The NFWI will host its Annual Meeting in Cardiff on Wednesday 6th June 2018. The event will take place at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff. Worcestershire will be running a coach for Delegates; please note that this will be a day trip only. Tickets will be priced at £20 each and will be available for sale to observers from federations at the end of October 2017.


MONDAY 30TH APRIL 2018 7.00pm


Number 8, Pershore.

Guest Speaker will be Graham Walton ‘My Life with Seven Women’




The Three Counties Showground, Malvern



We are part of Forest Group and will be meeting with other WIs in the group on at least two occasions. Dates to be confirmed when arranged.  The WI’s in the group are Abberley, Areley Kings, Astley, Bewdley, Callow Hill, Far Forest, Mitton and Rock.


10th JANUARY 2018

The 2018 Programme got off to an excellent start with a large turnout of members and visitors to hear a second, fascinating talk from Zaza on art interpretation. With humour and clarity she explained how the skills and style of classical Greek and Roman art were rediscovered and reinterpreted during the Renaissance, following the rather flat two-dimensional images of early Christian art. Using the Perseus and Andromeda Fountain at Witley Court Zaza retold the myth of Andromeda's rescue from the sea monster and subsequent marriage to Perseus. We learnt about the symbolism used to indicate different gods in paintings, the depiction of Venus as compared with the depiction of the Virgin Mary and the use of strong compositional lines to lead the eye or add dynamism to painting and sculpture. Images below include 'The Judgement of Paris' by Rubens and 'Perseus turning Phineas to Stone' by Giordano (both in The National Gallery).




14th February

With the aid of his stunning photographs Eric illustrated the wide variety of bird species that can be found in our local area, this includes permanent residents as well as summer and winter migrants.  During long patient hours of observation Eric has spotted many birds that the more casual observer would miss, from the chiffchaff in our gardens to peregrine falcons on Clee Hill. His favourite sites include the Shropshire Hills, Upton Warren brine lakes (managed by The Worcestershire Wildlife Trust) and Grimley lakes as well as his own back garden.  The most useful advice that we took away from the evening was to always carry binoculars when out walking! 


Martin gave us a lively talk on the first 600 years of Witley Court, starting from the earliest records in 1086. Following the Norman invasion the first known person associated with the manor was Urse D'Abitot, a powerful sheriff of Worcester. Through marriage with the Beauchamp family the lands and manor passed as a gift to the Cooksey and then Russell families. In 1655 it was sold to Thomas Foley and thus left aristocratic hands to become the property of the newly emerging entrepreneurial middle classes. The Foleys were prominent industrialists in the Dudley area and by 1657 were responsible for a quarter of all the iron produced in England and Wales. During this time Witley Court was remodelled and significantly extended, from the original house into a Jacobean Manor.  In 1793 under the third Lord Foley, John Nash designed substantial changes to Witley Court. This all led to immense debts and the estate ended up in  deep financial trouble and after 384 years of Foley family ownership the house was sold in 1939.  Sadly the talk ended here with a tantalising glimpse of what would happen next in the history of Witley Court - hopefully Martin will return to tell us the racy tales of love and adultery. 


Frances Benton returned to entertain us with another amusing talk on pearls, how they are formed (as a protective response to a parasite, not a grain of sand as we all had thought) and the relatively recent commercial cultivation which has made them available to a wider market. Farmed pearls have only been available for about 100 years, before then they were rare and precious and therefore a status symbol usually worn by men. We learnt the legend of the Tears of the Dragon - every evening a dragon in love with a beautiful maiden who would never see him, would weep on the sand where she had walked. His tears turned to pearls as they fell on the sand. The maiden made a necklace of the pearls and her warmth caused them to shine with the love with which they had been made. Demonstrating clearly how pearls absorb the heat of the wearer Frances bedecked the game male members of the audience with ropes of pearls - removing them some while later gave a clear indication of the hottest man in the room! The blushes of a well dressed gentleman have been spared with a little photo-shop work. A vast array of pearl jewellery tempted many members to treat themselves after the talk, the meeting went on for quite a while as everyone browsed. Frances donates all profits to a childrens' charity in Africa.


We had a very full hall for this meeting when we were joined by Holt WI and Little Witley WI. After the business part for each WI the resolution for 2018 was presented to everyone. After comments and discussion a vote was taken which supported the Resolution. After this Val Durnall gave a short but interesting talk on ACWW.  She explained how it was set up by the founding President Madge Robertson Watt and also how they currently hold consultative status with the United Nations.  The role of ACWW is to raise the standard of living in rural areas and farms through education, training and community programmes.  We were all familiar with the little box – Pennies for Friendship - which is put out at WI meetings, but most of us were surprised that in one year £147,358 were collected [against a target of £220,000].  Val explained how all donations go in full towards the good causes – there are no administration fees deducted.  One suggestion from the audience was that the box ask for 5p coins instead of pennies, but Val explained that it was possible to include any denomination of money.  There will be a scheme whereby used stamps [from any country and any denomination] and broken jewellery are also collected to raise funds; more information on this will be available soon.  Further information can be obtained from


With energy and humour Rosemary told us how she first became interested in horses, how she and her husband bred horses and what led her to become a race day guide at Cheltenham Racecourse. We learnt that originally point-to-point racing began by racing from one church steeple to the next - hence the term steeplechase.  Worcester is actually the oldest  steeplechase course in the country at 300 years old, one of the previous directors was Sir Richard Brook of The Elms.  The oldest flat course is Chester which opened in 1624 for royalty and the nobility. The Cheltenham Course on its modern site covers 370 acres and has 4 tracks. Rosemary shared many anecdotes about famous jockeys and explained what happens in the weighing rooms and hospitality areas. We even heard tales of jockeys going the wrong way round the figure of eight track and she conjured up all the excitement of the dash down the final furlong. Below are some pictures of Rosemary's racing memorabilia. At the end of the talk Rosemary spoke from family experience about Lyme Disease in an effort to raise awareness of what can be a debilitating condition. She told us what measures to take to avoid it and what the symptoms can be. 


What a wonderful meeting we had on Wednesday evening, with excellent food, Centenary wine, great company and a beautiful garden to wander around at our leisure. Lots of photos were taken, but I think this one summed up the evening very well.



Amused by facing a roomful of Abberley members many of whom were sporting splendid hats, Catherine delighted us with her colourful display of gorgeous hats and interesting talk. She has been running her hat hire business for 24 years and has over 400 hats and thousands of fascinators and hatinators. She began her career in fashion in Harrod’s corsetry department and ended up as fashion buyer for Harrods and House of Fraser. Various other jobs slotted into her life as she raised two daughters - solicitor’s book-keeper, breast feeding counsellor, Natwest employee, before starting the hat hire business from home some years after moving from Essex to Worcestershire. Hats have now taken over every corner of her house and the hats have been to Royal Ascot, Buckingham Palace garden parties and many weddings and other functions. Catherine gave us so much useful advice on choosing and wearing a hat depending on your height or hairstyle and showed how different colours and shapes will lift an outfit. Hats can be adjusted to fit small or large heads, extra trimming and feathers can be added and the addition of a small matching clutch bag completes ‘the look’. Most hats nowadays are made from sinamay which is a textile woven from fibres from a banana related palm tree.It is extremely light and can be dyed any colour, is easily shaped (and reshaped if battered). As she tried all the hats on Catherine discussed the different shapes and sizes, tilted them for best effect and explained how influential Royal Weddings can be, copies of Royal hats are quickly produced for the mass market and are encouraging more hat wearing. Finally, from a large garden bin Catherine pulled one by one a selection from her collection of beautiful hats from different decades of the last century - these were fascinating, nostalgic, glamorous, elegant and quaint. After the talk members were invited to try on any of the hats and had a wonderful time, all wishing we had more weddings to attend, thus having an excuse to visit Catherine and benefit from her expert and warm advice.


Claire Furness, founder of Abberley Care Farm, gave a fascinating and enlightening talk entitled Life on the Funny Farm, in which she talked about the work which she and her team do with young learners with difficulties at a Care Farm and which, interestingly, the majority of people present had no idea existed!  The young learners there work towards ASDAN qualifications by working with animals, such as goats, donkeys, dogs, ducks, pigs, horses, ponies.  For the youngsters the primary focus is the animals, as in this way the learning becomes fun and less stressful.  They also learn to become responsible in caring for the animals and keeping the place clean and tidy.  Claire explained how some of the students are referred from schools, so that funding follows them from the schools’ funding, though some students are privately funded, sometimes for as little as one hour a week, though most are there for one or two whole days.  Everyone in the audience was fascinated and would have liked to visit the farm to see what was happening, but Claire explained that this could only happen on open days because of child protection.  Claire was accompanied by her daughter Anna and assistant Mo, plus Harmony the pony, Poppy the dog and a very amenable chicken! It was a lovely evening enjoyed by all.


Sarah began by telling us how much she had enjoyed baking with her mother as a child and won an iced cake competition despite having no experience. She now creates wonderfully imaginative cakes as a team with her mother who bakes the cake base first. Sarah also works as the pastry cook at St Richard's Hospice, she moved the audience with stories of making cakes for significant occasions for patients and their families. Next there was audience participation!  Following clear slides displayed by partner Roger we were all talked  through the stages required to create a cute penguin from modelling icing. Following that there was more fun as we all decorated a fairy cake to resemble a snowman complete with carrot nose and bobble hat. Everything we needed had been beautifully prepared for us in advance, even down to a little box in which we could safely carry home our creations.


Following the official business of the Annual General Meeting we were treated to a fascinating talk by our own Tracy and Terry Robinson-Ballard. They had both left Abberley  to spend time volunteering in Malawi. Tracy worked in a clinic established by a British woman in memory of her son. Most of the children were underweight and needed food and a vaccination programme to tackle bilharzia, a parasitic disease caught from flatworms in the large freshwater lake which supplies all the fresh water for the locals. It causes many serious long term problems, affecting the liver, kidneys and longterm development of children. Terry worked with a group of locals teaching them programming and IT skills. We also heard some hair-raising tales of their encounters with elephants, elephants investigating their camp-site and charging the car. The talk was illustrated with some great photos of their little cottage, the lake and their travels. There was a lovely happy ending - the pair came home engaged after Terry proposed on this memorable trip!

The evening was rounded off with more home-grown entertainment -The Abberley WI Synchronised Swimming Team. The team repeated their show stopping performance from the Forest Group Centenary Party for the benefit of the rest of the members. Joined by the husbands of the participants it was again received with much hilarity.



Once again we finished off the year in style with a wonderful party at The Elms which looked beautifully twinkly and Christmassy with its splendidly lavish decorations. Our members also looked beautifully twinkly and splendid in their best party outfits. The evening got off to warm start with mulled wine as everyone met up, chatted and mingled. A delicious meal followed, interspersed with games of Australian Bingo which raised a generous amount for Crisis at Christmas. Half of us moved tables after each course, giving us a chance to catch up with friends old and new. The whole evening was both a wonderful end to the WI year and an excellent beginning to the Christmas season.