Penallt WI closes after 55 years


from the Monmouthshire Beacon 6th February 2019

Final Meeting of Penallt WI after more than half a century

After 55 years at the heart of village activities, Penallt WI has been forced to close due to falling numbers.

Recent years have seen the branch welcoming "the very best of speakers" to Pelham Hall, largely thanks to the support of visitors to the monthly meetings.

The final report, from Ros Edmonds, also makes special mention of the support the group has had from “the gents who have regularly attended meetings as unofficial WI members”.

"A festive meal at The Estero Lounge in Monmouth proved a fitting end both to the year and to the Penallt WI", she said.

"The village may no longer have its WI nights on the first Thursday of the month, but former members will still be around to help at summer fetes, Christmas bazaars, the Classic Car Show, Pelham Hall and the annual spring clean."

While the branch has effectively closed, however, under WI rules it will remain 'in suspension' for three years and could be re-opened at any time during that period – so, if any vibrant group of local ladies would like to take on the challenge, please step forward!

Ros Edmonds adds

We have been Penallt W.I. for 55 years - although only one of us was a founder member. We have met every month on the first Thursday first at the old Pelham Hall and more recently at the new one. Some of us are farmers and small holders, others have been teachers, nurses, run businesses, designed and created beautiful clothes and, interestingly, one has been a cartographer. But we have all been friends. Our interests have included collecting antique pewter, vintage toys, fine wines, classic cars, old books, gardening and floristry. Two of us are Ricardians and welcomed the finding of the King in the car park.

Traditional W.I. skills have never been abandoned. We sew, draw, write, embroider, knit, make lace, bake and yes, make Jam. We have in the past been known to lift cups and prizes in the handicraft competitions at both The Monmouthshire and Royal Welsh shows. Apart from running around Penallt's meadows after our sheep, cattle, horses and chickens, we have kept ourselves fit with village activities. Many of our members belong to the tennis and bowls clubs at The Pelham Hall, also the Pilates sessions. This latter activity was started by the W.I.

in 2006 with funding from both the W.I. and The Sports Council. The annual Pink Walks along the banks of the River Wye in aid of Breast Cancer Research have found some of us dressed up in embarrassing pink outfits and the 100 mile canoe trip along that river was also undertaken by one president to raise funds for St David's Hospice. We also walk our dogs around the village lanes and footpaths and multitask by picking up litter at the same time. Of course all this activity hasn't prevented some members from falling asleep during slide shows. This had nothing to do with the calibre of the speakers: with 5 sheep farmers in the W.I., lack of sleep during the lambing season and a dark warm room sometimes caused farming midwives to nod off.

On the cultural side there have in the past been group theatre trips and individually members visit The Royal Opera House, The RSC, Welsh National Opera and theatres in London, Bristol, Cardiff and Malvern and, of course, the outdoor Shakespeare at Penallt's Babington Meadow. For the W.I. Centenary Year in 2015 one member enjoyed an unforgettable day at The Buckingham Palace Garden Party.

Our speakers have attracted many visitors to the Hall and we have been grateful for their support. The entry charges to non members have enabled us to book the very best in entertainments. Some members are great travellers, over the past years visiting South America, Canada, New Zealand, The Arctic Circle, The USA and the far East. W.I. travellers' tales have entertained meetings as "in house" speakers - very useful in winter months if outside speakers are unable to make it up The Redwern Hill.

We have always turned out in force for village events. The summer fete at Moorcroft has most stalls manned (sorry, womanned) by Penallt W.I. We have repeated this at The Christmas Bazaar. For the biannual Classic Car Show members have made cakes, scones, Welsh cakes and sandwiches on an industrial scale to feed the crowds.

So, it's goodbye to Thursdays in the Pelham Hall committee room - but individually we will still be around to support village events. Of course under W.I. rules the Penallt branch has not been closed. It has been suspended for 3 years during which time it can be reopened should a new group of ladies wish to take it on. Penallt W.I.'s not inconsiderable funds would then be made available to them. Should this not be possible then Penallt W.I. would officially close and all moneys revert to the W.I.