WI Roundup – Henley Standard


AT the end of May, members got together for their first formal meeting since February 2020 in the garden of our former president.

As well as celebrating our first meeting of the year, it also marked Benson WI’s 95th anniversary.

There was a glass or two of bubbly, some very tasty sandwiches and a special cake on offer, all organised by our committee.

Business was kept to a minimum, giving everybody a chance to really catch up. It was lovely to see that all but one of our members were able to attend.

Over the next few months our normal meeting room in Benson parish hall is unavailable as it is having extensive upgrade work carried out, so until normal service is resumed, we are unable to organise a specific programme.

Resumption of our indoor meetings will probably have to wait until October at the earliest.

However, for our June meeting, members have been invited to visit the newly completed Benson Care Home to hold their meeting and to have a tour of the facilities.

All is dependent on the lifting of the government restrictions, of course.

For more information about Benson WI, call the president on (01491) 837885 or email the secretary on [email protected]

Sue Brown


A VERY successful coffee morning was held recently and 20 members attended.

Very pleased to see “old” friends again, lots of laughter and chat.

We have a lunch booked in a couple of weeks which I’m sure will be enjoyable.

Our summer outing is in early June, a picnic by the river in Caversham, weather permitting. Members to bring their own picnic etc.

Not quite our usual outing but staying locally hopefully will encourage our members to come. Lots of fresh air and shade nearby if needed.

Due to the virus we have no start date for our usual monthly meetings with a speaker, so the coffee mornings and lunches enable Chazey members able to meet safely.

Carol Briscoe


ON May 19, president Judi Rowlands welcomed members to our third Zoom meeting.

She welcomed guest speaker Graham Horn, a blue badge tour guide for the South and West.

He has already given us two excellent talks and this time his subject was “anniversaries of 2021”, picking various 100th, 200th and 300th etc anniversaries we are commemorating this year.

His talk started with the year AD 121 — Hadrian’s Wall. Following his visit to the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire in Britannica, Emperor Hadrian ordered the army to build a wall of stone and turf, 80 miles long, coast to coast.

Along its length there are fortlets, known as “milecastles”, as the regular pillaging by barbarians from the north had to be stopped.

AD 421 — Venice. The construction of Venice started after the fall of the Roman Empire and was officially founded on March 25, 421.

The church clock tower was originally built during the 15th century.

Graham pointed out that the clock has no minute hand and only goes round once in 24 hours, not twice, so is not very accurate.

1121 — Tewkesbury Abbey and Reading Abbey. Tewkesbury Abbey, a fine example of Norman architecture, was consecrated in 1121.

After the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, it was bought by the townsfolk for £453.

Reading Abbey was also founded in 1121 but fell into ruin after the dissolution. It was founded by Henry I, youngest son of William the Conqueror.

In 1539 the abbey was dissolved. While some of the flint walls remain, most of the construction stones are gone, probably re-used.

The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded Reading Borough Council £2.13 million to restore the historic features of t Forbury Gardens, a reminder of a glorious past. It’s a lovely garden to visit.

1321 — Dante died. His poem Inferno describes his journey through hell guided by the Roman poet Virgil.

The work remains an influential piece of literature in exploring the origins of evil.

Dante’s work has influenced or inspired music, novels, films, mobile apps and even video games.

1421 — Wars of the Roses. Henry VI was born at Windsor in 1421 and became king aged just nine months. As he was a child, his uncles squabbled over the regency and events escalated towards the Wars of the Roses in subsequent decades.

1521 — Diet of Worms. The Diet of Worms (an assembly of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) summoned Martin Luther to renounce or reaffirm his views in response to a papal bull issued by Pope Leo X.

Luther was found to be heretic and was excommunicated. His books were banned.

1621 — Mayflower. The previous year Mayflower had left Plymouth with 120 aboard but only 55 survived the first winter in their new world.

The 41 men signed a company to work together to secure the colony. Helped by the local Wampanoag natives, they successfully established the colony and the first thanksgiving was held in November 1621.

1721 — South Sea bubble and the first prime minister.

The bubble, or hoax, centred on the fortunes of the South Sea Company.

The share price rose then fell sharply, such that many people, including parliamentarians, lost money.

Robert Walpole was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer to try to sort out the mess and because of his success he became known as Britain’s first prime minister.

Some 1721 births

Alexander Selkirk, stranded on an island, became the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe.

Grinling Gibbons became established as one of the world’s finest woodcarvers and his work can still be seen today in places like Windsor Castle.

Edward Colston was one of Bristol’s slave traders and although he did lots of good philanthropic work in the city, his statue was removed last year.

1821 — Napoleon died. After Wellington and Blucher defeated the French at Waterloo in 1815, Napoleon was exiled to St Helena in the mid-Atlantic, where he died six years later.

Some 1821 births

Old Tom Morris, founder of golf at St Andrews.

Louis Vuitton, creator of an expensive fashion house in Paris.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Russian author.

1921 — Partition of Ireland An Act of parliament in 1920 created two self-governing parts of Ireland under the UK. The majority in the south wanted an Irish Free State and after fighting in 1921, a separate Ireland was created.

1921 — Bessie Coleman. She was the first female and person of colour to hold a pilot’s licence.

1921 — Alice Milliat. French rower Alice led the campaign for the inclusion of women in the Olympic Games by organising the first International Women’s sporting competition in Monte Carlo. British woman Mary Lines was a successful competitor.

1921 — Marie Stopes. She set up her first clinics focussing on women’s health.

1921 — births

Robert Runcie, Nancy Reagan, Peter Ustinov, Deborah Kerr, Peter Sallis, Mary Jackson and Prince Philip.

Selina Avent


THE very first all-female Women’s Institute opened in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll in Anglesey on September 11, 1915.

The country was at war. Madge Watt, a pioneer, stated that “An institute is not ruled, but rules herself. Four freedoms should always be kept in mind: truth, tolerance, justice and fellowship.”

She could have added “non-denominational and non-political.” The bedrock of today’s WI.

This was widely condemned; one vicar operated a curfew for the women of his parish, forbidding them to go out after dark.

A husband was horrified: “Clubs for educating women? What is the world coming to?”

The world survived. After the First World War, the number of branches burgeoned and from the beginning the WI strongly supported education for women, the right to vote, equality with men.

Women in Britain today take all these for granted but it was a struggle, fought by our grandmothers and mothers.

Our WIs survived, indeed thrived, during two world wars, economic depressions and booms until a tiny virus stopped us.

It has been 15 months since any WI has been able to welcome members to an actual meeting.

As readers of these pages will know, every WI, large and small, has worked hard to keep in touch with our members, using newsletters, telephone calls, Zoom meetings… and these have been much appreciated.

Not all WIs have survived and many of the smaller ones left are hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

Greys is a small WI, in a small rural village, Rotherfield Greys, and we are hoping that all our members will return to our monthly meetings and that new members will bring new ideas.

We started in 1920, were unable to celebrate our centenary in 2020 and our aim is to be still here in 2120.

Come and join us — we meet in Greys village hall on the third Wednesday of the month at 2pm.

Merryl Roberts


SEVENTEEN members joined our third Zoom meeting on May 13 for a presentation by Simon Williams, whom we first met in person in January last year for his talk about magic and illusion.

On this occasion, Simon took us back in time to the events surrounding the Great Train Robbery.

He engaged us with his fascinating, colourful and detailed insight into the planning and sequence of activities which took place before and after the robbery and the personalities involved.

He introduced us to each of the “gang” members, highlighting key facts about them, including their lives following prison.

So many interesting anecdotes: the stolen money would be worth £42 million today; eight bags were left behind and 128 were stolen, all stuffed with £5, £1 and 10/- notes; only a sixth of the money was ever recovered and, worst of all, it wasn’t insured.

While at their hideaway, the robbers played Monopoly using the stolen money; they each gave a £5 note (taken from the haul) to Ronnie Biggs, the day of the robbery being his birthday. At the time of the robbery one of the robbers, Roy James, was a promising racing driver as well as being a silversmith.

Some years later, following his term in jail, he made the Formula 1 Constructors’ Association Award for Bernie Ecclestone, which to this day is still presented annually.

Simon concluded with the interesting observation that despite being 50 years on, the brains behind the robbery, Mr Big, had never been identified.

There have been a number of theories but nothing ever proved.

The next general meeting will be on Thursday, June 10 at 7.30pm.

Once again, although hopefully for the last time, we will meet via Zoom when John Pearson will talk about “Blessed are the cheesemakers, cheeses and cheese-tasting”.

He has spent his working life in the food industry, primarily selecting cheese products for Marks & Spencer. Since retiring, he has consulted for a number of suppliers and retailers.

He is an international cheese judge and a contributor to the recently published Oxford Companion of Cheese. In 2011 he was named cheese personality of the year.

John will share his passion for cheese and cheese-makers and will draw on his experience of interacting with dairies throughout Europe as he describes some embarrassing and hilarious encounters with various characters in the cheese production world.

In anticipation of further relaxation of the covid regulations towards the end of June, the committee has begun to plan our summer party for Thursday, July 8 when, hopefully, we will at last all be able to get together in person. More information will follow.

Additionally, the committee is planning to hold an accessories sale at the November meeting. All donations of jewellery and accessory items will be gratefully received. We aim to start collecting items at the summer party.

We wish you continued good health and as well as hoping for warmer weather, we are very much looking forward to seeing you for our June Zoom talk and in person in July.

For more informatkion, visit www.hambleden-wi.org or you can call our president, Sarah Williams, on 07817 120339.

Sally-Ann Roberts


OUR committee is very much looking forward to welcoming members back on July 16 at Sacred Heart Church hall.

We are planning a social evening to reconnect over a glass of wine.

We would love to welcome guests and potential new members after such a long time of lockdown so take the plunge and come along.

HOT WI is a fun and enthusiastic group, formed at the start of 2017, which spans the generations with members from all walks of life and backgrounds.

We meet on the third Friday of the month at Sacred Heart Church hall in Vicarage Road, Henley, at 7.30pm and have a diverse meeting programme with the emphasis on gaining new skills, new friends and promoting good causes.

It is part of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, a movement formed just over a century ago when women were playing an increasing role in society.

The WI helped women to develop new skills and gave them opportunities to campaign for issues that mattered to them.

Now, with wider aims and a flourishing membership, it is the largest women’s organisation in the UK.

There are many great reasons to join HoT WI.

We are a supportive and friendly group of women with a varied monthly meeting programme, a monthly email newsletter and active social media community.

You will have the opportunity to meet people and to get involved with local events and good causes.

As part of the National Federation, you will also receive the monthly WI Life magazine and have the chance to get involved with national campaigns for social and environmental change.

Come to a meeting and find out more. You are warmly welcome to attend up to two meetings as a guest. Guests are asked to pay £5 at each meeting, which is deductible from the full cost of your membership should you choose to join on the evening. Doors open at 7.15pm.

We begin with any official business, announcements and news — we try to keep this as brief as possible.

Then we have our main meeting focus, a speaker or activity, followed by tea, coffee or a glass of wine and, often, cake and or biscuits. Then you will have a chance to chat with members.

Katie Wood-Field


THE May meeting was held via Zoom and we heard that we have 29 full members and one dual member.

All members have received the programme for the coming year from which it is evident we have some interesting speakers to look forward to hearing.

Our delegate for the National Federation’s annual meeting on June 8 is Ann Lardin, of Woodcote WI.

Because Ann does not use the internet, our president Suzanna Rose has invited Ann to use her link.

The resolution to be voted on concerns ovarian cancer and Harpsden members were unanimously in favour of it.

Gwen Wilding gave a short talk on Henley Ladies Probus Club (Badgemore), outlining its aims, charity work and social aspect.

The club is 25 years old and has about 60 members. It was started by Pat Burton, who later became president, and the current president is Nonie Vernon.

Sue Beswick organised a quiz, based largely on the WI, which was won by Judith Young.

The next meeting is on June 9 when the speaker will be Catherine Sampson and her subject is “Royal weddings”. The Zoom meeting will begin at 2.30pm.

The July meeting will also be held via Zoom but in August we will enjoy the delights of Di Painter’s garden for a bring and share tea.

In September we are planning to return to our usual meeting place, Harpsden village hall, to celebrate our 80th birthday.

Meanwhile, we rely on Zoom to get us through and to be able to have a chat with friends.

Judith Young


ON Wednesday, May 5 we met once again via Zoom for a talk by Stephen Powles entitled “The cave elephants of Mt Elgon”.

Formerly a vet, Stephen changed career to pursue a lifelong passion for wildlife, wildlife photography, filming and conservation.

His filming concentrates on interesting and challenging wildlife subjects, of which there are many.

He transported us to Africa, high up in the mountainous region of Mt Elgon, where an extinct volcano straddles the border between Kenya and Uganda.

Over time it has become home to a unique population of elephants. We learned that over thousands of years the elephants have beaten a path to caves which now exist partly due to their persistent assaults with their tusks on the mineral rich volcanic rock, which provides them with the salt and minerals essential to their wellbeing.

Stephen’s talk explored the wider and cultural history of the region, disclosing that heavy rainfall causes the leaching of the mineral-rich soil, thereby necessitating the animals’ hazardous journey.

Buffalo also tread this highway, as do several other smaller creatures, including bushbuck and a fruit bat with a 2ft wing span.

They all enter the caves in search of the salt rich deposits. There is also plenty of water as waterfalls form huge curtains during the wet season.

Stephen shared with us an amazing landscape featuring green parkland with gigantic podocarpus trees.

Moving on, we observed huge groundsels, red-hot pokers and lobelias. We saw basalt cliffs which stretch over five miles.

Down in the valley, the Kitale people live in their traditional huts, yet solar panels are appearing on the thatched roofs.

People were holding mobile phones and tracking devices which enable them to locate their animals. Man and beasts are now competing for space.

How can planet Earth support the needs of both and what is the future for those unable to speak for themselves — they too have the right to exist?

This is the problem our dedicated speaker and his family are addressing through the Mt Elgon Foundation and the Mount Elgon Elephant Project.

We wish them well and success in the protection of the elephants.

It really was a most interesting afternoon and we look forward to hearing more from Stephen at some time in the future.

Sue Drew


MEMBERS have been keeping in touch as best they can throughout the ongoing difficult circumstances.

Emerging from the depths of winter into a rather wet spring left us longing and hopeful for warmer summer days ahead, when we will able meet again in person.

We kept in contact over the phone and where possible we participated in activities via Zoom.

We continued with our book club, with members kindly making sure all who wanted to be involved did get hold of the books to read, and we all enjoyed being able to chat about them and other subjects when we were together.

It was with regret that we heard of the death of Maggie Breakspear, who was known to many of us at the Peppard WI as she so masterfully managed the Peppard hall bookings for many years.

All those involved with the hall will especially miss her as she was so enthusiastic and efficient in juggling the many demands on the hall for events. She was the longest-serving member of the team and it is hard to imagine the hall without her.

We very much anticipate extending our activities beyond our respective four walls and limited environments and hope to be able to meet in the Peppard hall during early summer and enjoy in person the camaraderie which we have all missed and value so much.

Elaine Douglas


MAY’S meeting was a little more energetic than usual.

After business matters had been attended to, Annabel Brash was welcomed to the Zoom meeting.

Annabel discussed safety in the home and outside so that accidental falls and trips could be prevented.

She then discussed and demonstrated various exercises for strengthening the core and leg muscles to help with general movement.

Members then joined in with these exercises, which were for both sitting and standing. This led to much discussion, concentration and laughter.

It was also noted in the days that followed that some muscles had not been well used for some time!

With all the wet and gloomy weather, it seemed an ideal time to meet, again via Zoom, for a cocktail hour.

From mojitos to pina coladas, it could almost be imagined that the sun was shining while the chatter ensued.

Another book club meeting has been held to discuss An Enchanted April, which was enjoyed by everyone, especially the glorious descriptions of the weather, scenery and flowers.

Another copy of the Remenham Rag has been distributed to all members, containing a variety of articles in addition to recipes, handicraft and gardening ideas.

It is very much hoped that the June meeting will be held outside when it will be good to meet up with those members who have not been able to join us on Zoom over the last few months.

If you are interested in coming to our meetings, please give Daphne a call on 07919 358979.

Daphne Austen


OUR Zoom meeting on Wednesday, May 19 was again organised by Helen Robinson.

Joan Jolley welcomed the 24 ladies who had signed in.

She told us that she was pleased with the number of members who had now paid their subs. There is still no definite news about when we can have our meetings back in the memorial hall but Joan is hoping that it will be possible for our September meeting when we can have full use of the kitchen – essential for our lovely teas.

The National Federation’s annual meeting on June 8 will be a virtual meeting. Members can apply for observer tickets at a cost of £9. The speakers will be HRH Countess of Wessex, Dame Cressida Dick and Baroness Brenda Hale.

WIs have been asked to update their membership information databases. The Oxfordshire Inspires magazine is sent to all the email addresses that are held on the database.

The Friday walks are proving to be popular but the weather hasn’t been kind. They start at 11am from the Shiplake Corner Shop and are followed by coffee at The Baskerville.

Helen told the meeting about the Shiplake Bowls Club open day where everyone was invited to go along and have a try at bowling.

The main part of the May meetings is the resolutions. This year there is only one, which is “A call to increase the awareness of the subtle signs of ovarian cancer”.

Janet Matthews led the discussions and started with a quiz to discover if we were aware of some of the facts.

Only four per cent of people knew the symptoms to look for. Ovarian cancer is most common in post-menopausal women and women in their early twenties and is often misdiagnosed as IBS.

Janet explained that there are 4,100 deaths from ovarian cancer each year. With early diagnosis, nine out of 10 women will survive for over five years but only one out of ten will survive for five years if they are diagnosed at a later stage. There is a blood test — the A125 — which is available and can lead to an earlier diagnosis but it is not widely known about and not always offered by doctors.

A vote was taken by a show of hands and the resolution was passed unanimously.

The results of the vote will be taken to the annual meeting of the National Federation. If the resolution is carried forward, the Federation will begin the process of raising awareness, to include such things as hosting educational events, lobbying public health bodies and creating material for WIs to use.

Joan thanked Janet for her research and fact-finding and for explaining the facts in an easy to understand way.

The June meeting will again be online and will feature a talk entitled “Archaeology is rubbish”. Members will be sent sign-in details a few days before.

Pam Hudgell


THE meeting on May 20 took place via Zoom and was also the annual resolution meeting.

The resolution was “A call to increase the awareness of the subtle signs of ovarian cancer”.

Dr Sarah Baker, from Sonning Common Health Centre, kindly gave up her time to present members with facts and figures on ovarian cancer and answer members’ questions.

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer in women, those at greatest risk being aged 75 to 79.

Members voted in favour of the resolution, which goes to the National Federation’s annual meeting on June 8.

The other speaker at the meeting was Sonning Common community first responders’ team co-ordinator Chris Brook.

There are four volunteers in the team. In 70 per cent of cases the first responders arrive at an emergency before a crew from the over-stretched ambulance service. Responders respond to the most serious or life-threatening calls, such as heart attacks.

They use a special inflatable lifting cushion to help people who have fallen in their homes and are unable to get up without assistance.

Member Jenny Ward had recently passed Chris a cheque for £600. This was money raised at her garage sales and boot sale when donations of books, jigsaw puzzles, plants and other items donated by friends and Sonning Common WI members were sold.

Chris told members that the money had been spent on extra lights on the responders’ new Dacia Duster to assist with finding houses in the dark. The responders’ defibrillator will also need to be replaced.

Chris thanked Jenny and the members for their generous donation.

On May 27, 30 members met for a picnic lunch at the Millennium Field in Sonning Common.

The weather could not have been kinder, with sunshine and blue skies, and the field full of buttercups and daisies. There were joyous reunions of members in the fresh air catching up on all the news.

Three more open-air gatherings are planned, a garden coffee morning and two summer garden parties.

The National Federation has circulated its policy on equality, diversity and inclusion. The WI core values and ideals are fellowship, truth, tolerance and justice, using educational opportunities to continue learning, welcoming all women and forming friendships.

Also speaking up against inequality and promoting meaningful change in society.

The WI has been campaigning for more than 100 years on issues that matter to its members.

For example, stop modern slavery, equal pay for equal work and make time for mental health.

There is no place for racism or prejudice and it works continuously to ensure that it is a place for women of all races and where they are empowered to challenge racism in their communities.

The next meeting will be held via Zoom on June 17 when Al Sylvester will be telling us about his epic journey to the South Pole.

Sue Hedges


DESPITE the disappointing weather in May, our members made the most of meeting up in person outdoors.

We are so lucky in our area to be surrounded by such lovely bluebell woodlands and the bluebell displays this year have been truly spectacular.

Many of our members walk regularly through the woods, often calling in for coffee at one of the local venues that are now allowed to open.

The consumption of tea and coffee, (usually with cake) tends to feature in our activities and this month one of our members, who hosted the outdoor games, treated the players to afternoon tea.

Our craft group abandoned Zoom and met outside in a member’s garden for the first time in months, although it was a little windy, which might have inhibited the crafting but certainly not the chat. We look forward to many more occasions to meet up outside as the year progresses.

At our group meeting we were entertained by David Allen talking to us about the making of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz with Judy

We were treated to some of the highlights from the film, which David used to illustrate the difficult conditions actors worked under in that era.

The costumes looked spectacular but the green face paint used by the Wicked Witch of the West was so toxic the actress could not eat (or drink) while wearing it.

The Tin Man’s metallic sheen on his face was created with aluminium powder which had made the previous actor in that role seriously ill.

His metal suit was so rigid the actor could not sit down and had to have a special board made to keep him propped up while resting.

The Lion looked adorable but his costume was actually made from the pelts of several real lions and weighed five stone yet his discomfort never showed at all in the film.

Our own monthly meeting was our resolution meeting and after a discussion of the proposed campaign to highlight the symptoms of ovarian cancer, we finished the evening on a lighter note with a picture quiz of famous places from around the world. This was one of our higher-scoring quizzes, which shows how well travelled our members are, or maybe we all just watch a lot of travel programmes.

Always optimistic, we are looking forward to “flaming” June when we will continue to meet for outdoor games, restart our diners club and hold our monthly meeting in a member’s garden, our traditional garden meeting.

If you are interested in joining us, call our secretary Pam on (01491) 681723 or email [email protected]
gmail.com You will be most welcome.

Denise Stanworth


WE are looking forward to our first meeting to be held in the Methodist chapel.

We decided on this move as stairs and going out in the evenings, especially on dark nights, were proving to be a drawback to our members.

We hope to have our first meeting in the chapel on Thursday, August 12 at 2.30pm. Our speaker will be Sheila with a talk on embroidery and other crafts.

As we go into June, we are planning to have another picnic in the park, weather permitting. This will be held on June10 from 12.30pm in the park near the sports pavilion.

We will hold our garden party at the bowls club on Wednesday, July 7 in the evening — more details to come.

These proposed meetings will all be in line with the government covid restrictions at the time.

Take care and look after yourselves as we look forward to a pleasant summer.

Dawn Matthews


IT is great to report that our last meeting was actually as a whole group or, more accurately, 15 out of a membership of 25.

The venue was the village green at Whitchurch Hill. The sun shone (at least until it was time to pack away) so it was a win-win all round.

Discussing serious WI matters outdoors is not easy at 2m apart, so this was kept to a minimum.

We shall continue to rely on email and Zoom where necessary to fulfil this need.

Our president Frances won the real flower of the month competition (real as in the flowers were real and not photographs) and we had two raffle winners, Eileen and Alison.

The real highlight was undoubtedly the cake generously baked by Sandra and handed out to anyone fancying something sweet to go with their personally supplied coffee.

Our June meeting will be on the cricket green in Whitchurch and then we are back in Whitchurch Hill for July.

In August we will be offering a walk and pub lunch. In the meantime, members are being asked to decide whether to vote for the resolution to the National Federation’s annual meeting about improving the screening of women for ovarian cancer.

The WI is not just about cake, coffee and calendars!

Want to know more? Please call Frances on 0118 982 2162.

Sally Bergmann