Sutton House outing, February 2019

Our first outing for 2019 was held on Saturday 23 February, to the National Trust property Sutton House in Hackney. Fourteen of us headed to Hackney on a glorious spring day and enjoyed a tour through the house. Thank you once again to Sally for arranging this visit for us.

February 2019 – Tai Chi

February is wellbeing month at The Alexandra WI and we were joined by local tai chi enthusiast David Craig, who introduced us to the arts of Tai Chi and Chi Kung and led us in some gentle exercises to get a feel for it. We like to source ‘home-grown’, local speakers and this month we were lucky to have as a guest the husband of one of our committee members. Thank you Rachel for organising this meeting!


January 2019 – Pub Meeting & WI Resolutions

Our January meeting was our annual pub meeting, this year back at the Victoria Stakes, but in the peace and quiet of the upstairs dining room, which meant we could hear everything properly this year!

We welcomed in the new year with a glass of wine, and started proceedings with a WI quiz which challenged us to identify the decade of various previous WI campaigns (thank you Nina!). We then debated and voted on the shortlist of WI resolutions for 2018. As always, there was a healthy discussion on the six shortlisted proposals, and the results have now been submitted to the Middlesex Federation.

Thank you to those who attended, welcome to our two new members, and Happy New Year!2019-01_pub_meeting_resolutions-1

December 2018: Merry Christmas!

For our December meeting we dusted off a bingo barrel, heated up some mulled wine, popped some shortbread in the oven and had a very enjoyable final gathering for 2018. Committee member Rachel took the helm and proved herself a more than capable bingo caller (thank you, Rachel!). We then split into two teams and tackled charades: this proved a great success! We also held a raffle which was a great success for our fundraising!

Best wishes for the festive season from all of us at The Alexandra WI!

A Very Merry Muswell stall 2018

Once again The Alexandra Women’s Institute held a stall at local festival A Very Merry Muswell on Saturday 1 December 2018. This year our stall was inside the beautiful St James’ Church in Muswell Hill, and yes… we were grateful to be inside on this wintry day! We had a very successful day selling a variety of cakes, biscuits, Christmas crafts and knitted goods including hedgehogs and rag wreaths. Thank you to our members who made and baked items to sell, helped on the day, or simply called into say hello! And thank you to everyone who supported our fundraising by buying something!

Here are some photos of us on the day.

November 2018 – Singing

For our November meeting we had a good old singalong with Yvonne Packer and local community choir Cantamus. For this we thank our WI member and choir member Jacque for bringing us together: thank you Jacque!

After a warm-up by way of a ‘mature’ version of My Favourite Things, we launched into the west African songs Jamawaile and Tue Tue. The Yvonne mixed things up a bit with two sets of songs which sound lovely together, but even better sung together. Who knew that Pack Up Your Troubles, It’s A Long Way to Tipperary and Keep The Home Fires Burning work perfectly together? I’m Gonna Sing Sing Sing, Oh When The Saints and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot also go together beautifully as well!

Even our members who started out a little tentative had a fun time! Thank you to Yvonne and Cantamus for a creative and relaxing meeting.


October 2018 – Rag Wreaths


October is Christmas crafting time at The Alexandra WI, as we get cracking on items for our annual stall at Muswell Hill in December. This year we had a go at rag wreaths, which was a lot of fun. The bulk of the work had been one prior to the meeting, as each wreath takes around 160 6″ x 2″ strips of fabric. Thank you to everyone who did a great job with rotary cutters and scissors!

Our members – plus two guests and two brand new members – got started even before the business part of the meeting was underway, and by the end of our session many were onto their second wreath. Take a look at the photos to see the fruits of our labours.


September 2018 – Members’ Meeting

We’ve established a nice little tradition at out September meeting, hearing from our very own members about their lives. We’ve had such positive feedback about it! Everyone’s a little curious, and it certainly helps build our community if we know more about one another.

This year we heard from two members about their varied working lives. Annie Waite took us on a journey from Great Ormond Street to Bahrain and the far east and back to North London in nursing roles, while Chris Randall shared her experiences of working in the House of Commons.

Thank you so much to Annie and Chris; we’re now looking for volunteers for our Members’ Meeting in September 2019.

We also shared photos on the theme of ‘What summer means to me’: thank you to our members who brought along photos to share their summer memories!


Tea & Tents 2018

July was Tea & Tents time for over 500 WI members from across England and Wales. Tea & Tents is a bi-annual camping weekend in Walesby Forest in Nottinghamshire. Emma, Nina and Jayne packed up Jayne’s car and headed off again for a fabulous weekend of crafts, food, drink and fellowship. It’s a great opportunity to meet fellow WI members and take time out from our busy schedules in peaceful (ish!) surroundings.

Once again we enjoyed a variety of craft activities including Kumihimo bracelets, flower crowns, ‘slow sewing’ and more, as well as cooking demonstrations, a recorder lesson (!), swimming, a massed singalong, yarn bomb, beer tasting, walks, runs, tai chi, a mega-quiz, talent quest, market, bake-off and many talks from WI members on topics ranging from charity work in Kathmandu, life as a zookeeper and experiences of working at Federation level in the WI.

Update 10 August 2018: We’ve since found out this was the last ‘T&T’ in this format but we know that there are other WI camping weekends spring up around the country, inspired by the original T&T. We thank the ‘Squirrels’ who did an amazing job organising everything!


Pride London – 7 July 2018

Had had an absolute *blast* parading with the Women’s Institute at Pride London! The sun was out, happy, proud people were everywhere and there was the WI for the fifth year running. The Alexandra WI was represented alongside N1WI, Stow Roses, NW London, Cambridge Bluebells, Maidstone Chocolate and more!


It would be amazing to see this as a Federation-led event in 2019 – what do you think, Middlesex?

July 2018 – Wine Tasting (again!)

July 2018 once again saw The Alexandra WI women de-camp to the courtyard of CUFOS to enjoy a relaxed evening of wine tasting on a balmy North London summer’s evening.


Tamara and Rosanna


This year our tasting was led by wine educator Colette Taylor, who led us through the tasting of six white wines and a rose. We got things going with a Cordorniu cava, followed by a Riesling from New Zealand’s Marlborough region. We then moved onto a rewarding rosado before comparing two very different new world chardonnays – one from the Barossa Valley in South Australia, and oaked example from Chile. We finished off with a Bordeaux dessert wine.

Again, we found this a fun and educational evening and we thank Colette for sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm with us!


Afternoon tea and a walk with Reculver Beacon WI

On a sunny June afternoon we were once again visited by our twin Women’s Institute, Reculver Beacon WI of Herne Bay on the north Kent coast. After meeting at CUFOS, the group headed off for a tour of the eastern part of Alexandra Park, led by Stephen Middleton of Friends of Alexandra Park. Whilst we didn’t explore far from the Palace, we all learnt something new about our cherished local green space. We then retreated to the courtyard of CUFOS for a very pleasant afternoon tea of sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, and cakes, washed down with tea and a fiery fresh punch.

A lovely afternoon was had by all: we can certainly recommend ‘twinning’ with an another WI as a way of sharing ideas, meeting women from another part of the country, and as an excuse for some good old WI baking!

June 2018 – Bughouses!

June’s guest speaker was Alan Briggs of Briggs Bughouses, maker of tiny garden houses with self-sustaining roofs to house for bugs, bees and birds.

Alan is a part time teaching assistant whose specialist area is woodwork, and he was led to the idea of bughouses from his own love of craft, gardening and the environment.  He designs and builds every house himself and, to avoid the houses becoming too hot for the bugs, bees or birds, he designed the self-sustaining tiny gardens for each roof. The plants are selected for their ability to thrive on little to no maintenance. The houses’ careful design extends even to the individual plant trays that form the roof of each house.

The occupiers are initially attracted to the tiny gardens and, on approaching them, they will explore the little homes. Once the bug is happy that the home is empty they will settle in almost immediately.  Spiders are usually the first arrivals but, eventually they make way for the bees/bugs that will later become the main inhabitants. It was fascinating to learn that many bees do not live in hives but will inhabit an individual cell and live happily in the same house with other bugs and beasts  of different species. As the cells are drilled by Alan himself the bugs literally only have to choose their home and start to lay eggs accordingly and set up for family life.

Alan has taken his workshops all over the country and has found children his most interested participants; even the BBC has caught up with him on his travels! His houses come in a variety of sizes and shapes and are sold online and at local fairs and fetes. At present, he works entirely on his own, but his love for what he does made him an interesting speaker and a reminder to us all, of the capacity of the imagination and where this could lead us if we set it to work on an idea.


May 2018 – Annual Meeting

Our annual Meeting was held on 1 May 2018, with our Middlesex Federation WI Advisor, immediate past President of the MFWI, Liz Morrell. We balanced the business end of the meeting with a fun baking-themed quiz followed by tea and our inaugural decorated tote bag competition.

Secretary Nina Jewell presented the Annual Report, recounting our busy year, from wine tasting, to local green endeavours, de-cluttering to dementia, and the launch of our twiddlemuff knitting group.

Liz ably officiated for our elections at which Emma Watson was elected President for a fourth term, and the new committee was elected. We farewelled from the committee Maggie Weatherby and Treasurer Ching Smith, and are delighted to welcome to the committee two new members, Joan Prasad and Aurora Bellingham. We also formally farewelled from the committee Norma Barnes, who continues her rehabilitation from an accident in 2017.

Following the Committee meeting held on 8 May, we are happy to confirm that the Committee and office bearers for 2018-2019 are:

  • Emma Watson – President
  • Nina Jewell – Treasurer / Secretary
  • Rosemary Pettman – Rosemary will assist the Secretary as minute secretary and will also continue her co-ordination of all things food and drink.
  • Joan Prasad
  • Aurora Bellingham

Jayne Fowler is not a committee member however continues to administer the MCS (membership database) – thank you Jayne!

We also held our inaugural Decorated tote bag competition, organised by Maggie. We had almost 20 entries, and they were all of such a high standard the judging proved a challenge for Liz. After much deliberation, Tamara Watts was declared the winner, with Ching Smith and Chris Randall the runners-up. Take a look at more photos here.

Finally, Liz drew the winner of our 2018 Denman Bursary. Rosanna Gnych was the lucky winner. We know Rosanna has already been to Denman, and she is delighted to be able to head back again with our funding. Congratulations Rosanna!

If you would like to know more about the WI’s Denman College, take a look at its website.


We also congratulate our own Nina Jewell who is the lucky winner of the Middlesex Federation’s Denman Bursary: congratulations Nina!

In acknowledgment of her services to the Middlesex Federation, Maggie Weatherby was presented with a certificate of recognition by Liz Morrell. Keen gardener Maggie was also presented with a beautiful hydrangea as a thank-you for her work for our WI as she stood down from the committee.


Decorated bags… take a look!

Our hugely successful decorated tote bag competition was held to add a bit of fun to our Annual Meeting in May 2018. We had almost 20 entries, and they were all of such a high standard the judging proved a challenge for Liz. We all marvelled at the creativity of our members in using a variety of techniques used, including paints, applique, embroidery, crochet, quilting and even Suffolk puffs! After much deliberation, Tamara Watts was declared the winner, with Ching Smith and Chris Randall the runners-up.

Scroll through the images below and enjoy!



Decorated bag competition runner-up Chris Randall



Decorated bag competition runner-up Ching Smith


Decorated bag competition winner Tamara Watts.


April 2018 -You must remember this… discussing Dementia

Our special guest for April was Chris Denney of Camden Memory Service. The Memory Service, part of the Camden and Islington NHS Trust, provides specialist assessments and treatment for people who have concerns about their memory, and we have met Chris through our work creating twiddlemuffs for their clients who are living with dementia. We all got up to speed on what dementia is, the various types of dementia, and how Chris’s work as an occupational therapist makes a difference to people’s day-to-day lives.
Our Twiddlemuff charity knitting group meets every Tuesday 2-4pm at Hornsey Library in Crouch End, convened by WI Treasurer Ching Smith. If you’d like to know more about the charity knitting group, Ching can be contacted at

March 2018 – Chicken Wire Sculpture

At The Alexandra Women’s Institute we try to mix up speakers with hands-on craft activities, and it was a crafty March this year when we welcomed chicken wire sculptor William Ashley-Norman of Chickenwired. William has been working with chicken wire for over twenty five years and brought along a selection of his creations to inspire us, though most of us opted for an angel fish or a garden bird. With a simple sheet of chicken wire, a pair of wire cutters and a small pair of pliers, it is amazing what you can create!

PS It s not as easy as it looks…!

February 2018 – De-cluttering

For our February meeting were joined by Shula Levy of Out of Space. Shula is a personal organiser and de-clutterer who offered us tips and inspiration for a new year’s clearout of all that stuff which is definitely taking up space in our cupboards, drawers, lofts, basements, offices, garages and garden sheds.

We thought February was the right time for this guest speaker and I think everyone came away ready to embark on some 2018 spring cleaning!


January 2018 – Pub Meeting & WI Resolutions

Our January meeting was our annual pub meeting, once again this year at The Mossy Well at the top of Muswell Hill, to welcome in the new year and to debate and vote on the shortlist of WI resolutions for 2018. Thank you to those intrepid souls who made it out on a wet winter’s evening, only a day after New Year’s Day, to socialise informally over a glass of wine and learn about and vote on resolutions for 2018, and to learn a little about WI campaigns. We voted on our preferred resolution and the results have now been submitted to the Middlesex Federation.

Once again we enjoyed the buzzy environment of the pub, however we did realise that it really doesn’t work for a ‘business’ meeting, and next year we’ll be back at CUFOS or much quieter place, possibly a private room in a pub!
We will also be considering some pub get-togethers in between meetings for those who’d like to catch up… watch this space.