Stapleford WI update

Stapleford Women’s Institute

May 2020 update

The WI obviously can’t meet in reality at present, but the committee has met by Zoom and we send out regular emails to members with news, quiz questions, suggestions for things to do during lockdown, recipes, and so on. We are also running an online raffle and marking members’ birthdays. People are busy knitting twiddlemuffs for sufferers of Alzheimers, trauma teddies, bonding squares for premature babies and their mothers, cannula covers for children, and sewing quilts for premature babies. The book group continues to meet, either by email or Zoom.

We were sad to learn of the death of one of our very long standing members, Mavis Carr ,who lived in Priam's Way. Mavis was such a kind person and fully participated in our WI events and in those run by Cambridge Federation. Her cookery and baking skills were unsurpassed and she often entered competitions in the village and at the Cambridgeshire Show at Peterborough, gaining many compliments and prizes for her craft and cookery skills. Mavis had also been the Secretary of our WI committee at one time. An obituary written by David Carr is published elsewhere in the magazine.

Please contact Sallie Dixon if you’d like any more information about the WI, on 01223 843847. Also see

March 2020 update

Admission Bags for the acute admissions ward at Fulbourn Hospital.

WI branches are putting together toilet bags of items for patients who are admitted to their local hospital’s acute mental illness wards. Patients are often very distressed and have nothing with them but the clothes they have on. Although the wards will have toiletries etc a few little items that are patients’ own can be a comfort to them. We thought we would focus on donating bags for women admitted to Fulbourn, and as we are 100 years old we aim to donate 100 bags in 2020. Members are donating items, and so far I have delivered 20 completed bags to the ward, and the staff were really grateful and pleased (see photo). I have some more ready to be delivered.

Our March Meeting was our AGM, which in our 100th year warranted fizz and cake! Sallie Dixon talked about the first 20 years of our branch, and Kay Coe reminisced about her time in the WI during the 1940s onwards, including being President in 1970, our 50th year.

The April meeting will be on 2nd April at 7.30pm in the Johnson Hall. We will have a speaker on the history of Heffers bookshop in Cambridge, which of course has now been Blackwells for several years.

On 7th May (same time and place) we will be discussing the Resolutions for national campaigning in more depth, and will vote for which should be adopted this year. Previous resolutions have included mental health, rural bus services, plastic microfibres, and food poverty.

We’re not all jam and cakes! Our craft, knitting, walking and book groups (see photo) all continue to flourish.

Do contact Sallie Dixon if you need any more information about the WI, on 01223 843847. Also see

February 2020 update

The WI didn’t meet in January, but we met in February to start celebrating our 100 years. We enjoyed wine and nibbles, looked at scrapbooks and photos taken in the past, and long-standing members shared memories. Sallie Dixon highlighted some items from our first year.

Looking forward, we also discussed which of the proposed Resolutions we thought the National WI should campaign on this year – a final decision will be made in May, but topics include modern slavery, increasing the use of female crash dummies in car safety tests, and talking about death and dying.

A clear majority wanted the resolution on modern slavery to be chosen. I attended an excellent study day recently, held at the Cambridgeshire WI office at Girton, where speakers explained the referral mechanisms used and the support available for victims. It is estimated that slavery makes more profit worldwide than Google, Facebook and Amazon combined.

On 5th March we continue our celebrations with fizz and cake at our AGM.

On 2nd April we have a speaker talking about The Remarkable Story of Heffers 1876-1999.

Both meetings start at 7.30 in the Johnson Hall.

Please contact Sallie Dixon if you’d like any more information about the WI, on 01223 843847. Also see

December 2019 update

In November we enjoyed our Harvest Supper, where the committee cooked moussaka and salad for everyone, and members prepared desserts for the Produce Cup. This year the theme was a dessert made from a packet – we tucked into lemon meringue pie, pink blancmange, cheesecake, amongst other old favourites – including my favourite, butterscotch Angel Delight! While we enjoyed our food we also collected items for the Cambridge City Food Bank, and I took 5 boxes of goods to their collection point. Thanks to members for their generosity.

In December we celebrated the Christmas season by having some seasonal nibbles and being entertained by a storyteller. He kept us enthralled for nearly an hour with a tale about escaping the Coventry bombing in WW2.

We also entered a tree in the Christmas Tree Festival held at the Church. Thanks to members who knitted, sewed, collected branches, and lent baubles and a beautiful green jar. Apart from crafted items, the branches were also decorated with cards showing some of the topics the WI has campaigned on over the years eg cervical smear screening, keep Britain tidy, and women being able to serve on juries.

As readers will probably know, our branch is 100 years old in 2020, so in February our meeting will involve looking at old photos of WI events which are being compiled into a scrapbook, excerpts from some of our minutes researched by committee members, and of course we will all wear a hat as women used to do! The WI was active in the village from early on, helping improve facilities for everyone. We have various other celebrations and projects planned for the year.

October 2019 update

This month we held a “Who am I?” evening, for which members had filled in answers to various questions, ranging from your favourite music, to your most interesting job, to 2 facts not generally known about you, to who you’d like to have dinner with. Then people had to guess who they were. We had great fun and found out a bit more about some of our members eg who rides a Harley-Davison? who used to keep pigs? who learnt to egg candle? who dances the tango? who’s a trampoline coach? who’s a scuba diver? Almost all the members who had filled in their questionnaires said their favourite place to chill out and relax was their garden, but their wishes for a dinner companion ranged from Gandhi, Kate Adie, Monty Don (ooh that lovely voice…), to Neil Oliver (ooh a different lovely voice…). So, you can see we are a diverse group of women. We also enjoyed some fruit punch and some participants’ favourite easy recipes.

By the time you read this we will have held our Village Coffee Morning, at which all ages were welcome, male or female.

Meetings coming up are two members’ evenings, our Harvest Supper (and foodbank collection) in November (Wednesday 6th) and our Christmas evening (Thursday 5th December), at which we have a storyteller coming. We don’t meet in January (too busy sleeping off the Christmas food!), so our first meeting in February 2020 will be our Centenary!!!! Our branch was formed in 1920 and we have various special things planned to remember this.

Do contact Sallie Dixon if you need any more information about the WI, on 01223 843847. Also see

Helen Hale

September 2019 update

Since I last wrote we have been socialising, with a barbecue kindly hosted by Tony Smith, and at a Starter Evening (as opposed to the Pudding Evening we had last year), where we sampled starters from around the world – everywhere from Lebanon to China to the UK to India and lots of places in between. We also submitted an entry to the WI competition at the Quy Fair, for which we had to construct a miniature vintage toy shop. Gillian Pett and some other members made beautiful tiny Victorian toys and figures from beads, pipe cleaners and the like. Unfortunately we did not win.

At our regular meeting in September we welcomed John Flood to talk about the Museum of Cambridge, formerly known as the Folk Museum. The Museum started in 1936 after an exhibition of Bygones, as people felt that Cambridge was changing so fast, as old buildings were knocked down and new ones put up in their place. The Museum was formed by a group of people including Lord Fairhaven and Catherine Parsons, who was one of the Officers in the Cambridge Federation of WIs. It has preserved old photographs and artefacts sent in by people and villages that show what life used to be like in the town and in the villages. Some examples he discussed included skating on the Fens, pictures of chimney sweeps, and adverts for opium syrup for teething babies! John brought along some items for us to guess when they were in use, and also some fascinating display boards of product leaflets, classified adverts and so on from the 1940s-1950s, some of us remembered seeing the products in our childhood homes eg Robin Starch, and wave lotion for hair curling.

The WI is holding a Village Coffee Morning on Saturday 26th October, all are welcome, male or female. Do come along if you’d like to meet other villagers and have a chat. See the posters elsewhere in the magazine and around the village.

Our next meeting is on 3rd October at 7.45 in the Johnson Hall, and we are having a “Who am I?” evening.

Do contact Sallie Dixon if you need any more information about the WI, on 01223 843847. Also see

August 2019 update

In August we welcomed Elaine McGregor from the largest Music Therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins.

Music therapy is practised by qualified trained professionals, and they use music to help people overcome challenges and difficulties such as dementia and disabilities. Thus they are found in care homes, hospitals, prisons, special schools, detention centres, and at disasters such as the Grenfell Tower fire. They can work one-to-one or in groups. Parents and carers are involved so they can get confidence to do similar activities in between therapy sessions, and as required afterwards as a child develops.

Elaine showed us various films of patients she worked with, and showed how the singing and playing could bring people out of their shells, calm them down, and improve mood; develop communication skills, co-ordination, confidence, and wellbeing; and reduce anxiety and feelings of powerlessness. In every culture music plays a big part, and we all know how music can lift us, but this was a whole other level! Therapists are not teachers or entertainers but are trying to support and improve people’s situations.

One man was a dementia sufferer who had lost his speech, yet he could remember words to songs he knew when Elaine started playing them.

A 6-year old boy, very disabled, could hear and imitate notes she sang, yet had been thought deaf until the doctors retested him.

One lady was physically ill and very angry and frustrated, but could play the cymbals in time to songs she knew with a broad smile on her face.

A small boy only had a few words but Elaine improvised a song using them and he would copy her and even initiate a line.

These examples showed us how people can have a “musical intelligence” when other forms of intelligence are sorely lacking.

We finished the session by experiencing the uplifting feeling of making music by playing a variety of shakers, bells, tambourines and drums in time to some well-known songs which we sang along with!

As many of you know the Stapleford branch of the WI is 100 years old next year. The WI was formed to educate and inform women eg to grow food in WW1, and to provide friendship and support. It still holds to these principles, and is non-sectarian and non-party political. So all women are welcome, whatever age, creed, political persuasion – we are a Brexit-free zone!

On this note we are holding a Village Coffee Morning on Saturday 26thOctober, all are welcome, including men! See poster elsewhere in the magazine.

Our next meeting is on 5thSeptember at 7.45 in the Johnson Hall, and we have a speaker again, John Flood from the Museum of Cambridge.

Do contact Sallie Dixon if you need any more information about the WI, on 01223 843847. Also see

July 2019 update

Helen Hale from Stapleford WI attended a lobby of Parliament on Climate Change and the environment, on behalf of the WI.

You may know that the Government recently set a target to become Zero Carbon by 2050. There is also a forthcoming Environment Bill, which it is hoped will include firm commitments to reduce plastic waste. On 26th June, over 12,000 people including groups of schoolchildren gathered along the side of the river between Westminster and Lambeth Bridge to lobby their MPs about climate change and plastic pollution, to try and ensure these commitments become real and not just empty words. The Climate Coalition organised it, a coalition that included members of Friends of the Earth, WWF, Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion, the Green Party, the WI, CAFOD, and many other charities and pressure groups. I went along representing the WI, together with a friend from the village.

There was a WI photoshoot highlighting some witty posters, green outfits, and a 5m long scarf knitted by Cambridge Federation members to show how the climate had warmed up in the last 100 years – each temperature was represented by a colour, and there were a lot of orange and red stripes at the more recent end of the scarf…

It was a very well-organised lobby, with a friendly atmosphere and absolutely no scuffles. Over 300 MPs met with their constituents, including around 10 of us from South Cambs. Heidi Allen is now an independent as you know, and has joined a group called More United, which includes MPs and researchers from across the political spectrum, and they are trying to get cross-party working on many issues. Their priority is climate change, and they want to get something into the next Queen’s speech, which means it has to be taken to legislation. She invited us to send in our ideas for this, and we will certainly keep up the pressure.

So you see the WI is not just Jam and Jerusalem (we don’t sing that at our meetings), it campaigns on many important issues.

Helen Hale

At our July meeting we welcomed Dr Tim Wreghitt to talk about his experience of exhibiting at Chelsea. He is a virologist at Addenbrooke’s and is a member of the Royal College of Pathologists. To raise the profile of pathology away from the popular view of finding out cause of death and towards their main job of helping the living, he and a group of others did a display for the Learning Section of the Chelsea Show in 2003, and won a Silver Medal! The display highlighted the use of plants to understand about how diseases are caused, to diagnose and to treat them, and generally informed the public about what pathologists do. They were so encouraged that they did a display the next year on plants for a low-allergy garden, which basically means no plants with wind-blown pollen eg grasses, lavender, ferns, lilac, or birch and ceanothus. Again they had success so went on to do displays 8 more times, winning medals most times, including 2 Golds. Each time they talked to many members of the public, including lots of children, and in the course of their time there met several celebrities and members of the Royal Family. Tim regaled us with accounts of these conversations and is quite a good mimic of their voices! He considered Michael Caine to be very rude, and decided Princess Anne had no sense of humour. An excellent speaker, fascinating topic, and a very good evening!

The WI has also been busy reading for the book group, knitting for various charitable causes, crafting, and we also ran a hoopla stall at the Village Show, very popular with the children. An enjoyable afternoon!

As I mentioned in the last issue, some of you may know that Stapleford WI will be 100 years old in 2020. This makes us the oldest secular organisation in the village – the Mother’s Union trumps us. We are going to put together a centenary scrapbook. If any villager has any photos or memorabilia of any WI event during the last 100 years, please could you get in touch with Sallie. Photos will be scanned and returned to you, and memorabilia can be photographed and then returned to you safe and sound. Many thanks.

The next meeting is on 1st August and the speaker is Elaine McGregor talking about Music Therapy. This promises to be a very interesting talk.

Do contact Sallie Dixon if you need any more information about the WI, on 01223 843847. Also see

June 2019 update

In June we welcomed Elaine Westwick, who many of you will know as a local pilates teacher. She talked about Mental Imagery, a technique she uses in her classes to help us visualise doing an exercise correctly. You can use your “mind’s eye” to imagine a visual image, or a sound, smell, taste, or touch.

Elaine got us all to do some activities to experience the technique.

First of all we were made aware of our breathing, sitting on the chair, what it felt like, and so on – very “mindful”.

Then she took us through the various senses – visual, audio (hearing the tune of Happy Birthday), taste (imagine tasting a lemon!), smell (wet grass), and touch (feeling a feather brush your hand). She also introduced us to a sense called Interoception, which is an awareness of the inner body eg if you’re hungry – if you’re on a diet, try imagining/remembering what it feels like to be full, and it can help you resist food.

Then we finished by using relaxation imagery, by taking time to imagine a place, and to “paint” all the details in, such as colours, the breeze, sitting on a chair, smells. This can help you get to sleep.

The technique has been found to be very useful in wider scenarios – there is evidence that imagining an event in the future invokes the same body/mind responses as doing it for real, thus helping you prepare for the real situation eg athletes imagine a race they are going to take part in; life coaches use it to help clients make changes in their lives; you can apparently even imagine contracting your biceps and there will be some muscle development (not so much as doing the exercise for real, unfortunately!).

An interesting evening that members enjoyed, as we all did the exercises and then shared what they felt like to us.

Some of you may know that Stapleford WI will be 100 years old in 2020, and we are going to put together a centenary scrapbook. If any villager has any photos or memorabilia of any WI event during the last 100 years, please could you get in touch with Sallie. Photos will be scanned and returned to you, memorabilia can be photographed and then returned to you safe and sound. Many thanks.

The next meeting is on 4th July and the speaker is Dr Tim Wreghitt on Making a Stand for Chelsea (the garden show, not the football club). He promises to be an interesting and witty speaker.

Do contact Sallie Dixon if you need any more information about the WI, 01223 843847. Also see

April 2019 update

Stapleford WI

On 12th April a group of 16 of us met and conducted a litter pick around the village. In just over an hour we collected about 8 black bags of rubbish, ranging from plastic drinks bottles, glass bottles, sweet wrappers, various car parts, and various sundry items. This was collected from all over the village, but the worst part was the top end of Haverhill Road. The campaign group Keep Britain Tidy was set up in 1960 partly as a result of a WI resolution to clean up the countryside of litter. The WI continues to campaign on a range of current issues. Every year it passes 1 or 2 resolutions, voted on by members, and focuses on these for the year’s campaigning. Recent issues lobbied on include the plight of the honeybee, loneliness, plastic soup (ie microfibres in the ocean), food poverty, and mental health. There is national campaigning, but also local action eg we collected items for the Cambridge Food Bank in November and we organised a village coffee morning last October.

There are 2 topics under consideration for this coming year: the decline of local bus services, and the reduction in take-up of regular cervical smears to detect cervical cancer and other diseases. These issues were discussed by members at their May meeting, and voted on for which (or both) should be taken forward as a national campaign.

In addition, the national WI is organising a contingent to join the Climate Coalition’s march and lobby of MPs on 26th June.

The next meeting is on 6th June and is a practical session, led by Elaine Westwick a local pilates teacher, on Mental Imagery.

Do contact Sallie Dixon if you need any more information about the WI, 01223 843847. Also see

Helen Hale

March 2019 update

Stapleford WI

At our April meeting we welcomed Angela Collins to talk about “A Puppet’s Tale”. She was a very amusing speaker and regaled us about her life, eg “I was born at a very early age” and “my mother was with me at the time which was very nice”. The jokes didn’t get any better….

Angela told us about her early life growing up in the Alexandra Palace area of London and then in Romford amongst other places. She’d trained as a hairdresser then as a seamstress at the Lee Cooper jeans factory. This experience all came in useful in her puppet career, either making the puppets or exchanging haircuts for carpentry favours!

She spoke about the evolution of her puppet show and passed around photos or examples of all her puppets. Stories have included a less violent rewrite of Punch and Judy, The Good Samaritan, Old Macdonald, The Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly, The Hungry Caterpillar, and Baa Baa Black (and Red and Blue) Sheep. Over time she has moved onto doing shows for the Wildlife Trust, using animal puppets, and historical shows for English Heritage. She has run workshops teaching children how to make puppets and showed us the basis of her puppets, using foam. She scours the charity shops for scraps of material and trimmings, children’s clothes she can adapt, and so on, a real magpie, and gets her ideas from popular songs, stories, or bits of fabric she comes across. Angela has been a public speaker for 26 years, and her rich and varied life has included 3 husbands, being made homeless, and speaking all over the UK including at Liverpool’s 800th birthday.

If you are interested in the WI, please get in touch with Sallie Dixon 01223 843847.

See our website at

Helen Hale

March 2019 update

This month we held our AGM, and enjoyed wine and nibbles. The year was reviewed, and Liz Hodgkins was voted in again as President.

Before this, we had a really interesting talk from Maureen Street, a Cambridge Blue Badge Guide. She spoke to us about ‘Cambridge Women: Town and Gown’.

The emblem of the University is a woman, Alma Mater, and the motto is Hinc Lucem et Pocula Sacra, literally ‘from here, light and sacred draughts’ ie knowledge. Maureen spoke about the ‘Bedders’, cleaners and seamstresses at the university; Catherine Seymour has written a book about the bedders called “The Staircase Girls”. Back in medieval times, Barnwell Priory was founded by the wife of Sheriff Picot. Cambridge academic, Susanna Gregory, writes medieval mysteries featuring Matthew Bartholomew a teacher of medicine and investigator of murders in 14th century Cambridge.

Several Colleges were founded by women, usually widows who could spend their money as they chose. Lady Elizabeth de Clare founded Clare College in 1326. Pembroke College was founded in 1347 by Marie de St Pol, Countess of Pembroke, who also founded Denny Abbey, where she is buried. Queens’ College is associated with several Queens of England — first in 1448 by Margaret of Anjou, wife of King Henry VI (the founder of King’s College) and secondly in 1465 by Elizabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV. In 1477 and 1484 Richard III made large endowments to the college and his wife, Anne Neville, became the third queen to be patroness of the college. Christ's College was founded in 1437 and in 1505, the college was endowed by Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, and was given the name Christ's College, Lady Margaret also founded St John’s College. Sidney Sussex College was founded in 1596 under the terms of the will of Frances Sidney, Countess of Sussex. During the Reformation King Henry VIII had been seizing Catholic church lands from abbeys and monasteries. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge, being both religious institutions and quite rich, expected to be next in line. The King duly passed an Act of Parliament that allowed him to suppress (and confiscate the property of) any college he wished. The universities used their contacts to plead with his sixth wife, Catherine Parr. The Queen successfully persuaded her husband not to close them down.

Two colleges were founded for girls in the 1870s. Emily Davis was first mistress of Girton and Anne Clough of Newham. These colleges were not official and when Agnata Ramsay received the top marks in classics this was not popular with the men. The first vote to admit women to full membership of the University in 1897 was not passed, nor again in 1921. At this time, women received a‘degree titular’. In 1948 women were finally allowed to become full members. As recently as 1972 Peterhouse admitted women and Magdalene College finally in 1988. Other colleges started by women include New Hall and Lucy Cavendish. The first woman to get a statue in Parliament Square in London is Millient Fawcett, a suffragist and resident of Cambridge. Yolande Duvernay, a French ballerina, founded the Catholic Church Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge. Florence Keynes (mother of John Maynard) was a mayor and built the Guildhall. She founded a ladies’ Discussion Society, which became the National Union of Women Workers.

Maureen also talked about life for poorer women in Cambridge, especially around Barnwell. If the University thought a woman was a prostitute or was behaving brazenly she could be arrested and put into Spinning House (now pulled down). Eglantyne Jebb, after researching local poverty, set up the charity Save the Children. Cambridge was associated with the suffrage movement eg Ida and Maud Darwin.

Other women connected with Cambridge include Catherine Shaw (who writes murder mysteries set in Cambridge); Emma Thompson, Olivia Colman, Mary Beard, Jo Cox, Zadie Smith, Naomi Smith.

Further reading about local women includes “Cambridge Women and the Struggle for the Vote “ by Sue Slack, “Sisters of Sinai” by Janet Soskice, and “A Cambridge Childhood” by Gwen Raverat.

Many thanks to Maureen for a fascinating talk, it is incredible how much she knows about Cambridge.

If you are interested in coming to the WI, please contact Sallie Dixon 01223 843847. See

Helen Hale

February 2019 update

Miles Nicholas and Charles Bradford told us about a Butcher’s Life at the Gog Farm Shop. Charles gave a brief history of the farm. His great-grandfather moved to the farm in 1919 following the First World War and Charles’ father was born in the farmhouse. He brought two very large photos of his great-grandfather and told tales about his early life. Following the planting of a field of potatoes, the family was surprised when mushrooms grew. The surplus was sold to the public and then hens were bought with the profits, this was the start of the farm shop. Charles and his brother Marcus returned home following university and a brief period working in London, and set about building up the farm shop. They wanted to source the best food and build the least intimidating area in which to sell it. They make and hand-tie their own sausages and recently hosted Stapleford School children to a sausage-making workshop. They have won several awards over the last few years including the Great Taste Award, England’s Best Burger, a regional prize for the best deli and Butcher’s Shop of the Year. Miles explained the difference between buying chicken breasts and buying a whole chicken and jointing it yourself, which he demonstrated. He also showed us how to spatchcock a chicken. We sampled three different cheeses, chocolate truffles and dessert wine.

We always meet on the first Thursday of the month, at 7.45 in the Johnson Hall.

March - AGM

Apri l - a puppet’s tale-Angela Collins tells us about her rich and varied live making and showing puppets

May - we discuss the year’s resolutions for the WI to campaign on. Previous campaigns have included mental health, loneliness, microplastics, and food waste.

June - Elaine Westwick, a local pilates teacher, leads a session on mental imagery

July - Tim Wreghitt talks about making a stand for Chelsea

August - a music therapist talks about her work

September - John Flood talks about the Museum of Cambridge

October - members’ evening, Desert Island Discs

November - members’ evening, Harvest Supper

December - members’ evening, a storyteller

If you are interested in attending one of the meetings in April, June, July, August, or September, please get in touch with Sallie Dixon 01223 843847. See

October 2018 update

At our October meeting we were entertained (and educated and informed) by Ed Crichton, an auctioneer from the Bury St Edmunds company Lacy Scott and Knight. He regaled us with amusing anecdotes about valuing and sales, everything from classic sports cars to wooden ducks, and also described how he got into the trade.

His father wanted to be either a farmer or an actor, so his careers adviser suggested he combine the two and go into livestock auctioneering, which he promptly did. Ed followed in his father’s footsteps. Apart from a short break running his own saleroom in Essex, he has worked for many years at the company, which besides being an auction house is also a land valuer and an estate agent. He started out as a porter and van driver, and gradually picked up information about furniture, woods and historic periods from the experts. He got to know regular dealers and got drawn into the excitement of getting a good price for a client.

Auctioneers benefit from the four Ds: Debt, Divorce, Downsizing, and Death. Over the years the trade has changed, as there is no demand for “brown furniture” anymore, but auction houses have expanded into selling expensive watches, 20th century design (not from IKEA!), taxidermy (which is making a comeback apparently), wine, old Corgi and Hornby items, Chinese items especially jade, and militaria. Online bidding is a huge proportion of the bidding now, but Ed says there’s nothing like the atmosphere in the auction room itself during a sale.

We discussed the way fashion affects prices – Clarice Cliff china is all the rage but is mass-produced compared to Crown Derby and so on. Brown furniture would be more sought after if people had the patience to paint it or restore it – we have recently had an old dark oak 1920s bureau stripped back and relacquered in its natural oak colour, and it looks beautiful.

A few words of advice from Ed:

· make a will if you haven’t already - he does a lot of valuation for probate and has had to deal with common law wives who inherit nothing;

· buy the best you can afford as it’ll keep its price;

· write a price down that you’re willing to go up to and keep to it;

· look round a sale twice, to be sure that you see everything and that you really want the item(s) you’re thinking of bidding for;

· you can furnish a house very cheaply from an auction room (I can vouch for that!);

· and last but not least, remember there are a lot of fakes around!

Cambridgeshire WI members have also visited Windsor, The Red House, Eltham Palace, and enjoyed lunches and tea and crafts sessions, with various Xmas craft sessions coming up. More locally our members have walked, read, knitted twiddlemuffs and crafted as usual.

Our November meeting celebrates Harvest with a meal prepared by members and a collection for the Cambridge Foodbank. In December members will be entertained by a ladies’ barbershop quartet, 4FIT, and imbibe a few seasonal delicacies.

We don’t meet in January, so our next meeting open to visitors is on 7th February 2019 at the Johnson Hall at 7.45pm, where we look forward to learning more about the GOG Farmshop, through Miles or another member of staff. If you are interested in coming along, or in anything else relating to the WI, contact Sallie Dixon on 843847 or check our website nearer the time of the meeting.

Helen Hale, Stapleford WI.

September 2018 update

Stapleford WI Pennant

As part of the Cambridge Federation of Women’s Institutes (CFWI) centenary celebrations, the organisation asked its constituent WIs to each design and make a pennant, to be made into bunting and other products such as teatowels. This was an opportunity for good needlewomen to shine, and here in Stapleford Shirley Earle and Sue Clark rose to the challenge and designed and stitched this lovely pennant. It shows the purple pasque flower which is found in many locations in Cambridgeshire, even on the Gogs, and also cowslips, which carpet the Gogs in springtime. Well done ladies!

At our September meeting we had arranged for Baroness Cohen to come and talk to us about the House of Lords, but unfortunately she was ill and couldn’t make it. Instead we had a social evening and enjoyed a quiz, which made for a lovely relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Recently members have also enjoyed a barbecue kindly hosted by Tony Smith, a pudding evening with a school theme, knitted twiddlemuffs, crafted, and read two books for the Book Group. The walking group is planning a walk in Coton soon.

Our next meeting is on October 4th at 7.45 in the Johnson Hall, and our speaker will be Edward Crichton from a company in Bury St Edmunds, talking about A Day in the Life of Auctioneer.

Visitors are welcome, and if you want to know more about Stapleford WI look at our website, or contact Sallie Dixon on Cambridge 843847.

August 2018 update

Our speaker in August was Duncan Catchpole, who spoke to us about Sustainable Food and Food Waste.

You will be aware of how Food Miles contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions, and Duncan has been committed to the concept of a sustainable food industry (ie localized food production and distribution of quality healthy food) for many years. This would reduce food miles, food waste, food poverty and health inequality.

He started off by founding COFCO (Cambridge Organic Food Company) about 20 years ago, and today it still provides (mainly) locally-sourced fruit and vegs boxes – I can vouch for the range and quality of produce – spinach, salad bags, redcurrants, Jerusalem artichokes, beetroots as well as the usual potatoes carrots and onions.

He is now working with Cambridge Sustainable Food, which is a network of public, private and community organisations in Cambridge and the surrounding villages. Cambridge was one of the first 12 cities to sign up to being a sustainable food city, and has one of the highest levels of inequality in the UK. This organisation envisages a Sustainable Food Hub, which apart from being a physical building with a shop and café will support a community of food growers and users and welcome school and adult groups to demonstrate where food comes from and run cookery classes. Food producers, restaurants, retailers, catering businesses and Colleges, school kitchens, and company canteens will be able to match up their requirements online – so someone’s surplus carrots end up as carrot and coriander soup in someone else’s food van. The Hub will encourage food producers to grow foods not commonly grown in the UK eg pulses, to reduce food miles. Food will also be available around the local area at reasonable prices for people of limited income, without the humiliation of using a food bank or asking for help. The organisation has looked for suitable properties for a Hub, including some land at the proposed Agritech Park in Hinxton, and Duncan has built up interest all over the UK and abroad in the concept, including speaking at conferences. He has also raised funds to make a film about the project by swimming the Cam!

One pilot project the Hub wants to trial is Incubator Kitchens, where small food businesses that operate from home can begin to scale up their operation by renting kitchen space for a certain time period, with the Hub taking care of food provision, distribution of the product, H&S, marketing, and so on. The kitchens can also be used to make meals for low income families at reasonable prices from surplus local produce, or to run cookery classes for those in need of advice.

Duncan envisages that there are three ways in which the Hub will have an impact; the ability to replicate itself in other cities; being a disruptive newcomer to the entrenched food supply chain by providing food with a low carbon footprint, encouraging the major players to look at their practices; and creating an ideal food system with exemplary travel routes and minimising food waste. Food is wasted on an epic scale and this is the biggest impact on food sustainability. In the current model, retailers have to present the shopper with an overabundance of food to choose from, so waste is endemic. There is enough food to feed the world, it’s just that so much is wasted eg because a farm produces more lettuces than the supermarket wants, or the parsnips are the wrong size. The Hub is an attempt to address these assumptions, and whilst fine detail has yet to emerge there is a sound basis to build on.

More information about the project can be found at the website below, including a link to the film made by Duncan.

COFCO can be found at

The WI will be organising a collection for the Cambridge Food Bank at its Harvest Supper evening in November.

More information on the WI and membership can be obtained from Sallie Dixon, 843847.

July 2018

At our June meeting we welcomed Tamsin Wimhurst, to talk about the David Parr House in Cambridge. She is a member of the Charitable Trust set up in 2014 to save the house.

The house was first “discovered” when Tamsin was recommended to interview 94-year-old Mrs Elsie Palmer at 186 Gwydir Street for an exhibition she was organising. She expected to go into a regular terraced house, but when Tamsin entered the front room her jaw dropped. The house was covered with Arts and Crafts style decoration.

Elsie had been 12 years old when her grandfather (David Parr) died and she moved into number 186 in 1927 to look after her grandmother and stayed there for the rest of her life, hardly changing the decor.

David Parr was born in Cambridge to a working class family (his father was a pub sign painter), and worked as an artist painter for F R Leach and Sons, who worked in the Arts and Crafts style. By night, working by candlelight, he decorated the walls and surfaces of his house to create an amazing painted interior. By day, David worked on Jesus College Chapel, the Hall in Queen’s College, and other local buildings and with architects and designers such as George Bodley and William Morris in London. Over the next 40 years, David Parr decorated his home in the style of the grand interiors of the Victorian Gothic Revival churches and the Arts and Crafts houses he worked on every day. His intricately patterned, hand-painted walls survive throughout much of the house.

Tamsin has done extensive research into the family and the work David did. The Trustees are now working on conserving the house, which will be fully open to the public in May 2019.

More details are on their website,

At our July meeting we did something a bit different, got people out of their chairs and welcomed Lotte Mikkelson to run a session of Laughter Yoga. You all know how beneficial laughter is in cheering us up, de-stressing our minds, boosting our immune systems, and reducing blood pressure and stress hormones in our bodies. Inducing artificial laughter can have the same effect, and Lotte led us through the process. The “yoga” refers to the fact we stood and moved around and stretched, and also did breathing exercises – nothing too athletic! After a while the laughter became natural for many of us, after shedding our initial embarrassment. I think nearly everyone went home feeling happier than when they arrived. For more information on this fascinating topic, see Lotte’s company website,

Future meetings include Duncan Catchpole, the head of COFCO (Cambridge Organic Food Company) talking about plans for a local sustainable food hub and reducing food waste. This ties in with the national WI campaign. We also have an auctioneer coming to talk to us soon, and hopefully a member of the House of Lords. We try to arrange speakers/activities on a range of topics to appeal to different members’ interests.

For more information, contact Sallie Dixon on 843847.Meetings:

First Thursday of the month at 7.45pm

Johnson Hall, Stapleford CB22 5SY

A warm welcome awaits you at Stapleford WI

All visitors welcome, come along to one of our meetings or join one of our events.

For more information ring:

Liz Hodgkins: 01638 570060

Or any committee member



An arrangement of roses


Apple crumble

February 2019 CRAFT CUP


Cambridge Federation

WI Office, Oakington Road,

Girton, Cambridge CB3 0QH

01223 234872

Federation Secretary:

Mrs Helen Comiskey

Office hours:

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 10am-3pm

Annual Council Meeting: 29 April 2019

National Federation

020 7371 9300

Stapleford Women's Institute

Cambridge Federation

Programme 2018/19


President: Liz Hodgkins

01638 570060

Vice Presidents: Rose Humberstone

01223 841754

Celia Weir

01223 501351

Secretary: Christine Wylde

01223 562410

Committee: Yvonne Allison

01223 844330

Susan Clark

01223 513533

Sallie Dixon

01223 843847

Helen Hale

01223 842403

Pat Hughes

01223 841303

Gillian Pett

01223 843278

2 August 2018

Speaker: Duncan Catchpole

“Food Hub & Food Waste”

Teas: Sallie Dixon & Pat Maskell

6 September 2018

Speaker: Baroness Cohen

“House of Lords”

Teas: Joyce Dobson & Jessie Salter

4 October 2018

Speaker: Edward Crichton

“Day in the life of an auctioneer”

Teas: Sheila Tilbury Davis & Janet Johnson

1 November 2018

Harvest Supper

Come and share a supper to celebrate harvest

Competition Produce Cup: Apple crumble

6 December 2018

Festive celebration with 4FIT Barbershop Quartet

2019 7 February

Speaker: Miles Nicholas

A Butcher’s Life at the Gog Farm Shop

Teas: Kay Coe & Margaret French

Competition Craft Cup: Papercraft

7 March 2019

Annual Meeting

Review of the past year and election of Committee and President

4 April 2019

Speaker: Angela Collins

“A puppet's tale”

Teas: Jennifer Jones & Pat Edwards


Craft Group:

1st Tuesday of the month

Margaret Beavis' house

Book Group

Tuesdays – venue and date vary

Walking Group

Bi-monthly walks

Twiddlemuffs Knitting Group

Usually Mondays – venue and date vary


Wed 30 May 2018


Bring & buy coffee morning in Johnson Hall

Fri 22 - Sun 24 June 2018

Village weekend

22 June providing light refreshments for Quiz Evening

23 June running Tombola Stall at Village Show

Sat 18 August 2018

BBQ in Tony Smith's garden

Sat 8 September 2018

Back to school pudding evening

Husbands, partners and friends all welcome

Bake Off visits Stapleford!

Stapleford WI hosted an Area Meeting in April, at which around 60 women from our own and several other local WI groups came along and had a great sociable evening. Apart from chatting away, we welcomed Ian Cumming, a runner-up on The Great British Bake Off in 2015 (the year Nadiya won).

Ian is a travel photographer by trade, and on a dreary damp evening he showed us many beautiful pictures of lovely warm places to visit. As he cooks for the family, his wife persuaded him to apply to GBBO as she fancied the garden party at the end, and much to his amazement he was selected, and eventually got through to the finals.

He showed us pictures of his beautiful creations and his very messy kitchen as he practised his pieces, and brought along some of the tins and moulds he made himself to shape his cake mix and bread dough to the forms he wanted.

Since GBBO he has made a cake for the Dalai Lama on his visit to the UK, baked rye bread in a geothermal vent in Iceland, and made recipes for various companies. He told us he was about to run the London Marathon in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital with other ex-Bake Off contestants.

Best of all, Ian had baked an enormous carrot cake for us all to sample, and together with other refreshments provided by our WI everyone enjoyed themselves and quizzed Ian on his techniques or caught up with friends and acquaintances.

Other WI news

At our own May meeting, we had a short talk from Lesley Challands about the ACWW (Associated Country Women of the World). She gave us an insight into the work of the ACWW and the projects our funds are supporting. ACWW has over nine million members and is present in over 25 countries. All monies raised by WIs go to the projects, none to administration costs. Lesley also introduced us to Madge Watts who set up over 100 WIs during the First World War and then went on to found ACWW.

You will recall that the WI passes Resolutions each year as a focus to campaign on. Since I’ve been a member we’ve worked on Food Waste and Food Poverty, Plastic in the Oceans, and Tackling Loneliness. Work is still ongoing for all these topics. This year’s Resolution concerns Mental Health, and after the speaker we discussed this issue. Members talked about their experiences, the stigma of mental illness, and how the WI could help.

If you’re interested in WI membership, please contact Sallie Dixon on 843847.

Helen Hale

WI February/ March update

Stapleford WI report for March 2018

Since our Christmas meeting with a banjo player to entertain members, some members have had a walk round Cambridge, been to several knitting and craft sessions, and the book group has met twice.

We have just had the first of this year’s full meetings, in which we discussed the proposals for this year’s national WI campaign(s). You may remember that the two topics that the WI is presently campaigning on are plastic in the ocean (especially microfibres that are released when we wash our clothes), and reducing loneliness. Members do what they can individually to aid these campaigns, or can work at the Cambridgeshire or national level.

All WI members have the chance to suggest an idea for a campaign (a “resolution”), and the national Campaigns Committee select a number (five this time) that are topical, achievable, and so on according to a set of criteria they have. Each member can then select which of these she would most like to go forward, and from these numbers collected from all over the country one or two are then chosen as resolutions. Members then get another chance to scrutinise the chosen resolutions and vote on whether they want just one or both to be adopted as official WI campaign issues. It sounds complicated and I’ve probably got some of the details wrong, but the idea is to make the process as democratic as possible.

The five resolutions we were looking at for the forthcoming campaign year were the following. All have been discussed in the media and by Parliament but plenty can still be done to keep the issues in the public eye and hopefully effect change.

1. Positive body image in a digital age

2. Stop female genital mutilation

3. Raising awareness of modern slavery in the UK

4. Mental health matters

5. Healthier mouth, healthier body

Next month we have our AGM and choose the committee, review our activities, and so on. We already have a range of interesting speakers and activities planned for 2018.

All local women of any age are welcome to come and try us out.

WI December update

What a beautiful sunny day it was on 27th October for collecting litter from the streets of Stapleford! Eleven Stapleford Women’s Institute members and one granddaughter (who got really enthusiastic) spent a ‘pleasant’ hour picking up litter from around the village, with bags, gloves and litter-picks kindly supplied by South Cambridge District Council. The majority of the litter was plastic bottles and drink cans - what a pity this is necessary.

In addition to cleaning up the village, we have been eating our harvest meal, reading books, crafting and knitting, taking part in a quiz, and look forward to our Christmas evening with a visiting musician. Members have had the opportunity to go on trips with other local groups eg to see William Morris’s Red House, to see Bill Turnbull, and a trip to see 42nd Street in London in the Spring. There is so much a WI member can do if she wishes, from local to national.

We don’t meet in January (sleeping off the mince pies!) so there won’t be a report for a couple of months.

Helen Hale

WI November report

This month we welcomed Vanessa Mann, talking about postcards from the Edwardian period. During this period around 6 billion items went through the post, and many of these were postcards – a bit different to today, when the main producer of postcards is going out of business.

Vanessa finds cards at stamp fairs and similar, and always tries to buy ones with a written message and a clear address and so on. She likes to do genealogical research on the recipient and the sender, out of interest and because she endeavours to “rehome” the card to a relative. She will send the card itself with her research to a close relative, or if it’s a more distant relative she’ll send a scan instead. She showed us some of the grateful e mails she’s received in return, people are pleased to find out a little bit more about their family.

She shared many examples of humorous messages that she’d seen, and also talked about the “codes” people used to employ to be discreet in what was in effect a public message. For instance, words would be written back to front, or letters substituted for others. People would stick stamps at a particular angle to mean eg “I love you” or “You’ll never be mine”.

Vanessa said it’s a very inexpensive hobby, cards are very reasonable prices and the genealogy websites can be consulted free of charge in a local library. She showed us a book she has used called “What the Postman Saw” which has helped her.

Various interesting or poignant stories were shared, eg soldiers writing to their children from WW1, a black-edged mourning envelope, a card to a little girl travelling back to India after visiting family in Jersey, and a German card from a girl at finishing school in Germany.

Members brought along their own old postcards to show others over refreshments.

WI members also continue to knit and craft (together and independently), walk and eat, and read and discuss books – our next is “The Essex Serpent” by Sarah Perry, and we have recently read “The Children Act” by Ian McEwan and “The Vegetarian” by Han Kang, a Korean writer. We are doing another litter pick around the village at the end of October.

Nationally the WI campaigns on various important topics, often environmental – eg food waste particularly by supermarkets, and plastic in the ocean, for example that produced by washing clothes made of synthetic fibres. You may have heard Prince Charles raising the latter issue last week. It is a big enough organisation that it is listened to and can sometimes affect Government policies. I have more information about these campaigns if you’re interested.

Helen Hale

Membership enquiries to Sallie Dixon on 843847.

Stapleford WI August report

At our August meeting Stephen Poyser, a local beekeeper, spoke about keeping bees.

As gardeners we can help bumble bees by checking what they feed on in the spring and planting more of it, also by providing housing for them via an upturned terracotta plant pot with moss or fibreglass in it. Early in the year the only bumblebee you will see is a queen, so providing housing will protect a whole future colony.

Coming on to honeybees - most beekeepers keep their bees in a type of tea chest, unlike the chocolate-box image of a traditional beehive. Bees have been around for 150 million years and have been kept by Man for the last 4,000 years . The cells that the beekeeper takes honey from are behind a barrier that the workers but not the queen can pass through, so there will be no larvae or eggs in this section. There can be up to 80,000 worker bees (sterile females) in a hive at the height of summer.

Once a worker has hatched, it cleans out its cell with an antiseptic called propolis, produced from the sap of needle-leaved trees or evergreens. The queen will then lay a new egg in the cell, and can lay more than her own bodyweight of eggs in one day.

The bee will make royal jelly to feed new larvae. A queen is fed it for longer than an ordinary worker. The worker also collects nectar, helps to turn the nectar to honey, and makes wax to make new cells, either small ones for workers or bigger ones for drones, the fertile males. In the hive there will be 2 or 3 queen cells made. The hive needs to be kept at a constant temperature all year round, so workers fan their wings to make draughts, or fetch water to evaporate. In winter the beekeeper helps his bees survive by giving them sugar.

Drones lead a rather lazy life for about 3 weeks, but their moment of glory comes when the new virgin queens fly out to mate. There are certain favourite sites where drones all congregate (for instance there is one in Wandlebury) and the new queen will fly through the crowd. She will mate several times over a few days, and the sperm will last her for her lifetime. She will lay fertilized eggs for drones, and unfertilized ones for workers. Once the drones have mated they die.

Bees travel in a three-mile radius from the hive to collect nectar and pollen, and pass on details about good sites to each other by “dancing”. A side-effect of collecting nectar is of course fertilization of the flowers visited by picking up pollen. From looking at the pollen in honey we can see what flowers the bee has visited. To be eg clover honey, 95% of the pollen in the honey has to be clover pollen. Worker honeybees only live for six weeks and have a working life of three weeks. During this period they will fly approximately 400 miles.

At the end of his talk Stephen touched on a few topics eg honeymoons, honeydew, bee stings, allergies, and manuka honey. All honey has some antiseptic properties (peroxide) but manuka honey will kill bacteria. He thought it was a clever ploy on the part of the NZ government to market this honey, made from a plant that is very common, invasive, and scrubby. And if you have old set honey, warm it in the microwave to soften it again. Don’t put it in landfill, as bees will feed on it, and if it’s foreign honey it could be carrying viruses etc that are harmful to our bees.

What a fascinating thing a bee colony is!

Other things the WI has been up to include a barbecue, craft evenings, knitting Twiddlemuffs for local dementia patients, and the book group. Upcoming we have a walk, a safari supper, and talks on the Titanic, and Edwardian postcards.

Membership enquiries to Sallie Dixon on 843847.

WI July report

The WI prepared and served the supper to end the Village Weekend, and it was a very enjoyable time for everyone from the feedback we’ve received. We were all decked out in our (mainly) pink aprons to look the part as we served the salads and gorgeous home-made desserts. Djangophonix provided the lovely music which even got a few people dancing.

Our main meeting this month was on the theme of Street Art, at which our very own Steve Jones talked to us and showed hundreds of brilliant pictures from around the world. From basic tagging on a utility box by the side of a building to beautiful examples of public art, the best examples communicate “I’m here” and make the observer think or smile as they pass by. Our very own church has examples, one dated 1697!

Street art is found all over the world, and some of the oldest examples are handprints in caves in prehistoric times, inscriptions dating from the crusades, and in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul in the 9th Century.

Steve showed us examples of political art with slogans such as a banker with a placard round his neck saying “0% interest in people”; another from the time of the Olympics in London showed a child crouching down making a Union Jack flag. Art is often transient but the message gets across. The best example of this was a beautiful mosaic in a road spelling the word “pothole”, another hole had been planted with flowers and a little seat! Needless to say the potholes soon got fixed – any local creative people fancy marking up the ones round the village?

Artists often see things differently from the rest of us eg a bent bollard can become the Leaning Tower of Pisa; a crack in the rendering on the side of a house can be embellished to look like a leaf; a drain in the gutter can suddenly sprout a little man climbing out of it. Some art can be really small, for example one artist paints on the blobs of chewing gum on pavements and paints snails as they crawl along! Other street art can be huge in scale eg along a whole street to make it appear flooded; or a favela in Mexico where all the houses stacked up a hill were painted beautiful colours, making the area a tourist attraction rather than a slum.

Steve’s talk and pictures were absolutely fascinating, one of the best WI evenings I’ve attended. He concluded by reminding us that spray paints are available in many colours from B & Q!

Helen Hale

Membership enquiries to Sallie Dixon on 843847

WI June report e

Our last meeting was open to non-members as well as members, so there over 40 people there, including 17 non-members. We enjoyed a hilarious and interesting talk by Alan Gray, who was an umpire for many years at Wimbledon. In fact his connection with the tournament covers 60 years, as a spectator, player, linesman, trainer of ball boys, and so on. He retired in 2012 and now plays golf!

He told us plenty of little-known facts about Wimbledon, for example it is on live TV in 180 countries around the world. 19 courts are used, 662 matches are played, 230,000 glasses of Pimms are drunk each year. Did you know there is a Poet Laureate for the year, who writes a poem for each of the 13 days of play?

Alan was the umpire to whom John McEnroe said the famous “You cannot be serious…..” comments, following which the code of conduct for players was set up. He also witnessed Boris Becker trying to sneak in a bit of physiotherapy during a toilet break! He has known the Murrays for years, and remembers Andy as a very hyperactive fidgety kid.

Other topics touched on included the grunting of some players (how many decibels is acceptable?), drugs, illegal betting, the Queen, cocktail parties, whether “Hawkeye” will mean there will be no need for line judges in the future, and Fiona Walker, the girl whose well-known picture of her rear view made a lot of money for the photographer, her then-boyfriend, but none for her.

Alan is a very “people person”. He talked about the importance of reassuring the loser of a point, so he/she doesn’t feel unfairly treated, and meeting Ian Hislop and joking with him. His ideal job would be being in charge of the strawberries and cream!

We kept in the spirit of the evening by having these for refreshments, with a glass of prosecco. There was also a flower-arranging competition (in white flowers, what else?) for the Janet Smith cup, which was won by Pat Hughes.

All in all, a very enjoyable time in the Pavilion on a beautiful sunny evening!

Helen Hale

All enquiries about membership, please ring Sallie Dixon 01223 843847

Women’s Institute

We didn’t have a speaker in April, but held a Desert Island Odyssey evening. Members had been invited to send in details of their favourite music, books, what they would miss, and to say what food they would eat as soon as they got back to civilisation. On the evening around 12 members were interviewed, so we found out a bit more about our fellow members. Some examples - one lady would take the music to Swan Lake, as despite being a tomboy as a child and refusing to learn ballet, her aunt took her to watch Swan Lake and she’s loved watching ballet ever since. Another member had been working in an Outward Bound school in Devon as a young girl, and the only record they had was Annie Get Your Gun – so that music always brings back fond memories to her. Favourite books included Cider With Rosie, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and a huge variety of other titles. We were a practical bunch, as we’d quickly look to build a shelter and find water and food, only one or two of us thought trying to escape was more important. We nearly all preferred a hot desert island to a cold one! The thing most of us would miss was communication with the outside world – the human voice, in person, on the phone or on Radio 4. Several members would miss a roast dinner the most, others would miss various cakes, sausages, and in one case marmite and lettuce sandwiches! Samples of these various foods (excepting the roast dinners) were passed around to share. All in all a really enjoyable evening, and lovely to find out more about each other.

At our next meeting (4th May) we will be discussing the Resolutions that the WI is proposing to take up as national campaigns this coming year. This year the proposals are Alleviating Loneliness and the environmental hazard of Microplastic Fibres from our clothing (not plastic bags, but synthetic textiles).

The meeting after that, on 31st May, is a public meeting so partners and friends will be welcome. You can find out about life as a Wimbledon umpire!

In addition to our monthly meetings we have a lively book club, a walking group, and have craft and knitting afternoons.

Enquiries about membership should be made to Sallie Dixon on 843847.

Helen Hale

The speaker at our October meeting was Sarah Harrison, president of Morden and District Writers' Circle and a member of the Morden Players drama group, both based in Steeple Morden, Cambridgeshire. Born into a military family, Sarah had little stability in her early years being moved between the UK, Germany and the Far East before settling, at age nine, in an English boarding school. As a child, Sarah described herself as a daydreaming, scribbling child who entertained her chums by writing stories. After reading English at London University, she spent four years working on Woman’s Own for IPC Magazines before going freelance to follow her dream of becoming a fictional author.

Her first two books were turned down at the time but have since been published. Later, she was commissioned to write a book set in the First World War but with a women’s angle. Sarah was well placed to do this because she came from a military background. That book turned out to be The Flowers of the Field, her best seller.

Contrary to what you may expect, Sarah did not dwell on her literary achievements but entertained us with nostalgic episodes of life. She grabbed our attention by asking how many remembered various household products such as chemico, flit and thorpic and we all began to reminisce with amusement about the differences between life today and times past. One of her pastimes is reading signs as she travels around the countryside and she provoked much laughter as she described signs for ‘Nunnery Stud’ and ‘Emergency WC 20 miles ahead’!

The walking group recently endured a very wet walk around Trumpington Meadows and we all agreed that it is taking shape nicely so we would like to return in a few months’ time to appreciate it in better weather.

The next meeting will be on Thursday 3rd November 2016 at 7:45pm in the Johnson Hall. This is our Harvest Supper for which the committee will prepare and serve a sausage casserole. The competition will be for a ‘cheesecake’ so we hope to receive lots of entries which will be cut up for our dessert course.

TWIDDLEMUFFS - A Twiddlemuff is a double thickness hand muff with bits and bobs attached inside and out. It is designed for sufferers of Alzheimer's, arthritis and dementia. People with these conditions often have restless hands and like to have something to keep their hands occupied. It provides a wonderful source of visual, tactile and sensory stimulation whilst keeping hands snug and warm.

Stapleford WI have, so far, knitted in excess of 150 muffs for Addenbrookes Hospital and would welcome requests from readers who have a friend or relative who might benefit from using a Twiddlemuff (free of charge). Requests to

Pat Hughes

New members are always welcome.....enquiries please contact Sallie Dixon 01223 843847