THE year 2017 started for the members of Andover Evening WI with a trip down memory lane of old Andover from former president, Irene Chambers.

She gave a fascinating talk about the changes made to Andover, with detailed ‘before-and-after’ photos. Irene has documented many of the changes to Andover over the last 50 years, as well as researching the history of many of the buildings.

The February meeting took the members for a wander around 50 different places in Wiltshire, thanks to ‘Greg’ Gregory. He showed slides taken from Fosbury, Plaitford and Landford, Wooton Rivers, Market Lavington, Oakley, Easterton, Berwick St John, East Knoyle, Royal Wooton Bassett, Netheravon and finally ‘Tiddlywink’, giving informative and often amusing explanations of each one.

‘Make Do and Mend 1942’ was the subject of the March meeting, with Deborah Wheeler, a costumed interpreter for Hampshire Cultural Trust.

All the members of this WI were transported back in time to the war years. ‘Mrs Stacey’ gave a humorous look at how to keep well dressed and fed. She produced truffles from mashed potato and cocoa, and cosmetics from gravy browning and camomile lotion, as well as showing them how to mend their worn clothing for further use. She showed gifts fashioned from wool or old clothes, including women’s underwear!

Members joined in with a wartime singsong, and took a recipe home to try.

In April this WI’s secretary’s husband, Geoff Eddy, transported the members to the wealth of the gardens of West Cornwall, an area with a mild climate with plenty of rain and wind. Geoff explained each colourful slide, depicting the varied gardens, starting with Tresco, on the Scilly Isles. The Mediterranean garden grew protea, and echiums, amongst many other unusual plants.

Next was Trewidden garden, a 15-acre plant hunters’ trophy garden, with a fernery, rock garden, pond and walled garden. Geoff went on to describe Trengwainton garden, now owned by the National Trust. It is a sheltered garden bursting with trees and shrubs. This was followed by an exotic sub-tropical garden with sculptures called Tremenheere.

Geoff also described the garden on St Michael’s Mount with a microclimate of unusual plants, and finally Tregothnan garden, renowned for its tea plants.

The June meeting of Charlton WI began with the usual welcome from the president to members and guests and then introduced the newly-elected committee and their individual roles to members.

She told of the success of the darts’ team win and details of the September visit to the Palace of Westminster.

On to ‘Dresses for Africa’,” which is an appeal for fabric, trimmings and volunteers to make clothes for African girls and young women. Members were saddened to hear that in some communities, a shabbily dressed girl is seen as having no male relatives to protect her and so is open to abuse. This means that respect for her safety and welfare is dependent upon being nicely dressed and looking well cared for.

The speaker for the meeting was Billy Clayton — a musician who thoroughly entertained his audience with songs from the 60s, 70s and some more recent times. The songs were interspersed with jokes and the atmosphere became very lively indeed with members singing along to the old ‘Baby Boomer’ favourites and, much to Billy’s delight, getting up to dance. Rumours of a conga line along Charlton Road are highly exaggerated — it was in fact confined to indoors!

At their June meeting the members of Goodworth Clatford WI welcomed Liz Barron and they were greatly entertained by her talk, ‘A Tale of Two Journeys’.

In 1917 Liz’s grandfather had, at the age of 21, travelled from London to Shanghai by train and one hundred years on Liz and her husband repeated the journey, following his diaries as closely as possible and stopping in the places where he had stopped. With the help of old photos and slides the members were transported through Europe and across the vast Siberian plains to their final destination in China.

It was interesting to compare rail travel then and now. How many cities had changed but in much of the countryside similarities remained. A guide accompanied the modern-day adventurers on several stages of the journey and this added a depth of knowledge to the travel experience.

Earlier in June members enjoyed a visit to Arundel Castle and all agreed it was a lovely day out.

At their June meeting members of Andover Afternoon WI welcomed Heather Wylde who told them the story of ‘The Sewing Room’, which was subtitled ‘A Tale of Mystery and Intrigue’, which it certainly was.

It was a story taken from Heather’s grandmother’s 1902 journal, which she had written when she was 22 and in service. She had never told her family this story while she was alive. Heather found it when she was going through her father’s papers after he died.

Edith Emma Webb, always known as Edie, went to live with her uncle and aunt who had no children of their own. Her parents thought she would have a better life with them, but she was expected to work in the laundries they owned in the Nottingham area. Sewing and mending was a part of her life and she became an expert seamstress.

Eventually, thanks to one of the senior staff, she applied for a position at a manor house near Lenham, in Kent. Her job was to repair and make furnishings for the house, and to make clothes for the family. She was given a house of her own, away from the main house as her working hours were different from the other household staff. She started work there in 1902. Her sewing room was in the tower house and on her first day she went into the sewing room and found five women already there. Edie was delighted as she had thought she would be very lonely living and working on her own.

On an evening in June she was found slumped over her sewing machine. She was diagnosed as having a chest infection and suffering from stress and overwork. But she could not take much time away from the sewing room.

Many years before this a midsummer ball was held at the house and all the family were to be there. Lady Roberts, the squire’s wife, wanted a new gown, but the fabric did not arrive at the house until the day before the ball. The sewing women were to finish the gown that evening, and were locked in to complete it.

Many years later old Lady Roberts, the woman in question, came to stay and was horrified and upset to find that Edie and her team were using the room in the tower house, but would give no explanation. Lady Roberts died suddenly one evening. Here the mystery deepened but it would be unfair to tell the rest of the story here. One would need to hear it from Heather.

On a very hot day several members visited Hillier’s Arboretum, car-sharing to get there. Despite the heat they enjoyed their day and wandered around the grounds, finding lots of very necessary shade where they could relax.

Thanks to the hard work of the programme sub-committee members of Abbotts Ann WI have much to look forward to in the coming year. Their president, Kate Bennett, has been busy with her paintbrushes and produced a very colourful programme for everyone to get all those WI dates marked off on their calendars.

The year started, in June, with a stroll around three lovely gardens located close to the village hall. Members could wander freely, as they admired the colourful and imaginative planting, before returning to the hall for refreshments. A very pleasant and relaxed evening.