Tredington and Blackwell WI Meeting Reports
MEETING REPORTS – 2024
Meeting Report for February 2024
Report of the talk given by Analiza Jones: The making of handwoven bags from the Philippines
Our Speaker this month was Analiza Jones who told us about the bags and other items that are made by hand in The Philippines.
She started with a brief outline about The Philippines and its flora, many of which are used such as pineapple leaves that produce very fine cloth for men’s dress shirts, and coconuts that are used to make baskets, buttons and soup dishes. Palm and banana plants are also used to produce fibres. The Abaca palm is used a lot for fibre, rope and paper, especially Manila paper, which is where we get our term Manila folder from. Layers of abaca skins that are peeled from the branches are layered, carded, spun and woven. Palm fibres are used for matting and bags.This has traditionally been done in villages where there is often a ‘weave and natter’ group, but the younger generation does not want to follow in their families footsteps and leave to work in the cities, so instead prison inmates are being taught these ancient skills to producing goods.
Analiza then went on to show us the various bags and articles that have been made by hand from different materials. These included using leather pieces – that are offcuts from expensive shoes and bags – that can be made into finished articles during the rainy season when other raw material, such as palm etc, is not available, giving another source of income for families.
Analiza was a very enthusiastic and amusing speaker who was enjoyed by all present.
Report for January 2024
Report of the talk given by Julia Mitchell: From IT to Tai Chi and Beyond
MEETING REPORTS – 2023
Meeting Report for October 2023
Report of the talk given by Peter Cowley: Dorothy Levitt: the Pioneering Lady Motorist, Motor Boat Racer and Author
Peter described how Dorothy Levitt paved the way for women to drive and own cars. He reminded us that the first successful petrol car was developed by Benz in 1885. The first motor race from Paris to Rouen took place ten years later. The first woman to compete in an international motor race in 1898 was Baroness Hélène van Zuylen de Nyevelt when she drove from Paris to Amsterdam under the pseudonym the Snail, whilst her husband competed under the pseudonym of Escargot.
In 1901, the second woman to compete in an international motor race was Camille Du Gast. She competed in the Paris-Berlin race and became known as the ‘Valkyrie of the Motor Car’. However, she gained notoriety in 1910 when her daughter attempted to have her murdered in order to inherit.
During this time there were no British women in motor racing. Selwyn Edge, a seller of Napier and Gladiator cars thought it would be a good marketing ploy to get an English woman to become a racing driver and promoted his secretary Dorothy Levitt, who was born in 1882 in Hackney, the daughter of a tea merchant called Jacob Levi (her surname was anglicised to Levitt).
Aged 20, she worked for Napier and Son. She was strikingly beautiful and Edge felt she was wasted behind a typewriter and wanted her to be the ‘face of Napier’. In 1901, Edge sent her abroad to be trained in car production and maintenance and in 1902 she was taught to drive by another employee of Edge, Leslie Callingham, who disliked her and was affronted by having to teach a woman to drive.
In April 1903 Dorothy entered her first Motor race and on 1 May 1903 completed a race from Glasgow-London non-stop covering 412 miles in a Gladiator car. She also won reliability trials in the same month. In October 1903 Edge entered her in the Southport Speed Trial and she was the first English Woman to travel along Southport Promenade in a 12 HP Gladiator, wearing a coverall/dust coat down to her ankles to protect her dress, with a matching veil and hat.
Dorothy challenged Victorian attitudes that women belonged in the parlour.
On 6 November 1903 she drove on a public highway. However, she received a summons and appeared at Marlborough Street Assizes charged with speeding in Hyde Park, where she was fined £5 after stating she wished she had run over the policeman who had arrested her. The usual fine was £2.
She appeared in another court case where she was the first driver to win compensation for damage to a vehicle after a Post Office van had hit her car.
Dorothy next took up motor boat racing. Alfred Harmsworth, the owner of the Daily Mail, initiated the Harmsworth Trophy. A race took place at the Royal Cork Yacht Club with a boat, designed for the Navy, owned by Edge and produced by Napier. Dorothy was on board with Edge and won the trophy, but as women were not recognised as competitors at that time, only Edge’s name appearedon the Trophy.
Dorothy set the first Water Speed Record by travelling at 19.3 miles per hour. This appears slow to us today considering Gina Campbell in 1990 became the Women’s World Water Speed record holder by travelling at 166mph.
After competing at Cowes Regatta and winning in the Napier boat, Dorothy was invited aboard the Royal Yacht to meet Edward VII. She went on to win two motorboat races in France. She won the ‘Championship of the Seas’ later that year. The Napier boat was sold to the French Government.
In 1904 she was back in a motor car, winning the Blackpool motor race. At the Brighton speed trials in 1905 she attained 79.5mph and at the Blackpool Speed Trials in 1906 reached 90.88mph. She was described as the “Fastest girl on Earth” and the “Champion Lady Motorist of the World”.
However, in 1907 she suffered discrimination when the racing circuit at Brooklands opened, as all women were banned from racing there. Peter was convinced she would have beaten male racing drivers. Unable to compete at Brooklands, she went to Europe and won her class at the Gaillon Hill Climb along with other hill trials in Germany.
Dorothy was known as a fast driver with stamina and endurance. She drove from London to the Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool and back over 2 days, accompanied by her pet Pomeranian dog Dodo – and a Colt revolver. This was the longest drive by a lady motorist. She had no co-pilot, no maps and there were no petrol stations and motorists of the day had to buy petrol from chemists along the route. By this time she was moving in the highest social circles and had become a style icon.
In 1909 she wrote a book ‘The Woman and the Car’, which is still available today. She is also credited with inventing the rear view mirror.
Dorothy took up flying in 1910 and learned to fly in France, instructed by Hubert Latham, who had made the first (unsuccessful) attempt to cross the channel.
Little is known of Dorothy’s life between 1910 and 1920. She may have been involved in the services during World War 1.
In 1920 there is a reference that she was living in a flat at 50 Upper Baker Street with two female companions and was known to be an avid poker player. In September of that year, she was arrested when police raided an illegal common gaming house near Hyde Park. In her book she had stated her occupation was ‘a gambler’.
On 17 May 1922 she was found dead in bed by a neighbour – the death certificate stated, “morphine poisoning while suffering heart disease and an attack of measles”. In her will her sister received £224 – the equivalent of £42,000 today, so she was certainly not destitute.
A book has been written about her by Michael Barton called ‘Fast Lady’.
Peter stated that Dorothy Levitt had encountered prejudice because of her being a woman. She was ambitious and had been known to fabricate her background, to disguise the fact that she was born in Hackney, in the East End of London. Although she always drove cars belonging to other people, she was able to fix them too. It appears that she stopped motor racing when she finished working with Selwyn Edge, but she wrote columns on motor racing in magazines.
Dorothy Levitt was certainly an inspiration to women and was keen that women learnt to drive and overcame their fears.
Meeting Report for September 2023
Report of the talk given by Mike McCarthy from Shipston Flood Action Group: Local Flood Defences.
Mike McCarthy is a founder member of Shipston Area Flood Action Group (SAFAG), which was formed nine years ago in 2014.
Normally the River Stour is very shallow – typically 0.3m at Shipston on Stour in the summer months, constantly measured by a river gauge located near the bridge. However, the River Stour is a very ‘flashy’ river which can rise very quickly from 1m to well over 3m, especially when the ground is saturated in winter.
Flooding has affected the Warwickshire Stour Catchment area in 1947, 1968, 1979, 1998, 2007, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2018. The years underlined indicate the worst floods. The concern is that flooding is happening more regularly and more frequently in this century.
Flooding in Shipston causes disruption to residents; to traffic – especially blue lighters responding to emergencies; loss of income to town shops and businesses; huge insurance claims which affects premiums. Regular flooding causes stress and it affects many residents during heavy rainfall. There is a great benefit from having flood alerts and warnings, and accurate weather reports.
On 20 July 2007, approximately 12.5cm of rain fell in the hills in Gloucestershire and Warwickshire, this followed the wettest May-July since 1776. 200 properties were affected by the flooding.
After the flood, there was no remedial action from any of the agencies or Councils. Many letters were written but only sympathy and sandbags were received. Homes and businesses were totally dependent on Property Level Protection by fitting flood gates to properties, using sandbags and pumps. Insurance became a problem along with trying to sell property. No help was forthcoming.
In 2014 the National Flood Forum (NFF) Pathfinder Programme was set up – this is a charity that had received money from DEFRA. Thirteen projects were undertaken nationwide where new ideas were tested. A network developed of practitioners, and it became an opportunity to develop.
At this time, eight (inexperienced) volunteers formed Shipston Flood Action Group as part of the above Programme to try to tackle the problem locally – many being flood victims and also retired former business people.
Over £200K was spent on Hard Engineering Reports but none came up with a viable option, the general recommendation was to do the minimum.
Shipston is unusual as all houses and businesses are on one side of the River Stour. SAFAG met with key agencies, the County, District, Town, and Parish Councils, Highways and Water Authorities, and the Environment Agency (EA), every three months. MPs were also approached. However, SAFAG was told they did not meet the outcome measures as only 200 houses were involved.
With the River Stour there is the main river and an ordinary water course. Upstream to Shipston it is the responsibility of Warwickshire Council, whilst downstream it is the EA.
SAFAG met with other flood action groups, attended flood exhibitions, and looked at websites. They were faced with government promises vs reality on the ground.
In March 2016, 35mm of rain caused the River Stour to peak at 3.7m. SAFG identified that if the height at the gauge could be restricted to 3.4m for 7 hours, then no homes should flood. They looked at a range of potential strategies to achieve this goal. Natural Flood Management (NFM) was seen as the solution to reducing Shipston’s flooding problems. Natural Flood Defences (NFD) had the advantage of being cheaper – typically by 10%.
The River Stour has a 75 square mile catchment area, extending from Chipping Campden, Moreton in Marsh, Long Compton, Hook Norton and the Sibfords. The tributaries include The Cam, Knee Brook, Paddle Brook, Marbrook, Blockley Brook and Pig Brook, Nethercote Brook, Sutton Brook and the Stour (Upper Reaches). In all, 36 brooks all come through Shipston and goes on through Tredington, to Stratford on Avon and on to Tewkesbury.
In 2017, SAFAG managed to get some funding from the EA. They gave numerous presentations, had site visits with Warwickshire County Council, MPs and many others. SAFAG commissioned a PhD student from Coventry University on a rolling annual basis, who had good hydrology and river knowledge. This was ‘on the job training’ for SAFAG members. A four-year implementation programme was launched.
Typical surface water flood zones helped the decision-making process. SAFAG had great support from over forty farmers to ‘Slow the Flow’ by changing their practices. By slowing the rate, the rise will be slower, spread over a longer period and the result will be a lower peak, thus reducing the risk of flood. Holding back, storing, diverting water upstream in fields and watercourses for just a few hours can help.
Phase 1 was from Chipping Campden – Knee Brook. Dams, ponds, bunds, swales, silt traps and forested water retention areas were used to hold the water back. There was a ten stage implementation process: Community engagement; scoping; baselining; landowner preparation; landowner engagement; procurement; consents; starting works; supervision of works; signing off the works. Then consent documents went to three counties – Warwickshire, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire.
Local contractors were used. By the end of 2019, over 400 natural flood measures were installed including 350 natural leaky wooden dams that hold water back and slows it down. Four/five members of SAFAG now run the project.
Phase 2 was to be completed in 18 months – 2 years.
The EA recognised that NFM can manage flood risk by protecting, restoring and emulating the natural process. Between 2017-2021, EA invested £15 million of Government funding in 60 pilot studies.
157 interventions have now been put in around Long Compton by SAFAG.
In 6 years over 860 interventions were installed.
Maintenance is a problem. In spring and autumn the team clears and secures the interventions. Parish Councils are now putting money aside as it costs approximately £100-£200 per dam.
Ambo Tech – King’s College, London –produced a ‘Scientific Monitoring Report’ in 2023 – they had monitored the dams for 2 years and noted that it was a “very impressive scheme”, which had a “significant effect on the flow at Shipston”.
SAFAG won the EA 2021 Flood and Coast Excellence Award for Community Partnership, which was accepted by the SAFAG Chairman Phil Wragg.
Looking to the future of NFM, the EA Chief Executive Sir James Bevan in December 2022 said that temporary dams are losing favour when flooding occurs and highlighted that NFM is essential.
The emphasis is on ‘Catch it where it falls’ – promoted by environmental land management schemes (ELMS) with good farming practices i.e. field margins, ponds etc. Farmers are encouraged to undertake contour ploughing; leave buffer margins; create ponds; plant trees and bushes; and also bankside trees to prevent run-off from the fields into the rivers. It is understood that this costs money and farmers need incentives.
Locally 1000 tree whips have been planted by a farmer next to Back Brook (Blackwell/Armscote).
Following the work undertaken by SAFAG, 200 homes and businesses are now at a reduced risk of flooding. These projects have been community led and driven. SAFAG has shared it learning at conferences and meetings and has received good support from the Government.
Following this extremely informative talk that was thoroughly enjoyed by those present, the Chair told members and guests that the WI is a campaigning organisation and the current campaign being taken up by the NFWI is regarding clean water in rivers and clean, safe bathing areas.
Report for June 2023
Report of the talk given by Clem Chakki from Clem’s Gems: Jewellery.
Clem Chakki gave an interesting talk to the WI members. He described how he wanted to give a ring to his girlfriend 42 years ago and found he could not afford it, so he decided to make it himself using instructions from a book from the library. He said that most people start making jewellery with copper – his first attempt was with 18 carat gold! He made a few items for friends and then stopped, only starting again 20 years later when he went to jewellery classes for the next fifteen years. Now he helps other students at these classes.
Clem described the basic tools needed for jewellery making: a blow torch; lighter fuel; a saw (like a fret saw); pliers to bend the metal; files to smooth; a hammer/rubber mallet; and a mandrel/ring sizer. All these tools can be used to make simple or intricate rings.
He described how one can carve an item in wax, cover in plaster of Paris to make a mould and melt the wax to create the hollow into which one pours molten silver or gold. One does not always get a perfect cast, it may be a rough copy, which needs filing and smoothing. Clem likes to add stones or gems to the items he makes. He tends to work mainly in silver.
Clem told us the story of servants who worked for wealthy families who stole silver cutlery and would take the pieces to the blacksmith, who at that time acted as a jeweller, who would make the silver into a ring for them.
Clem described how the metal is heated until it is cherry red, then allowed to cool. The metal is then put round the mandrel and hit with a hammer to form it into a ring.
The parts of a ring were illustrated: the shank; the claws to hold the stone; the bezel and the under bezel. All the parts are soldered together. Clem uses a hard solder, closest to the type of metal he is using.
In addition to rings, Clem explained how he makes large bangles. Some of the items he showed the WI members were made from silver spoons and forks.
To clean silver, Clem recommended putting the item into a silver dip for 10 seconds and then washing it off, then storing the item in a closed box with silica gel to stop it tarnishing. He warned that opals are susceptible to chemicals and are soft, so can scuff easily. Similarly, with tanzanite, he suggested the gem is better as a necklace than in a ring.
He told us that since the COVID-19 pandemic, he now gets his gemstones direct from Jaipur and that one should be wary buying off the internet. He always gets his stones tested at Birmingham Assay Office.
Clem had brought with him many different gemstones and pieces of jewellery he had made, which he the members enjoyed looking at.
Meeting Report for April 2023
Report of the talk given by Mildred Freeman, the Lady Historian: Mother’s Ruin – the story of gin.
Mildred Freeman spoke to us from her Victorian parlour and gave an entertaining and insightful talk about the history of what we know today as gin. Mildred commenced her story in the early 1100s travelling through to our modern gin revolution. She possessed a wealth of historical facts and amusing anecdotes, illustrated by some relevant artworks and posters and accompanied by a few popular Victorian musical hall songs of the day based on gin.
Meeting Report for March 2023
Report of the talk given by Dr Gilly Mara: Atlantic the wrong way.
Sue Sabatowski gave a very interesting and informative talk to our WI members on 12 January 2023.
In 2016, Sue and her husband Tadge decided to do some travelling and volunteering overseas and, having contacted a volunteer agency, travelled to Tanzania. This was very significant as Tadge’s parents had fled Poland during WWII and their route out took them through Tanzania. Sue and Tadge went to an orphanage in Tanzania near the Kenyan border. This was not a true orphanage but more a childcare centre with approximately 60 young children. Jenifa Mtukaho welcomed them with open arms and, as Sue had been teaching in the UK, she was well qualified to help set up Jenifa’s dream of opening a school for local children.
There was already a basic building there called New Hope. The plan was to increase this from a day care centre to a primary school for children up to the age of 13 years. They started fundraising and, on returning home, continued with this and in addition they found sponsors to help with the project. The school had no running water and so the first project was to drill a bore hole. Sue also helped them set up a Child Sponsorship scheme.
Over the years funds have been raised to build toilets, refurbish a storeroom to make a firewood kitchen and to provide electricity. Textbooks, desks and chairs, dictionaries, beds for day care children as well as computers have been provided. Sewing machines and material was provided for the women to make uniforms as well as items to sell, which helps boost the family income. Parents make beaded items that generate income. Seeds, tools and a hen house help the children to learn new skills and again produce an income.
During Covid, basic hand washing stations were set up and material for masks was supplied.
There are now about 400 children being educated at the school before they can take the exam to progress to secondary education. They would like to have better qualified teachers, especially for the older children, and to be able to train new teachers.
An exciting development is that they have now purchased a school bus, soon to be commissioned, which will collect children who live far from the school, especially during the rainy season. So far over £70,000 has been raised for the school, which is now called the Ekica Trust School. All the money goes direct to the school and is accountable. Sue and Tadge receive regular updates and photos.
Sue brought some of the handcrafted items for sale to help support the school.
Everyone enjoyed this enlightening talk.
MEETING REPORTS – 2022
WI Meeting Report for December 2022
Report of the talk given by Jo Golby: Christmas – True Victorian Style.
Jo Golby has worked at various stately homes giving tours and talks. As well as working at Bosworth Battlefield and at Calke Abbey, she was also at Warwick Castle and gave this talk dressed as a lady’s maid to Lady Mary Curzon of Kedleston Hall and talked about a Victorian style Christmas from that perspective.
A lady’s maid had involvement both ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ and would go out with her mistress, including going abroad so it meant she got to see the world. In addition, she would assist in her mistress’ charitable work, getting to know everyone and would deliver Christmas presents to staff and villagers. Jo described how hectic life became for the staff in the few days before Christmas and how they would hardly sleep for a week as they were so busy. Garlands would be made, holly and mistletoe picked.
Jo reflected that Henry VIII celebrated Christmas over a twelve-day period, nominating a ‘mock king’ who was a king of mischief. There was much drinking, eating and the giving of expensive gifts. This tradition was carried on by Elizabeth I. During the Regency period it was customary to bring a gift or contribution to the celebrations. Bells and wreaths became in vogue. Although Prince Albert in 1840 is credited with bringing the first Christmas tree to England – a Norwegian Spruce – Jo told us that it was earlier than this when Princess Charlotte had the first Christmas tree – which in fact was a decorated branch.
If we think of a traditional Christmas now, it is one with Victorian influences – baubles made of hand blown glass, a kissing bunch and candles which clipped onto the tree. By 1898 there were electric fairy lights. In Victorian times the tree would be adorned with offerings from nature such as pine cones, stuffed birds, crystalised fruits and toys such as toy soldiers and boats.
Christmas cards were for the elite, often made with woven ribbons and lace. It was expensive to post at that time so they were often in the form of postcards as using envelopes would make them much more expensive. The coloured ink used also increased the cost of the postcards. Jo told us they would be sent in August. When the halfpenny post was introduced in 1870 it enabled people to send cards to more people. There was no message, just the name of the sender. A lot of the cards were not seasonal but pretty and frivolous. Father Christmas started appearing on the cards dressed in red and brown. Jo postulated that the reason why Father Christmas is seen today in red and white, is due to a link with the colours associated with Coca Cola.
In Victorian times, Father Christmas is often seen surrounded by toys rather than wrapped presents – paper was expensive so it was not used by the masses. However, ‘her ladyship’ would expect a gift to be wrapped by her lady’s maid. A dressmaker’s pin would be used to hold the brown paper around the gift and it would be adorned with handmade picks, which could be recycled every year. The toys given to children tended to be educational – board games, atlases and maps and toy soldiers, so they boys could re-enact the Battle of Trafalgar. Girls were given dolls to encourage them to learn how to dress properly – their outfits would be copies of what they were expected to wear and there were even handmade leather gloves and fans for dolls. It was also thought to improve a girl’s sewing skills and gave them a knowledge of fashion.
Other popular gifts were hobby horses and rocking horses – the latter enabled the child to learn how to balance to ride a horse or pony in the future.
Food for a Victorian Christmas: the wealthy Victorians would feast on wild boar, suckling pig, pheasant, beef or duck, peacock and swan, although the latter was illegal after 1850. The tail feathers of the peacocks could be used in trifles and jellies. In December, the estate owner would open his estate, under the watchful eye of the gamekeeper, for people to come and shoot/catch animals – therefore, the majority of the population ate rabbit at Christmas.
The upper middle classes, for Christmas, would have turkey, goose, chicken, cockerel, pigeon or fish that had been caught in the lake. As their ovens would often not be large enough, a slot would be booked at the bakers to have the food cooked there. Puddings would consist of trifles, jellies and sorbets. When baking the Christmas cake, everyone would go into the kitchen to give the mixture a stir. It would be baked, covered in marzipan and royal icing in small peaks. Within the Christmas pudding you might place a coin (to wish you well), a horseshoe (for good luck) or a ring (getting married), this would then be steamed.
The original mince pies were made of meat – often the scrag end. The tin would be lined with pastry and the lattice work on the top was to represent a baby in a manger with swaddling clothes. In later years, the tradition arose that you should never refuse a mince pie as it would bring bad luck and they should never be eaten cold, always warm. Dating back to Oliver Cromwell, who said one should fast on Christmas Day, Jo said it was apparently illegal to eat mince pies on that day. Eliza Acton in the mid 19th century is attributed to making mince pies sweet, replacing the meat with suet, dried fruits and candied peel, which had now become readily available.
As ‘her ladyship’ wished to appear charitable to the staff, the lady’s maid would knit stockings which would be filled with items like an orange, apple, walnuts and chocolate coins – and often another stocking – so there was a pair which could then be worn by the recipient. The lady’s maid would deliver gifts such as a breakfast jar of preserves, butter, porridge oats, bread, knitted balaclavas and fingerless gloves or stone hot water bottles.
A large Christmas tree would be erected in the Great Hall of the house, which would be decorated by the family, children and the servants. The family and all the household would attend church at midnight on Christmas Eve and all would be expected to contribute to the collection box. The proceeds of which would be distributed to the poor on Boxing Day. The eldest son would be expected to give away a present he had received the previous year to the needy. The servants might get gifts such as a new uniform or a length of red flannel for petticoats. At the staff party, the family would serve the servants and a goose would be enjoyed.
The formal dining room table would be adorned with a white cloth and a candelabra and swags of flowers and foliage, a large vase would form the centrepiece filled with fruit with a prized pineapple on top. Homemade crackers would be filled with individual gifts such as a monogrammed letter openers or even diamond earrings. Christmas dinner would start at 1pm and could consist of 12 – 16 courses, lasting four to five hours. There would be a ‘cold table’ and a ‘hot table’ in the dining room. The ‘cold table’ would have a marble slab – ice would be brought in buckets from the ice house to keep it cold – onto this would be put a display of cakes and puddings. The ‘hot table’ would be kept warm with burning oil and it was from this that breakfast would be served.
‘Upstairs’, parlour games would be played, church attended, singing around the Christmas Tree and go wassailing was popular. The children of the house would put on a play on Christmas Day or Boxing Day. On Boxing Day there would be the Hunt and Jo told us that for servants it was free to marry in church on that day.
After Christmas, the family would go north for Hogmanay and often the garlands and tree would be replaced. The first footer would appear in a kilt carrying coal and the kissing bunch of mistletoe would come out and a Yule log burned.
The members very much enjoyed this entertaining and nostalgic look at Christmas past and how it has influenced our Christmas of today.
WI Meeting Report for November 2022
November has been a busy month for Tredington and Blackwell WI.
We held our Annual Meeting on Thursday 10th November 2022 and welcomed Lynne Stubbings to our meeting – Lynne is currently our WFWI Adviser and a former Chair of NFWI. As a result of the Annual Meeting vote, Trish Harding was elected as President, while Gill Goodlad and Patricia Macpherson were re-elected as Treasurer and Secretary respectively. The two other Committee members are Marilyn Payne and Vanessa Ward.Grateful thanks were expressed to Marilyn Payne, who has been a hardworking and enthusiastic President for the last 15 years and also to Barbara Monnington, who has stepped down from the Committee.
We hosted a successful Christmas themed Indian Block Printing Workshop on Saturday 12th November where WI members and the local community enjoyed printing tea towels and tote bags under the expert tutelage of Marilyn Payne.
On Saturday 19th November, we held our annual Christmas Fair in the WI Hall. The weather was glorious and the event was well supported. The craft, cake and produce stalls were as popular as ever and refreshments and the opportunity to have a social chat were much appreciated by those attending.
WI Meeting Report for 13th October 2022
Susan Drage: ‘Recycling – but with a very interesting difference‘. Susan, a former hairdresser, is a keen crafter and has a passion for making things out of rubbish and not letting anything go into landfill, which could affect the ozone layer. She firmly believes that every little bit helps and focusses on recycling and upcycling. Initially, Susan made greeting cards which then evolved into 3D cards in the form of prams, handbags, Rolls Royce cars, high heeled shoes and even high-chairs.
Several tables in our WI Hall were laden with items that Susan had created from rubbish. She gave our WI members instructions on how to knit with plastic to make a shopping bag. She advised cutting the seam at the bottom of a plastic bags and then removing the handles. The bag is then cut into 2” sections of loops of plastic. These can then be knotted together to knit a shopping bag. In addition to knitting with plastic bags, they can be woven, crocheted, or made into pompoms.
Susan has been into schools and undertaken projects with children making placemats and coasters. White carrier bags were used to make a rabbit and a caterpillar. She showed that plastic bags can be plaited together, which makes them very strong and can be used as a dog lead.
Plastic bags can also be fused together by placing on an ironing board, covered in brown paper and then ironed. Susan utilises a hot glue gun to make various items and producing flowers by fusing a plastic bag to wire shapes. She has even made a space suit out of plastic bags for a rubber chicken called Camilla for testing done by NASA.
Susan has been invited onto local radio shows and television programmes such as ‘Crafty Beggars’ – appearing with Julie Peasgood and Wendy Turner-Webster, whilst her story has appeared in a magazine called ‘Real People’.
Ably assisted by her husband Richard, Susan showed items she had created from plastic bottles, including a bag, containers, butterflies and jewellery such as bracelets covered in ribbons. Eco bricks were stuffed with non-perishable products and she showed that furniture can be made from these.
Drinks cans were used to make lanterns, bags and butterflies. A bag had been made by crocheting ring pulls from cans together, whilst other items included a matching necklace, bracelet and ring. Other jewellery had been made utilising paperclips, paper items and even the springs from clothes pegs. Shopping bags and place mats were created from folded and woven newspaper and magazine pages, covered in Sellotape. Tin cans were made to look attractive by hot gluing tightly rolled coloured paper around them – sharp edges were avoided by putting a pipe cleaner along the cut edge. Small bags were made from margarine cartons similarly covered with rolled paper.
Susan demonstrated a wide variety of items that she had created from rubbish such as clutch bags and bookmarks. Pringles tins had been transformed into money boxes and holders for make-up removing pads. Crisp packets had been fused together flat and then hot glued together to make a shopping bag.
Book art is another favourite of Susan and she showed us books that had been transformed into mice, hedgehogs and desk tidies. She had hollowed out a book, lined it with silk/paper to create a jewellery box. Men’s T-shirts had been cut into 2” strips to create jewellery and plaited to make scarves and men’s ties. Even plastic cutlery and light bulbs had been recycled and Susan encouraged our WI members to make plant hangers out of padded bras!
The President expressed thanks to Susan and Richard for this fascinating talk.
WI Meeting Report for 8th September 2022
Just half and hour before the start of our WI meeting we heard the announcement that HM The Queen had passed away suddenly that afternoon. As a mark of respect to HM The Queen, who had been a loyal and dedicated member of the WI for 80 years, the business part of the meeting was curtailed. WI members and guests enjoyed the presentation from Wendy Stafford about Stained and Fused Glass.
Wendy is a stained and fused glass artist whose studio is at the Art Pad in Offenham. There are two forms of stained glass – the traditional type with lead which Wendy produces and another form with copper foiling which is commonly found on items such as Tiffany lamps. The latter is fiddly as the copper foiling has to be bound round the edge of each piece of glass and accuracy is essential. It then is to be soldered together and is time consuming and therefore very expensive.
Fused glass involves buying sheets of clear and/or coloured glass which this cut into shape and put into a kiln where it is melted or fused together to produce a large range of art pieces including bowls, jewellery, panels and ornaments. This differs from blown glass.
Wendy described her journey into glass. She has always been an artist – painting and drawing. She had a varied career including a pub landlady, working in a nursery school and at the Waterways Museum in Gloucester and became an IT trainer in NHS Healthcare in GP surgeries and hospitals, and latterly for a private healthcare company. After bringing up her children, she moved to a listed cottage in Offenham with her partner. The house had leaded windows and she decided to do a weekend course in stained glass in case they ever needed replacing. After she was made redundant, Wendy considered what to do next and decided to buy a kiln and focus on making fused glass.
Wendy then demonstrated the process of producing stained glass to those present. We were shown the tools involved – cutters which are used for scoring the glass including a pencil cutter and pencil grip. Grozing pliers are used for breaking the glass – these have a straight edged blade for cutting and a carved blade for nibbling glass. Breaking pliers are used which put pressure on either side of the scored glass. A template is produced – some people hand draw templates whilst others use computer generated. Accuracy is needed. Wendy used a template of a spider’s web for her demonstration. We were shown that lead had a ‘heart’ to it with a channel either side.
A piece of glass is used – if it is textured then one cuts on the smooth side of the glass and the pattern needs to be followed precisely when scoring the glass. Glass is very expensive, therefore it is important not to waste it. Wendy informed us that previously textured glass could not be put in a kiln without losing the pattern, but now textured glass has been produced that will retain its pattern. Once the glass is cut, leading is undertaken. Here the lead is cut with a lead cutter. A fid is used to open the channels so the glass will fit into it. Horseshoe nails are used to hold the lead in place. It is essential to be slow and accurate with the panels.
The next stage involves soldering it all together. For solder to stick to lead, flux is used. In the past tallow was used and was rubbed on the lead which helps the solder to flow between the lead. When the solder is hot it becomes liquid. The soldering iron is heated and the clean tip is run over the fluxed area and melts, joining the metal together – this is done on both sides of the panel. This must be undertaken in a well-ventilated area.
The process continues with cementing. The cement is made from whiting and linseed oil, which is burnt, and also black paint. This is used particularly in churches. It is applied with a toothbrush and goes between the lead and the glass, making the window stable and waterproof. It takes 48 hours to go off so the panel must not be moved. This cement gets under the lead and makes it solid – again both sides of the panel must be treated. When set, it is then wiped off the glass. Patina, a mild acid, is then applied with a cloth which makes the lead and solder go black and blend together. Black grate polish is then used to wax the lead. It buffs up the lead and gives it a shine, protecting it from the weather.
Wendy then showed us some photographs of the bespoke stained glass pieces she produces such as door panels.
Moving on to talk about fused glass, Wendy told us that she had decided not to make small items and jewellery but focus on making large flowers that can be used to decorate a garden. She showed up pictures of ‘lilies’ in a pond, pansies in a pot and hand-painted delphiniums and foxgloves. In addition, she produces bowls and hangers.
The kiln is heated up to 800C where two or more pieces of glass are joined/fused together or alternatively the flat glass ‘slumps’ over a mould – for example made from stainless steel. Frit powder of different grades can be used to produce these pieces.
Wendy runs courses and demonstrations and shows her wares in sculpture gardens and Open Gardens, rarely in galleries, as her items display better in a garden than indoors. In the summer she often opens her garden for people to enjoy her work and have tea and cakes.
WI Outing Report for 14th August 2022
Bourton Hill House. On Thursday 14th August 2022, Tredington and Blackwell WI members, partners and friends spent a most enjoyable afternoon walking around the beautiful garden at Bourton Hill House in Bourton-on-the-Hill. Many of the ladies carried bright parasols to shield them from the hot sun and, thankfully, there were plenty of shaded areas to sit and admire the garden which, despite the recent heatwave, was still a blaze of colour. A delicious afternoon tea had been partaken in the cool barn restaurant prior to viewing the garden.
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.
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 REPORTS – 2021
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.