Report of the April 2018 meeting of Wookey Hole WI


President Jill Deane welcomed members and our speaker to the April meeting, which saw the unveiling of our newly completed banner. The design incorporates not only the famous cave and witch, and the date of the founding of Wookey Hole WI seventy one years ago, but also the colours of the suffragist movement which resulted in the granting of the vote to some women for the first time a hundred years ago. Jill thanked the members of the working party who had worked very hard to a tight time schedule to have the banner ready for us to carry it in the Somerset Federation Centenary Parade through Wells on 28 April this year. She also presented each of them with a souvenir mug featuring a photo of the banner.

Our speaker Miss Angela Pitt told us how she had volunteered to work at a Giant Panda rescue centre in China. While she was there she fed and cleaned up after a number of the bears, and took many candid photographs of their rather lazy life. Interestingly, the panda, as well as five fingers, has an extra thumb to help in grasping the stems of bamboo. She admitted that she once made what could have been a very dangerous mistake, in trying to hand feed one bear with an apple, she was bitten on the hand. Luckily there was an ambulance nearby and she was treated very quickly. Pandas have enormous appetites for their almost exclusively bamboo diet, each eating in a day as much as a man can carry. The rescue centre needs its own plantation of bamboo just to keep pace and cater to just six adult bears and a baby.   The Chinese people value the panda very highly, to the point of obsession, some even dye the coats of their dogs to match the markings.  Souvenir toys are available everywhere, and we remember that the panda was the mascot of the Beijing Olympics a few years ago.

She was thanked enthusiastically by Anne, who confessed to being a lifelong collector of panda related items since her first childhood soft toy.


Rose Docherty



Report of the March 2018 meeting of Wookey Hole WI
The snow deposited by the Arctic weather of last week was happily thawed by the time we met
for our March meeting. President Jill Deane welcomed our speaker, Mr Ian Caskie, a visitor
services volunteer for the SS Great Britain. His slide presentation covered the history of the ship,
‘From launch to re-launch’.
Although Isambard Kingdom Brunel had never built a ship before, his engineering experience
with the Great Western Railway led to his being contracted to build four wooden paddle steamers
for the British Steamship Company. The first ship Brunel built was a paddle steamer, the Great
Western, but her performance persuaded Brunel that the design and materials were
unsatisfactory for ocean use, so he completely rethought his ideas. The amount of wood required
to reinforce a ship for rough seas was, unexpectedly, very much heavier than a much thinner and
stronger iron hull. Also, an engine propelled by a screw was more efficient than paddles, which
lifted from the water in heavy seas.
In spite of initial doubts, the design worked well, but the ship was unfortunately caught up in a
series of unexpected adventures, that would not have been anticipated by Prince Albert who
attended her launch. Having started as a luxury passenger liner, an unfortunate grounding on a
beach in Ireland started her on a downward spiral, as salvaging her bankrupted the owners. For
some time she went back and forth to Australia transporting gold miners and other migrants in
less than luxurious conditions. She was also a troopship during the Crimean War. Use as a
cargo vessel with all her fittings stripped out, led to an eventual further grounding in the Falkland
Islands, where she was used as a warehouse before being scuttled and abandoned.
Since 1970, when she was rescued as a rusting shell and towed back to her original dock in
Bristol’s Floating Harbour she has been conserved, very expensively. Many innovative
techniques have been used to present her as a museum that illustrates all the phases of her
chequered life. Opening this month is a new addition on the quayside, a museum devoted to
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which will add even more interest to the tourist and educational
experience. Ian told us that part of his purpose in speaking to groups such as ours is to raise
funds for the continued maintenance, especially the gas bill for the dehydration plant in the base
of the ship.
Myrtle thanked him for his very enlightening and fascinating talk. Ian judged our competition,
which in honour of the SS Great Britain, was for nautical themed items. As befits an island nation,
members came up with an astonishing variety of memorabilia, including a Russian sailor’s cap.
The WI is always a surprise.
Rose Docherty



President Jill Deane welcomed members and our WI advisor, Ann Preston from Chard, to our December meeting. She reminded us that 2018 was going to be a busy year, with the anniversary of the granting of the vote to women, and the Centenary of Somerset WI, as well as the anniversary of the ending of WWI. Jenny will be organising workshops in the New Year to make us a banner, designs have already been discussed. In the meantime we were able to relax and enjoy the Christmas season. But she did challenge us to sing, a cappella, Jerusalem, which we of course know well, but as we have no pianist or piano available, we usually let the opportunity pass. Sue H passed round mulled wine to soothe our throats afterwards.

Jill had provided the makings for Christmas cards, without demanding too much of our creativity, and Myrtle showed us how to make tree baubles using polystyrene balls and small pieces of fabric. Sue H. had brought a quiz to test our knowledge of the more obscure aspects of the festive season, and also some humorous readings to fill the breaks in the buzz of friendly conversation. The afternoon passed very pleasantly, rounded off with an extra special raffle and a buffet tea, prizes and goodies provided by the committee. Seasonal treats were also brought to donate to the Vineyard Church food bank, organised by Margaret. Merry Christmas to all.


Rose Docherty 

Report of the February 2018 meeting of Wookey Hole WI


Jenny reported that the first meeting of the working party that is to make our banner has decided on a design, and that two members, Sue B. and Aileen will be sewing the vital pieces, the cave and the witch. The borders will incorporate the Suffragette colours of green and purple to commemorate the granting of limited voting rights to women in 1918. We plan to carry our banner in the Parade through Wells that is planned as part of the Somerset Federation of WIs Centenary celebrations. 

Vice President Sue Harding presided over the meeting, welcoming our speaker, Mr Alan Hale. He treated us to an entertaining account of his time, back in the last century, in the police force in Bristol. In the course of his career he encountered a wide variety of incidents and people, not to mention animals. Which included a goat that was tempted, with peppermints, into the back of the patrol car in order to pass the problem to the mounted section, which had suitable accommodation for it.

He started out as a cadet, in spite of failing the college exams that he was expected to pass. At that time patrols were on foot, and records of incidents and observations were kept in hand written books. Cadets were sometimes used as nuisance crowds, to train the horses of the mounted section.

He progressed through the bicycle without gears stage, to small panda cars, which were notoriously slow, to large and fast traffic patrol cars. Along the way were many training courses, including advanced motoring and horse riding. Although he managed the latter to the stage of jumping low obstacles without stirrups, saddle or reins, the theory was another matter. He didn’t ride for pleasure afterwards as his wife, being an A and E nurse, had seen too many results of riding accidents.

One of the most rewarding parts of his later career was liaison with schools, he once answered a 999 call, and found that the child who answered the door already knew him from his visit to her school, and was reassured by his presence.

Since his retirement he has been kept busy with council work and the Baptist Church magazine, which relieves him of the need to garden or do DIY. He was thanked by Elizabeth, who remembered the days when each district and each village had their own police officer.



Rose Docherty



As Sue H said when she thanked Bob Musgrave for his talk on taking better photographs, we all learned something new at our November meeting, even those who have been keen photographers for years. Not the technical things about equipment that used to be a time consuming problem, digital cameras and phones make that easy. The best photos result from taking a bit of trouble setting up the shot to be appealing to the eye.

Bob told us that he has taken inspiration from the way the Dutch Master painters composed their pictures. One of the things that hadn’t occurred to us was that the most interesting pictures read from left to right, just as we have learned to read print. And it’s a good idea to have your point of interest slightly to the right of centre. He demonstrated this by showing one of his slides reversed, and we could see for ourselves what a difference it made.

He advocated that we might exercise patience in order to take the picture we wanted, not easy in a popular tourist honey pot. It pays to wait for people and cars to move away to give a clear shot at the scene you love. On the other hand, with fleeting opportunities it’s best to just take it and hope, indeed take as many shots as you can, from as many slightly different viewpoints as possible, with digital it’s then easy to choose the best of the bunch.

Bob also demonstrated the use of the zoom, with a series of shots of Glastonbury Tor getting progressively closer, cutting out the foreground to isolate it in all its splendour. The Tor was also the centre of a beautiful study of a rainbow, a combination of being prepared to be in the right place, and seizing the moment.

We presented Bob with a spread of action photos to judge in our competition, and he had no hesitation in awarding first place to Jill’s capture of her dog Mia’s joyful frolic in the waves. It filled the criteria of filling the frame with the subject, dog and sea, without distractions.



Rose Docherty 

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