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Another New Wave weekend at Denman College

Last weekend, 10 SHWI members went to the ‘New Wave weekend’ at the WI’s own Denman College.  Some of us had been before, a couple of years ago, but for others, it was our first time to Denman, and we didn’t quite know what to expect.  What we found was a glorious Grade II listed Georgian house, filled with around 70 women from other WIs, and the most accommodating and friendly staff (except for one slightly disrespectful barman, but he was more than made up for by the lovely Matt!).

Joanne, Lauren and Lucy outside Denman

Once we’d settled into our comfortable rooms, Friday evening started with a welcome talk and cocktails.  The slight tardiness of the cocktails (don’t keep a roomful of thirsty women waiting for free drinks!) was thankfully no indication of the organisation of the rest of the weekend, as everything ran like clockwork.  Dinner followed, and although not Yorkshire portions, was delicious.  After a cookery demonstration by Peter Lien, Head of the WI Cookery School, the evening drinking could begin in earnest…

The SHWI gang enjoy the food and wine

After a hearty breakfast on Saturday morning, we separated to go to our workshops.  We each got to choose three activities from a range including making textile decorations, biscuiteering, Bollywood dancing, meringues and vintage corsages.  To ensure our energy levels didn’t drop during the day, there were plenty of coffee breaks with homemade cakes and shortbread, a lovely salad bar or hot meal for lunch, and another three course dinner.

I found all the workshop tutors to be excellent, although they each had their own teaching style.  I enjoyed all of the sessions I attended, even if biscuit icing turned out to not be one of my greatest skills! (They still tasted good, though).

Grace’s iced biscuits

I also really enjoyed the tour of the house – it gave some fascinating information about the history of the building, and sneaky peaks into some of the other bedrooms!  Most of the rooms on the first floor were quite grand, with original features and large windows.  My room was on the second floor, in the old servants’ quarters, and featured the call bell for the previous owner inside the wardrobe.  Luckily it didn’t ring whilst I was in residence!

Laura made this at the papercutting workshop

Saturday evening split our group between the two entertainments laid on.  Some partook in the lively salsa/zumba dancing, whilst others entered the quiz.  After the organised entertainment was over, it was back to the bar for some more drinking!  SHWI managed to be last up on both nights, and I heard stories of a game of hide and seek in the early hours.

Sunday morning gave us time for one more workshop, then, after lunch, with our waistlines and horizons broadened, and new friendships forged, it was time to say farewell. 

I feel like I am running out of superlatives, but I really did thoroughly enjoy the weekend, much more than I was expecting to.  My main question now is ‘can we go again next year?’

Mary Beckingsale

SHWI Member

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