My Mum is a dual member at Claygate Village and Winterdown WI and she got a bursary to attend Denman College. So we booked onto a ‘Mothers and Daughters’ weekend and signed up to 3 activities each.
Denman, established in 1948, occupies the former Marcham Park near Abingdon in Oxfordshire. The college offers visitors and students the opportunity to experience the pleasure of short-term residential learning in a supportive, comfortable and inspiring environment.
Each year Denman welcomes some 6,000 residential students, along with a further 4,000 attending day schools and non-residential events. The course programme is varied and extensive, with up to 6 residential courses taking place simultaneously for 51 weeks of the year.
Denman is 64 miles from my front door in West Molesey and took about 1 hour 30 minutes. Once we arrived, we went on inside to register and had tea and homemade cakes whilst sitting, chatting to fellow attendees.
Within the grounds are properties of cottages with ensuite bathrooms. 8 room to each, split over 2 floors. We were in Oak Cottage. Each bedroom is named after a County and each Federation furnishes the room with pictures and books. I was in Sussex and Mum was in Nottinghamshire – so she had Robin Hood in with her!
We then attended a welcome talk by the College Host (a WI member from Warwickshire). After that, 84 ‘mothers and daughters’ and 7 tutors went to dinner.
On Saturday morning after breakfast, we split into our activities. Mum made a freshwater pearl and crystal necklace and earrings and I attended ‘Singing for fun’ which was just that. The vocalist was great fun and very talented. We put ourselves into groups of ‘lows, middles and highs’ and put together the song Happy Together by The Turtles. The scene did remind me of X-factor bootcamp, standing in a stately home, with a chandelier and piano. Half way through the morning we had tea/coffee and homemade shortbread biscuits.
After lunch we had a tour of the main house. As it is a listed building, all repairs are costly. Courses are full and pay for themselves but it is the maintenance that has been the cause of the Denman Appeal Fund.
On Saturday afternoon Mum did willow weaving. She did ask if she could do her coffin ….. but was told she wouldn’t be there long enough! She made a platter to serve savoury biscuits. Quick workers also made a wreath for the front door. The willow is from Somerset and is dyed different colours. I attended Calligraphy, something I have not done since a child. The tutor had a projector onto a screen so we all practised the letters together and we could quickly see good results. It was very calming and relaxing.
After dinner, we were entertained by The Retro’s – a 70s 4 piece male band. Becky and Cassie saw them at the NFWI meeting in Liverpool. They got everyone dancing and one lady was awarded a prize for the best dancer … she was 95! In contrast, there was one girl there aged 12 who came along with her Mother and Grandmother.
On Sunday morning, Mum and I attended a hand sewing class. We made picture frames, portrait or landscape with Suffolk puffs. One lady from Dorking WI managed to stick all 4 sides together so we have no idea how she will show a picture! We also made a cathedral window pin cushion.
The other 2 activities on offer were mosaics and edible eats.
After lunch we said our goodbyes.
All the food was excellent. Good variety and quantity. Breakfast and lunch was help yourself and dinner was 3 courses waitress service. Tables were set as ‘6s’ so you could sit where you like and met people from all over the country.
I highly recommend Denman. I would definitely go again. You can take a friend (doesn’t have to be a WI member), go in a group or even on your own. Check out their website.