied by us.


THE speaker at our April meeting was Roselle Hyman.

She is a member of Wild Oxfordshire and spoke to us about bumble bees, which are in decline.

There are more than 270 bee species and Roselle illustrated for us the life cycle of the queen bumble bee.

The decline is due to disease, climate and the type of flowers grown in our gardens.

Many of the annuals are sterile, having no nectar or scent. We should all plant for the good of bees.

The next meeting will be our garden party.

As we will be celebrating 85 years of Watlington WI, we hope to provide a really special party. More details to follow.

On July 11 Alistair Hodgson will be giving us a talk on the de Havilland Aircraft Museum.

This will be an open meeting, so if you are interested in this talk you would be very welcome as you don’t have to belong to the WI.

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


IN early April, members gathered at Goring Heath parish hall for their 65th birthday lunch.

There was a good selection of quiches and salads followed by the usual tempting array of creamy, fruity and exotic puddings.

It was a good social gathering, affording time for members to chat and catch up with the latest information and happenings in the institute and the area.

Our usual business meeting followed a week later, starting with our speaker Jennipher Marshall-Jenkinson who gave us an inspiring and entertaining demonstration of “Microwave Magic”.

We then enjoyed tasting some of her recipes. Teriyaki salmon and cheese and pepperoni chicken and an upside-down Black Forest pudding with cherries were all worth trying.

There was also some useful advice on making full use of a microwave oven.

Looking ahead, we shall have a busy May, starting with a walk and pub lunch, followed by the Pang Valley Group meeting.

Our own business meeting on May 15 will allow time for a discussion and questions on the resolution which will be put to the vote at the National Federation’s annual meeting in Cardiff in June.

We will also be running the tea tent with home-made cakes at the village fete on May 26.

On June 5 our annual outing will be by coach to Mottisfont, an interesting National Trust property near Romsey in Hampshire.

It has a delightful garden, particularly the roses, which should be in full bloom in June.

Later in the month we will have our business meeting with a speaker on “Easier gardening” and a plant sale.

Monthly meetings take place on the third Tuesday of most months except December, starting at 10.15am, at Goring Heath parish hall opposite St John’s Church on the B471. Visitors are welcome. For more information, please call 0118 984 1696.


ANN LARDEN welcomed members to the April meeting on a warm, sunny afternoon. We were very pleased to welcome new member Ann Rossiter.

Birthday girls this month were Margaret Carter, Isobel Lomax, Kathy Cruickshank and Pat Hunt who were presented with a buttonhole each.

Forthcoming events include an afternoon with Sandie Shaw, when you can keep your shoes on, and a trip to Malmesbury Abbey and the Abbey House Gardens.

The lunch club is going to the Reformation at Gallowstree Common.

We had a lovely tea thanks to Connie Vickery, Joan Soanes and Gill Woods.

Our programme for the next year is full of exciting speakers and events. Thank you to Shirley Bryant for her printing skills.

Our speaker this month was James Williams, senior press officer with Thames Valley Police, who gave us a fascinating insight into the work that goes on with the media in helping to solve crime.

The competition winner for an unusual pen was Shirley Bryant and bloom of the month winner was Carole Shelley-Allen.

Woodcote WI meets at the village hall on the third Wednesday of the month at 2.30pm. Come and join us — all welcome.

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