Welcome to the Arts and Leisure News Page – find out about all our latest news below. And all our events can be found here: Events Diary.


Along with others, members of Stock Harvard WI visited Buckhatch Nursery and Garden Centre in Rettendon in April. We were given a tour behind the scenes of the nursery and saw a planting machine in action and plants in the greenhouses at various stages of growth. We were also given a  demonstration of how to plant a summer hanging basket which we then had to opportunity to win in a raffle. A very enjoyable and informative time was had by all.

Jane Wardle

Stock Harvard WI


An elephant hit by a train in America? What on earth would that have to do with the history of Colchester?! Well, quite a lot it would seem, but to find out you will need to read on…

Our April 2024 FEWI Walking tour of historic Colchester was led by yellow-badge guide Kate Beale, who took us on a whistle-stop tour through the ages giving visual examples at selected stops. The Iron Age, Romans, Saxons,  the Iceni, Dark Ages, Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Mary I, English Civil War,  Georgians, Victorians all featured. So did witches, Waterloo, Dutch weavers, Blur, Humpty Dumpty  and prospecting for oil in Mexico. What a fascinating city (and it is a city, since it was granted city status by the late Queen for her Platinum Jubilee). 

After the tour there was plenty of free time for most, to enjoy lunch or some retail therapy, or indeed to explore further and perhaps go into the Castle or Hollytrees Museum. 

A couple of other observations. Castle Park, our meeting point, was busy with people dressed in traditional style celebrating the Islamic festival of Eid al-Fitr (the ‘Holiday of Breaking the Fast’). There was a joyful atmosphere. 

On a practical point, some of our group took advantage of the £2 bus fare cap which runs until December 2024. This means that it is possible to travel all the way from (for example) Stansted Airport to Colchester for just £2. Quite a saving for those of us who don’t yet have a bus pass (or indeed for those who do, but want to travel before 9.30am). 

Ah – and to finish – what was the connection with the elephant? Well, to find out, you’ll need to go on the tour yourself – or you could google “Jumbo London Zoo elephant train America” and see what comes up. Whichever you choose to do, you can see Jumbo commemorated atop the enormous Water Tower adjacent to the Mercury Theatre in Colchester. 

Thanks to FEWI’s Sue MacEwen for arranging this very interesting event.

Judith Thompson

Radwinter WI


Our group had varying amounts of drawing and painting experience but with Tessa’s patient tuition we started by using pencils to draw shells, feathers, pieces of seaweed and dried flower heads. We then drew these again with ink pens and free styling with pots of ink. With that under our belt for the next stage we got messy trying the technique of charcoal reduction drawing. This involved covering the paper in charcoal, rubbing it in with our hands to get a smoother, greyer look and then ‘drawing’ with putty to bring in the light areas and highlights.

 After lunch we learnt about the different colour wheels and ended the afternoon using watercolours to recreate a picture of a tree.  It was such a fun day – thank you to Arts & Leisure for putting the workshop on.

Sue Waite and Gill Hathaway
Elsenham WI



A Saturday morning full of silk, Georgian architecture, Britpop artists and London history!

Inspired by a podcast from Haptic & Hue on The Refugees who dazzled London, Fiona Cattermole and Sue MacEwen (Vice Chairs of Essex WI Board of Trustees and team leaders of C&CC and A&L respectively) booked eminent London blue badge guide/ lecturer, Sue Jackson, who also happens to be a Fellow of the Huguenot Society, to give WI members a bespoke tour of Spitalfields Market in London.  Fiona was inundated with applications to join the walk on the history of the Huguenots and even had to offer a second date.    Mum and I (both members of Bulphan WI) joined the second tour,  meeting Fiona and the other walkers, at Liverpool Street Station.  A rendezvous with Sue followed and, in moments, we were in the heart of Spitalfields.

From the moment Sue began her tour, we were captivated with the Huguenot story, with its drama – rags to riches (and back to rags) and how it entwined with the prosperity of Spitalfields itself.  Now containing some of London’s most expensive Georgian real estate, we learnt how, what are now multi-million-pound Georgian houses, were built by the Protestant Huguenot Master Weavers, who had initially settled in an area outside the old City of London Walls, after fleeing persecution in Europe.  Sue drew our attention to the weaver’s lofts at the top of each house and explained how wonderous silks, destined for the aristocracy across the world, were created there. 

The story had so many diverting twists, from the attempts to convert the already Protestant Huguenot’s to the Church of England, evidenced by Hawkesmore’s Christ Church Spitalfields opening in 1729 to minister to the community; to the inspirational story of Anna Maria Garthwaite.  The blue plaque on 2 Princelet Street, commemorated Anna,  who despite conventions at the time, established herself as one of the foremost designers of silks in 18th century England.  Inspired by visits to Chelsea Physic Garden, she designed (without any formal training) botanically accurate designs for silks, which woven by the Master Weavers of Spitalfields became highly sought after.  She clearly was a woman with a forward-thinking approach and her success in a male dominated world immediately suggested to our group she would have made a terrific WI lady.

The glamour of silks, and the practicalities of how the dresses were pinned onto their owners, rather than cut out and sewn as we would expect, were fascinating, and the success of the Master Weavers was evident from their beautiful houses particularly in Fournier Street, where today top artists like Gilbert & George live, but the story had dark turns.  Labour disputes, technology and wars all impacted the lives of those in the silk trade and ultimately, the weavers were replaced by successive communities of immigrants.  Sue explained this simply by using a single building – first it had been a Huguenot church, then converted to a Synagogue, when Spitalfields hosted one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe (there were over 40 Synagogues in Spitalfields at one time), before today becoming a mosque, used by the thriving Bangladeshi community from the 1970’s onwards.  We visited the vibrant Brick Lane and saw the restaurants, Bengali street signs and art, all juxtaposed against the surrounding Georgian architecture and the latest street art and fashionable shops and art galleries.  Spitalfields Market itself was heaving.

Right on cue, just as Sue explained how in the 1970’s many of the Georgian homes had fallen into total disrepair, we spotted Dan Cruickshank, one of the founder members of the Spitalfields Society.  Sue, of course had been to tea with Dan, and had lots of insider information about how these homes were first saved from demolition, then tirelessly restored by the Trust.  We learnt how owners are encouraged to stick to historically accurate details and colours and saw first hand the beauty of the architecture which is now occupied by not only Dan and Gilbert & George but other artists including Tracy Emin and Ricardo Cinalli.   

It was a truly fascinating morning and inspired by Sue, many of the tour were going on to book follow on visits to Dennis Severes House,  to follow the Gentle Author’s Blog and to listen to the Haptic & Hue podcast to find out more about this incredible area.  We were all grateful to Fiona and Sue for arranging the walk and were keen to see more walks in future with the talented Sue Jackson.

Sam Wait
Bulphan WI



How else could one describe the 84 extremely stylish and elegant creatures who came together at the Hunters’ Meet restaurant for an afternoon of culinary delight and some very lively entertainment? We only had a short distance to get to the venue but many of the ladies had travelled to the west of the county from far and wide. They were not to be disappointed!

The utterly delicious lunch offered a choice of five main courses and five desserts and, on our table at least, every single morsel was consumed.  After coffee was served, we settled back to await the entrance of “Paulus The Cabaret Geek”. If, like Great Hallingbury WI, you have already had the pleasure of his company, you will know that we were about to be royally entertained.

Accompanied by Michael Roulston, his pianist and “straight man”, Paulus (wearing a blue jacket with sleeves pushed up to the elbows – remind you of anyone?) gave us a funny and touching musical tribute to the late, great Victoria Wood, entitled “Looking for Me Friend”. Between each number, he regaled us with anecdotes about her life and how he first became aware of her. In 1985-87 on BBC2 on Friday evenings at 9pm, Paulus and his family would settle down to watch “Victoria Wood – As seen on TV” and, from that time on, she became one of his idols. Years later, when he was trying to break into “show-business” and was very short of money, he wrote many letters to people on screen and stage asking for help. Only one person ever replied – and that was Victoria who sent him £50 and her best wishes!

After 50 minutes of non-stop audience enjoyment, he came to the end of his programme – or so we thought.  We had all been wondering, however, why he had not included the number which we all associate with Victoria: “The Ballad of Barry and Freda, Let’s Do It” with those immortal words, “Beat me on the Bottom with a Woman’s Weekly.” But Paulus was not about to let us down! With quite a lot of audience participation and suitable actions, his rendition of this all-time favourite “brought the curtain down”.

Once Paulus and Michael had left the stage, the raffle was drawn by Moyra, our county Chair.  Gill and Hazel, who were in charge of the raffle, had been kept busy by a constant stream of customers which was obviously a reflection of the desirability of the prizes on display. The occasion concluded with a vote of thanks to all the staff of Hunters’ Meet for their excellent service.

Gill ’n’ Jan
Great Hallingbury WI


An overcast morning in August was brightened by a steady stream of colourfully dressed Essex WI members making their way to the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, This, all accompanied by the friendly chat characteristic of Essex Federation events, and, at one table, a bit of a “big birthday” celebration for former FEWI Chairman Kay Lodge.

Members were advised that protocol dictated that all should stand when the King’s Representative enters a room. The Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Jennifer Tolhurst, having invited those assembled to be seated, then spoke of her unexpected appointment to the role, and the many privileged and exciting duties which she is carrying out, including the welcoming of not one, but two, American Presidents arriving in the UK at Stansted Airport. (Donald Trump for a State Visit, and Joe Biden for the Queen’s funeral.) The Lord Lieutenant was thanked by former FEWI Trustee Hazel Ridgewell who expertly found words to match the occasion. There were several lucky winners of significant prizes generously donated by local businesses, including, unusually, the promise of a boiler service – not what you’d expect to be taking home after a day out on the Essex coast!

Events such as this require considerable planning and thanks are due to FEWI Vice Chair Sue MacEwen for organising such an enjoyable day for so many members. If you have never attended a FEWI event such as this before, do consider it in future. A warm welcome awaits and anyone on their own will immediately find someone to talk to and sit with. Before you know it, you’ll have made new friends. (With a shout out here to my new pals at Shenfield and Hutton WI!)

Judith Thompson
Radwinter WI


Ninety-three members and friends, and our guest speaker, enjoyed a three-course meal at Clacton on Sea Golf Club. The food and service were excellent as was the ambience. Many friendships were renewed, and some new ones made. It was pleasing to welcome Moyra our Federation Chair and ex Chair Jan Curtis.
Jane Harman spoke on behalf of SB May: The Bread and Roses Barge. Jane was happy to answer questions about this amazing and local project.

Stephanie Smith
Orsett WI


On Tuesday 27th July 2023 about 40 of us met at Stow Marie’s Aerodrome for a very fascinating tour.

We were split into two groups, and our tour guide was the lovely Gordon who I’m led to believe travels in from Southend most days as a volunteer.

Who knew such history happened on our doorstep back in 1914, from the “training” the pilots got to the amount of accidents before they’d even got airborne. Gordon was a mine of information and gave us such an interesting tour, the museums gave us a real insight to how life must have been back then, the hanger with the old Bye-planes, the replica lorries, the WAFs being billeted next to the laundry (because that’s where women should be) it showed us such a different way of life.

But the story I found most fascinating, was about the Australian airman that was killed in an accident and his family asked for him to buried locally as they would repatriate him after the war, he was duly buried in a lead lined coffin and when the family came and saw what a beautiful serene place Stow Marie’s cemetery was, they decided to leave him here.

All this history and the most lovely cream tea after our tour, a very big thank you to the lovely ladies in the “mess hall”, and to Gordon our guide, and a very big thank you to Sue MacEwen for organising a superb trip.

Barbara Pether

Elsenham WI



On Friday 16th June 2023, five of us set off from Elsenham WI eagerly anticipating a lovely day on the river. The weather couldn’t have been better and we were armed with sun cream, hats and water.

Well, the day didn’t disappoint, what a lovely time we had, we arrived a little early so time for a quick coffee on Maldon Prom then a short walk to Hythe Quay where we boarded the lovely “Thistle” and in no time at all we were sailing up the river and enjoying the sights of Heybridge Basin, the sailing club, and Osea island where we stopped for a while and was given a short history of the island.

There was plenty of tea, coffee and soft drinks along with a bar for those wishing to enjoy a glass of wine while “messing about on the river”

All in all we can’t thank Sue MacEwen enough for organising a perfect day out.

Thank you

Barbara Pether

Elsenham WI



Congratulations to May Flowers (Billericay) for their winning quiz team


Congratulations to Doddinghurst WI and their winning darts team.


Congratulations to Olive Clay of North Stifford WI for her winning photo which will be used on the next edition of our Panel of Speakers Book.  Take a look at the gallery for the runners up and other entries 


In January 2023 our new speaker Sarah Barclay, author of Eden’s Keepers, gave a fascinating talk on the lives and gardens of Humphrey Waterfield and Nancy Tennant.  Nancy is the focus of the first FEWI blue plaque in Ugley village so it was wonderful to hear about her passion for gardening and the impact Nancy had at a national and international level for the WI, notably in music and women’s rights throughout the three centuries she lived in.  We all thoroughly enjoyed Sarah’s talk on her ancestor, she really was one extraordinary lady bought to life by Sarah.  Look out for a book review in Essex WI News.

Dawn Terry

WINK (Rayleigh) WI


Report by Moyra Jackson – Elsenham WI

We were lucky at FEWI to have Murray give a second Zoom talk on the hidden delights of Cambridge. He explained the significance of some of the bridges – who would have thought that there would be a mathematical secret hidden in a bridge?

Murray has an easy style and manner and basically walks you through the areas in Cambridge he is talking about with the help of beautiful photos and Google Earth. We saw an amazing statue by Antony Gormley – the sculptor of the incredible Angel of the North. This one is a little harder to spot!

Those of us lucky enough to be online were enchanted to hear about and see the remarkable ‘Dinky Doors’, another of Cambridge’s all to easily missed treasures.  The creators are as much of a mystery as Banksy is and they have built up a huge following – I won’t spoil these doors by telling you about them but would encourage you to take a trip up to Cambridge and see them for yourselves.

An extremely interesting and enjoyable talk organised by Art & Leisure Team and hopefully we will have Murray back again with more facts about the beautiful city of Cambridge.


Report by Kate Clarke – Orchard Springs WI

I was delighted to listen to Victoria Robertson talk about her Living Garden Sculptures during the Zoom on October 19th.

Victoria is a volunteer gardener at Copped Hall and looks after the walled garden there. She has had a collection of Dahlias, but after losing them she has now concentrated on Penstemon and Alliums.

She has always had an interest in gardening, after having parents who were very keen, and after raising her family and finding herself at a loose end decided to volunteer at Copped hall. She went on to study Landscape Design at Studley Capel Manor College .

During an open day at Copped Hall she found that the parents were interested in looking around whilst the children appeared board. Victoria then started finding alternative activities, such as Fruit Art for children and started making small sculptures with them.

For one Open day she had made a topiary of an elephant that was well received and then she decided to try a life sized sculpture. She found that using old tights worked well when filled with compost and could be made any size and moulded to shape easily. When the compost was mixed with grass seed it grew and covered the form that she made.

Mrs Mole was her first sculpture which weighed 140lb and was difficult to transport, so found other methods to make the sculptures more easily transportable. She has since made a sculpture of The Queen for her 90th birthday that was well received, and visitors sat in a seat at her side for a photograph.

She then sent pictures to the Queen who was impressed and sent her a lovely letter telling her how good it was.

Since she has made William Shakespeare, who when it had started to die off she made into a floral ladies dress that visitors stood behind and had their photo taken.

King Henry V111th was created with a papermache face, which was an excellent likeness of him.

Victoria then showed a short film of a Canon that she had been asked to make for Remembrance day, which raised over £1000. In the film we saw it from start to finish, she told us that she had used dustbin lids for the wheels, and chicken wire for the cannon. It was excellent.

She showed us how we could make a small bear and grow it on ourselves. It was simple but just needed patience for the seeds to grow.

Apart from grass she uses Marjoram and Sedum.

I am now looking forward to creating my own garden sculpture next year, watch this space !


There is still time to enter our photographic competition for 2022.  Inspired by our members’ talent and love of photography, we are inviting you to send in your photos taken in Essex showing well known and/or typical Essex features, activities or events.

The winning photo will be used on the cover of the next edition of the Panel of Speakers book and runners up will feature on the front cover of Essex WI News.

Photos must be taken during 2022 in Essex.  Maximum of three entries per member.  Please send your photos to admin@essexwi.org.uk in jpeg format, in as high a resolution as possible.  Please include your name, WI and contact details, along with where and when the photo was taken.

By entering the competition you agree that your photograph(s) can be published in FEWIs publications, website and social media pages.

The deadline for sending in entries is 5pm on 31st January 2023.


In May a group of members came together at South Woodham Ferrers bowls club for a bowls taster session.  Members of the club were very friendly and patient, showing ed the WI members how to hold the bowls and send them down the rink. Tea and coffee were served alongside the rink. At the end, a competition to see who could throw their bowl nearest to the jack (called a spider) was won by Mary McTurk from Great & Little Warley WI. Although it was a windy and cloudy day, it stayed dry, and all the members enjoyed themselves.


In April, four of us from Elsenham WI joined more than 40 other members and friends on the North Fambridge Walk, organised by the lovely Sue MacEwan.  What a super day it was, the nature reserve is quite beautiful with lots to see and hear about.  Our guide was excellent and so knowledgeable.  There is so much history about the Essex coast line and back waters, we certainly learned a lot.
To end our walk, we had lunch at the beautiful Ferry Boat Inn, a wonderful end to a brilliant day.
A big thank you to Sue for organising and we look forward to the next one.

BELLY DANCING with Kay Beighton

In April 2022, 10 members attended the WI Centre for a morning of fun learning belly dancing.  Our tutor, Kay Beighton, introduced us to the history of belly dancing, and demonstrated several dances.  She brought costumes for us to wear,  we were taught various steps, and learned a complete routine, which we performed to lovely music at the end of the session.  It was a most enjoyable workshop.

FEWI Presents Manners Please Dearest with David Allen – event report

In February 2022 A&L presented David Allen.  His Zoom talk was interactive and a lot of fun, despite the wind causing difficulties with the sound.  We had been asked to have available a fan, a cup and saucer, a teaspoon, and a lightweight book. David checked we had all these, and the talk commenced.

We were introduced to the owner of a young ladies finishing school who introduced himself as Mr Bottomley Smythe and reminded us that his school would teach us the very up to date manners for 1859.  Our course would be divided into seven parts, and we would be trained in these.

  1. The Art of Deportment. We were told to stand straight with our arms at our sides, a book on our heads and then to walk a few steps and then sit down with the book still in its place.
  2. Preparation for courtship. How to use the language of the fan to indicate interest or not.
  3. We were encouraged to look for a suitor who had certain qualities as suggested by the group – appearance, family, property, servants and wealth!
  4. How to indicate our interest or not in a suitor. Always to have a chaperone and no touching not even fingers. How to curtsey remembering how wide our skirts were.
  5. How to pay a morning call. First, we would present our card to indicate our wish to make a call. If the lady accepted us, she would indicate we could call by giving us hers. Morning calls often took place in the early afternoon sometimes as late as 3pm. We were shown the correct way to hold the cup and saucer.  No raised pinkie finger!
  6. We would now attend a dinner with our chosen beau where we had to sit between two other gentlemen and show we knew which cutlery to use and how to make small talk – usually about the weather.
  7. The training was now complete, and we were declared to be finished young ladies.

The talk ended and as there were no questions at this point, these having been covered throughout, Gill thanked David for a very enjoyable evening and the meeting closed.

FEWI Presents A Village Headmaster with Dr John Ridley – event report

As a “convert” to WI Wanderers I always look at the titles of talks and events to find an interesting subject.  Dr Ridley did not disappoint.  After College and Teaching Practice John found his place in small village schools, preferring to teach younger children at primary rather than secondary school.  He became Headmaster.

His recollections, enabling children to learn about life whilst they enjoyed school took us back to our own schooldays. It was obvious from the way John spoke that he had his children at heart, encouraging them to learn with understanding, kindness and compassion.

A BBC team visited the school filming the children working on an art project involving going to the village, making sketches, preparing designs, modelling in clay then painting and varnishing for display.

John described taking pupils away for holidays, showing them the night sky, getting them to lie down and look at the stars. A friend played the ghost of a local legend, parading along the lane playing his bagpipes in the dark! 

John was using his talk to support the funding of the charity, Action for Children.

Marion Keates
Hawking Evening WI
East Kent Federation

Burnham Literary Lunch declared a roaring success

In August 2021 some of our Wild at Heart Virtual WI members went along to Essex Federation’s Literary Lunch at Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Burnham-on-Crouch. The speaker, Ruth Dugdall, a domestic noir writer, gave a fascinating insight into her research, writing process and the genre.  She spoke about drawing on her experience as a parole officer and her interest in secrets and lies among family and friends, as inspiration for her writing. The lunch was delicious and the whole afternoon was enhanced by the beautiful view over the River Crouch. Thank you to the author Ruth Dugdall and Essex Federation for a lovely afternoon of literature and lunch – the perfect combination!

Andrea Neale
Wild at Heart WI


Did you come to our Clacton literary lunch?

The sun shone, the food was good, the company exceptional and poet, Roz Hall kept us entertained.  It was such a pleasure to see friends from local WI’s; to catch up on the past 18 months and to look forward to the future.  The ladies from the east of the county were thrilled that Jan Curtis our County Chair was able to attend the event.  My thanks to Clacton on Sea Golf Club for hosting the event and to the members of St Osyth WI who ran the raffle and the shop.

Steph Smith
St Osyth WI


We Rambled through the Solar System with Martin Lunn

We went for a ramble through the universe on a virtual tour. It was an informative tour working outwards from the sun, stopping at each planet for a brief description of its size and characteristics. If ever you thought we were important, this was the talk for you. Earth is quite insignificant in the great scheme of things and consequently humans too. It was a well-constructed talk, and the speaker wore a waistcoat made of solar system fabric. Very appropriate.

Judi Marie
Orchard Springs WI

Review of Fancy a Boogie – Liz Scholey

Liz got us all moving about our kitchens and lounges at home. It was a mix of Zumba and line dance and the music took us around the world from Ecuador and the Caribbean to East Anglia with dances to tracks from Shakira and Ed Sheeran.  She had organised the routines so they were able to be danced in a small space. The class had us all glowing, was great fun, and left us feeling uplifted.

Kate Clarke
Orchard Springs WI

Review of A Buzz in the Garden – Richard Rickitt

Anyone who did not attend this fascinating and informative Zoom presentation missed an excellent talk full of advice on how to encourage bees into the garden. After an introduction to many of the bees that we may see in our gardens we were then told of ways to encourage them to stay as well as ways we could both be helping them and also poisoning them.

Richard also spoke about honey- bees and how some countries have to import swarms to pollinate their crops at certain times of the year because their own bee populations have been decimated by pollution and disease.

Are you aware that honey sourced in some countries contains a poison that will kill bees if they come in contact with it?

Do you know which plants to grow throughout the year to provide for the bees in your garden?

Did you now that they prefer blue and purple flowers?

These facts and many others were provided by Richard in his talk. If you get the chance to hers him then go for it. I have heard his talk twice now and have leant new things both times. Become like me a bee-bore!

Gill Sewell

Shakespeare – The Real Deal with Simon Bridge – A Review

Theatre in the Age of the Bard

To celebrate National Shakespeare’s Day on the 23rd April I joined Simon Bridge with others for a virtual walking tour of some of the key places in London to explore what life was like for Shakespeare, his actors and his audience.

Starting at The Globe, the significance of the Bankside area was highlighted as one of the main centres of entertainment in Shakespeare’s time. Extracting just a few points from the tour I learned of the necessity of patronages that were needed to enable companies to be formed for actors, gained an understanding of James Burbage and his business model that resulted in the first successful theatre to be established in England, known as The Theatre and could see where The Rose theatre had stood. On return to The Globe Simon described how the design enabled interaction between the actors and the audience.

On route  Simon quoted extracts from Shakespeare’s works and he told the story of how Shakespeare saved his life, or as he says (‘well …almost’).  All I’m saying is that a fig tree was involved, but I say no more as that tale is ready for you at hopefully one of Simon’s future talks.

As we had a chance during the evening of speaking as they would have spoken in Shakespeare’s time, I thought I would also have a go in my vote of thanks and said, ‘tis with most wondrous pleasure yond i sayeth, thanketh thee, on behalf of thy audience this evening’.  For Simon had invited us into the world of Shakespeare, taking us on a journey with relevancies to today. We appreciated the knowledge he shared, the interactiveness along the way and the encouragement for us to use our imagination – making it a really interesting and enjoyable evening. Thanketh thee Simon.

By Kerry Franklin, Brightlingsea WI

Delights & Possibilities of RHS Hyde Hall with Rob Brett – A Review

We were recently joined on Zoom by Robert Brett our Guest Speaker who is the RHS Hyde Hall Curator. What a Inspiring Talk we all heard . As you can see from the photo we were mesmerised by all the beautiful plants and amazing areas at Hyde Hall of which Robert showed us pictures . From the Rose Garden and Rope Rose Walk to the Dry Garden and lots more in between. . Fascinatingly , the specialist Lawn Grounds man “Chris and Nigel “only put out the sign inviting visitors to “Take of there Socks and Shoes “ When the superbly manicured Lawns meet there exacting standards .

There were pictures of Daffodils and Crocuses showing the Spring flowers are starting to wake from the winter . I personally am really looking forward to visiting in the near future to see all the changes that have happened over the last few years and in particular during the Covid shutdown . So ladies I hope to see you there soon……

Report by Lesley Evans, 


Fabulous London Walk

A report from Jill Ludlow, Roydon Village WI on our latest (and very over-subscribed!) London Walk.

When you think of the City of London, you probably mostly think of tall buildings, and glass and concrete. You’ll probably not think there are green spaces outside the great squares, most of which seem, at the moment, to be out of bounds due to Cross Rail construction. However, there are many small gardens and green areas, some associated with City Guilds, and others with churches.

After a warm and sunny week, Mothering Sunday dawned dull and chilly, as well as being the day the clocks moved forward an hour, and 30 members of Essex Federation WIs met at Liverpool Street to meet with Jill, who was to lead the walk. Travelling by tube to St Paul’s, our first garden was a few minutes away, at the church of St Anne and St Agnes, in Gresham Street; a church rebuilt after 1666, then bombed and rebuilt again after the War, and subsequently “improved” in the 1970s. This was a fairly informal garden, with some spring blossoming trees, but sadly littered by overnight residents. The pattern of being destroyed in the Great Fire, rebuilt in the late seventeenth century under Sir Christopher Wren’s plans, then being destroyed during the Blitz is very common.

Further along Gresham Street, found us in the Goldsmith’s Garden, a more formal garden, owned by one of the oldest City Guilds, whose headquarters are nearly opposite. With its gold decorations, it was very popular with the group and we spent a long time wandering around it.
Fabulous London WalkIMG_1948
Visiting other small gardens en route, we found ourselves on London Wall at St Alphage, where this statue of the Minotaur is. It was previously in another park, near King Edward Street, and has been moved for unknown reasons. The nearby gardens showed the promise of spring, although sadly the weather continued to get colder.
London Wall at St Alphage20190331_114247
And it was for that reason that we swiftly walked to The Barbican, where the theatre has a Palm Court restaurant, looking like an area of rainforest with tables dropped in. As it was Mothering Sunday, the restaurant was heaving with people eating afternoon tea – at lunchtime!
The Barbican London
From there we went to my favourite garden in the City, Postman’s Park, which I walked through most of my working days for three years back in the 1980s. Postman’s Park features a wall of tiles commemorating, mainly ordinary, people, some of them children, who committed acts of heroism losing their lives in the process. Mainly these are pre World War I, and I find the wall immensely moving. The Minotaur at St Alphage had previously been in this park. The tile wall, known as The Watts Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice, was the brainchild of the Victorian artist, GF Watts. The gardens themselves included a feature garden of yellow and white primulas.  The adjacent church is also worth a visit.  
We finished our walk at some gardens that were hidden when I used to walk to work along this route. Established in the bombed out ruins of Sir Christopher Wren’s Christ Church Greyfriars, strictly speaking it is on the corner of King Edward Street, but it’s given the address of Newgate Street. The garden has kept the plan of the church, with the planting in the pew area, and the aisle still obvious, as well as two walls and a tower.  
The City of London has many of these hidden gems and thank you to Gill who lead us so ably around, in spite of Transport for London’s best efforts in closing roads while building Cross Rail. It’s such a small area and so easily accessible from major stations, it’s worth trying it yourself (www.londongardenstrust.org).
With many thanks to Jill Ludlow, Roydon Village WI              

Shakespeare Workshop A Success

The Arts & Leisure Committee held a Shakespeare Workshop today at the FEWI Centre. Actor Simon Bridge was such an inspiring tutor as he explored Shakespeare’s language and got all of all the audience participating; our members became working actors in Hamlet and MacBeth and Julius Caesar. There were also many funny moments with members not coming in with their words at the right time, and even a ghost coming through the door on cue! Everyone enjoyed the workshop so much that they have asked for him to come back again. At lunch a delicious butternut and chicken soup was served, which was followed by a selection of lovely home made cakes.

Walking in the Shadows of the Suffragettes

Sunday 25th March saw 30 members of Essex Federation take to the streets of London walking 15,400 steps each! Here’s all the details jointly from Sue MacEwen and Lesley Beckett (The Brentwood Belles WI)…

A hundred years on from the Suffragette marches, representatives of various Essex WI’s assembled at Liverpool Street Station. The ladies wore various tokens in remembrance of the Suffragettes, from small white, green and mauve ribbons to splendid hats and sashes. So off they went, 31 ladies, with maps in hand, made their way to Holborn, via the Central line. he first place of interest was St George’s Church Bloomsbury Way, where 5,000 suffragettes defied a ban and followed Emily Davison’s hearse to Kings Cross on 14 June 1913. Our group was unable to go inside as a service was taking place, but photos was taken outside. Moving on past Covent Garden, and pausing outside the Gardenia Restaurant in Catherine Street, Sue explained this was where Christabel Pankhurst plotted, with the other WSPU militants, a demonstration in Whitehall, while detectives gathered outside to arrest them. Our next stop was the National Gallery, where some dashed off to use the services, others made their way to the café and all ended up at Room 30 to see Rokeby’s Venus, which was attacked by Mary Richardson with a meat cleaver in 1914, provoked by the arrest of Emmeline Pankhurst the day before. You can still see some of the damage today. Walking down Whitehall, passing the Household Cavalry museum on the left and a half Marathon on the right, it became harder to keep together, but not much could stop the WI women and they all made it through to Parliament Square. There was even a glimpse of Downing Street where two Suffragettes try to post themselves to the Prime Minister! We heard plenty of snippets about Suffragette deeds like setting off a bomb hidden in a hand bag in one of Westminster Abbey’s chapels. For  Suffragettes, handbags were a tool for extreme patriarchy. On this occasion, one unnamed Suffragette had successfully set of a bomb in Edward the Confessor’s Chapel, close to the Coronation Chair, after ditching her bag in a pew and fleeing. Within the recovered bag was a feather boa and a guide book. Walking past the Cellarium Café was hard; the walk was thirsty work, and this famous café (where Emily Pankhurst sought refuge) had been turned in to a pub – it looked so very inviting! The, nearing the end of the walk, was the most important Suffragette building on the route – Caxton Hall. From the outside little had changed from the days of being used by the WSPU’s women’s parliament, but the building is now luxury flats. In 1907, it was the site of the WSPU’s women’s parliament.,which took place at the beginning of every parliamentary session from 1907. In that year, the day after votes for women were omitted from the Kings speech, Emmeline Pankhurst cried “Rise up Women ” to 400 suffragettes who answered “Now!”. Close by still stands Howick Place Post Office, where in 1912 it’s windows were smashed with stones by two protesting ladies. The Suffragette Memorial Garden was also nearby with a bronze sculpture commemorating the importance to the movement of Caxton Hall. The WI ladies’ 6 mile (or 15,400steps!) walk attracted lots of public interest on the way – for example from a man who shouted ‘women are gonna rule the world! – as he pushed his daughter in her buggy along Caxton Street. This was such an enjoyable walk and above the noise of the traffic it was interesting listening in to the chatter of ladies from the different Essex WI groups along the way. A huge thanks must go to Gill who ably led the walk around London in this, the Suffragette anniversary year.