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.

We’re at A Very Merry Muswell 2017!

Once again The Alexandra Women’s Institute will have a stall at A Very Merry Muswell in St James’ Square, Muswell Hill on Saturday 9 December 2017. We had a ball at last year’s event – at least when we were not trying to prevent our fingers and toes from freezing!

We’ve already been busy creating craft goodies to sell on the day – and yes: good news! Our signature disco hedgehogs will be available once again, though you will need to get in early as they will definitely sell out. We also have some handmade Christmas decorations and of course, cakes, biscuits, jams and preserves and other home-made treats to enjoy!

You can read more about the event here… We look forward to seeing you there!


November 2017 – Going Green in Haringey

For our penultimate meeting for 2016 we were thrilled to have not one, but three speakers who are all involved in fabulous projects in Haringey which have a ‘green’ tinge – whether in name, philosphy or both!

First up was Laila Hackforth-Jones from the Muswell Hill Sustainability Group, a busy grass-roots group working to reduce carbon emissions and waste in the local area. Laila spoke of some of the Group’s initiatives, which have included educating local residents on the safe use of solid-fuel burning stoves and tours of local energy-efficient houses.


Laila Hackforth-Jones of the Muswell Hill Sustainability Group

We then heard from Sylvia Dietz of Wood Green’s Green Rooms art hotel, a social initiative supporting artists and creatives, housed in the beautiful 1930 headquarters of the North Met Electricity Company. We we were all inspired by the sensitive renovation of this handsome building.


Sylvia Dietz of Green Rooms art hotel in Wood Green.


Finally, Alice Hardy of Jan Kattein architects, designers of the Blue House Yard project, spoke about this temporary space in Wood Green, a cluster of double-storey timber workspaces around an open courtyard used for markets and events.


Alice Hardy of Jan Kattein Architects, on Blue House Yard.



Alice Hardy of Jan Kattein Architects and Sylvia Dietz of Green Rooms art hotel with The Alexandra WI secretary Nina Jewell.


Sylvia Dietz of Greens Rooms chats with The Alexandra WI members Sally and Nina.


Members June and Fiona enjoy a cuppa after the meeting

October 2017 – Christmas Crafting

October at The Alexandra WI means a Christmas crafting session in preparation for our Stall at A Very Merry Muswell in December. This year on the agenda we had decorative fabric baubles, felt Christmas trees and our signature disco hedgehogs, which were, despite their short legs, a runaway success at our Midsummer Muswell stall in June.

September 2017 – Members’ Meeting

For our September meeting, we handed the floor over to our members to hear their stories. We heard from Gill Whitney, Diane Morrison, and Carol Norton on their diverse work lives and other stories! Gill talked about her work with on standards, particularly in the field of technology and equality in user experience of the internet, while Diane spoke of the varied and challenging work she does as a legal advisor at the Hackney Community Law Centre, and Carol shared her experience of work as an architect. Thank you to Gill, Diane and Carol for sharing their stories with us!


July 2017 – Wine Tasting

July 2017 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.


Led by Rob, the amiable manager of Muswell Hill Majestic Wines, we were led through a tasting of a series of white and red varieties from a light Chablis through to a full-bodied Malbec. All in all a fun and educational evening!

A Denman Experience

A little post about the marvel that is Denman College. I was the fortunate winner of The Alexandra WI’s second annual Denman bursary in May, and promptly booked into a Silver Clay Jewellery course.

What an absolute ball we had over the three-and-a-bit days with eight fab ladies (5 Denman pros and 3 newbies) creating pendants, charms, silver leaves, brooches and earrings. It’s a wonderful, convivial atmosphere with seemingly constant food and drink, and the beautiful house and garden to enjoy.

Here are some images from the weekend – including a selection of the final, fabulous pieces.

Never been to Denman? Time to take a look at what is on offer here!

– Emma Watson, President








Reculver Beacon WI visit

On a sunny Saturday in June, seven members of The Alexandra WI headed down to the north Kent coast to visit our twin WI, Reculver Beacon, in Herne Bay.


The Reculver Beacon ladies had not only prepared a lovely lunch spread with scones, cream and fresh strawberries, but had also organised a craft session involving creating decorative tins using an array of papers, fabrics, buttons, beads and other decorations. I think we came up with some lovely creations!

Thank you to Claire, Mandy and Karen and the members of Reculver Beacon for welcoming us so warmly and making such an effort!


June 2017 – Flower Arranging

For our July 2016 meeting, we held a ‘getting to know each other’ session. During that meeting we discovered that our member Chris Randall was a budding flower arranger. We invited Chris to teach us about flower arranging at our June 2017 meeting, and what fun we had! I think we all surprised ourselves with the final results: see for yourself here!


Thank you so much Chris for your time and effort – we are all inspired and keen to take up your challenge of creating over-the-top Christmas centrepieces in a few months!

May 2017 – Annual Meeting

Our Annual Meeting was held on 2 May 2016, with our Middlesex Federation WI Advisor Yvette Rathbone. We balanced the business end of the meeting with a fun quiz followed by tea and our inaugural scone competition.

Maggie Weatherby read the Annual Report prepared by outgoing Secretary Jayne Fowler, recounting our busy year.
Yvette ably officiated for our elections at which Emma Watson was elected a President for a third term, and the current committee, minus Jayne, was re-elected.

Following the Committee meeting held on 9 May, we are happy to confirm that the Committee and office bearers for 2017-2018 are:
Emma Watson – President
Ching Smith – Treasurer
Nina Jewell – Secretary. Once again the Secretary will be assisted by Rosemary Pettman as minute secretary.
Rosemary will also continue her co-ordination of all things food and drink.
Norma Barnes
Maggie Weatherby

We also held our inaugural Scone competition: sadly only a few entries, but all judged with appropriate seriousness by Yvette, who declared Rosemary’s the winning scones. Well done, Rosemary!