Saturday, 21 May 2022

WI Roundup

WI Roundup


OUR first meeting of the year took place on February 23, our January meeting having been cancelled due to the lack of a venue and the uncertainty over covid.

Members came together at the Millstream Centre to welcome in the new year and enjoy an afternoon socialising over a glass of bucks fizz and nibbles supplied by our committee.

There was also a toast to our near neighbours at Warborough and Shillingford WI who had reached their 100th anniversary.

Earlier in February, members voted on the National Federation’s shortlist of campaign resolutions for the annual meeting.

Our support went to the campaign against the under-identification and diagnosis and lack of support for women and girls with autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Our next gathering will be our annual meeting on March 23 at 2.30pm when we will reflect on the past year, renew our subscriptions and elect a committee.

Ideas are being sought for a programme for the coming year and it is hoped that with all the covid restrictions relaxed and our parish hall now available to us again, we may find making plans a bit easier.

New members would be very welcome so if you wish to join us at any time or find out more about Benson WI , please call the secretary on (01491) 837885 or email

Sue Brown


OUR February meeting speaker was Joy Pibworth who entertained us with an interesting talk on “Jane Austin’s school days in Reading”.

Our president thanked Joy very much.

Tea and cake followed, our ladies are bringing their own refreshments.

Two members of the committee had made cakes which proved very popular.

Our monthly lunch was at the Griffin in Caversham and coffee at Sonning Golf Club.

The art and book clubs continue to meet at the homes of members and we thank them.

The knitting needles are clicking away every other week. One of the projects is lots of hats for the premature baby unit at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading and another is blankets for adults.

Chazey WI meets at St Andrew’s Church hall in Albert Road, Caversham Heights, on the first Friday of the month at 2.30pm and we would welcome ladies to join us.

Carol Briscoe


FOR our February meeting we were treated to a talk by Nick Cooper comparing Renaissance trumpets, flutes and guitars with their modern equivalents.

He described how the instruments had changed in design, tone and tuning over the years to form the instruments we see today.

He also demonstrated their sounds by playing the same tunes on the modern instrument and its Baroque equivalent.

Nick also provided some interesting anecdotes — none of us knew before that the 16th century guitarra was tuned the same as the modern ukelele, for example, or that trumpeters who were not members of the Guild of Trumpeters in Germany could have their trumpets smashed and teeth knocked out!

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 9. This will be our annual meeting and members’ evening.

Our monthly walk and the book club will be held in the meantime.

We meet at Storton Lodge, Icknield Way, Goring, on the second Wednesday of each month at 7.30pm. New members are always welcome.

Katrina Cooper


JOINT presidents Judi Rowlands and Helen Perry welcomed 20 members to our meeting on Wednesday, February 16.

Unfortunately, due to high numbers of covid in the area, we decided to be on Zoom again.

Our speaker Graham Jones was very pleased to give his talk on Zoom and kept us engaged with an informative account about the history of the Lambourn Railway.

Lambourn is a village in the Berkshire Downs. The area of gentle rolling hills has remained largely unchanged since medieval times. In the 1840s farmers there grew grain and raised sheep.

Transport out of the area was limited to a rutted and bumpy cart track so it could take four hours to reach Newbury.

After the disastrous harvest of 1845, followed by the repeal of the corn laws in 1846, farmers began to rear dairy and beef cattle.

The livestock and produce had to be sent to Newbury and it was soon obvious that transport links had to be improved.

Four men, including one called George Eyre, became involved in the building of a railway from Lambourn to Newbury. George was a busy man as he also became a colonel in the Berkshire Militia.

Building commenced in 1889 and after many years of court battles and changes of engineering contractors, the railway was eventually completed in 1903. George inherited several properties, including Welford Park and Hallingbury. He had to change his name to Archer Houblon to enable him to inherit from an uncle and keep the family name going.

The railway was a great success and led to people travelling to Newbury for business and pleasure. Of course, people could also access routes to London and Southampton.

There were five passenger trains a day and goods trains and horseboxes to transport horses to and from Lambourn for racing further afield.

The journey took about 40 to 45 minutes, very different to the four hours along the cart track.

The opening of the railway had a huge impact on the local area.

However, the railway had an enormous debt and cash-flow problems. Although measures were taken to rectify this, eventually George sold the railway to Great Western Railway for £50,000 in 1905. George died in 1913 from complications resulting from a fall in church.

The railway continued to thrive until it was closed in 1961.

Now the railway track is all gone but a pathway, the Lambourn Valley Way, meanders through the rolling hills. This pathway makes for a delightful summer’s walk and you can almost hear a train hooting in the distance.

Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, March 16 at 2.30pm, hopefully at Crazies Hill village hall, and will be our annual meeting.

This will be followed by a craft activity and a delicious tea.

New members are always welcome.

Ruth-Mary Vaughan


BLOWN into Greys village hall by a gale, members gathered on a grey February afternoon.

Inside, all was warm, cheerful and busy as members Val, Joyce and Millicent set up a sales table, the proceeds from which will go to our funds. We were welcomed by our president Jackie Walker.

Secretary Jennifer Smith read the minutes of the last meeting and a letter of thanks from Paul Fairweather for our contribution to the vestry appeal at St Nicholas Church in Rotherfield Greys.

Ina, our treasurer, told us that our finances were healthy.

Our speaker was Graham Horn and his subject was “Reading, abbey and town”.

He is a blue badge tourist guide, which means that he can lead groups anywhere from Cornwall to Kent.

However, he said: “There are few towns which reward exploration as much as Reading.”

Reading is situated on the banks of the River Kennet, not far from where it joins the mighty Thames.

It is a very old town — the first settlement appeared on a gravel bank separated from the river by a boggy marsh, a new fact for most of his audience.

There is a long history of fords and bridges over both rivers here, the spot where, in the 9th century, King Alfred twice fought the Vikings. In the end he was defeated.

Reading features in the Domesday Book as in 1121 the first King Henry founded Reading Abbey, the 10th richest abbey in the country.

Sadly, this was largely destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, when the abbot, Hugh Cook, was executed.

In 1640, during the Civil War, Royalists occupied the abbey ruins in order to fight for the king, a battle they lost.

All this explains why only ruins of this very important abbey survive.

In the 18th century, three large factories put Reading on the map, hence the phrase “Biscuits, beer and bulbs”.

Huntley and Palmers made biscuits and sold them in pretty tins from 1822 to 1976, Simmonds Brewery thrived from 1785 to 1978 and Colliers Brickworks made attractive bricks which can be see in Reading buildings to this day.

In addition, Suttons Seeds was founded in 1806.

In 1885, 35 skilled Victorian women created a copy of the Bayeux Tapestry, which toured the country and was then bought by Reading Council for £300.

You can still see this in Reading Museum and it was well worth visiting. Throw in Jane Austen, who went to school in Reading, what more could anyone want?

Graham fascinated our members with this wonderful illustrated talk and was roundly thanked.

We enjoyed a wonderful tea provided by member Gill Dowling and are now looking forward to our annual meeting on March 23.


FOR our January meeting writer Susanna Beard kindly stepped forward to replace, at very late notice, our scheduled speaker who had to withdraw due to illness.

Claire will now be with us for our March meeting.

Susanna engaged members with a fascinating and highly moving account of how her passion for writing took her on a journey, from initially attending a writing course at the Faber Academy to now being a published author of five books.

With a family background involving Bletchley Park and GCHQ, it is no surprise that she is a psychological crime writer and Susanna admits to being fascinated by the psychology of relationships.

She provided an insight into the writer’s world of editors and publishers and described the highly challenging path along the way, full of trials and tribulations.

Quoting Elena Ferrante, she said: “I discovered that the slope of writing to order is a slippery one and the descent is in fact pleasurable.”

Susanna shared the negative impact that her chosen path has sometimes had on her health.

Nevertheless, her sheer passion and dedication to her chosen field shone through.

As we edge closer to spring and all its promise of new beginnings, it is with heavy hearts that we recognise Hambleden WI’s February meeting marked the official suspension of our group.

Judith Forster, our WI advisor, was present to
officiate, alongside president Sarah Williams.

The formalities were followed by a journey down memory lane for many members as they explored the archive material on display.

Photograph albums and year books enabled us to revisit many past events and celebrations and to recall happy times spent with WI friends.

We will be holding a March meeting to bring our membership year to an end.

This will be on Thursday, March 10 at the earlier time of 6.30pm.

Our speaker Claire will share with us the benefits of Pawanmuktasana, which is exercises synchronised with the breath.

The rest of the evening will give us all time to catch up with one another over tea and our famously splendid refreshments.

Sally-Ann Roberts and Jo Martin


SUZANNA ROSE welcomed members to the February meeting in a more relaxed atmosphere at last.

She gave notice of the National Federation’s annual meeting in Liverpool on June 11 and that a ticket could be purchased for the virtual meeting for £5.

The Oxfordshire Federation’s annual meeting will be on March 23 via Zoom.

The walkers group enjoyed a visit to Blewbury which will be remembered for the delightful village scenery and some light-hearted moments in the hostelry afterwards.

The book club will meet on April 6.

Suzanna urged members to bring along a friend to the next meeting. She also put out a plea for new committee members at the annual meeting is in March when the new committee is announced.

The speaker, Wendy Hermon, was joined by a colleague and they gave a talk on Swan Support.

This charity runs a swan rehabilitation centre focused on the rescue, treatment and release of sick and injured swans within the Thames Valley and surrounding areas.

The dedicated team of volunteers are passionate about swans and wildlife in general and are available 24/7 to respond to calls. Wendy herself has 30 years’ experience in this field.

The most common injuries to swans are caused by dog attacks, fishing incidents involving swallowed hooks and lines and ring pulls from drinks cans.

Wendy suggested snipping the ring pulls in half to avoid injury to the swans.

Another item often found in the Henley area is the cork holder on champagne bottles, so, if possible, please retrieve the metal holders and thus avoid further injury.

Unfortunately, there can also be cases of vandalism and shootings and the use of catapults by certain members of the public.

It is also of vital importance for dog walkers to keep their pets on a lead if in the vicinity of swans.

In the UK we have only one resident type of swan — the mute swan — but others do visit from time to time.

The wing span of the mute swan can be up to 2m and a bird can weigh up to 15 kilos.

Although swans are omnivorous, their favourite food is the mayfly. In 2012, when London hosted the Olympics, the swans on Dorney Lake were removed by licence to facilitate the rowing regatta.

After Wendy had answered many questions, Suzanna thanked her and her colleague for such an interesting talk.

The competition was for “water bird memorabilia” and was won by Audrey Fox. Rose Musselwhite was second and there were several women tied for third place.

The next meeting is on Wednesday, March 9 when Patrick Fleming will be speaking on “Greener Henley” and the competition will be for “a recycled item”.

We meet in Harpsden village hall at 2.30pm. As this will be our annual meeting, it is a good opportunity for visitors to hear about the running of the WI, so, if you are interested, do come.

Judith Young


STORMS Dudley and Eunice put a stop to our planned meeting so we all sat tight for that weekend waiting for them to blow through.

Luckily, we were able to reschedule for the next Friday evening.

Fabulous felting was our first creative session of the year.

Linda Cookson, of FuzzBee Felts, brought a stunning selection of her work and chatted to us about the history of felting and the different methods used.

She showed us the various materials traditionally used for creating felt — sheep wool, alpaca and, strangely, nettle fibres.

Then she provided us with a big block of foam and a curious barbed needle.

We chose from a selection of cookie cutter shapes, placed coloured fibre inside it and started stabbing with the needle.

Everyone seemed to enjoy this part of the session and found it quite therapeutic, whether that was the company and chatter or the release of stress from imagining who we were poking with a sharp object while we were stabbing the fibres into shape.

Linda provided us with a brooch back pin so we could even wear our creations, which included butterflies, bunnies, dolphins, flowers and even a cute giraffe.

It was great to get back together again with some new members and to have some fun with our tea and cakes.

Our next meeting is our annual meeting in March when we will have to vote in new committee members and will have our plans in place for our coming year of activities.

We welcome new and prospective members to our meetings so do come along and find out what we are all about or follow us on social media, Facebook and Instagram @HOTWi


OUR February meeting took place at the Church Centre in Mill Green, Wargrave.

Our speaker was Graham Horn, who spoke about “Anniversaries of 2022”, some 2,000 years of events.

Graham started by going back to the year 122CE, when the Emperor Hadrian implemented the building of a wall which was to be a defence some 73 miles long and became known as Hadrian’s Wall.

Work began on September 20. This was our first anniversary.

We then made a leap to 1122 when Eleanor of Aquitaine was born, then on through the centuries past the Wars of the Roses and problems over income tax.

Arriving in Malvern in 1622, there’s more to these hills than a beautiful view: water surges fit to drink, so fill up the bottles, don’t pour it down the sink.

In 1722 Daniel Defoe wrote the tales of Moll Flanders, her history to know.

Then in 1822 who is this man coming into view? He’s Charles Babbage, a man with mathematically brilliant mind who will be the father of computers.

In Scotland, George IV on his first visit sees the Scottish kilt and fancies himself in it so commissions a Stuart tartan that no one else shall wear without permission.

We are then in 1922 and Partition in Ireland and finish with Lord Reith who founded the BBC.

For us it was time for a nice cup of tea.

Having thanked Graham warmly for his interesting and entertaining talk on our history, members then focused on the year ahead and future plans.

In early March we will be hold our annual meeting and then on April 6 we look forward to hearing Ailsa Claybourn speaking about “Enchanted woodlands”.

This meeting will be held at the Church Centre in Mill Green at 2pm.

New members are most welcome.

Sue Drew


PEPPARD WI celebrated 103 years and members enjoyed a special and enjoyable afternoon at the Crooked Billet in Stoke Row, where they were kindly looked after by the staff and enjoyed a delicious lunch.

Our February get-together took us all down memory lane, when Barbara Carr gave us an entertaining talk entitled “Education, education”.

Our next meeting is the War Memorial Hall in Peppard on Wednesday, March 9 from 2pm.

We will have our annual meeting followed by a quiz. Visitors are most welcome.

We are all anticipating the arrival of spring with the days drawing out.

The snowdrops and daffodils are leading the way.

Stephanie Douglas


THE Remenham entry for the Elizabeth Bell Challenge was delivered to Mortimer House at the beginning of the month.

The scrapbook submitted showed all the activities undertaken by Remenham members over the past year with contributions of writing and art from many of the group.

The book club met to discuss The Bletchley Girls, which proved to be a popular choice.

It was not surprising to hear that all members present felt that they would have volunteered to be considered for the jobs at Bletchley Park.

Their next read is Three Women and a Boat by Anne Youngson. The main meeting this month was the annual meeting and it was good to see so many members present.

The meeting started earlier than usual with a delightful lunch prepared by members of the committee.

Minutes of meetings, the financial statement and the annual report were all read and approved.

The president remarked on the busy and eventful year that had been enjoyed, despite all the difficulties.

The president, vice-
president, treasurer and secretary remain the same, as do other members of the committee, all of whom were thanked by the president for their hard work.

A vote of thanks was given to Wendy Robinson by Jen Terry, together with a spring posy. Posies were also given to “birthday” members.

Trophies were awarded as follows:

Craft competition — Anne Francis

Best bloom — Pat Sly

Art competition — Sheila Constantinidi and Daphne Austen

Most helpful member — Caroline Leeming

The afternoon ended with a short competition to add three lines to “And then the clock struck 12”.

There were many imaginative pieces, such as

“I’m awake,” said my
“I’m not,” said Grannie Annie
“It’s the middle of the night.”
And then the clock struck 12.


The thunder roared,
The lightning cracked,
And then the clock struck 12
At last the seance was over!

Our next meeting is on Monday, March 14. If you would like to come along, please call Daphne on 07919 358979.

Daphne Austen


THE year is progressing slowly and another WI meeting day is here.

It is February 2 and we are all making our way to St Barnabas hall for our gathering. It is a reasonable day and not raining.

Arlene Riley, our president, is there to welcome all members and visitors present and informs all that a copy of the minutes of the December 2021 meeting are available to see (there having been no meeting in January).

Next we were reminded by our secretary of the five resolutions being put forward by the National Federation for 2023 and were asked to hand our slips in to Ryszarda at the end of the meeting.

The proposal to change the status of the Berkshire Federation into a charitable incorporated organisation was read out to us.

WIs will be asked to vote on this at the annual spring council meeting on April 8.

We will be asked to vote at our March meeting and our delegate (Brenda Caborn) will present our vote at the spring council meeting.

Members with a February birthday were handed cards.

The book club met at Barbara Wood’s house.

Still no suitable films have been found, so there was no cinema club.

Ladies that Lunch met at Carluccio’s at the Forbury.

Arlene read out a letter from a New Zealand WI member reporting on how life was getting back to normal following covid restrictions.

For the trip to the Bombay Sapphire distillery in May, members were asked to pay a £15 deposit and this was duly collected.

The remaining £20 will be collected at our next meeting along with £7.50 for members who wish to
pre-order lunch.

Barbara Wood and Brenda Thames are stepping down from the committee in March so we are looking for members to replace them.

Also Linda Hughes needs helpers with the tea and coffee, so please come forward and help.

Our speaker was Jennifer Cowling, who gave a very detailed talk about the setting up and running of a musical on stage.

It was amazing to hear how complicated it can be and also the huge amounts of money that are required. Thank you, Jennifer, that was very interesting.

Finally, we had a cup of tea and biscuit before the raffle was drawn. Our March meeting will be our annual meeting followed by a talk by Nick Brazil on “Artistic footprints, Mapledurham to Reading”.


VICE-PRESIDENT Sue Lines welcomed ladies to a more covid-relaxed meeting on February 16.

We sang Jerusalem and face masks were optional.

Sue welcomed Mary Peters, hopefully a new member, and one guest.

Pam Hudgell has agreed to be our area delegate for the National Federation’s annual meeting in Liverpool.

We will hold our annual meeting in March and Sue asked for nominations for the committee.

Our speaker was Richard Poad, the recently retired chairman of the Maidenhead Heritage Centre.

He began by saying how great it was to be personally, not virtually, speaking to an audience. He also remarked on how splendid the memorial hall is.

The centre is the permanent home of the Grandma Flew Spitfires exhibition and a fabulous Spitfire simulator experience.

The exhibition honours the achievements of the Air Transport Auxiliary, the organisation of civilian pilots in the Second World War.

From its original headquarters at White Waltham, the ATA was used to ferry new aircraft from factories to RAF and Royal Navy squadrons, transporting important service personnel and delivering spare parts for new and damaged planes.

In 1940, Pauline Gower initiated the first eight women pilots, nicknamed Attagirls, into the ATA but by the end of the war there were 166, some very young, women flying around the country.

During the war 1,250 pilots joined the ATA, coming from all over the world — America, South Africa, Poland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Chile to name a few.

In 1943 the Attagirls were the first women to be awarded the same pay as their male counterparts.

Of the 173 ATA pilot deaths, 15 were women, including the famous aviator Amy Johnson.

In 2008 all ATA survivors were awarded a special veteran’s badge in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the war effort.

The centre has an amazing collection of ATA memorabilia — log books, uniforms and hundreds of photographs. It’s well worth a visit The tea hostesses were Jennifer Studholme and Jean Stone and Susan Partridge had a very worthwhile afternoon winning the RAF memorabilia competition and the flower of the month competition.

We meet in Shiplake Memorial Hall on every third Wednesday from 2.30pm. Visitors are always welcome.

Rachel Lloyd


FORTY members and two visitors were very pleased to be meeting in person at Sonning Common village hall in February.

Twelve apologies for absence were also received.

WI friendship is special and there was buzz of conversation as members caught up sharing news on both happy and sad events that had occurred since they had last met.

President Sue Frayling-Cork gave members and our speaker Dave Maycock a warm welcome.

She then updated us on other matters. A donation to the Memorial Fund will be sent to the Oxfordshire Federation in memory of Barbara Pike.

While visits to the Abbeycrest Nursing Home are restricted, members are asked to send greetings cards to Sylvia Dickins.

Ruth is now housebound but is also keen to keep in touch with WI members.

June Fisher informed members that knitted lap blankets are always well received by those who become chair-bound.

Beverley and Carol have been lucky winners of a prize in recent Oxfordshire Federation 400 Club draws.

There have been meetings of the Scrabble group, darts group, craft group and the Tuesday walkers.

At the annual meeting two members of the committee will be standing down. Three members have expressed an interest in joining the committee.

Any other members interested should contact Sue Frayling-Cork.

Members’ attention was drawn to an article in WI Life magazine about International Women’s Day on March 8. A report explains why the day is more important than ever and how members can get involved.

Programme secretary Alison then introduced Dave Maycock.

It was third time lucky for us as Dave’s previous two visits had been cancelled due to covid regulations.

Dave’s subject was brass rubbing.

Knights of old and landed gentry in the 1300s commissioned these brass memorials. The brass sheets were imported and then skilfully engraved by hand and set into Purbeck stone.

It was a costly business, £120 in the 1300s being equivalent to the price of a small London house.

Dave pointed out the details of the armour and the changes made to the armour.

When Englishmen fought battles on foot, they needed waist-length armour so they could move more easily.

Dave drew attention to the brass memorials of ladies with their butterfly headdresses and Italian brocade, which showed their wealth and standing.

Ladies in Tudor times had separate dress sleeves which could be changed for different occasions.

Oliver Cromwell removed brasses and they fell out of fashion.

Dave had bought along a large number of resin copies of many brasses from around the country.

Using these, members much enjoyed producing their own rubbings on black paper to take home.

There was a detailed printout informing us of whose memorial we had copied.

I have a splendid copy of Sir John D’Abernoun, who is believed to have been sheriff of Surrey and Sussex in 1330 and 1334. He is wearing a layer of grand armour and mail. His feet are resting on a lion, signifying strength and courage.

Beverley gave Dave a vote of thanks for a most interesting, informative and enjoyable evening.

Back to business, the raffle was drawn and Jane led the singing of Happy Birthday to Janet and all the ladies with February

The flower of the month competition winner was Jenny with a hellebore with Linda in second with a fragrant sprig of daphne and president Sue third with a miniature iris.

The Sonning Common village spring clean will take place on March 6. Volunteers are needed to serve refreshments at the village hall at 11.30am.

With the relaxation of the covid regulations, we will once again host the monthly village coffee mornings.

The first one will held at the village hall on April 6 from 10.30am to noon. The theme will be Easter.

Cakes, greetings cards and preloved books will be on sale and we will have our popular tombola stall. Greenshoots, part of the Ways and Means Trust, will also have a stall, selling jams and preserves, plants and gifts. Residents and visitors are all very welcome. The next meeting will be on Thursday, March 17. This will be our annual meeting. There will also be a talk on “Saving energy” by Astrid Aldous, of Citizens Advice Reading.

For more information, call Carol on 0118 972 3738.

Sue Hedges


ON Tuesday, February 8, 19 members got together for their first meeting since November 2021 when the Omicron variant was still an unknown and potentially more deadly variable of covid.

The February meeting is organised as a social event, which is always a popular choice.

This year in particular it was very appropriate as old friends were greeted after such a long and difficult two years with so many people shielding and self-isolating.

This was seen as another new start to a safe and perhaps more cautious future.

President Rita Mann welcomed everyone back and brought us up to date on all the news.

Members choose a charity each year and donations are collected each month. Despite meetings being curtailed, £48 was donated to Wallingford Food Bank.

Forthcoming events open to members range from dance days to speakers on quilting and one about the 17th century with a title of “Sex, drink and death”.

Flower arranging and bread making are also on the list, as is a trip to the NEC in Birmingham for the Creative Crafts Show.

Locally and county-wise, there is always a lot going on in the WI for members to take part in.

We then paired up to take part in a quiz. This was a bit like the very popular Wordle game but much more

It was a question of using a part of the brain that in my case had never seen the light of day.

Once you got into the mindset some questions were very obvious and, of course, when given the answers you wondered how you hadn’t been able to solve the puzzle.

It was very enjoyable and fibe members got all the answers. Perhaps next time…

We then enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea provided by three members. It was one of the most-looked forward to times in the meeting when everyone can be together chat and catch up on the last few months.

Simple entertainment, friends and a great tea — what more is needed?

Our next meeting will be in the village hall on Tuesday, March 8 at 2.15pm. This is our annual meeting and will be followed by a flower arranging demonstration and afternoon tea.

If you would like to join us for the afternoon, visitors are always welcome.

Margaret Boorne


FLEXIBILITY has definitely remained the key word for February with several changes of plan needed for the monthly meeting.

This was our birthday meeting, celebrating the formation of Stoke Row WI in February 1956.

It was originally planned to be a birthday party with entertainment but when the entertainment cancelled we decided to throw a party anyway with a Fifties theme.

High levels of infection in the community and illness among our members required a further toning down of our plans.

In the end almost half our members came in person to the hall with several more “attending” via Zoom.

Our theme became memories of childhood.

Members were welcomed with a glass of fizz on arrival and then served pizza at refreshment time.

Our treasurer, Maureen, delved into the archives and read excerpts from the handwritten documents of those early years, including the minutes of the first meeting. What wonderful handwriting people had then.

There were 50 members who joined when Stoke Row WI was formed 66 years ago.

It was fascinating to hear some familiar names from the membership in those early years but as their names were only recorded as Mrs or Miss A without any first names, it was quite difficult to work out just which generation was represented.

We worked out there were grandmothers, mothers and mothers-in-law of some of our current members.

One of our long-standing members was originally a member of Checkendon WI which met in the afternoons and she recounted stories of taking her toddler to the meetings where his crawling around the hall was quite disruptive to proceedings. She then joined Stoke Row WI as it met in the evenings and she could leave her toddler in the care of her husband.

Members had brought memorabilia from the Fifties with the coronation featuring in many of the treasured possessions.

These included commemorative stamps, an ornate biscuit tin and a model replica of the royal coach and horses.

One of our members was taken to London to see the coronation parade where she had a grandstand view from the upper floor of her family’s business premises.

Many of us also remembered annual caravan holidays in the rain, suet roly-poly pudding and melamine crockery.

A member’s doll’s house television in a cabinet made for her by her grandfather reminded us of those early TVs which were made to look like pieces of furniture.

On the subject of the early activities of our WI, we heard how the WI used to organise day trips around the UK by train, hiring the whole train. What fun that sounded!

To celebrate the early signs of spring Tilley organised a snowdrop walk to admire the beautiful displays of snowdrops around the outskirts of the village and Witheridge Hill. There was a delightful stop for lunch at the Rising Sun.

Tilley’s next walk will be a daffodil walk on March 17, starting from the Stoke Row Chapel at 1.30pm.

The walk will culminate with “tea at 3” at a local hostelry. As usual, members who are not taking part in the walk are very welcome to join in for tea.

Eating out is a very enjoyable pastime for many of our members and we have been very lucky to be able to hold our diners club events over the winter months in relatively warm outdoor surroundings.

On March 31, the diners club will meet at the Waterfront cafe at Benson in the hope of some warm sunshine, as we had there in November.

Coming soon are coffee and chat sessions via Zoom, while craft, games and book groups will continue to meet in person on a monthly basis.

There will also be swimming at the kind invitation of one of our members at her pool.

Our next gathering on March 15 will be our annual meeting.

If you are interested in what we do, call our secretary Pam on (01491) 681723 or email srwisecretary@

You would be most welcome to visit us.

Denise Stanworth


THIS was our first meeting of the new year, owing to covid still making its presence felt.

Our speakers for the afternoon were Karen and Brett Wiles talking about the Women’s Voluntary Services and its involvement in the Second World War.

A few of our members could remember the WVS during that time. Our speakers used slides, music and other visual aids to enhance their talk. Stella Isaacs was the moving force behind the WVS.

She was the secretary to Lord Reading and eventually married him. She also involved Lady Denman, of WI fame.

Members had to buy their own uniforms and WVS hats were compulsory.

They were encouraged to learn to drive and to do vehicle maintenance. They were also involved in the various evacuations during bombing and with the Dunkirk rescue of men from beaches. One aspect of a good cup of tea was to allow it to “brew” for five to 10 minutes. You should be able to stand your spoon up in it!

The craft/art group will meet in the West Room at 2pm on March 9 and 23 and April 6 and 20.

Our next meeting will be on Thursday, March 10 at 2.30pm in the West Room. This will be our annual meeting followed by a quiz.

Steph Van Pette, from So-Sustainable, will be giving us a talk on “How it all started and why” on April 14 and in May Martin Sirot-Smith will give us a talk on “Daily life in Tudor times”.

Our garden party this year will celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee. More details to follow.

If you would like to come and meet us, you will have a warm welcome.

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


FEBRUARY is an interesting month. It is the shortest and therefore passes even more quickly than other months. It is still winter but with signs that spring is just around the corner.

In preparing for our annual meeting in March, we look back at what we have been up to throughout the last year.

However, we must also look ahead and plan for the 12 months to come.

In Whitchurch Hill we have been pleased with how we have managed the difficulties of covid.

We continued our meetings, whether on Zoom or in person.

We met outdoors for the summer months but were quick to take advantage of changing circumstances to return indoors once again from October.

As the membership renewal season gets into full swing, it is heartening to see that members are returning for another year, with resignations only due to poor health or relocation.

We send those not returning to us every good wish for the future.

Our forthcoming year is full of promise. We are not only planning to celebrate the 69 years since our group was formed but also of course the Queen’s platinum jubilee. We enjoy a good party.

Educationally, we shall also be busy with speakers covering such diverse subjects as dementia awareness, gardening, poetry and King Arthur — and that is just a taster.

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention the trips out that we are also planning.

If you fancy joining us and live in or around Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill, please call Frances on 0118 984 2162.

Sally Bergmann


PATRICIA SOLOMONS welcomed members, new member Louise Heathcote and a visitor to our February meeting.

Celebrating their birthdays this month were Shirley Bryant and Jean Walker.

We were entertained by Keith and Lesley who had songs, poems and music for each month of the year, ranging from Flanders and Swann to Irving Berlin.

They started with a rendition of Happy Birthday as Woodcote WI was celebrating 78 years since it was founded in 1944.

We then enjoyed a lovely birthday tea. Thank you to all the members who made cakes, scones and savoury dishes.

Patricia had a beautiful butterfly cake made which was cut by Joan Soanes and Gill Woods.

We will be playing skittles at Wallingford Sports Park in March and enjoying a lunch.

The lunch group went to the King William IV at Hailey and had a delicious meal. Thank you to Sally Lambert for arranging it.

There will be a group meeting with our link WIs in June in Woodcote village hall. This will include a ploughman’s lunch and a talk on food rationing in the Second World War.

Our next meeting will be the annual meeting when we will have a beetle drive.

Please come and join us as you will be very welcome.

We meet at Woodcote village hall on the third Wednesday of the month at 2.30pm.

Judy Williams

More News:

POLL: Have your say