Saturday, 02 July 2022

WI Roundup

WI Roundup


ONCE again, last month was fairly quiet as we are still unable to hold meetings.

We are optimistic that we might be able to meet up just prior to Christmas but things are still very uncertain.

Once we are able to get going again, our members have decided that meetings will move from the third Wednesday evening of the month to the fourth Wednesday afternoon of the month, which will allow us to explore other options on the type of meetings we have.

During October, our members sent good luck wishes to our 17th century Crown Inn here in Benson when it
re-opened. It is always good to see another local business up and running.

As autumn finally set in, we visited our local surgery and pharmacy at various times for our very important flu vaccinations.

Some of our members have also returned to their regular exercise classes where premises have been able to implement covid-safe procedures.

From November onwards, our members will be looking forward to receiving a new restyled monthly Oxfordshire Federation newsletter as a hard copy rather than via the email version received since April.

A few of our members have missed out on the magazine as they are not connected to the internet and most members have expressed a preference to receiving it this way anyway.

At a local level, we continue to keep members updated regularly via email or hand-delivered newssheet and via the Benson Bulletin.

For any enquiries, please call (01491) 837885 or email

Sue Brown


WHAT a year. Our last meeting was in March.

For the last three months, we have managed to meet for coffee/tea outside in some of our local hostelries, umbrellas at the ready.

The committee meets informally every now and then and we deliver the Berkshire WI News between us.

Our local golf clubs have also been very welcoming, making sure that we keep to social distancing rules.

The book club continues to meet on Zoom, a small art group wield their brushes and the knitting group enjoyed meeting outside.

We now get ready for another lockdown, which we hope will finish in time for the festive season.

Carol Briscoe


PRESIDENT Diane Bush is still continuing with her afternoon teas for members — she hosts five members every other week.

We’d really like to thank neighbours in Wargrave and Henley for contributing towards toiletries for patients at the Royal Berkshire Hospital who don’t have anyone to bring them their basic needs. We are very grateful for your contributions.

We heard recently that Denman is up for sale after 72 years of service to the Women’s Institute. It will be a tremendous loss.

The Grade II listed building, formerly Denman College, is a residential adult education college in Marcham, near Abingdon. Denman was founded by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes in 1948.

However, in July the trustees announced that they could no longer afford to run Denman at a loss and proposed its permanent closure.

There is a glimmer of hope, though — a group of interested parties is looking at ways to retain Denman for future generations of WI members. Fingers crossed.

On a more cheerful note, I hope your readers enjoy this stunning autumn photo taken by George Winters in his garden at Lane End leading into Bowsey Woods.

Selina Avent


IN 1955, Greys Women’s Institute adopted a Polish refugee family, then living in Mannheim, Germany, through the Committee for Aid to Displaced Persons. Thus began a long association with the Chiczewski family, (pronounced Heechefskee) — grandmother, daughter and granddaughter. All women.

At once, a parcel was sent to “our” Polish family, containing clothes and knitting wool.

Sadly, the grandmother died only a few months later.

Letters were exchanged, money raised and parcels sent and in 1956 the Chiczewski family wrote to ask for a sewing machine.

One WI member had a very old sewing machine, needing basic repairs. These were carried out and off went the machine, weighing a ton, via the Committee for the Aid to Displaced Persons.

In 1957, Madam Chiczewski wrote to Greys WI expressing a desire for material for a Sunday dress, which was duly sent off — presumably the old sewing machine was still working!

Sadly, the daughter was out of work and decided to leave Germany to look for employment but was not successful.

In 1958, Greys WI raised money to buy her a typewriter so that she could earn her living at home.

In the same year, Mrs Chiczewski wrote to thank us for a pair of shoes, which were “so, so comfortable on my poor feet”.

In the early Sixties, the Chiczewski family found new accommodation.

Immediately money was sent to help with moving expenses but news arrived that they needed new curtains.

The material was bought and made up by Greys members but caused a problem as there are so many regulations regarding parcels sent abroad.

A total of £4 from WI funds allowed it to be sent anyway.

The Chiczewskis had difficulty in transporting the heavy parcel of curtains from the station to their home.

In the end they got a taxi and the driver carried it upstairs.

Sadly, in 1970, news came of the death of Mrs Chiczewski.

Her daughter, Frau Varlamoff, wrote to Greys WI, describing her loneliness and depression after her mother’s death.

She was invited to visit us but couldn’t afford it.

Undaunted, Greys fund-raised to find the money for her to visit us and in July 1971 she arrived.

She handed out chocolates to all members, thanking them for her warm welcome and making her stay so enjoyable.

This inspiring story, which began in 1955, ended tragically when Frau Varlamoff committed suicide in 1972. All Greys members mourned her.

Merryl Roberts


UNFORTUNATELY, just as we were due to restart our programme of talks and socialising, October brought another set of covid-19 regulations and put paid to any plans for formal meetings and gatherings. However, this setback was the catalyst for the creation of the first HOT WI newsletter to connect our members.

Nicola Taylor created a very welcome first edition full of chatty news and ideas for retaining our community spirit and keeping in touch.

A paper copy of each newsletter was delivered by Nicola and Zoe Hawkes on what would have been our first night together since March.

The girls had fun tracking down a number of hidden doors in the Henley darkness and each person received a cake or biscuit (depending on the size of their letterbox), kindly donated by Lawlor’s the bakers.

The committee managed to have a very small meeting, while socially distancing, in the Catherine Wheel, where we struggled to master the new code of conduct in these strange times — downloading QR codes, paying electronically and maintaining social distancing.

But we have a number of ideas in the pipeline to keep the HoT WI family entertained and informed in the coming months of winter.

Anyone interested in making a connection with the Women’s Institute, please look for us on social media as “HoT WI” .

The WI has an official website and there are many offshoots, including the Unofficial WI (with more than 11,000 members) and the WI Wanderers (4,600), on Facebook, which host a number of online events, talks and helpful video links on a whole host of subjects and interests.

Please don’t feel you are alone — even if the WI does not physically meet up, there are lots of ways to remain in touch and there is always someone willing to share cake and a doorstep chat.

Nicola Taylor


AFTER a summer of meeting in socially distanced groups of six in the beautiful garden (and in inclement weather the boathouse) of member Patsy Roynan, we hope to resume meetings via Zoom in November.

Sue Edgell organised a very successful Zoom chat on October 21, which the majority of our members were able to access.

We look forward to our first speaker joining us in November — Aldon Ferguson is talking on “Lady pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary”.

Penny Hampton


MEMBERS were delighted to have the opportunity to meet up with friends in small groups at different venues (at a safe distance) and to learn new skills.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon spent as follows:

Lesson on how to make Christmas posies out of sugar paste and the frill of a cake.

Lesson on how to create a trouser pattern and learning different games. One group had the pleasure of catching up with fellow members over coffee and, last but not least, Barry Wood gave an interesting talk on the history of Greys Court.

These meetings seem to be the solution to getting members together and we have made plans for next month, providing government restrictions allow.

Dr Hasler will talk on general practice. Cross stitching, Christmas wreath- making and line dancing will also hopefully take place.

If you are interested in joining us, do email our president Sandra Rhodes at


ALTHOUGH still unable to meet at the parish hall, Remenham members have been keeping closely in touch.

In addition to the regular telephone calls between members, there are now two “round robin” letters circulating whereby members add their own page and are able to read all the news from everyone else.

This is definitely the time to sit down with a cup of tea and catch up on all the news.

In addition, the first edition of the Remenham WI Rag is about to be printed and circulated to members.

This will keep everyone up to date with WI matters as well as containing snippets of news, items of interest and a quiz or two.

Meanwhile, hoped-for plans are being put in place for the months ahead, although cancellations run apace with diary dates. Positivity remains.

Daphne Austen


THE October Zoom meeting was organised by Helen Robinson and chaired by Joan Jolley.

Twenty-seven members joined in, all waving merrily from their studies and kitchens.

Joan started the meeting by saying how lovely it was to see everyone, then told us the sad news that Brenda Nichol had died.

She sent a condolence card and funeral details would be circulated.

Joan would like everyone to fill in the Count Me In membership survey in the October issue of WI Life.

Rosemary Appleby told the meeting that the 2021 diaries would be arriving soon.

Banba Dawson is sorting out our speakers for next year and has some interesting topics for us to enjoy.

It doesn’t look as though we will be able to use the hall for some time yet.

Banba said that everyone should try to do the virtual tour of David Parr’s house in Cambridge.

It wouldn’t be practical to organise a coach trip as it is a small house and can only accommodate a few visitors at once.

Joan and Rosemary had attended the (virtual) annual meeting of the Oxfordshire Federation in September.

Before the meeting various photos were shown, including one of Shiplake WI ladies on the stall outside the Corner Shop in the village.

Catherine Blaxhall muted everyone and asked them to sing Jerusalem.

The Pat Eades bursary is £800.

Susan Partridge was highly commended in the scarf competition and received a certificate.

Pauline Goddard said that the accounts for 2019 showed a deficit of £7,000 and this year wasn’t looking good either.

Sue Lines announced details of the outings. Ticket money would be refunded for the Dolly Parton trip.

For Pretty Woman, some ladies would like a refund and some are happy to still go to the theatre. Sue has rebooked this for Wednesday, May 26.

Two more Zoom meetings for members have been booked.

On November 11, Tom Way will give a slide show of exotic animals.

On December 16 it will be our Christmas meeting and Joan asked for ideas to make it special. Suggestions were to read a short poem or Christmas story, to wear a festive hat or to make a Christmas decoration.

Joan will let the members know what the plans are at the November meeting.

The Friday walk is continuing — the walkers meet at the Corner Shop at 10am and end with coffee at the Baskerville, normally just after 11am.

Joan said the meeting and chance to chat with the other ladies were uplifting, so if you can’t manage the walk then still join everyone for coffee.

Joan had put together a general knowledge quiz and read out 42 questions. Luckily, it wasn’t possible to call out the answers as we were all muted.

Some of the questions were particularly difficult but it was good to see that memories were still working after months of lockdown.

The ladies were trusted to mark their own answers.

The winner was Janet Matthews with 27. Second was Chris Bickerton with 25 and third was Jennifer Studholme with 24. Congratulations to them.

It was good to catch up with WI friends and we hope more will join us next month.

Everyone waved goodbye and Helen ended the Zoom meeting. Thanks, Helen.

Pam Hudgell


IN these difficult times, members are all trying to support each other.

To keep us all in touch, contact continues via phone, email and a monthly newsletter.

President Sue Frayling- Cork attended the Oxfordshire Federation’s annual meeting via Zoom, which was attended by more than 100 members.

Sue said she found singing Jerusalem while the meeting was muted an interesting and strangely uplifting experience.

The Federation’s News & Views magazine is to be replaced by a new magazine called Oxfordshire Inspires.

Our monthly committee meetings are also held via Zoom.

Owing to the weather closing in and current difficulties with holding meetings inside, it is not possible for the craft, darts and Scrabble groups to meet until circumstances improve.

However, in a covid-secure environment. Jenny continues to have second-hand books for sale at 22 Lea Road, Sonning Common, on Wednesdays from 9am to 5pm.

Also on sale are handcrafted greetings cards and Christmas cards made by Jane Handley.

Honey and preserves are sold on behalf of Greenshoots and Peter Turner sells wood-crafted items to raise funds for the Sonning Common First Responders and Friendship In Sickness and Health.

Members have been collecting food and toiletries for Nomad in Henley, which delivers parcels to those in need in the local area. More than 150 donations have been made.

There has been a bubble formed of four members learning and playing canasta.

On four mornings each week members are getting out and about for a walk in the countryside and to enjoy each other’s company.

Brisk walks and fresh air help to get rid of covid blues. Resilience is a great word for the WI — full of hope and remember, in the WI, “You’ll never walk alone”.

Sue Hedges


IN October, we purchased the long licence from Zoom, so that now we are able to conduct full meetings for any length of time.

Forty minutes free was never going to be enough for us once we started chatting!

So, for those of us able to access Zoom, this has meant a return to as near normal meetings as we can get for now and the foreseeable future.

Some of our members have come to adopt this media for the first time, with help from those who have Zoomed before and they have found it not as daunting as they expected.

So we were pleased that more than 20 members attended the first meeting of its kind. We had a speaker from the Sue Ryder Befrienders who was interesting to hear. She told us about, and showed us photos of, their new premises in Preston Crowmarsh, not so far away and described how Befrienders is still working, visiting people towards the end of their lives who request company at home.

With the closure of the Nettlebed hospice, Sue Ryder can no longer provide beds for care but is doing its best to keep up with regular visit requests, often to see the same people once a week.

The talk was followed by a well-researched quiz about cheese.

This meeting should have been our cheese and wine evening, so members entered into the spirit (or wine) of things and could be seen on screen pouring themselves a glass of something and eating cheese.

Notices were then given by our president of the things we are still managing to do by email as well as walks in small groups.

Two separate groups set out on a well-chosen sunny day to go around Stoke Row and its fields, admiring the autumn colours.

Book club folk are emailing their reviews to each other and garden games have been played.

We are doing our best to keep in touch and we look forward to our next Zoom meeting, which is coffee and chat, then our full meeting later in November.

Penny Noble


BACK in February, before covid struck, Diana Young put forward the idea that our members could make something for Remembrance Sunday.

The idea was for our members to knit poppies and to form a collage of these into larger poppies which would be displayed on the town hall gates. Then the coronavirus lockdown happened.

But our members were not downhearted — they knitted and knitted and knitted more than 1,000 poppies.

Most were red to commemorate the sacrifice of so many men and women who have given their lives fighting for their country. Purple poppies were to remember the animals that lost their lives in service and conflict. White poppies were for all victims of war and is now the symbol of peace.

Diana and her husband Michael, who produced the bases for the collages, stapled and glued the poppies on to the bases.

Three large poppies are to be hung on the town hall gates with two small poppies for the Methodist church railings and swags for the two trees either side of the war memorial in High Street. These will be put up before Remembrance Day and will remain for a week after.

The poppies look wonderful so, dear Watlington folk, please make a special effort to see the lovely collages and swags made by our members, many of whom have lived through troubled times and remember loved ones lost in war.

Dawn Matthews


DESPITE the weather and local restrictions, October’s meeting was arranged to take place on our regular third Tuesday of the month.

Whitchurch Hill village green once again played host with, of course, a maximum of six members attending.

For these monthly gatherings, members have been invited to attend on a rota basis, thus allowing everyone who wishes to keep in touch with those they might not see otherwise. Another initiative is the regular opportunities to join in talks and demonstrations provided through our central online training facility.

The latest subjects on offer are very varied. We can learn about cryptic crossword solving, different aspects of the First World War, the royals and photography for beginners as well as various cookery recipes and yoga. The programme of talks and courses changes regularly.

Back on home turf, our committee has started a jigsaw swap between members with a number of folk already signed up.

Tricia Clapp was named as the overall winner of the flower of the month competition for 2020.

Her rose was the outright winner for the month, taking her to the top of the leader board. Well done, Tricia.

Sally Bergmann


THE last few months have highlighted the importance of knowing your local community and supporting each other so this is a brilliant time to try the Women’s Institute.

WI groups’ responses to the practical challenges posed by the coronavirus lockdown have been truly impressive and we continue to be inspired by the activities being delivered to ensure people remain connected during this difficult time.

There are more than 130 WIs in Oxfordshire and they are all going strong.

They are still having excellent meetings with speakers nationwide presenting exciting topics via Zoom.

Many WIs are coming up with creative ways to keep their groups going, such as running virtual meetings, having six-person breakout groups or appointing Zoom buddies to get more people using the software to join in.

New members and those who have not been in any WI during the past 10 years can join from now until March 2021 for just £10.75.

Give it a try — fun and friendship are there for the asking.

For more information, visit

There you can also find your local WI via the postcode search.

Graeme Gettings

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