Reepham WI

Post date: Monday, April 22, 2024 - 21:18

In January, Reepham WI members were invited to vote on their chosen resolution, with “Dental Health Matters” going forward to form the basis for the WI’s 2024 national campaign. This was followed in February by our AGM, with new members joining the committee.

So, it was a pleasure to invite to our March meeting Jeni Neill, our first speaker for 2024, who gave us a brief insight into how she took up writing, then successfully self-published her first novel The Devil’s Dye.

This is an intriguing tale of the de Hems family, weavers who emigrated from the Low Countries to Norwich and became known as the “Strangers”.

The story, which centres around Jowan, a dyer, and his wife Eliza, takes us to Bungay, where they settle, and beyond in his the quest for indigo, a rare and expensive commodity in those days.

It is a warm tale, with fascinating, authentic historical detail such as references to Black Shuck, the legendary Suffolk giant black dog. A future visit for members to Strangers’ Hall is planned.

In April we were privileged to have Mary Newton, a retired forensic scientist, give a presentation – “Blood, Sweat and Fears” – to members, family and friends about her long and fascinating career with the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory, as well as a brief stint as an adviser on the Silent Witness series.

Mary explained how analyses are carried out, to establish the presence of blood and DNA at a crime scene, on weapons and clothing.

We were astounded to learn that from the use of Sellotape, a basic household item, incriminating fibres can be obtained and this evidence kept intact for years to come.

Mary explained that with the advance of new technology cold cases are being re-examined and prosecutions are now able to be made years after the event. She used two harrowing murder cases, committed in 1993 and 1996, to illustrate how ultimately justice can be achieved with meticulous and tenacious forensic science.

Mary donates fees from her speaking engagements to local food banks, so was extremely appreciative of the larder items brought along by our members to complement her worthwhile initiative.

Reepham WI meets on the third Thursday of each month at 7.30 pm at St Michael’s, Reepham. Next month, on 16 May, Saffron Summerfield will give a digitally illustrated talk with birdsong and music entitled “When Birds Sing”.

Dee Taylor

Post date: Tuesday, January 23, 2024 - 17:29

This month Reepham WI held its meeting via Zoom, when members were given an opportunity to listen and debate four resolutions, before voting on which campaign to support.

Similar meetings will be held during January by WI groups across the country. The majority vote from each group will then be sent to the National Federation of WIs for this year’s chosen campaign to be ratified.

The four matters of concern this year are:

  • Dental health matters. There is an acute shortage of dentists in both the NHS and private sector. This resolution calls on the government to increase investment in training and retention of dentists by improving their employment contracts.
  • Impacts of poor housing. The appalling condition of a large proportion of rented accommodation was highlighted. Tighter control and legislation on the conditions of rental accommodation, in both the private and social sector, is needed to ensure rental properties are safe, clean and fit for purpose.
  • Say ‘No’ to gambling advertising. This resolution calls for the government and other organisations to implement a total ban on gambling advertising. As everyone is aware, advertisements and sponsorship by gambling outlets are to be seen everywhere, especially in sports venues, on attire and via media during sporting events. Gambling addiction can have catastrophic effects: financial hardship, mental health issues, breakdown of relationships and careers.
  • Improving outcomes for women in the criminal justice system. A large number of women in prison, often incarcerated for non-violent offences, have children or are pregnant on committal. A non-custodial sentence, with monitoring from social services, would surely make more sense for women and, more importantly, their offspring. The WI’s “Care not Custody” campaign is an example of what could be achieved.

The Women’s Institute has a long history of campaigning, indeed in the 1950s one of its early initiatives led to the “Keep Britain Tidy” lobby.

All the above resolutions are complex, require committed co-operation and, of course, funding. Striving to improve aspects of grave concern in society by campaigning is at the core of what the WI stands for.

Reepham WI meets at 7.30 pm on the third Thursday of each month at St Michael’s, Reepham.

Dee Taylor

Post date: Wednesday, November 22, 2023 - 20:28

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

A passionate “crib” collector since childhood, Georgette Vale brought along her impressive collection of Nativity scenes for us to see at the Reepham WI meeting on Thursday 16 November, as well as a selection of amusing, home-crafted characters in Biblical settings.

St Francis of Assisi is thought to have introduced the first living Nativity scene in the Italian city of Greccio on Christmas Eve 1223. This was to encourage his flock to reflect upon the magical story of the birth of Jesus.

Georgette shared anecdotes of “Santons de Provence” – dainty clay figurines, no bigger than “Thumbelina” created in the south of France, not only of the usual Nativity groupings but also tradespeople and residents of rural villages – now highly collectible.

Another French festive tradition is the “fève” – a small trinket originally made from fava beans to represent religious symbols, then hidden in cakes, notably Gateau de Rois, traditionally served at Epiphany, similar to our custom of hiding old sixpenny pieces in Christmas puddings.

While writing about all things Christmas, a shout out to the Reepham WI Craft Club who have been busy working on decorations for our tree for the forthcoming Christmas Tree Festival in St Mary’s, as well as for the Bircham Centre art room, during the Festival of Light, to be held on Sunday 3 December. We hope many of you will come along and have a great afternoon.

Reepham WI meetings are held on the third Thursday of every month at 7.30 pm in St Michael’s. The speaker at our next meeting on Thursday 14 December (on this occasion a week early) will be Penny Doe on a “Folk Christmas”, an assortment of Christmas songs and music.

Dee Taylor

Nativity scene figures brought along by Reepham WI members. Photo: Rosemary Black

Post date: Monday, October 23, 2023 - 10:29

In October our members were transported by a real-life “Shirley Valentine” from wet Reepham to a magical place time has forgotten.

This was Jenny Gibbs’ second visit, continuing her story of how in 1993 she went to Turkey on holiday and fell in love – with a man and the country.

Jenny detailed traditional Turkish village life. On her first evening in Mustafa’s family home, they had prepared a feast to be enjoyed by sitting cross-legged on beautiful rugs. Multiple dishes on copper salvers kept coming. Jenny was provided with a bowl and spoon, others used fingers and bread to scoop up delicious sauces.

A particular memory of Jenny’s was to hear, in the early hours, the approaching sound of music, stopping by their window before the troupe moved to the next house. She explained that during Ramadan, musicians travel around before dawn to wake folk for breakfast, before observing strict fasting during daylight hours. During this month-long period the high-protein diet must include a stone or pip; dates are a favourite staple.

To this day meals are cooked outside over an open fire. More complex dishes, such as flaky baklava, are taken to communal ovens. Women transport their baking on trays perched on top of their heads, with kindling for the ovens tied to their backs.

Keeping livestock for the family’s own use is the norm, with cows, goats and sheep supplying milk, hens for eggs and the odd cockerel for the pot. In summer the ritual of “transhumance” takes place, where families, with their livestock, migrate to “yalyas” – mountainside terraces where grass is plentiful and air cooler.

These fertile areas are also used for growing grains: wheat, rye, chickpeas, couscous as well as every conceivable vegetable and fruits such as pomegranates and oranges. The ground is tilled by donkeys pulling a simple plough.

Jenny’s first experience of a summer decampment was a culture shock to discover everyone slept and lived in a basic, one-room stone dwelling, where at bedtime mattresses, piled in a corner during the day, are laid out dormitory-style at night. Similar simple houses are also found scattered throughout olive groves, where families stay between November to March, harvesting olives.

We hope Jenny will return in future to talk about Turkish crafts and culture: a very informative and entertaining speaker.

Reepham WI meets on the third Thursday of the month at 7.30 pm at St Michael’s, Reepham. On 16 November Georgette Vale will be giving a presentation on “Nativity Sets”.

Dee Taylor

Jenny Gibbs wearing traditional headdress, still worn today. Photo: Jenny Gibbs

Post date: Saturday, September 23, 2023 - 09:46

Family and friends of Reepham WI, as well as members of the wider community, had a thoroughly enjoyable evening on Thursday 21 September, listening to Patrick Barkham talk about his recently published book The Swimmer, a biography of Roger Deakin.

Above: Patrick Barkham. Photo: Rosie Humphrey

Patrick is a local lad, who grew up in Booton. As well as being an author of several best-selling books he is also the natural history writer for The Guardian and president of Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

The story of Roger Deakin, an eccentric man of many talents, was eloquently brought to life by Patrick. The book is the result of extensive research of the archive of Roger Deakin’s notes, letters and journals held at the University of East Anglia as well as conversations with Roger’s friends, lovers and associates.

Roger was born in 1943 in suburban Watford, was privileged to be given a scholarship to Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ school, after which he went Cambridge University where his English tutor was Kingsley Amis.

During a full and colourful life, Roger had spells as an advertising executive and a stint as a highly imaginative and inspirational teacher at a school in Diss. He also briefly dabbled in documentary making for Anglia TV and broadcasts for BBC Radio 4.

But Roger’s lifelong passion was the environment and, in particular, Walnut Tree Farm in Mellis, Suffolk, which he restored, also cultivating the surrounding land.

Most importantly, the spring-fed moat surrounding the farmhouse encouraged his foray into “wild swimming” and his quest during the 1990s, when in his 50s, to wild swim around Britain.

This adventure became Roger’s book Waterlog, which developed a cult following and certainly impacted the movement for others to take to rivers, lakes, lochs and beaches throughout the land.

The above is a very simplistic synopsis of a man who enjoyed life to the max. Roger embraced and encouraged an unorthodox way of living during the heady days of the 1960s and beyond.

Sadly, Roger died too young at the age of 63 in 2006. I urge you to read the full, fascinating story for yourselves.

Reepham WI meets on the third Thursday of the month at 7.30 pm at St Michael’s, Reepham.

Dee Taylor

Post date: Monday, August 21, 2023 - 20:52

This month Chrissi Rix of Studio Style in Drayton came along to persuade women of Reepham WI to look beyond “black and beige” when shopping for new outfits.

Chrissi explained the genetics of colour and how to determine the most suitable shades for individual complexions, taking into account skin tone, eyes and hair.

She demonstrated the difference between “warm" and "cool” profiles with boards of celebrities of varying features, onto which Chrissi then draped mini capes of a spectrum of colours. From there she is able to determine a wider choice of shades to flatter one’s natural attributes.

The importance of colour is not to be understated, with the correct palette making shopping easier, giving one empowerment, the confidence of poise and sense of well-being.

Keeping to a specific palette can also avoid wasted purchases, often bought in haste and hanging unloved in the wardrobe.

Shape of our torsos also came into play: how to emphasise good points and camouflage negative areas such as broad/small shoulders, bust and hips.

In tandem with Chrissi’s vast knowledge of styling with colour, she also offers complementary well-being sessions, which consists of counselling and hypnotherapy to address any underlying issues such as anxiety, weight problems, etc.

The final part of the evening was huge fun, with members attempting to follow the various ways Chrissi demonstrated the use of scarves in many guises.

Again, when choosing a scarf, it is important to match it to your colour palette, not the outfit: scarves can add glamour and, if worn correctly, detract the eye from problem areas.

A selection of scarves from the Bircham Centre were sold in aid of its Raise the Roof appeal – there are still a few available from the charity shop for readers to have a go at home

For individual advice, contact: Chrissi Rix, Style Studio, tel: 07487 796853 or email:

Reepham WI meets on the third Thursday of the month at 7.30 pm at St Michael’s, Reepham.

Dee Taylor

A selection of scarves from the Bircham Centre. Photo: Dee Taylor

Post date: Monday, July 24, 2023 - 09:46

Despite the unseasonal weather, Reepham WI went ahead on Thursday afternoon, 20 July, with their “summer” meeting.

After a presentation by Pets as Therapy, women enjoyed socialising over cups of tea and delicious home-made cakes.

Carole Adams, Norfolk volunteer area co-ordinator and dog temperament assessor, and team member Wendy Jones gave an informative and emotional account of the work the charity carries out.

Wendy brought along her companion, Lacee, one of the 4,000 dogs currently deployed nationally as therapy dogs.

Lacee. Photo: Wendy Jones

The charity was founded 40 years ago by Lesley Scott-Ordish, a journalist and dog breeder. Her initial aim was to counter negative press at the time about dog ownership.

While carrying out this work, she became aware of the high number of people who were distressed at giving up pets when relocating into care homes. Hence the idea of dogs, and also cats, offering comfort came into being.

Pets as Therapy currently goes into care homes, hospitals, prisons and schools –  a revelation to most of us.

Carole shared several anecdotes, the most poignant being of one gentleman with dementia who, reluctant at first to interact, slowly bonded with a therapy dog.

It later transpired he was a Crufts judge and as this “friendship” developed brought back many happy memories for him.

Pets as Therapy dogs are also taken into schools and used as “reading companions”. Children who are nervous, bullied or have mental health issues read out loud to dogs to gain skills as, of course, dogs are not in any way judgemental.

One little boy who had previously been badly bitten, overcame his fears of dogs and established an unbreakable bond with Lacee. This in turn gave him confidence as he was also being bullied – a heart-wrenching tale.

It has been proven that interaction with pets, stroking, walking and feeding them lowers blood pressure, combats loneliness and depression and generally increases all round well-being.

Anyone with a pet they think has the right temperament can apply to be a volunteer. Carole is contactable by email. The charity is funded solely by donations.

Reepham WI meets every third Thursday of the month at 7.30 pm in St Michael’s, Reepham.

Post date: Monday, June 26, 2023 - 20:40

Reepham WI’s meeting this month was again well attended, with members enjoying an entertaining talk by Sam Steggles, cheese maker and proprietor of The Goat Shed in Honingham.

Sam shared how he left school at 15 with few qualifications but with a huge entrepreneurial “can do” spirit.

During a holiday in Cumbria, now some years ago, without any forethought he took the plunge and bought 10 goats.

Having spent all his money on the animals and, of course, hardly able to bring them back on the train, he had to persuade a friend to drive to Cumbria and bring them to Norfolk, where again he had to call on the goodwill of mates to help out with the loan of sheds.

From there Sam started to experiment with cheese making, initially having to make do with his kitchen sink.

Despite entering a cheese competition in the early days, with the judges deeming his cheese virtually inedible, he somehow won an award, which gave him the confidence to carry on, eventually selling out at farmers’ markets under the Fielding Cottage label.

Over time, Sam’s herd increased to 300 goats. This became unmanageable given that he was also holding down a full-time job.

So, he decided to sell the livestock, simply buying back their milk to make a variety of cheeses, which he sold to restaurants, pubs, airlines, supermarkets such as Waitrose and other niche outlets; Sam also started to develop skin-care products from goats’ milk.

Not long before Covid struck, Sam was awarded a Nuffield Farming Scholarship, which enables winners to study an aspect of agriculture almost anywhere across the world.

Sam chose to go to Australia. Unfortunately, just as he landed there, a total lockdown of the country was announced.

He had a quick haircut before jumping on the last flight out to the UK, spending just 48 hours in total “down under” instead of the planned 12 weeks.

On his return to Norfolk, with sales of his cheese plummeting, Sam diversified into selling a range of grocery items, then in scarce supply, initially from trestle tables in a “shed” with an honesty box, providing a lifeline to the local community.

As soon as mingling at an acceptable social distance was again permitted, folk began meeting up in the “shed” at Honingham and the “Goat Shed Kitchen” was born.

The constraints of Covid over, Sam has continued to expand the Goat Shed into the award-winning and inviting farm shop, deli and gift shop it is today, with a terrific café enjoyed by people who travel from far and wide.

He remains passionate about goats and their by-products, as well as encouraging young people to become involved in all aspects of the business.

Reepham WI meets on the third Thursday of the month at 7.30 pm in St Michael’s, Reepham.

Dee Taylor, Reepham WI

Post date: Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - 12:10

May’s Reepham WI meeting began with discussions and debate on the WI National Federation’s choice of “campaign”, for which more than 90,000 members nationally voted on the shortlist. The top resolution “Cleaner Water for People and Wild Life” will now go forward to the AGM in May for ratification.

Manesty Forster gave an informed presentation on a subject that has recently been a topical news story, with water companies pledging an unprecedented £10 billion over the next decade to improve infrastructure and reduce sewage going into rivers and sea.

Several thought-provoking points were raised by the women present, after which the majority voted in favour of putting forward a “discretionary” vote, i.e., clarification on certain matters, not least whether promises made by the water companies are realistic and why billpayers may, ultimately, pick up the tab for water companies’ inaction to date.

The second part of the evening continued with a talk by Linda Brown, founder of Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers, ably assisted by Rosemary Black, membership secretary.

Linda explained how she came to expand the organisation over the past 15 years from a small group of women coming together to knit, crochet and sew in her home to now having a membership of 2,401 across 130 different groups in Norfolk. Some of you may remember Brenda Palmer, who started the group in Reepham.

Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers has five “resource” centres throughout the county – in Norwich, Diss, Sheringham, Great Yarmouth and West Norfolk – where women can go to buy yarn and haberdashery accessories at cost price.

These materials are, in turn, made into blankets, jumpers, scarves, hats, bags and toys amongst other things, most poignantly, “traffic light” hats for premature babies in ICUs and “angel gowns” for stillborn babies.

Women have also contributed towards the Innocent Smoothies “hats” initiative which, over the years, has raised more than £3 million for Age UK.

Finished garments are returned to the resource centres, where they are distributed to national and international causes, such as hospitals, schools, care homes and women’s refuges, as well as orphanages and improvised villages in India, Gambia, Ethiopia and many other countries.

While Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers has received funding from the National Lottery Community Fund and other grants in the past, the charity is now self-funded and, as part of Volunteering Matters, relies wholly on volunteers and thus would always welcome new members.

The purpose of women getting together is not just having a sense of purpose by helping others through “crafting” but also as a vital social link for many who may feel isolated, particularly during recent lockdowns.

Reepham’s group get together on the first Monday of the month from 2–4 pm in the Bircham Centre. Contact Gwenda Dove on 01693 879598 or email. Other groups are held locally; details can be found HERE.

There will be an exhibition of the charity’s work, “Carnival of Colour”, to be held in Central Hall, Wymondham, on 7 October from 10 am – 4 pm. This will also be an occasion to celebrate Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers’ 15th birthday.

Dee Taylor, Reepham WI

Photo: Reepham WI

Post date: Wednesday, May 17, 2023 - 18:35

Reepham WI held a tombola stall at the Coronation Fayre at Stimpson’s Piece, Reepham, on Sunday 7 May.

Members and friends kindly donated various gifts, which raised a total of £234, which will be donated to the Bircham Centre towards its Raise the Roof fund.

Dee Taylor, Reepham WI