WI Newsletter – June 2003

Our June meeting took the form of a visit to Sparsholt Agricultural College, where we had two excellent guides in Mark and Nathan. We were given a tour of the glasshouses, where there were plants in abundance in various phases of development. These will be used at large flower shows, such as Hampton Court in early July: the College has already exhibited at the famous Chelsea Flower Show.

The main attraction of this visit was to see the Gardeners Question Time garden (BBC Radio 4) and its infamous potting shed. This is a very peaceful garden, with a large pond in its midst, and is used to grow a wide variety of experimental plants. Continuing with our tour we saw how they grow alstroemerias as cut flowers, these are then sent to various markets including, the WI, and the resulting income is used to offset the high costs of the labour intensive courses offered by the College. Our final destination was a hot house where there were exotic plants and animals including large fish, a chameleon and some very sweet but shy monkeys who remained as far out of sight as possible.

We were then given the use of a classroom for a short refreshment break before members we were given the opportunity to purchase some of the plants and flowers seen earlier in the evening. The alstroemerias proved particularly popular.

Although our Institute participated in the Danebury Group Quiz this month, the team does not wish to dwell too much on the evening as it was not one of their better performances, although everyone taking part agreed it seemed to be particularly hard this year, but congratulations to Longstock & Leckford who go through the final to be held later this year.

Just a few days later, two members of the Institute attended the National Federation of Women’s Institutes A.G.M. in the Royal Albert Hall, as always this was a very enjoyable day. Outgoing Chairman Helen Carey urged us to utilise the publicity that will surround the release of the film Calendar Girls in September, which is the story of the Rystone & District WI, some of whose members took their clothes off to pose very tastefully for a charity calendar. We were also urged to “make a noise” and let people know what we do and to be proud of our organisation – so be warned, we want to be heard – we do much more than make jam and sing Jerusalem, although we in Abbotts Ann prefer to remain fully clothed!

All three resolutions debated at our May meetings were passed with large majorities, these related to the care of the elderly, exercise and diet of children and vocational training. These now become mandates for action. Our first guest speaker for the day was the well-known nutrition journalist, Amanda Ursell, who can frequently be seen on GMTV in the mornings. She urged us to maintain a healthy diet, all things in moderation and was only too pleased to endorse our resolution which voiced the concern that children are not eating the right foods and too many young families are eating diets high in fat, sugar and salt. Statistics in America reveal there is a generation of parents who are likely to outlive their children as a result of the fast food culture. Following a lunch break, when it appeared that just about everyone attending the meeting had descended upon Kensington Gardens, as the Albert Memorial was covered with picnicking WI members enjoying the warm June sunshine, the second guest speaker was Dr. Mike Stroud. He spoke about his adventures in both the Arctic and Antarctic with Ranulph Fienenes as well as his more recent adventures in soaring temperatures in the United States.

Our meeting in July is our open meeting, which means we invite members from other institutes to join us for the evening and our speaker is Heather Riley who entertained us a few years ago with much merriment reading extracts of literature and extolling the virtues, and indeed pleading for its survival, of the great British tradition – the jumble sale! We look forward to her return on 31 July and once again extend an invitation to the ladies of Abbotts Ann to come along for 7.30 p.m. Please don’t be shy, give us a try, we would be delighted to see you. If you have any questions please give us a ring, contact details on committee page.

We still have a few seats left on the coach for our trip to Arundel Castle on 07 August, so please get in touch if you are interested, husbands/partners are allowed to come as well. Andover Evening has invited us to join them on their trip to Uppark House in West Sussex on Sunday 27 July – National Trust members will be able to use their own membership card for free entry.

I hope you all saw the four members of Suffolk WI appearing on University Challenge on Monday 30 June in which they very soundly beat four young men in Uniform from the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. We hope to see them in the next round when the eight teams with the highest score will battle it out again.

Sharon King