June / July 2023

Being outdoors seems to have been the theme of the last few months – regardless of what the weather decided to throw at us. In addition to all the walks, tennis, and outings, both of our meetings were al fresco as well.  Our June meeting was a very informative and entertaining guided walk in the Farringdon area focusing on ‘Women, Witches, & Harlots’, and in July we gathered in Queen’s Park and enjoyed an abundant ‘bring & share’ picnic – with a special gold star going to Pat who brought homemade ice cream!

There was a return visit to Wisley (in sunshine) to see the peonies we had spotted in bud form on the previous visit, a guided tour of Chelsea Physic Garden (in rain), a beautiful forest walk from Liphook to Fenhurst, and a riverside walk from Tonbridge to Tudeley (in gale force winds). The Tudeley walk had been rearranged three times due to train strikes but it was worth the perseverance to see the complete set of Chagall windows at All Saint’s Church.

Friday Park walks continued in June culminating with a visit to Brompton Cemetery, but have now been paused until September as many members are away over the summer. Tennis is as fun as ever although we are periodically put to shame by all the tiny children having lessons over the summer holidays on the courts surrounding us.

Culture Club saw us at the Kiln Cinema for the NT Live screening of ‘Fleabag’, Book Club discussed On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming, and Dining Club took us to ‘The Ivy’ in St. John’s Wood.

April & May 2023

These past two months have flown by – probably helped by all the Bank Holidays in May.

Tennis in Queen’s Park and the Friday Park Walks in a variety of local green spaces continue to be very popular. Lately we’ve met up for a gentle walk (& often a coffee afterwards) in Regent’s Park, Gladstone Park, Roundwood Park, Hampstead Heath, Kensal Green Cemetery, and even slightly farther afield in Kew Gardens. The lengthier weekend walks, including a pub lunch along the way, have taken us from Wendover to Princes Risborough, and from Shiplake to Henley.

In May we had a ‘Bravery to Sing’ workshop which began with sharing our memories/hang-ups about singing and ended with us moving around the space belting out a tune! At our April meeting we got crafty and put our hands to felt decorations in a session led by one of our experienced embroiderers. It was lovely to welcome five new members over the course of the two months.

There was a wonderful outing to Wisley to explore the beautiful garden just as the wisteria was at its peak, the Book Group discussed Middle England by Jonathan Coe, and Dining Club enjoyed a lovely sunlit evening at the Italian restaurant ‘La Ville’.

A big highlight for me was attending the national Annual Meeting in Cardiff representing not only our WI but six other local groups as well. From the moment the Pimm’s was handed round onboard the coach to singing Jerusalem with over 2,000 women from all the across the country it was an uplifting experience which reminded me what a fantastic organisation the WI is. The fundamental role it has played in campaigning for a host of really important causes combined with the opportunity for making so many new friends must be why it is still going strong after 108 years!

March 2023

We had a fantastic evening of Zumba at our March meeting led by the indefatigable Andrea who took us through an assortment of Latin rhythms. It was the first time for most of us but certainly not the last. Rain featured quite prominently in our outdoor activities – we were only able to play tennis once, and our Friday walks were wet, muddy, but invigorating.  We had an excellent guided walk of Roman London led by Mary Brooks who was an inexhaustible fund of information on the history and development of the City, and of its Guilds and architecture. Other highlights this month included a tasty Moroccan dinner at ‘Zin’ in Kensal rise and a lovely full-day walk in the woods around Chislehurst.

February 2023

February saw us taking our Friday park walks a little farther afield as we explored Islington & St. Pancras Cemetery, Hampstead Heath, Holland Park, and Regent’s Park. Jan Knight’s informative presentation about ‘Giving to Charity’ made up our regular monthly meeting with the evening topped off by Deb generously providing pink fizz to celebrate her birthday. We had a great circular walk in the vicinity of St. Margaret’s, Hertfordshire (with a pub lunch in Ware) following at times the River Lee or along a disused railway line. There were plenty of snowdrops and even some friendly birders who identified a group of Red Crested Pochards for us and let us look through their binoculars.  Book Group had a welcome return to ‘in-person’ meeting for the first time in three years with a good discussion of The Hare with the Amber Eyes. 

January 2023

The new year began with another busy month. First, nine of us enjoyed our pandemic-delayed evening at the Kiln Theatre to see the excellent ‘Wife of Willesden’. The shortlist of WI campaign Resolutions being put forward this year were discussed and voted on at our monthly meeting, followed by a couple of games of Bingo. There was a very muddy but glorious walk near Balcombe in East Sussex one weekend, and on another chilly evening a group of 16 of us filled ‘Sudu’ – a local Malaysian restaurant. Friday park walks, weekly tennis doubles, and Craft Group all thrived. 

December 2022

 December opened with a lively discussion at Book Club of the much-enjoyed Love after Love by Ingrid Persaud. The following week our annual Christmas party was kindly hosted once again by Frances – with all the members contributing to an outstanding ‘bring & share’ buffet. The charades were a touch challenging (‘The Shawshank Redemption’ anyone?!) but prizes were eventually won and Secret Santa gifts shared.

Tennis doubles continued in Queen’s Park throughout the month – with play only stopped once by the ice & thick snowfall. Friday park walks took in Queen’s Park, Gladstone Park, a spectacularly beautiful winter walk on West Heath, and Kensal Green Cemetery, giving much-needed escapes from the pre-Christmas rush – not to mention excellent opportunities for a good natter!

November 2022

November has been a busy month with four new members elected to the committee although we were sad to see Louise, who has had many committee roles and always filled the gaps step down from the committee.  Time to enjoy being a member!  We had a record 18 at Dining Club in Willesden Green this month, very efficiently organised by our new Dining Club Rep, Desi.  We started our Friday park walks again, followed by the most important part – coffee and a chat!

October 2022

The month got off to a great start with a talk on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Beekeeping by our very experienced beekeeping member, Patricia.  Patricia brought along an observation hive and it was amazing to see the bees up close.  Janet hosted Craft Club and Rebecca led a walk around Roundwood Park with coffee afterwards.  There was another walk across Riddlesdown, Kenley, Coulsdon commons, which led onto Happy Valley and then we had a fantastic view back to the city of London from Farthing Down.    I think everyone enjoyed our book choice, Michael Rosen’s Many Different Kinds of Love.  Fifteen of us went to see Handbagged at the Kiln theatre, made memorable as we went on the day the then Prime Minister resigned!

September 2022

This month got off to a great start with an outing to see the Feminine Power exhibition at the British Museum, which was much enjoyed by all.  Next we had a fabulous stall at the Queen’s Park Festival, with many of our members helping either by baking or on the stall and it was great to meet so many people from Queen’s Park.   Next we had a really therapeutic Tai Chi taster session with Sam at St. Anne’s.   We celebrated National WI day with a walk around Gladstone Park followed by coffee.   Our longer September walk took us over Oxshott Heath and Esher Common with a pub lunch stop on a lovely Autumn day.    Last but not least was a very popular and enjoyable meal in Ravels in Hampstead.  Several members are planning to go back.