Tredington and Blackwell WI Meeting Reports


WI Meeting Report for 9 June 2022

Nick Martin: ‘Britain’s Best Wildlife.  Nick Martin, who works for the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and previously managed nature reserves for the RSPB, treated us to a wonderful display of his wildlife photographs.  His in-depth knowledge of nature and his enthusiasm shone through the whole of his presentation and the hour flew by.  We were treated to pictures of a wild boar in the Forest of Dean; a crested tit; red kite and an Arctic hare and he talked about conservation success stories.

Nick informed us that swans, when they are on public land, are owned by HM The Queen which dates back to Henry VIII, however on private land, this is not the case.  The swan is the second largest British bird weighing about 10kg, however, the largest bird is a great bustard that can weigh over 20kg.

Nick told us that oak trees, common trees which date back many centuries, are an important habitat for 500 species of moths, butterflies, fungi, mosses etc.  The Purple hairstreak butterfly is known to lay its eggs on oak trees.

We were delighted to hear that beavers are now colonising the south west of England – in Cornwall – and also around the River Tay and its tributaries in Scotland.

Photographs of poppies, shot through a fish-eye lens, certainly gave a different perspective.

There were glorious images of badgers captured in Nick’s garden.  He had photographed starling murmurations in Oxfordshire and Aberystwyth and had a short video of a spectacular murmuration on the Somerset levels.

Woodland photographs followed with carpets of bluebells, deer and foxes and Nick entertained us with stories of Colin the Cuckoo, who had returned to Thursley Common for the last ten years ago where wildlife photographs flock to photograph him.

Sadly, hedgehogs have declined by about 80%, but fortunately Nick had some delightful images of them, including some autumn juveniles.

We were taken to the coast with his next group of photographs.  He had filmed the northern gannets on Bass Rock.  They are also to be found in Ireland and North East England – at Bempton Cliffs near Bridlington.

The hazel or common dormouse, which had been introduced by the Normans, provided very cute photographs and Nick had some pictures of a couple hibernating during the day curled up in a nest.

Ospreys are to be found in the UK again, particularly around RSPB Loch Garten where they have been bred.  They are now in the Lake District, North Wales and in Poole harbour.

Further images were shown of red deer, a golden eagle and otters.  The latter were almost extinct at the end of the last century but in a survey ten years ago, they found to be in every county.

Mallards, blue tits, peregrine falcon and pine martens were next to be displayed.

Nick then gave us his personal ‘top five’ – kingfishers; robins; barn owls; red squirrels and his favourite – the puffin.  Close up photographs showed a wonderful colourful beak which the puffin grows to impress the females during the mating season.

Meeting Report for 12 May 2022

Anne Watts: ‘Nursing: My Passport to the World’.  Our speaker was Anne Watts, nurse and author.  Anne gave a very moving account of her experiences as a nurse working in such places as SE Asia, Central Australia with the Aborigines; the Middle East; in Northern Canada working in public health with the Innuits, in Vancouver and with the asbestos mining community in the Yukon.

Born in 1940 in Liverpool, Anne was evacuated with her mother to Snowdonia.  Her father was an officer in the Merchant Navy.  The family remained living in this beautiful area of North Wales after the Second World War. Sadly, her mother passed away when she was 10 and, aged 16, Anne knew she wanted to be a nurse.  Her father was initially opposed to this but by the time she reached 18 he agreed to her going to Manchester to train.  Here she undertook four years general nursing training then qualified as a midwife. 

In October 1967, her first job as a young nurse was with Save the Children in Vietnam.  She had not been well prepared for the horrors of war she would see.  The American Navy flew in children and 300 children were in the Save the Children centre where she nursed and she was involved with training widows, and also young girls to look after their brothers and sisters after their parents were killed.

In 1968, she was exposed to Agent Orange resulting in her losing her hair.  She witnessed the huge amount of genetic damage caused by Agent Orange, which continues to go through the generations.  She also saw bombing with phosphorus and napalm.

Ten years after Vietnam, Anne worked in a refugee camp in Thailand where Cambodians had fled, shocked and psychologically disturbed by what they had been through with the Cambodian-Vietnamese War.  Here she found 43,000 people desperate for shelter from the elements, needing a latrine area and safe drinking water.  Convoys of trucks drove 40 miles to a water plant to bring water to the camp, where the refugees were allowed one bucket of water a day for 10 people.

Anne spoke movingly about what she had encountered throughout her nursing career and showed some harrowing photographs of injured children that she had nursed.  She mentioned a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt that inspired her: “Do what you can with all you have, wherever you are”.  She spoke of the generosity of diplomats’ wives in Bangkok who had provided crayons and colouring books for the children. 

Anne has kept in touch with many of those she had helped.  Members were told of one young girl who had suffered and lost her family at the hands of the Vietnamese but had gone on to get an education and become a lawyer, all the while appreciating the support from Save the Children. 

Anne’s book ‘Always the Children’ is a compelling memoir of her life.  This was truly a memorable and inspirational talk by a compassionate woman, who has dedicated her life to alleviating suffering all over the world with kindness, care and understanding.

WI Meeting Report for 14 April 2022

Auctioneer Steve Bruce – ‘Behind the Screens’.  Steve has been a Fine Art Auctioneer and Valuer for fifty-five years, working initially at Henley in Arden Auction Sales before working in Birmingham, Perth (Scotland) at Skibo Castle where he was part of a team who valued the contents for the estate of Andrew Carnegie.  He then worked in Bristol before being employed by Bigwoods in Birmingham for 25 years.  He had his own business based at Warwick Racecourse and has worked with various people on TV including Charles Hanson. He now works for Kinghams Auctioneers as a Fine Art Auctioneer and Valuer, Agent and Consultant while also undertaking valuations for Probate and Insurance. He passed round illustrated catalogues produced by Kinghams Auctioneers to show to the audience the kind of items that they auction, which includes furniture; china and glassware; jewellery; designer handbags; stamps; militaria; and watches. Steve explained the procedure for submitting items to be auctioned and the amount of commission one would expect to pay to the auction house. 

Steve entertained us with anecdotes of items he has valued and auctioned and then looked at items that members and guests had brought, described them and gave a valuation.

WI Meeting Report for 10 March 2022

Dr Alison Foster ‘The unexpected role of plants in medicine’
Dr Foster described how she had a background in chemistry and had initially worked in the pharmaceutical industry.  She later retrained in horticulture, working at the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham and Oxford, creating a medicinal plant garden.  She is now a gardener in private gardens, teaches botany and gives talks about her passion for medicinal plants.

Throughout the talk, Alison described plants which had been used to make drugs in various areas of medicine.  These included the following: Cardiology – where digoxin is derived from the foxglove (digitalis lanata) – this strengthens and slows the heartbeat; Oncology – the active ingredient in bark of the Pacific Yew Tree (Taxus revifolia) was isolated (paclitaxel) and is used routinely for breast, ovarian and uterine cancer.  It is very effective and powerful.  Unfortunately, a lot of trees were destroyed removing the bark so a search was carried out globally for a new species. Taxus baccata – the European Yew – was identified and the leaves/needles contain almost the same molecule.   Scientists worked out a synthesis and added this to the molecules.  Plantations were then established to harvest the needles.  The cell culture method was utilised and this provides a good supply chain. Scientists in Italy identified that hazelnut shells had similar molecules.

Other drugs are derived plants such as the castor oil plant and Juniper Virginiana.  Other anticancer drugs such as vincristine comes from the rosy periwinkle and the Madagascan periwinkle, Catharanthus roseus.  These are easy to grow plants and the associated drugs are used for treating leukaemia.

Plants are also used as diagnostic tools – Maackia amurensis (from the same family as peas/beans) has lectin in its seeds.  This is used as a diagnostic when mixed with blood samples to test for leukaemia.

Within gastroenterology, henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), thorn apple (datura stramonium) and deadly nightshade (atropa belladonna) produce atropine alkaloids, which can be used to dilate pupils ahead of eye operations, to dry mucous secretions prior to surgery and to relax the smooth intestine in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  Commelina communis (the Asiatic dayflower) is used to treat diabetes as it has anti-glycaemic activity.  Morus alba (the white Mulberry) is also used for the treatment and prevention of Diabetes mellitus through its hypoglycaemic action.  

Infectious diseases – artemisinin, derived from the annual plant artemisia annual is a powerful treatment for malaria.  Other derivatives include artemether and artesunate. Adjunct therapy for the treatment of HIV AIDS comes from the New Zealand pimelea prostrata (molecule prostratin). 

‘Pharming’ for drug production – the farming of pharmaceuticals.  Genes are inserted which code proteins, small molecules and virus like particles for pharmaceutical drugs.  There are advantages to the producer – no expensive infrastructure (versus production in bacteria or yeast in a bioreactor).  Nicotiana benthamiana – Midicago based in Quebec, Canada used pharming to develop vaccines and monoclonal antibodies to a range of viral infections and have produced a COVID-19 vaccine, which was approved on 24 February 2022: COVIFENZ.

Dermatology – Psoralen is derived from Ammi majus – this is taken as an oral tablet and when UV light is shone onto the skin it is used as a treatment for psoriasis or vitiligo. Euphorbia peplus produces a milky sap which is a skin irritant.  The molecule derived from this is ingenol mebutate.  This is used as a topical treatment for a pre cancerous skin condition.

A well known drug used in haematology for blood thinning is Warfarin – derived from melilotus officinalis/anthoxanthum odoratum and gallium odoratum.  Other plants are used for blood typing – ulex europeaeus (gorse) and vicia unijuga (two leaf vetch).

Within neurology plants are used to produce pain killers, such as Lidocaine, which is a numbing agent/painkiller frequently used in dentistry.  Snowdrops (Galanthus woronowii), Narcissus ‘Carlton’ and Leucojum aestivum (Summer snowflake) are used for the treatment of early Alzheimer’s Disease.

Pulmonology: Steroids such as cortisone are derived from dioscorea batatas, agave sisalana and solarium laciniatum.  Betamethasone is used in asthma inhalers and medication.  Progesterone, norethisterone and estrone are components of the contraceptive pill.

Excipients are found in both tablets and liquid medicine.  These are packers and fillers such as sugar and starch from sugar/sugar beet, potatoes and corn/maize. 

Whilst worldwide there are approximately 35,000-40,000 plants, only 10% have been tested for their biological activity. 

WI Meeting Report for 10 February 2022

For their February 2022 meeting, Tredington and Blackwell WI were treated to an inspiring talk by George Jackson OBE, entitled ‘Singing in Lockdown’
George, the husband of Ann, one of our Past Presidents, described how he had sung for most of his life, starting when he was at his village school.  Following ill health, he was encouraged to continue to sing by his doctor.  Singing helped him forget about getting old and his ailments and made him feel human and connected to the world again.  Particularly during the Covid pandemic it helped him and many others to counteract the isolation of old age and emotional isolation, being a source of therapy and joy.

George had been a member of Tredington choir and the Stour Singers for many years and when lockdown was imposed, all that stopped, and he felt lost and depressed as he missed it so much.  Fortunately, he started singing with a virtual choir during lockdown, which helped lift that depression and he has enjoyed fulfilment once again through communication and singing with others.

The Choir of the Earth with Ben England BEM has united weekly some 3,500 singers across the world in thirty-five different countries.  In eight weeks, they learnt to sing Handel’s Messiah.  Each person learns and records their part and then sends it in to Ben, and sound engineers mix it together to make a record.  Young choristers contribute to make the backing track to enable the choir to lay down their version.  A lot of people recorded on their smart phones, watching Ben conduct on the screen whilst wearing earphones to hear the music.  George records his part on a second computer.  It took a lot of courage. 

The choir has now grown to 6,000 members, most beyond their middle years and the vast majority are women, so basses for example, may send in several versions of their part to help maintain the balance.

We were treated to some wonderful recordings from The Choir of the Earth, particularly Patrick Hawes Quanta Qualia, which was very moving.  In addition, George read some of his own touching poems.

WI Meeting Report for 13 January 2022

Our speaker this month was Felicity Howatson who opened her Great Grandma’s Workbox, which was inlaid with Mother of Pearl. She talked about the huge array of needlework items within, made of substances such as ivory, bone, Mother of Pearl and silver and entertained us with tales of needlework/embroidery by herself, grandmother and Auntie Maud and talked about time spent in India and Egypt.  Felicity also showed us some of her amazing ecclesiastical needlework.  We were able to conduct this event as a hybrid meeting with the speaker and some members in the WI Hall and others joining via Zoom.  Following this fascinating talk we held our WI business meeting and Annual General Meeting.


Meeting Report for 11 November 2021

Christine Green gave us an enthusiastic and inspiring talk about her life and career and how it was interwoven with her love of stitching.  She showed us various patchworks from her childhood through to the present day.  She expressed her passion for using fabrics which ‘had a life’ and provided stories to the patchwork that she had created. For example, using old dress material and curtain fabrics from home evoked many memories.  For one piece of work she described how she had made a patchwork cushion cover using pieces of shirts belonging to a friend’s husband who had passed away, whilst making patchwork balls from the same material for his children as mementos.  It was very moving. 

Christine described her training at Rochdale Art College to become a graphic designer.  This led her to being employed by the BBC as a graphic designer for 13 years, where she worked on the graphics for the opening title sequences for programmes such as Tracey Beaker, the Queen’s Christmas Speech and many dramas.  She later became freelance and, having undertaken teacher training in design and technology, she teaches textiles, paper cutting, patchwork and stitching.  In addition, she taught at Denman.

Christine was also involved in a publication called ‘Contemporary Needlepoint’ – creating and writing about stitching projects and one of her designs was transformed into a needlepoint kit for the National Trust.  She has exhibited her work at the Festival of Quilts and has developed an interest in Japanese boro. 

WI Meeting Report for 14 October 2021

Following bowl of tasty soup and a roll, the WI Members received an entertaining and interesting talk by Lucy Morgans, an independent travel agent.  She described the changes in her business during her thirty-three year career.  Lucy trained and worked in high street travel agencies before becoming and independent travel agent fifteen years ago.  She has been fortunate to travel the world with her job and recounted her favourite destinations – the Seychelles, Kenya, Malaysia and Borneo.  She highlighted the stresses caused by the collapse of Monarch, the effect of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud, which disrupted flights from twenty countries and, of course, the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on holiday bookings. 

WI Meeting Report for 9 September 2021

We enjoyed a very interesting and informative talk by Di Vernon, an enthusiastic and engaging Blacksmith.  A former Midwife, she fulfilled her dream and is now the resident Blacksmith at Middleton Hall, near Tamworth.  This multi-talented lady regaled us with stories of her training and showed us some of the items she had forged along with the beautiful fused glasswork she also produces.

WI Meeting Report for 12 August 2021

The WI Members enjoyed a delicious lunch in the WI Hall prepared by the WI Committee members.  This was our first opportunity to welcome everybody back to a face-to-face meeting.

WI Meeting Report for 8 July 2021

Our speaker this month was John Vigar who gave a very interesting and entertaining talk, via Zoom, entitled ‘Bedrooms, Banquets and Balls’ – the hidden and often amusing secrets of the architecture of the English Country House.