Sunday, 22 May 2022

WI Roundup

WI Roundup


WE were not able to meet in June at our normal venue of Benson parish hall as it is undergoing work to extend it.

However, the manager and staff at the new purpose-built Benson House care home provided our members with a very comfortable and elegant place to meet as well as a chance to see and hear all about the facilities.

The home is the newest of 77 in the Caring Homes Group and is able to provide residential, nursing and dementia care with accommodation for up to 70 residents.

Residents can enjoy lovely gardens, an optional activities programme for each day and the use of a special private dining room for when families come to visit.

The decor was chosen by Helena Jefferies, who started the business with her son in 1994, and there are references and photos relating to the local area.

Following our usual WI business, there was a talk by the manager and a comprehensive tour. The members enjoyed tea and cake provided by the staff, so we say thanks to them for taking the time to host us.

For July, Benson WI traditionally holds a summer garden party so will be meeting for tea and cake at the home of our previous long-standing president.

Not a formal garden party as such, but a chance to catch up on how we have all been dealing with the proposed changes in lockdown and all the uncertainty of the past year or so.

Normally, we do not meet in August but members will be meeting up with other local WIs for a group summer picnic in Wallingford.

As to September, it is wait and see.

For enquiries, please call our president on (01491) 837885 or email our secretary on bensonwi@

Sue Brown


IN the last few weeks we have had our first lunch in a local hostelry, which was very enjoyable, and our summer outing by the river in Caversham, when ladies brought picnics and the sun shone on us.

Hopefully, we will go further afield next year.

Our latest coffee morning was at the Rosebourne Garden Centre in Aldermaston — lots to see and buy.

Needles were clicking once again when our knitting group got together in a member’s garden. This was made even more special when ice cream cornets came out.

Our avid readers were able to attend the first face-to-face meeting of the book club after months of Zoom meetings.

Our artists are once again meeting at a member’s home, so we are almost back to normal and just waiting to hear when we can all meet at our hall with a speaker.

Tickets have been bought for a show in the new year at the Mill at Sonning, which I know we will enjoy.

Maybe some of our ladies are thinking of taking a holiday — suddenly so many choices!

Carol Briscoe


ON June 23, president Judi Rowlands welcomed members to our annual garden party, together with special guest Mavis Greenhalgh, chairman of the Berkshire Federation.

The party was hosted by Diane Bush at her lovely farm home in Crazies Hill. It was a beautiful day.

Members were so happy to finally be able to mingle freely, putting Zoom behind us. It was pleasing to be surrounded by friends and enjoy Diane’s stunning garden flowers with no computer in sight.

Thankfully, the weather was perfect and the afternoon tea prepared by the committee was delicious.

Mavis told us that this was her first visit to this part of Berkshire.

She spoke about the forthcoming autumn council meeting on September 5 to be held in the great hall of Reading University, which is so important. Berkshire is a large county so she hopes many WI members will be able to attend.

Now for something different. Several members of different institutes, including our own, went on a walk organised by WI head office on June 17, starting at the Horns pub in Crazies Hill.

It was a great opportunity to enjoy walking and exchanging different views on how each WI was run.

The women enjoyed our little hamlet, the open fields, the alpacas and Rebecca’s Well in Bowsey Woods.

The history of the well is interesting as it dates back to times when villagers had no running water and collected their water in buckets from the spring.

In 1870 Rev Grenville Phillimore was exploring the outer parts of his new parish and was concerned to see villagers of Crazies Hill drawing water from a muddy pool in the woods they called Rebra’s Well.

Determined to help, he raised enough funds to have a proper basin built into the spring and erected a Christian cross there.

The good reverend designed the interior well-basin himself but he commissioned Gertrude Jekyll to paint Rebekah and the Servants of Abraham at the Well of Nahor. These servants ran to meet her and said, ‘Let I pray thee drink a little water of thy pitcher”.

The walk was completed by returning to the Horns for a much-needed coffee and, of course, conversation flowed.

Another walk is planned to encourage getting to know other members who live in Berkshire.

Selina Avent


IT has been 14 months since our last proper meeting and, like every other WI, we did all that we could to keep in touch.

Many Greys WI members didn’t feel comfortable with Zoom and so we fell back on an older technology, the monthly Greys WI newsletter. Members contributed and suggested ideas (so many that we had to limit each edition to six pages) and it was created on a member’s home computer and printed on her printer.

It was hand delivered to members’ homes by the WI post lady, masked and gloved, and so we chatted, moaned, complained, laughed and sighed together.

In fact, the newsletter was so successful that many members would like it to continue.

During the 16 months of lockdown, our president Val telephoned all members on a regular basis and we also delivered the Oxfordshire Federation’s monthly magazine, Oxford Inspires, linking us to the wider WI family.

In addition, we organised a postal election for a new president, Jackie Walker. Not bad.

But nothing beats a real live meeting. Poor weather meant that we had to cancel our outdoor June meeting, so we decided to meet for lunch in the café at Swiss Farm in Henley.

We had no idea how many members would be interested but almost everyone came and we all had an excellent time, full of warmth, laughter and chat, just like all WI meetings.

Jackie gave birthday posies to three members, Barbara, Joan and Millicent, thanked Merryl for her work over the lockdown and invited all members to our next meeting, called Time for Tea, at Greys village hall at 2pm on July 21. Back in our hall again!

Merryl Roberts


OUR June meeting featured an amusing talk by John Pearson entitled “Blessed are the cheesemakers”.

John has worked in the food industry, selecting dairy products for Marks & Spencer.

He was the internet cheese judge for Which? and has received awards from the British Cheese Board.

John described his work and anecdotes connected with it.

We learned many handy tips, for example, how cheddar is not the best choice when making cheese on toast and an Argentinian red wine recommendation to accompany your cheese plate.

Our meeting was again a virtual one. Zoom has been fantastic not only for our committee meetings but also allowing us to all meet for our general meetings. It has given us the opportunity to enjoy many interesting speakers during lockdown.

However, at the heart of our WI community is connection. We know we do this best when we are able to meet face to face and enjoy each other’s company.

I can only hope that we will be allowed to meet for our summer party, which is due to be an afternoon tea in July. The committee will meet to discuss what we can do and when. Whatever the outcome of the latest government announcement, we are able to continue with other WI activities.

Our WI walkers met for a walk on June 24 from the Chequers Inn, Fingest, and enjoyed a well-earned lunch afterwards.

Our book club continues to meet. This month’s book up for discussion on July 15 is The Paying Guest by Sarah Waters.

For more information about Hambleden WI, we can be contacted via our website, or email us on

Sarah Williams


JUNE’S meeting took place on Zoom and commenced with a talk called “Royal weddings” by local historian Catherine Sampson.

Avid readers of the Henley Standard will have learnt all about this from a very full report by a member of the Wargrave Local History Society, who had heard the same lecture.

Nevertheless, Harpsden ladies enjoyed hearing about the convoluted ways of obtaining a bride in bygone days, many of whom came from royal households around Europe, with the consequence of much interbreeding.

After the wedding of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon to Prince Albert in 1923, the bride placed her bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. This gesture occurred because one of the clergy fainted while processing down the aisle and the bride suddenly decided to place her bouquet on the tomb while the clergyman was being attended to.

Since then it has become a tradition for royal brides to follow suit and if the marriage was not held in Westminster Abbey then the bouquet would be taken there after the wedding.

Catherine was thanked for such an interesting talk by Suzanna Rose.

Plans are afoot to resurrect our walking group and we are also starting to talk about having outings.

The book club will meet on August 4 to discuss Brick Lane by Monica Ali.

The Beechwood Group will be meeting via Zoom on July 20 at 7.30pm to hear a talk on “Paper cutting”.

The next meeting will be on July 14 when Michelle Voss will tell us about Medical Detection Dogs.

It is hoped that this will be our final Zoom meeting before returning to Harpsden village hall in September.

Before then we will meet on August 11 for a garden party at the home of Di Painter. (Members, please note this date as it is wrongly printed in your programme).

Judith Young


WE were very disappointed not to be able to have a proper face-to-face meeting with the change of government policy.

However, we have planned to have our first return meeting in July outside with a welcome back tea and drinks party at our social secretary’s home.

We can’t wait to get together again with some new members and share our lockdown experiences and get some events in our diary.

Meanwhile, we shall have to watch Wimbledon and eat cake until we can socialise properly again.

Nicola Taylor


ON May 26, we were delighted to be able to gather in Gina Foden’s beautiful garden to celebrate the 90th birthday of one of our much-loved members.

Pat Jones has been our hard-working secretary for many years and it was a real pleasure to enjoy champagne and cake on this very special occasion.

On June 2 we were pleased to welcome Neil Meldrum, whose talk was entitled “The enigmatic ancient Maya”.

Neil never tires of returning to the ancient sites which are only slowly giving up the secrets of this ancient

An hour’s talk was barely time to scratch the surface of these people’s history, which started when people from Asia crossed the land bridges in the north Pacific, possibly following the bison, reaching Alaska and then over time the Peten jungle, which is now Guatemala and the Yucatan.

They remained a stone-age culture with no wheel or other skills. They had no draft animals and while agriculture became an important feature, resources were extremely limited.

Social cohesion developed around 250CE, with religion taking a central role.

There was a network of ceremonial sites with living accommodation fanning out from a central area.

Beyond these, maize was grown to feed the people.

Architecture and sculpture were of an extremely high standard but there was no concept of an arch. Limestone was used exclusively for building.

Temples were buried after 52 years and encased in a pyramid and another would be built above it. Reservoirs were also built.

At a later period trees were burnt to make stucco but this led to the degeneration of the ecosystem and
is regarded as a contributor to the demise of the civilisation.

The many gods were honoured by blood-letting. The higher the giver’s status, the greater the honour.

As a result there was constant warfare to abduct suitably highly regarded individuals from other areas.

Neil illustrated his talk with pictures of the buildings and intricate carvings.

We were taken on a whistlestop tour of the main sites and shown temples, pyramids, decorated stairways and ball courts used for sport as well as religious rites.

The Mayas had an impressive knowledge of astronomy, building a vast observatory known as the Caracol and accurately determining the length of the solar year as well as a system of mathematics and glyphs which resemble those used by the ancient Egyptians.

Decorated monuments known as stelae were erected to commemorate people and events.

The well-preserved murals at Bonampak — brilliantly painted and naturalistic — depict war and human sacrifice.

This highly developed society gradually declined towards the end of the first millennium, although in 750CE the population was estimated to be around five to 10 million.

The arrival of other groups and the loss of natural resources were contributory factors, although there is still so much which is not understood.

This talk brought an end to our lockdown Zoom meetings.

We plan to meet in person at the Church Centre, Mill Green, in July.

Sue Drew


OUR first meeting since lockdown was held on June 9 outside at Peppard War Memorial Hall and was attended by most of our members.

We enjoyed being shown the jackets, coats and jumpers sewn together from the simple squares that many of the members had made.

Each garment was colourful and practical and showed the creativity of those who had put them together.

These will be sent to Knit for Peace, a charity for refugees.

Everyone caught up with each other while having tea provided by the committee.

It was a thoroughly welcome and most enjoyable afternoon for everyone.

Our next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 14 at 2pm, again outside at Peppard hall.

We shall have a talk from Barbara Carr, entitled “Finding Nito”. Guests are welcome.

Elaine Douglas


MEMBERS were very much hoping to meet in person for their June meeting but this was not to be.

Instead, a meeting was once again held via Zoom with a talk by police community support officer Edward Hobart on how to avoid the many scams that seem to be circulating.

He covered doorstep crimes, cyber scams, distraction crimes and hints on how to avoid online banking and card fraud.

As some members had had personal experience of such scams, this led to interesting discussions.

Pcso Hobart left the group with several booklets on the subject which will make helpful reading.

A Zoom meeting was also arranged for the book club where the next book, The Housekeeper’s Tale by Tessa Boase, was discussed.

This was not the most popular book read and it was felt that it was a bit of a curate’s egg.

The next book will be All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and the next meeting for this will be on July 20.

A further edition of the Remenham Rag has been issued and contributions continue to come in for the Elizabeth Bell challenge.

Members were saddened to hear of the recent death of Diane Sutherland, who had been a stalwart member of Remenham WI for more than 30 years.

Daphne Austen


PRESIDENT Joan Jolley opened the June meeting via Zoom, welcoming 28 online members.

She thanked Helen Robinson for hosting.

Joan had purchased a ticket to the National Federation’s online annual meeting earlier this month. She thought that it had been very well managed. Guest speakers had been HRH Sophie, Countess of Wessex, Dame Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, and Baroness Brenda Hale of Richmond, former president of the Supreme Court.

All were interesting in very different ways.

Our speaker this month was Towse (a nickname that stuck) Harrison with a talk called “Archaeology is rubbish… or is it?”

Archaeology, a comparatively new science, is the study of past cultures from physical remains. These remains can be as big as the Pyramids or as tiny as pollen spores.

Nowadays non-invasive technology — nuclear, genetics, space, carbon dating and DNA — is advancing our knowledge of these remains significantly and Towse gave lots of examples of how these methods help.

In 1823 William Buckland discovered the Red Lady of Paviland in Goat’s Hole Cave on the Gower Peninsular in South Wales.

Modern-day carbon dating shows it to be the oldest, anatomically human skeleton found in Britain.

It is 29,000 years old and is not a lady at all but a male hunter whose skin had been dyed with red ochre.

Cheddar Man, who was discovered in Gough’s Cave in Somerset in 1903 is, at 10,000 years old, Britain’s oldest complete skeleton.

Ancient DNA shows it to be the skeleton of a young man with dark skin and blue eyes. He had a gene marker with sub-Saharan people, was a hunter-gatherer and was lactose intolerant.

Towse explained everything in layman’s terms and was very knowledgeable when answering lots of questions.

Our next meeting is the summer party, which this year will be tea at the Baskerville in Shiplake.

August is our holiday month and so, fingers crossed, on September 15 we will meet face to face in the memorial hall. Hurrah.

Rachel Lloyd


THE June meeting was held via Zoom and the speaker was Al Sylvester MBE.

Al was a Royal Air Force mountain rescue service leader.

Over two decades of service he attended more than 400 rescue operations. These included rescuing and recovering downed aircrew from military jets and civilian aircraft.

Other rescues involved searching and evacuating injured walkers from some of the most hostile environments of the British mountain ranges.

Al was made an MBE for his outstanding services to the UK’s Search and Rescue Organisation and his charitable work in aid of Cancer Research UK.

His presentation, called “Southern reach”, was an epic tale of leading the RAF’s first unsupported attempt on the geographic South Pole.

He told of the three-year build-up of selecting and training a team, raising the funds and choosing the logistics and of the experience of living on Antarctica for seven weeks in a tent.

Members were moved by the heartbreaking challenges the team faced with frost bite and its

Al has fought back from these adversities and once more inspires people to follow their own dreams.

Alison Bishop, our programme secretary, had booked the talk three years ago and it was well worth waiting for, inspiring and thoroughly enjoyed.

Making the most of the warmer dry days, members of the darts group have commenced playing in Carol’s garden, while other members continue to walk on Tuesday mornings.

Our president hosted a very sociable coffee morning in her garden.

Craft club members gathered together to see the completed wall hanging they had made of stitched squares depicting life during lockdown. The hanging will be on display at the summer garden parties to be held in July and August.

The National Federation held its annual meeting online, which was very successful.

The speakers were HRH Sophie, Countess of Wessex, Dame Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, and Baroness Brenda Hale of Richmond, former president of the Supreme Court.

All three delivered inspiring speeches covering strong women and employment, the need for more diversity in all areas of public life and the issue of domestic violence.

Sue Frayling-Cork attended a meeting, which was also arranged by the National Federation.

The subjects were women in leadership, climate change, gender equality and the covid-19 recovery.

Four speakers represented a wide range of disciplines that presented many concerns, observations and demands for wider and better inclusion of women at the very top of governance.

There is a need to tackle and recognise the 3Es: Education, Ending violence against women and girls and Empowering women.

The Oxfordshire Federation is being positive and arranging future outings.

In the pipeline are a day out at Bath Christmas Market on December 3 followed by the Christmas lights trail at Westonbirt Arboretum.

Also planned is a five-day holiday in June 2022 to the Lake District.

The next members’ meeting, via Zoom, will be on July 15 when the speaker will be Steve Price with a talk and evening of illusion called “A magic show”.

Sue Hedges


JUNE is traditionally the month for our annual garden meeting and this year it was something truly special, the first time our group was able to hold a monthly meeting in person for well over a year.

Although it was an outdoor meeting, the weather turned up trumps and it was a fine warm evening; we didn’t even need the blankets we had all got used to bringing to such an event.

Our president Stella hosted the meeting in her garden in Checkendon, which overlooked a field of long grass lit by the evening sun, providing a perfect backdrop.

It was wonderful to catch up with everyone again, especially with several of our members who had not been able to join our online meetings over the past months.

At our garden meetings our members usually bring a dish for the buffet table and we all share supper but this year, to keep our members safe, it was slightly different with each member bringing their own supper and utensils.

As well as catching up, the members present were able to cast their vote in person on whether or not to adopt this year’s resolution calling for more awareness of the subtle signs of ovarian cancer.

We also took part in a fun quiz (garden-based, of course) provided by Sandra. This included identifying (or guessing) birds, flowers and animal footprints and the names of some very old farming/gardening tools on display.

This month, Tilley led our first full group walk in a while from Stoke Row to Nettlebed with a visit to the local creamery for a cheese toastie lunch.

We like to combine our monthly walks with a refreshment stop, sometimes it’s lunch on the way round and other times it is a “tea at three” stop, which enables our members who do not walk to join us just for the refreshments.

On this occasion, we were delighted that a member whom we had not seen since the start of the restrictions was able to join us for lunch.

Although the gradual lifting of restrictions has allowed us the opportunity to meet up outside, we will still be holding many of our meetings via Zoom.

Our next monthly meeting will be on July 20 when our speaker Christine Green will talk about the art of paper cutting and demonstrate some of the simpler pieces that can be made.

We will also continue to “meet” via Zoom for coffee and a quiz. If you are interested in joining us, please call our secretary Pam on (01491) 681723 or email her on

You would be most

Denise Stanworth


BACK in May we had our first “picnic” meeting of 2021.

The weather was lovely and it was nice to see so many women come along to enjoy a chat with fellow members. We also welcomed some new and old members.

So in June we held another “Picnic in the ark”. We welcomed many members, some who had not been able to make the May gathering, and the weather was again lovely.

Kath Gomm had bought along books and packs of plain card and envelopes for the use of crafty members.

Maggie Bruce had brought some delicious rhubarb from her allotment and Stephanie Craddock had made us all some scrumptious walnut and coffee cake. Thank you all very much. We had hoped to have our July garden party at Watlington Bowls Club on July 7 but due to government restrictions, we were no longer able to do this.

However, we held a special garden party outside at the bowls club on this date. Further details will be sent to all members, new and old.

Looking forward, we will meet in the Methodist Chapel on August 12 at 2.30pm, when Sheila will give us a talk on embroidery and other crafts. In September we have arranged to hold our meeting at the newly refurbished West Room (next to the council office).

For more information about Watlington WI, please call Dawn Matthews on (01491) 612023.


WITH the glorious weather in June, we were able to enjoy our second outdoor meeting of the summer, this time in Whitchurch-on-Thames. The cricket pavilion provided welcome shade.

In addition to our normal raffle and flower competition, we ran our first bring and buy sale, along with a bring and buy plant stall.

Both were well-received and helped raised a few pennies for charity.

Susan Dryden was given her prize for the overall winner of the word link challenge, which ran during the spring.

On a more business-orientated note, those attending the meeting voted on the National Federation’s resolution proposing to lobby Parliament and other relevant bodies about improving the screening of women for ovarian cancer and, among other things. increasing GP awareness of the condition.

All were in favour and our vote will be submitted through the Berkshire Federation for inclusion in the national vote later this year.

Looking ahead, we will have another outdoor meeting on July 20 on the village green in Whitchurch Hill with more goodies on sale.

In August we have a walk and pub lunch at the Sun pub in Whitchurch Hill. Eating inside or out will of course be weather and covid rules-dependent.

For more information, please call Frances on 0118 984 2162.

Sally Bergmann

More News:

POLL: Have your say