WI Newsletter – September 2003

I cannot believe that September has come and gone so quickly, our feet do not seem to have touched the ground.

For us the month started with the Village Fete, as usual we did the “teas”. This is very much a team effort, all hands on deck or rather the kitchen of the Village Hall this year. All members contribute by baking a cake or in some cases two or three, and are all freely given, but several of us spend all day there, including my young niece who enjoys helping. Even if I do say so, I do think we set a high standard and this year was no exception, and I believe we made £275. Please look at the photograph gallery to see some of the hard work behind the scenes.

On the 15th we went to Highgrove, yes that’s right the home of HRH The Prince of Wales, well to be more accurate we were invited to tour his garden. We had waited three years for this invitation, which arrived on 01 August, the day after our July meeting. As we were only permitted to take 25, our Secretary, Sheila Lockhart, and I sat together on the Friday evening, with our mobiles, ringing round to see who wanted to come and who did not. We were on a very tight time schedule. Everyone wanted to, but unfortunately, some had already made their holiday plans and would not be able to make it, such disappointment. Still at least we didn’t have to resort to a ballot, which was a relief.

So, on a really bright, sunny and warm Monday morning we set off for the Cotswolds. Our first stop was the delightfully named Cat & Custard Pot Inn where we were to have an early lunch. It turned out that this is Highgove’s “local” and we were certainly given a very warm welcome and everyone enjoyed an excellent meal. So in good sprits we set off for Highgrove, arriving precisely on time, as requested, to be met by a Policeman, the coach was searched and our identities verified, we all had been instructed to carry official identification.

We then continued down the drive to be met by our volunteer guide for the afternoon. For the next 90 minutes we criss-crossed the garden, we saw the thyme walk, the stumpery, a walled vegetable garden to be envied, a black and white garden, the Islamic garden which was exhibited at Chelsea in 2002 and so much more.

Our tour ended with a cup of tea and Duchy biscuits in the Orchard Room, and then we were let loose in the shop, where it was possible to purchase high quality items as a memento of the day. I believe some early Christmas shopping was carried out. Some of us bought the book that illustrates the garden so beautifully and the Institute purchased the video, this will be hired out to members to raise funds for charity (I hope that’s legal!). It really is a once in a lifetime experience, as you are not supposed to go again if you have been before. Presumably, they do check! Sadly, we were not permitted to take cameras with us, but we did take a snap at our September meeting where we are shown holding our very distinctive carrier bags and some of our purchases.

The Prince of Wales is very fortunate to have access to such talented craftsmen and gardeners, we were all inspired to attempt different ideas in our gardens, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. It was certainly worth the wait.

What did we do next, well later that week we went to see the Film Calendar Girls in Winchester, I am sure by now you know that several ladies from Rylstone & District WI posed for a nude calendar a few years ago, well this was the story of how it came about, or at least a fictional account, loosely based on fact. It was not always entirely clear what had been made up and what was true. We all enjoyed the film, with the usual high quality acting from Dame Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton and Annette Crosbie etc. etc., but I am not entirely sure that the image of the WI was enhanced, so if you are thinking of coming along to one of our meetings I absolutely promise no broccoli or tea towels!

Finally, we had our monthly meeting. Unfortunately, our planned speaker cancelled, but we needn’t have worried as one of our members, Hilary Horsfall, gave an excellent talk on her new home in France. She told us how she and her husband finally found their dream home, the fun of attempting to fit into French life, the lessons she learnt by attempting to attend, unsuccessfully unobtrusively, two village weddings and sadly a funeral. She now knows how it is done across the Channel.

What are we up to next? It appears that October is going to be just as busy to be honest, there is the Danebury Group Meeting in Longstock, the Federation Autumn Council Meeting in Portsmouth and at the end of the month, we have our meeting, when our speaker will be talking on the subject of Magistrates in the Community. The following day is our fund raising event, which is a walk and lunch with a Halloween Theme. See above for contact details. The walk will be tempered to suit the weather conditions and the ability of participants, but we will attempt to get round the Village, then into the hall for lunch. This is a three course light lunch with a quiz and Trick or Treat Raffle. Want to know how it works, well come along. If you are not a walker, then just come to the lunch. The cost is £5. We would be delighted to see you, just give us a ring for more details.

Sharon King