Monday, 12 October 2015

Lunch in France

On 22nd September, 2015 our party of 52 members, husbands and friends went for a day in France. The departure through the Channel Tunnel was delayed because of immigrants in the Tunnel, so our first venue for a coffee stop had to be rearranged. Nevertheless, despite the delays and the rain, we knew more delights were to come so we carried on.

We continued with a scenic drive down La vallee de la Course (Course Valley), one of the most beautiful in the region, to the Auberge d’Inxent Hotel and Restaurant. Known for it's seasonal cooking, here all the ingredients are locally sourced (including the chocolates!). It seemed appropriate for our members to present Monsieur and Madame Six, the proprietors, with a present of fruit, jam & chutney locally sourced from Brogdale in our own beautiful Kent.

After lunch, we had a coach tour of Montreuil sur Mer with an English-speaking local guide – Jean Marc- who gave a fascinating history of the town. The tour tested Bob, the coach driver, having to negotiate the winding narrow cobbled streets mostly in heavy rain the rest of the day.

It was certainly a day of experiences – immigrants in the Tunnel, rural France, a French lunch, a guide through a turbulent history of an ancient town, and the very close scrutiny of the passport control on both sides of the Channel — but everyone agreed it was a wonderful day despite the weather.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Centenary Tea

Yes, the Women's Institutes all over the UK are celebrating 100 years of service this year. Our celebration was a wonderful afternoon of tea, delightful goodies to eat, and great entertainment. Some of us even dressed in period costumes and the period could be any period in the last 100 years, so we had suffragettes, flappers, flower chilren, and everything in between.

In addition to these delicious desserts, we also had trays of finger sandwiches, Prosecco, coffee, tea, and more! Our catering team is just amazing and so full of spirit. Tracey, one of the caterers, dressed up as a suffragette.
Tracey, the suffragette
She's gaily filling up the glasses of Prosecco for us. Our President, Ingrid, and secretary, Pat, came as 1920s flappers and Julia, another of our catering team, came straight out of the 1960s movie "Grease"!

As you can see, we all had so much fun, with lots of laughter and light-hearted chatter!
Margaret laughing while Jean and Betty share some stories!

Gill in her 1950s glam cruise outfit!
There were a lot of us having a good look at the costumes and sharing a few memories of times gone past.

Some of us looked downright glamorous, too, as did Gill, our past President. On Gill's left is one of the entertainers, who sat with us after the entertainment.

The entertainment was provided by the Lindley Players, a local group. They dressed up as pearly kings and queens and sang a lot of the old WWI-era to the 1950s songs, inviting us to join in and sing with them. The entertainment was just perfect, everyone said, for the occasion and it seemed that all of us got into the spirit.

As the last song, the players sang a special one they wrote just for us. As you can see, everyone really got into the spirit.

[Please note: I had a video but for some reason Blogger refuses to cooperate and play it. Sorry!]

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Torry Hill

Contributed by Jenny Roberts

On Monday, July 13th ten of us set off in four cars in the rain for Torry Hill. Lady Kingsdown and her gardener were waiting to show us around and fortunately the rain did stop.

The 11 acres of gardens were laid out in the middle of the 19th century.  They enjoy a wonderful vista from the grass terraces at 500 ft above sea level to the north past the Isle of Sheppey and the Medway to Whitstable and Herne Bay. 

Specimen trees of the original planting survive, despite the hurricane of 1987. To the south of the house are three walled gardens, one beside the house with lawn and traditional herbaceous borders, a beautiful formal rose garden with over 500 roses and a one and a half acre formal garden laid out in 1978, successfully designed to have shrubs and climbing plants in bloom at almost any time of the year.

Lastly there is a large vegetable garden with asparagus, globe artichokes, rhubarb and lots of soft fruit. After our tour we went into a converted stable block for tea and homemade biscuits. A most enjoyable afternoon was had by all.

Dancing with a Star

We had a great meeting on 8 July. Ms. Ann Hall, a middle eastern dance teacher, entertained us with dance, costumes, and music of the Middle East. The costumes were so beautiful and she even asked for volunteers to try them on.
Ann brought two male helpers with her to mind the sound equipment, too. They were dressed in the traditional male djellabia, white cotton robes.

At every step of the journey, she explained the context of the music, the costumes, and the movements in the dance. The audience was enthralled throughout.

 At each stage, she managed to change costumes easily and quickly, explaining the culture of each segment.
It was a great meeting and definitely not boring! The WI is for education as well as entertainment, and this programme excelled in both.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Where England Began -- A Tour of History

Friday, 3rd July was our WI outing. We were on a City and Villages Tour titled "Where England Began", a historical look at early England and its monarchs. Our first stop was All Saints Church in Kingston, which was established in 1120 but was built on the site of a much earlier church where Egbert, King of Sussex, held his council in 838, thus cementing the relationship of church and state for generations to come. In the 10th century, altogether seven Saxon kings were crowned there on the Coronation Stone. That stone stands today near the Guild Hall. Kingston is very important to early English history.
Our Blue Badge guide explaining the history of the church

A building in the market square just outside the All Saints Church.
Kingston is a beautiful little town. A pretty little canal filled with swans and decorated (as was everywhere) with bright flowers.

From Kingston, our coach headed for lunch at the Ye Olde Swan in Thames Ditton, a 13th century riverside pub on the River Thames.  We had a lovely lunch in the pub, then went back on the coach to meet our boat tour. 

The traffic was horrendous all over the city, but our driver and the blue badge guide managed to get us through it and around it quite handily. Aside from the usual Friday traffic congestion, the Hampton Court Flower Show was in full swing so the roads were absolutely clogged everywhere. We still managed to drive through Runnymede Meadow, the famous site of the signing of the Magna Carta 800 years ago. 
Runnymede Meadow, site of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215
Now it's a lovely picnic spot and there were many people enjoying it in the hot summer sun. We also passed the Sandown Park race track, Windsor Castle, and a few other notable places. 

We finally managed, about an hour late, to get to our tour boat. The effort was definitely worth it as the river tour was absolutely delightful. It was about an hour long and we had just a gentle breeze and saw so many wonderful sights along the way. We managed to get through two locks on the river, which was quite exciting, especially for us first-timers.

Away we went on our little tour boat.

A glimpse of Windsor Castle as we sailed past.
All along the river, people were swimming, sunning, picnicking, boating, rowing, and just enjoying themselves as we were.
Our first lock: Boveney Lock
We reached our destination, Maidenhead, about 6pm, sailing past the lovely railway bridge, the Maidenhead Rowing Club and many beautiful homes and hotels along the way. 
Maidenhead Railway Bridge, designed by I. K. Brunel in 1838, opened in 1839 
I think some of us would have been content to sail all the way back to Whitstable! By the time we got back on the coach, negotiated the traffic on the infamous M25 and other motorways, we arrived back home about 9pm, tired but having had such a wonderful day out and lots of history to think about! 

And the bonus is that, for our photography group, this month's theme is "water"!

P is for . . .

On the 30th of June our Shutterbugs Camera Group went to the Faversham Quay. Unfortunately it was one of the hottest days in years, so we didn't have much energy for clamboring around with our cameras. Still, we managed a few. Of course we started off with cool drinks at the Pomegranate Tree tea room. The staff there could not be nicer and found us a shady spot on their enclosed patio to have our photography meeting.

This month we had chosen to do a letter of the alphabet, "P". So we had photos of pansies, peonies, patchwork, pincushions, and more. Everyone chose three prints and we had a good time hearing the stories behind each.

After we'd had our cool drinks, we wandered around the Quay. There was a second-hand shop, an antiques shop, etc. The tide was out, so we had to do with photos of the boats sitting on mud!

The photo above was interesting. Some ships have elaborate carvings of women at the head of the boat, but these folks had a sense of humour. This was a plastic male mannequin.... a man dummy, if you will! I wondered if he would melt as hot as it was, but he seemed very placid!

I've heard the Quay is quite busy on the weekend and perhaps there are more people and more open shops. And I'd certainly recommend that if you go, you choose a cooler day!

Tram Hatch Garden Visit

Our June Garden visit was a return to Tram Hatch at Charing Heath. Fifteen of us were shown round the three acres of  gardens by Pam and Alan Scrivens. Alan and Pam have lived at Tram Hatch for 25 years and have transformed expanses of lawn into a series of loosely defined spaces. A unique feature of the garden is the River Stour which runs parallel to the gardens.

There is a huge selection of flowers and a large collection of trees including cornus, beech and acers. A highlight of the afternoon was the large formal rose garden with beautiful David Austin  blooms. There is also an orchard, large vegetable garden and ponds fringed with plants.

After looking around the garden most of us had a strawberry cream tea, which was delicious.

Submitted by Jenny Roberts

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Bilting House Garden Visit

On Monday, May 18th we visited Bilting House, the home of John Erle- Drax. We were shown around the garden by his gardener and his sister. The garden is six acres in  a beautiful part of the Stour Valley. 

The rhododendrons were amazing. There was a woodland walk, a mature arboretum with recent planting of specimen trees and many herbaceous borders.We were very lucky with the weather. After a shower on the way there, the rain stopped and the sun came out as we went into the conservatory for an excellent tea.

We all enjoyed the afternoon and are looking forward to our next trip. The Garden Group meets once a month from March to September and visit  local gardens by car. Anyone who wants further details to contact Jenny Roberts or anyone on the committee.