APRIL MEETING - Dunham, the Grey Years

National Trust Volunteer, Peter Braun joined us in April to share his knowledge of the history of Dunham Massey House. He had intriguing tales to tell of two families who lived there; the Grey family and the Booth family. Executions, brave deeds and even a few scandals all featured in their fascinating lives and changing fortunes. In 1649 Thomas Grey was one of the judges at the trial of Charles 1st and his signature can be seen on the death warrant above the signature of Oliver Cromwell. In 1659 George Booth raised an army to support the Royalist cause and ended up in the Tower of London. However in 1660, the new king, Charles 2nd, rewarded him with a peerage. One family scandal resulted in the closure of Dunham for 50 years. Eventually in the 18thCentury the families of Booth and Grey became joint owners through marriage.  In 1976 the family gifted the House and Gardens to the National Trust.



A dazzling floral display greeted members arriving for the June meeting. This was just a taste of the colourful evening ahead. Jacqueline Iddon is the owner of a hardy plant nursery in the Lancashire village of Bretherton. Her illustrated talk revealed creative areas where a multi coloured bottle wall, a Victorian fern house and interesting sculptures can be found.  She gave useful hints on the growing and propagation of the many plants we were shown including some that are sure to attract bees. One year, Jacqueline achieved Gold and Best in Show at the Southport flower show. She has been involved in the Yellow Garden scheme in the past and hopes to take part again next year. The sculptures in the garden are the work of Thompson Dagnall and it was interesting to see film of his other work, which includes a sculpture in Dorset to commemorate the Tolpuddle Martyrs, one in St.Helens town centre depicting the town’s mining history and many others.  Daughter Tilly Dagnall runs printmaking workshops in the nursery grounds and makes tempting cakes to sell at the garden’s open days.



In January, WI members nationwide voted for suggested resolutions to go forward to the NFWI annual conference. Six were put forward; two were voted through – “Alleviating Loneliness “and “Keep micro plastic fibres out of our oceans”. High Legh WI debated the two proposals at the May meeting. At the annual conference in June delegates voted to pass both. The NFWI will now campaign on the two.


OUTINGS - Details were discussed at the June meeting for the planned trips in June, September and November to Yorkshire, Sussex and Wales.


OTHER ACTIVITIES - In July, the walking group will attempt the previously postponed 5 mile walk from Mobberley towards the airport. Book Club members are reading “The English Girl” by Katherine Webb.  Craft Group members get together regularly and are making very special bonnets for hospital babies who are on ventilators.  Cakes were baked for the Cheshire Show and talented members exhibited their handiwork.  



In September, the Cheshire Federation is holding an evening with antiques expert Kate Bliss at Poynton Civic Hall. Kate, often seen on TV, specialises in silver and jewellery. In October, John McCarthy CBE, journalist, writer, broadcaster and Britain’s longest held hostage, will tell his dramatic story at Winsford Lifestyle Centre.



The following speakers have been arranged:-

July 11th            My life in figure skatingLiz Littler

Sept 12th           Farming today                           Tod Bulmer

Oct 10th            Humour in education                  David Cook

A summer party will be held on August 8th in the Village Hall.  The meetings are held on the 2nd Tuesday of the month in High Legh Village Hall at 7.30 pm.

Visitors and newcomers are always welcome.


Regular Meetings

January - Mounted Police

President Jean Evans opened the first meeting of the New Year to welcome speaker Karen Corcoran, the first mounted police lady in the north of England. Karen’s love of horses began at an early age.  After a school careers visit she joined the Manchester & Salford Police Cadets.  Her ambition to be a mounted police lady was difficult to achieve, but despite initial opposition, she achieved her goal. 


Karen shared with us tales of how she trained horses to cope with crowd control at football matches and other noisy and challenging events. One Christmas there was a request from a Lady Mayor for a police horse to be present at the Pensioners Party.  The horse had to negotiate a marble staircase; a tricky manoeuvre for such a large animal. Knowing how tempting mints can be, Karen lured her horse in, to delight the pensioners.  Karen led her Manchester colleagues in the “All the Queen’s Horses “ pageant in Windsor Great Park as part of the Jubilee Celebration in which 1,000 horses took part.  Throughout her career Karen attracted attention from the Press, especially after she appeared in a Granada TV documentary.  She was awarded a long service medal and ended her talk with a short film of her retirement party. She was obviously held in great esteem by her GMP colleagues; their first lady Mountie had proved her worth and had overcome any opposition.  Karen had become a much loved colleague and Britain’s longest serving female Mountie.


February - Romance

The February meeting fell on St. Valentine’s Day so what better than a talk that took us through the ages to delve into the history of romance. Derek Poulson gave an interesting and witty presentation entitled “Love Actually”. Derek, an actor with a rather good (and sonorous) voice surprised everyone when a male voice could be heard dominating our usual rendering of Jerusalem. We were told how so many of our customs relating to weddings come from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome and from Pagan rituals. We learnt the rather unpleasant history of St. Valentine, the flirtatious language of fans and the not so romantic pagan history of mistletoe. The evening, interspersed with poetry and Shakespeare was a fun time, enjoyed by all.


March - Morris Dancing



It was a lively evening in March when the Thelwall Morris Dancers came to call. They danced from 7.30pm to 9.00pm, skilfully performing the varied styles of Morris Dancing. There are many regional variations of the Morris Dance. Andrew White explained that the oldest record dates back to 1448. A tapestry was discovered in Norfolk depicting Morris Dancers from this period, though how it all began nobody knows.  During the presentation there was a demonstration by Ruth Bibby, a champion clog dancer. It turned out to be a very entertaining evening.


Interest Groups

The Craft Group produced green heart badges for members to wear in support of the WI campaign for a greener Britain. Members have also been busy making bonnets for babies in intensive care. Book Club members have been reading “The Tea Planters Wife “by Dinah Jefferies. In February, the Walking Group met for a walk along High Legh lanes stopping for lunch at the Bears Paw and in March, the walkers dined at the Whipping Stocks after a walk around Peover Hall. Our Darts team didn’t win the WI county championship this time but played well, so better luck next time.

Trips - Members enjoyed the production of ”Handbagged “at the Garrick. A trip to see the ballet “Cinderella” at the Lowry was combined with a morning shopping trip and proved to be an enjoyable day out. A visit to see “Brassed Off “ at the Garrick is planned for April and a 5 day visit to West Sussex is on the agenda for September.  The trip will include a visit to Arundel Castle and Chichester.  



High Legh WI

The AGM was held in November. During the evening thanks were given to the President, committee members and the helpers who gave their time willingly. Members were pleased to learn that Jean Evans has agreed to continue as President in 2017. The Craft Group produced scarves; cushions; and other craft.  Jams; cakes and many other items were also on sale.  A substantial amount was raised towards the Denman College appeal.  Janis Brind ensured we went home smiling, as she told us a seasonal joke, from our New Zealand friends.


Bluebell Cottage Gardens

bluebell headerOur October guest speaker was Sue Beesley from Bluebell Cottage Gardens in Dutton. The garden is situated in a quiet lane with links to paths along the Trent and Mersey Canal and the River Weaver. Sue won the BBC Gardener of the Year in 2006. Shortly after taking over what were rather neglected gardens, she was thrown in at the deep end, when told she was due to open as part of the Yellow Book Gardens scheme.  There was no getting out of it.  Dates had been published in the Yellow Book and the Vice President told Sue she would have to do her best; explain the situation to visitors and give them tea and cake.  Since then she has transformed the garden. It has grown in size and beauty, well worth a visit.


Members who attended the Cheshire Federation autumn meeting enjoyed the talk by guest Angela Rippon. She gave an enthusiastic presentation telling the audience how she had wanted to be a photo journalist but was head hunted into television. A fluent speaker, she regaled members with anecdotes, including her experience with Eric and Ernie. Now, aged 72, she is busier than ever.


Recent Outings & Theatre Visits

In October a visit to Bletchley Park was arranged with a visit to Kedleston Hall, a spectacular 18th Century mansion near Derby. Both were interesting venues and provided an enjoyable outing.  In November members went to the Brindley Theatre to see the musical “Oliver”.  It was performed by a Liverpool Drama Group and the children in the show were fantastic.  All agreed it was an entertaining evening.  Events organiser, Marilyn Ridler has further outings in the pipe line for next year.


Regular Activities

The usual activities continue into the winter months. The ramblers walked around Lymm dam and along the canal, with a stop for lunch. The craft group get together in the church hall on the 4th Tues of the month.  Members of the book club have been reading “The Beautiful Mystery” by Louise Penny; an intriguing tale set in a monastery. The darts players meet in “The Jolly Thresher” on a Monday. They are through to the next round of the WI Cheshire county competition.


The Christmas Party

There was one item left on the agenda as the end of the year approached – the Christmas party. The event was held at the Lymm Hotel and there was a lively atmosphere from the start as the room buzzed with chatter and Christmas cards were exchanged.  Our own ‘in house’ entertainers have a reputation for providing a variation on a theme, and their unique performance of Swan Lake did not disappoint. This year we were treated to not one but two delights. Two sheep appeared on stage.  They related the story of the Nativity as seen through their eyes. Unfortunately one of the sheep got over excited and was heard Baa-ing all the way home on the coach.


Centenary Celebrations Galore - What an eventful summer it has been with many celebrations. The Centenary annual meeting at the Royal Albert Hall was the grandest of them all. In attendance was HM the Queen, HRH the Princess Royal and HRH the Countess of Wessex. The Queen is the President of Sandringham WI. She opened the meeting and accepted the well-travelled Centenary Baton. A member of Park WI attended the meeting and came along to High Legh WI in July to share her memories of the occasion. 5,000 attended the event, there were many lovely hats and the atmosphere was buzzing. A film of the baton’s journey around the British Isles was shown and there were live links to federations across the country. Music was provided by the Brassy Tarts Band. The Brassy Tarts are all WI members!   The Queen’s opening speech was complimentary and rewarding. She ended it by saying “over the past 100 years the WI has continued to grow and evolve to stay relevant and forward thinking. It continues to demonstrate that it can make a real difference to the lives of women of all ages and cultural backgrounds, in the spirit of friendship, cooperation and support”.   The Queen was invited to cut the Centenary cake which proved difficult but ever gracious; the Queen remarked “You can tell a good rich cake as it is dense and difficult to cut.”

Following this memorable occasion and the garden Party at Buckingham Palace, the Cheshire Federation organised a celebration at Gawsworth Hall. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t kind for this event but all who attended enjoyed it. In August High Legh members held their own event with a celebratory high tea in the village hall. It was an enjoyable occasion and provided an excuse to eat delicious homemade cakes. Every member was given a piece of birthday cake and an excellent booklet on High Legh WI compiled by Jenny Pearce entitled “What has inspired us - 1922-2015”.   The book contains some interesting photos, past and present.

It has been a busy time for High Legh President Norma Wright and committee members. Thanks to their efforts and hard work all went smoothly and it was an entertaining and enjoyable time.

Days Out and Longer Visits - There have been memorable days out with a visit to the National Arboretum in Staffordshire and a visit to a craft exhibition in Harrogate. There was a 5 day visit to Whitby for members and partners. This proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable visit with a stay in a posh hotel with lovely sea views. Days out were arranged which included a visit to York. Local visits included Whitby Abbey and the Captain Cook memorial museum.

Cheshire Show - Cheshire WIs had a record number of entries in the show and all exhibits were of a high standard. The Show President, Sophie, Countess of Wessex spent time looking at the exhibition and talking to members. Congratulations to Tricia Jones and Gwen Smith from High Legh, who won awards.

Visiting Speakers

Where was the Swinging Witch?   - In July, Dorothy Nicolle, a member of the Inn sign society and a professional tour guide, took us through a history of England with a slide presentation on pub signs. Many go back to Norman times. Unfortunately many old signs have been replaced by modern, less interesting ones. We were shown artistic signs; gruesome signs; informative signs and some rather naughty signs. The Bears Paw was mentioned briefly but there was no mention of the Northwich pub sign “The Swinging Witch”. Surely there is a tale to be told behind this unusual sign.


Children’s Adventure Farm Trust (CAFT) - In September, we learnt about the exceptional work carried out by volunteers at the adventure farm in Millington. Graham and Mary gave a moving talk on the work and history of this registered charity that provides holidays and activities for terminally ill, disabled and disadvantaged children from all over the North West. They rely heavily on donations. Sir Bobby Charlton is the President and many well-known local personalities are among the patrons of this admirable Trust.

Urgent Call from NHS - Last year the National Federation of WIs launched a campaign to get members talking about organ donation and to discuss this with family and friends. It is a cause for concern that 224 fewer people received an organ in 2014 owing to a decrease in donors. One of the biggest hurdles is that more than 40% of families refuse consent even though loved ones have joined the national Organ Donor Register. The NHS has issued an urgent call for everyone to discuss organ donation with their families and friends. The NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) said the only way the consent rate will increase to reflect the wishes of the 20+ million donors on the National Register, is for them to clarify their wishes to those closest to them”. See – www.thewi.org.uk/campaigns.

Normal activities – Regular activities are back in full swing after the summer break. Well done High Legh WI bowlers who were presented with a shield for reaching the WI Cheshire County Bowling Finals.