Saturday, 02 July 2022

WI Roundup

WI Roundup


DURING March, Benson WI members renewed their subscriptions and voted for their committee and new president.

Brenda Hallett, our president for the last three years, stepped down and our secretary Sue Brown was elected to take over.

Our thanks must go to Brenda for looking after us over her time and especially through the last very difficult year.

Our membership has been reduced slightly but we are very pleased to be carrying on into our 95th year.

Our next stage is to form a committee and to think about what we would like to do in the way of a programme. The first thing to do is to have a really good catch-up.

With the easing of covid restrictions on their way, we are looking forward to being able to meet up again and this might be possible in May with an outdoor meeting. Fingers crossed for good weather.

Until then, we continue delivering our newsletter to members and calling each other.

When all is safe and okay to do so, Benson WI meetings will be scheduled for the fourth Wednesday afternoon of each month.

For enquiries, call the president on (01491) 837885 or email

Sue Brown


ON Wednesday, March 17, we held our annual meeting via Zoom.

President Diane Bush welcomed 23 members.

She then reminded us of the history of Cockpole Green WI.

The Mission Hall was built in 1907 to serve as a Church of England church, complete with altar, lectern, font and communion table.

Sermons were held in the hall every Sunday but in the late Seventies the hall was renamed Crazies Hill village hall.

Services were then transferred to St Mary’s Church in Wargrave.

In early September 1932 Lady Carter invited ladies from Remenham, Warren Row and Cockpole Green to her home to discuss the possibility of establishing our own WI in the Mission Hall.

The very first Cockpole Green WI meeting took place in the hall on September 6, 1932, with Lady Carter as the presiding president. The branch will therefore celebrate its 90th birthday on September 6, 2022.

After the agenda was completed, the annual meeting took place with committee members first introducing themselves by waving to the members.

The voting took place en bloc with Adrienne Rance as proposer and Barbara Lloyd as seconder.

After many years of service, president Diane Bush and treasurer Maureen Bunn stepped down.

Many thanks were given to Diane and Maureen for many years of dedicated service. As a thank you, they were presented with beautiful plants for them to enjoy in their gardens.

The new committee of nine members will ensure that our WI will continue to thrive during this difficult time.

Voted in were Judi Rowlands as president and Helen Perry as vice-president. The other roles are treasurer, correspondent secretary, minutes secretary, welfare, programme organiser, general committee member and mcs representative

Many thanks were given to Jean and Pam, who organised 200 bags of toiletries for emergency patients at the Royal Berkshire Hospital/covid-19 support and our knitting group donated three blankets.

Once the business was completed, Helen Perry invited us to join in a quiz entitled “Cities and towns of the UK”.

There were 25 questions. An example: Where was Jane Austen buried? Answer Winchester.

It was very amusing and I for one realised I don’t know my cities very well.

Our next Zoom meeting will take place on Wednesday, April 21 at 2.30pm. The guest speaker will be Anthony Wood, whose talk is entitled “Socialite or courtesan: how did little Pammy Digby, born in Dorset in 1920, become so well known in Europe after the war and go on to be a major player in world affairs?”

Selina Avent


THE first British WIs opened their doors in 1915 and then, as now, every branch of the WI had a president, secretary and treasurer.

Presidents are elected by every WI member voting in a secret ballot. For women in 1915 this was the first, heady taste of democracy as at that time, voting was restricted to men.

Some men raged: “Clubs for educating women — what is the world coming to?”

Grace Hadow, deputy chairwoman of the National Organisation of WIs at the time, was passionate about female education and votes for women, so perhaps it’s not surprising that Home & Country magazine wrote angrily about “the wicked folly of tempting a woman from her domestic duties”.

Until last month our president was Val Mundy, who felt that it was time for her to retire from office.

Normally, of course, the election of a new president takes place at a physical annual meeting in March.

For the first time in Greys WI’s 101-year history this was impossible — we have not set foot in our beloved Greys village hall since February 2020.

We would have to organise a remote election.

The election of a new president follows exactly the same process now as in 1915. Every member can nominate someone, who must be on the committee. A WI teller/advisor from another WI branch is asked to count the secret votes.

The teller contacts those who have been nominated to see if they agree to stand and then each member votes by secret ballot to choose the new president.

These votes are sent directly to the teller to be counted. She then informs the retiring president of the result, who contacts her successor and then tells the membership. It’s complicated but it has worked for 106 years.

So we embarked on “tempting our members from their domestic duties”.

Fortunately, our WI teller, Irene Lindsay, was experienced and extremely helpful.

During lockdown we have been delivering a monthly newsletter to every member, so we are able to keep them up to date.

Our candidates wrote a paragraph about themselves and we published this, along with information about how to vote.

This was done by either a special form included in the newsletter, a confidential telephone call or an email straight to Irene.

And it worked very well. Irene was very pleased at the efficiency and confidentiality of our new lockdown vote.

She wrote: “It was my pleasure to oversee your nominations and voting. It was also a pleasure to chat to members on the phone.” So I can now announce that our new president is Jackie Walker. We will all hear more about Jackie in the future.

Merryl Roberts


DURING the past month the committee’s focus has primarily been on administrative matters and our first monthly Zoom meeting.

Due to the adverse effects of covid-19 in 2020, the National Federation extended the membership year by three months until March 31.

This is a permanent change so going forward subscriptions will be due in April rather than in January.

The Hambleden committee has decided to hold last year’s membership fee at £43, which will cover the period from April 1 to March 31, 2022.

A big thank-you to those who have already paid.

Our plans for our monthly members’ meetings are to hold them virtually through the spring and early summer with hopefully a summer party in July.

Ruth and Sally-Ann were joined by 13 members for our first Zoom meeting, a light-hearted word play game of 16 rounds using Scrabble letters.

The feedback was very positive and we now look forward to our next Zoom meeting on Thursday, April 8 when Pepe Martinez, an award-winning London Blue Badge tourist guide, will be taking us on a virtual tour of one of London’s most fascinating and dynamic districts.

“The old East End of London” is the story of immigration, wave after wave of people coming to the capital to seek refuge and a better life, from the French Huguenots in the 1680s through to the late 1930s and the arrival of about 10,000 children secretly evacuated from Nazi-occupied Europe.

The Wilson Cup challenge this year is to “make and decorate a face mask”.

A pattern of a simple mask has been sent to all members if they would like to use it but members’ own designs are welcome.

With the outdoor socialising rules changing, we are hopeful that the return of the “rule of six” will enable us to meet outside once again and that the walking group will recommence in April.

In the meantime, the committee wishes you continued good health and we very much look forward to meeting up again once we are able.

For more information. call our president Sarah Williams on 07817 120339 or visit

Sally-Ann Roberts


THE March meeting was held online with Suzanna Rose presiding.

She welcomed about 20 members via Zoom and also our WI adviser, Janet Kingdon.

It was noted that the resolution for the National Federation’s annual meeting regarding cervical cancer had received 50 per cent of the votes. This would be debated on June 8 with the meeting held online.

The book club will be meeting via Zoom on April 7 at 2.30pm.

The monthly meetings for April, May, June and July will also be held via Zoom.

In August we will hopefully have a garden meeting and with even more hope that we will return to an indoor meeting in September, which is our 80th anniversary.

The Beechwood Group has a Zoom meeting planned for May 6 (details to follow).

The annual meeting then commenced with the financial statement from Pam.

She reported that we had a very small surplus for the previous year, which was due to not having to pay for the hall for meetings and other outgoings. The statement was adopted.

Mary Burton gave the committee’s report mentioning the commencement of Zoom meetings, a novel way of keeping in touch with members and of hearing some of the speakers who had already been booked in our programme for 2020/21.

Suzanna gave the president’s report and thanked her committee for all their support in her very first year in this position.

She gave very heartfelt thanks to Shirley Weyman, who was retiring after serving on the committee for 50 years non-stop. This surely must be a record.

Shirley had always made her home available for meetings and garden parties and was an invaluable help in any historical facts concerning Harpsden WI.

The committee for the coming year was re-elected. It comprises Suzanna Rose, Mary Burton, Pam Hails, Susan Beswick, Jean Newman, Doris Tallon, Gwen Wilding and Judith Young. The WI adviser announced that Suzanna had been re-elected president for 2021/22 and wished her the best of luck.

Mary will continue as secretary and Pam as treasurer. Susan is speakers’ secretary, Doris will organise outings when these become permissible, Gwen is in charge of the archives, Jean will continue to provide refreshments and Judith will endeavour to write the press reports each month.

Following the annual meeting, Suzanna gave a short talk on her role as a deputy lieutenant of the Royal County of Berkshire.

The next meeting of Harpsden WI will be on April 14 at 2.30pm via Zoom. The speaker will be Jennifer Cowling and her talk is entitled “From the page to the stage”.

Judith Young


WE gathered on Wednesday, March 3 via Zoom and welcomed Chris O’Grady, who was to talk to us about Rembrandt, an artist about whom he is passionate.

Our lives have been dominated by graphs and statistics recently, so it was refreshing to hear words spoken with such warmth and feeling about an artist Chris so reveres.

Taken back in time to the 1600s, we followed Rembrandt’s comfortable but modest beginnings to his quite rapid rise to fame and fortune only to have his happiness shattered due to the death of his children and then his wife who had given birth to their son, Titus, only shortly before.

From then on his life became unstable through relationships and business matters.

Yet his artistic output never decreased. His graphic sketches poured out in profusion and he is believed to have left about 300 etchings and 2,000 drawings.

Portraits of himself were created every year throughout his life and when painting a large canvas he would include himself within a crowd scene. Rembrandt’s depiction of people reached deep into their minds or emotions; his aim being to capture their spirit and character, be it violent or gentle, kind or excessive, in fact the very essence of who they were.

In this he was a genius and able to convey to us what he saw and felt.

In conclusion, Chris left us with his own particular favourite excursion to the Wallace Collection, which happens to house a portrait of Titus to which he is continually drawn. Indeed, art and music feed the soul.

Encore, Mr O’Grady, it was an excellent performance in every way.

Sue Drew


IN March, we welcomed Jennifer Cowling to our Zoom meeting.

She has been involved with the theatre for many years and her presentation highlighted the cost involved in putting on a production from book to stage.

Jennifer showed a collection of photographic memorabilia, including programmes from 15 plays and 89 musicals.

She concluded the afternoon with a short “Music from the shows” quiz. Although most of the tunes were recognised, it was much more difficult to fit them to the stage shows.

Jennifer’s talk made everyone realise how much those trips to the theatre have been missed.

Members have also enjoyed a cocktail hour. There were no agendas or minutes in sight, just the sound of glasses and ice clinking with much happy chatter.

Members of the newly formed online book club are reading The House by the Loch by Kirsty Wark, with a meeting planned to discuss it.

Committee members met to fill small Easter bags for delivery to all members. An Easter egg, a recipe, a spring poem, the March edition of the Remenham Rag and an Easter card are among the gifts enclosed.

If you are interested in joining Remenham WI, please call Daphne Austen on 07919 358979.

Daphne Austen


THIRTY-FOUR members joined our virtual annual meeting on March 17, which was chaired by our president, Joan Jolley.

Joan said that she had not expected to still be taking the meetings remotely but thought that we were all much better at “Zooming” now.

The first part of the meeting was the usual business.

As the National Federation had left it to each institute to decide on subscription amounts this year, our committee had agreed to reduce our subs by £10. Thank you, committee.

Sue Lines had provisionally booked an outing to Polesden Lacey for July but would obviously keep her eye on the covid restrictions.

The next Beechwood group meeting will be at Stoke Row on May 6 at 7.30pm, covid restrictions allowing. The talk will be on the making of the film The Wizard of Oz.

Four of our members had not been well lately but Joan hoped that they were on the mend and would be back on screen with us very soon.

We endorsed the village Easter flower walk.

Joan then opened the annual meeting.

The National Federation had authorised deviations from the norm for this year but the rule changes had given Joan a lot of extra work.

All the necessary reports had been sent to members earlier and we were allowed to vote with a show of hands over our screens.

The financial statement, outings secretary’s report and president’s report were accepted unanimously.

The committee, with Joan as president, was re-elected en bloc. Bamba Dawson gave our thanks, especially as the last year had been very difficult for them all.

The meeting was closed and then Joan welcomed our speaker for the afternoon, a lady we were pleased to be meeting again, although much sooner than expected.

Tamsin Wimhurst had told us about David Parr House in Cambridge last month and this time she was talking on “The Cambridge celebrations for Queen Victoria’s coronation”.

The coronation was to take place on June 28, 1838, but Buckingham Palace only agreed that cities, towns or villages “may organise an appropriate celebration” on May 2 — a whole eight weeks’ notice.

The approved committee-of-events decided to hold an entertainment for the poorer classes, of which there were many in Cambridge at this time. As is usual with committees of differing persuasions, there was much wrangling and it was not until a mere 10 days before the event that the organising of “a sitdown meal” for 15,000 people began.

Fifteen sub-committees were set up, 20,000 programmes were printed and 360 stewards and 1,000 officials directed.

Among the various committees were those for planning, tickets, meat, puddings, bread, beer, tablecloths, music and tobacco & snuff.

Fortunately, it was a great success. Everyone wore their best clothes, the weather held, bells rang and flags were waved enthusiastically. The WI would have been proud of them all.

Joan closed the meeting with thanks to Helen Robinson for organising Zoom.

Our next meeting will be on April 18 at 2.30pm when we will learn about “Yorkshire: its food and traditions”.

Rachel Lloyd


ON March 18, the annual meeting took place via Zoom.

Thirty-one members took part together with Oxfordshire Federation advisor Janet Kingdon. Sue Frayling-Cork was elected president and two new members joined the committee.

Sixty members have renewed their membership.

Sonning Common WI feels positive and during lockdown will continue to hold meetings via Zoom.

A vote of thanks was given to the president, officers and committee for all the hard work they do to keep members in touch in these difficult times.

Following the business, a quiz devised by Beverley Porteous was enjoyed. Two tie-breakers were needed to decide the eventual winner, Carole Williams.

Beverley will receive a pot of hyacinths with our thanks.

Sadly, Jackie Cheffings, a popular member, passed away in February.

She had previously served on the committee and hosted many committee meetings. She was an enthusiastic member of the darts and Scrabble groups and was always a willing helper at WI events. She will be missed.

The craft group continues crafting remotely. Ten members are currently working on making a covid archive of fabric squares decorated to record our time in lockdown. Other members are knitting “Smoothie Hats” for Age UK’s annual fund-raising campaign. Members who have been helping with work at home for the Ways and Means Trust have processed about 85,000 spacers. At present their services are not required and they have stood down until they are needed again.

The Sonning Common jumble trail will take place on April 25. Donations made by members will be sold from 22 Lea Road, Sonning Common. There will be bargains galore, books, jigsaws, bric-a-brac and plants.

The money raised will be given to a local good cause.

The next meeting will be via Zoom on April 15 at 7pm when Mandy Bradshaw will give a talk entitled “Beyond the gate — my guide to Cotswold gardens”.

Sue Hedges


MARCH marked our annual meeting, this year on Zoom, with the election of a new president, Stella Kendall, and three new members on the committee.

We thanked retiring president Sandra Farmer for leading us through the challenges of the last three years and “presented’” her with a bouquet of flowers and garden vouchers.

This meant one of our members secretly leaving the gifts on Sandra’s doorstep while she was busy logging into the meeting so that we could then ask her at the appropriate moment to go and look on her doorstep. Lovely for all of us to be part of the presentation.

With business over, we reflected on the past year via a wonderful presentation of our members’ photographs, showing their activities and achievements during the restrictions.

Some of our members are excellent photographers.

The photos reminded us of the wonderful warm spring last year when we spent time in our gardens or walking the hills on our own, pretending we were on holiday.

We also admired the beautiful craft items that members had produced or finally finished during lockdown.

The record for the longest project must go to Robbie who finished her sampler first started in 1980.

We remembered our outdoor meetings, walking, playing garden games and even crafting. It was sometimes chilly but always fun.

We resumed our monthly meetings in October via Zoom with speakers who were equally flexible and moved our craft group and book club on to Zoom.This was quickly followed by informal “meets” over coffee or tea, often with a quiz. We discovered how to create “screen shots” to record our activities.

At our annual meeting three-quarters of our members were able to be present.

We were particularly pleased that one of our members without internet access was able to join the meeting via the telephone.

We finished the evening with a variation on a quiz called quingo and a chat to catch up with friends we hadn’t seen in a while. We are getting very adept at talking in turn.

This month we also had a demonstration of book folding with many members joining in and folding the pages to make a hedgehog.

We were also shown how to use a folding blueprint to make more complex 3D shapes such as hearts and butterflies.

We look forward to meeting in person in the near future and to a new programme which is varied and flexible so that our meetings can take place either by Zoom or in person.

We will have our usual garden meeting (covid permitting) but also a fun day and meetings with speakers on subjects that include our food, crime scene examination, local children growing up during the Second World War and the work of the RAF mountain rescue.

We start our new programme in April when our speaker will be Jennipher Marshall-Jenkinson telling us “All about chocolate”.

If you would like to know more, please email

Denise Stanworth


SPRING is in the air (except on those really chilly days that appear from time to time of course).

Easter is here too, so members have celebrated this important annual event by sending cards, hand-made or otherwise, to each other.

Our flower of the month competition, through the medium of photography, has restarted.

Our first winner for 2021 was Jilly Green with her lovely photo of crocuses in full flower, complete with honeybee. While we are still unable to meet up as a group, other activities to keep us all in touch have been arranged.

A word challenge has been sent to each member for completion, with a prize being awarded after three months of entries.

For those more interested in gardening, a giant sunflower growing competition has been started, with free seeds being supplied to each participant. Here’s to a successful growing season.

Our next committee meeting will be via Zoom on April 16. This is when we will finalise the arrangements for us all to meet up outdoors, albeit in small groups.

The first meet-up is planned for Tuesday, April 20 at a number of venues in Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill. Fingers crossed for nice weather.

For more information about Whitchurch Hill WI, please call Frances on 0118 982 2162.

Sally Bergmann


THE Berkshire Federation is working hard with innovative ideas to keep us all going, not forgetting the Berkshire News and Berkshire Life magazines, which are very informative.

On March 11, three Cockpole Green WI members signed up to their first Berkshire Zoom meeting with a speaker.

The subject of the talk was recycling and what an excellent speaker Jana Little was.

She is a healthcare scientist and a passionate, dedicated recycler, who is also concerned about climate change.

When she visited her native Poland, she was dismayed to see the loss of so many trees.

With global temperatures rising and change in rainfall patterns, there was not enough water to sustain their growth and continue absorbing carbon dioxide.

Jana emphasised that litter-picking does make a difference and plastic is not main culprit — it’s people who are polluting the planet.

She said that she was a dedicated litter-picker and if the occasion arose when she saw litter being dropped she would approach the offenders and explain why litter should not be dropped in no uncertain terms.

It’s not all bad news, though, as there is TerraCycle, a free recycling programme which eliminates the idea of waste by recycling the “non-recyclable”.

Whether it’s coffee capsules from your home, pens from a school or plastic gloves etc., TerraCycle can collect and recycle almost any form of waste.

Jana explained that there is a plus side too as charities benefit from recycled waste. Even car hulks can be recycled into steel. Plastic bottles can be recycled into new ones.

Janna showed us a slide of waste products that illustrated how long they take to decompose — a toilet roll takes one month, cardboard two months and bottles 400 years.

For more information, visit

Recycling can be confusing, having to know what to put in one box and waste in a plastic bag for landfill.

Jana reminded us that when disposing of a milk carton, flatten it first, then replace the bottle top.

She was warmly thanked for her enlightening talk.

Selina Avent

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