W.I. Newsletter June 2015

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There is a lot to tell you about this month, so I should go and put the kettle on before you settle to read this month’s report of our activities, as we have been celebrating being 100 years old. Not personally you understand, but the Women’s Institute first came to these shores, from Canada, in 1915 hence Institutes across England, Wales and the Islands have been marking this centenary.

First on our busy June Calendar was Cecilia Cotton’s visit to Buckingham Palace. HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, along with Their Royal Highnesses The Countess of Wessex, Princess Alexandra and The Duchess of Gloucester, hosted a Garden Party for the National Federation of Women’s Institutes and Cecilia was there on our behalf. Whilst she enjoyed her experience, she did report that you needed to enjoy (or was it endure?) queuing as there was a queue to get into the Palace, for the delicious refreshments and inevitably the ladies. It was a blustery day and there were a few ladies chasing their hats across the royal lawn, but Cecilia’s remained in place – just.

Just two days later and it was the NFWI AGM at the Royal Albert Hall, this event was also attended by Royalty, this time it was HM The Queen and TRH The Princess Royal & The Countess of Wessex. Her Majesty was invited to open the meeting and she also accepted the WI Centenary Baton after its 18 month journey around all Federations in England and Wales. The Royal Ladies were each presented with a posy, by a granddaughter of a member of the National Board of Trustees, and each went home with gifts of fruit cake and the latest WI cookbook. Many will have seen on various news programmes that before she left HM attempted to cut the centenary cake and The Princess Royal had to come to her rescue.

Whilst the cake cutting happened off stage, the meeting continued and we were delighted to welcome our first speaker of the day, Lucy Worsley an English historian, author and currently Joint Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces. However, in her role as television presenter she revealed she has made a new programme called Cakebakers & Troublemakers detailing the first 100 years of the W.I. She told us it was due to be aired on BBC2 during June, but to my knowledge, at the time of writing, it has yet to appear.

We also heard from Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson who had her audience laughing as she gave us her family’s response to her elevation to the House of Lords, she is certainly an inspirational lady. Our third and final guest speaker was Helena Morrissey CBE, CEO of Newton Investment and founder of the Thirty Percent club whose aim is to ensure there are more women on the boards of British companies.

Throughout the day there were live links to other Institutes including Anglesey where it all began.

This year’s Resolution proved to be somewhat controversial and despite a successful proposal to amend the wording, the most persuasive argument of the day was that the resolution was not worthy of the WI and we could do better. Therefore, a motion to move on to the next business, without a vote being taken, received resounding agreement. This means that, if appropriate, the Resolution can be worked on and who knows may make a re-appearance in the future.

There was a real buzz about the day, with thousands of ladies present. The singing of Jerusalem and the National Anthem in the presence of the Royal Party was particularly rousing and moving.  I was at this event of behalf of both Abbotts Ann & Goodworth Clatford WIs and it was a privilege to be there.

Then instead of being 100 we became 17 year old dancing queens as we boogied the night away at Hillier’s Arboretum to an Abba Tribute band. Several of us attended this event, along with family and friends. This was Hampshire Federation’s main centenary event and it was a glorious summer’s evening, so we were able to enjoy our picnics, indulge in a (free) cupcake at the interval and then enjoy a spectacular firework display at the end.

For our own June Meeting we visited the Lavender Fields at Hartley Park Farm near Alton. We were greeted by our host, Tim Butler, the third generation at Hartley Park Farm, which is a family affair as Tim runs the farm with his wife Anne and son.

English Lavender was introduced to the farm ten years ago and four main varieties are grown; Folgate and Maillette, which produce essential lavender oil, Grosso which produces lavadin oil and Imperial Gem used for dried seed production and bunching. This high quality essential lavender is used to develop perfumed hand, body and home fragrance products, which are all made in England. They also grow a number of other English lavenders such as Hidcote and Edelweiss and it takes three years for the lavender plants to mature with a life-cycle of between 7 to 10 years.

The lavender is harvested in the early mornings during July and August and is taken immediately to the distillery on site. Lavender oil is like fine malt whisky as it is left to mature for several years! Tim was a very enthusiastic host and regaled us with many humorous stories – some involving past employees, one of which was found asleep on the tractor one morning after a late night down the local pub(?)! The afternoon finished with a delicious cream tea and a visit to the on-site shop and members were seen heading home with hand creams, teas, biscuits and, of course, lavender plants.

Our meeting this month is taking the form of a social evening. Just come to the village Hall on 30th July at 7.30 p.m. to meet us and enjoy our company. You never know you might like to join!

16 July – Supper Club – The Plough, Sparsholt
25 July – Lunch Club (TBC)
30 July – Monthly Meeting – Social evening