Category Archives: Valley Friends

Valley Friends September Notes

From Joan Steel

Congratulations to the Valley Friends who are celebrating their Golden Anniversary with a Dinner and Musical Entertainment at the Village Hall on Friday 7th October.  Fifty years ago, young families were moving into new estates built locally and the young mothers needed somewhere to socialise. Inspired by young members of the Hughenden Mothers Union and along with families already living here, two groups were formed, one called Park Estate Young Wives and later one, known as Valley Young Wives. Our name has changed twice but our membership has been constant ever since and we still have two founder members. (More details to follow our celebration evening).

“David Austin Roses” was the subject of a talk with photographs by Edwin Rye at our meeting in July, just when all varieties of roses would be flourishing in David’s magnificent Rose garden which houses over 700 different varieties.  As a teenager David Austin was interested in scented roses.  Graham Thomas at 97 years old worked on a plant nursery in Surrey, and he gave David a book on Crossing Roses. In 1944 he produced his first rose named “Constance Spry”.  He is now over 90 years old and still does most of the work on the breeding programme himself.  David spends over one million pounds per year breeding roses, three to six are processed and take 8 to 10 years to mature.  He exhibited three new roses at the Chelsea Flower this year.  He donates all the profit he makes on his roses to shanty town children in South Africa.  It buys things they need and is not given as money.  Edwin gave out booklets with information on the David Austin rose garden and plant centre.  He was warmly thanked for his very knowledgeable and interesting talk.

During the summer the Valley Friends joined in the Carnival Day procession disguised in Venetian type masks which we had fun making at Doreen’s using cardboard moulds decorated with bits and sparkly pieces.  After the procession in normal clothes and dainty aprons, we served very popular cakes and tea in the small hall and made a most acceptable profit to donate to the carnival fund.  Our August Pot luck supper was delicious and were able to relax and spend time chatting about recent events and holidays etc.

At our September meeting we had a talk with screen presentation by Sally Botwright on the “Old London Docks and New Docklands”.  Sally showed us a view looking across the Thames to the present site of the docks, and likened it to a small Manhattan.  Very different would have been the view of the Roman docks which dated back to AD 50, parts of which can still be seen at low tide. King Henry VIII built naval ships at Chatham docks and surprisingly it took 300 trees to make one ship.

In the reign of Elizabeth I, the only crossing over the Thames was at London.  In 1933 one hundred thousand people were employed at the docks. They handled thirty-five million tons of cargo a year.  It was heavy dirty work, and dockers had no full time employment, maybe they would get only a half day.  The docks were bombed in the war causing the routine labour practices to decline and trouble followed when containers came into use.  By 1970 all but Tilbury dock were closed. The area was regenerated and became Canary Wharf employing more than a hundred thousand people.  Sally described it as a magnificent development of high rise buildings, offices, housing, gardens, art, a floating chapel, shops, cafes, and health centre.  It is clean, there are  security personnel with sniffer  dogs.  The Docklands Light Railway with tube station opened in 2000.  The last building has just been completed and the whole docklands area covers 97 acres.  Sally was thanked by Sylvia for her most interesting and informative presentation.

Valley Friends June Report – Viva Mexico!

From Joan Steel

Our speaker, Val Brown was an English teacher in Mexico who spent a fourteen year ‘trip’ moving from school to school in various areas of the country and therefore experienced the real Mexico. She said it is much bigger than we think with a 2,000 mile border with America in the north and with Belize and Guatemala in the south. The population of over 122 million is a cross between descendants of native Indians and Spanish invaders. These were the first people to use the name ‘Americans’. Mexico City, a Spanish Colony, was designed on the French style grid system and was established as the capital city in 1550. The cathedral, built in 1575 on unstable ground is constantly being repaired and volcanoes on the edge of the city steam continuously but rarely erupt. The economy is stable and food is easy to grow.

There is evidence that Incas, Mayas, Aztecs and nomadic tribes settled in the area 10,000 years ago. The ruins of an Aztec city with pyramids now attracts tourists and researchers. Today’s inhabitants have picnics and take punts on the canals near the city. Mariachi bands with strings and brass are hired to play on these, (some good, some not!), the players wearing traditional costume.

Acapulco with its beautiful, almost circular bay, is frequented by tourists, but is extremely polluted due to the very narrow outlet for the tide. Turtles lay eggs in the sands there. Many visitors come on 3rd October for the world-famous swallow divers’ festival. The divers pray at shrines to former competitors before climbing to the top of the rocks and diving into the rocky waters far below. Val said it was a lunatic way of earning a living!

Aztecs believe that life and death are the same and families visit the dead to give gifts of things liked in life. Picnics are held on graves and the ancestor is told all the family news. Children recite, read or dance for them. It is not at all gloomy; processions move through the towns with candles which are placed on the graves and all churches have bands for the processions. Schoolchildren have to make a ‘befriender’ which is like a set of shelves exhibiting fruit, bread and many items to please and honour the dead. Skeletons are dressed as hierarchy.

Val took a holiday to see dolphins, turtles and whales which were amazing. The train journey to the coast was spectacular and seen from the air showed the track with hundreds of hairpin bends over mountains with views 7,000 feet down into canyons. A tribe of Indians lives at the bottom of Copper Canyon, (about the size of Wales), living a traditional life and keeping goats. There are many rivers and waterfalls, some with boiling hot water. To reach the top of the canyon takes about four hours on rocky paths. There are also rich silver mines in the area and of course, some very wealthy people.

Val, her husband and many tourists loved Mexico and Val wrote a book about her travels. Norma thanked her for a really entertaining talk.

On July 1st Edwin Rye will talk about David Austin’s Roses. We have a Pot Luck Supper in the Small Hall on August 5th and our next meeting after this is on 2nd September.

Valley Friends May: The Work of an Auctioneer

From Joan Steel

Barry Twyman is an auctioneer who mostly works at Amersham Auction Rooms. He spoke enthusiastically about his work which he does for six days a week and finds it busy and most enjoyable. The techniques of selling are learned by observing what happens in the auction room, known as contact learning, although every auctioneer has his/her own style. Momentum is the key to all, as it is important to keep going and normally people are taken up into the speed of selling. It is usual to sell 150 to 160 lots per hour. Time is money.

As the market changes, it is important to have experience of fashion trends eg large heavy brown furniture is not suitable for today’s smaller homes. The auction rooms handle 4000 to7000 items per week. There may be 70-80 possible buyers in the show room but on the internet there are thousands watching and the auctioneers are literally selling to the world. The sale room has therefore to be dressed elegantly to help in attracting bidders. Items are being airmailed out during the sales. All items have to be valued and catalogued and some need to be identified as genuine by professionals.

Many other jobs need to be done before an auction starts eg by 11:30 am on Sunday morning 400 lots need to be put out for sale. Barry said that of his six days work weekly only 2 to 3 hours are actually selling time. Valuations are free and there is a team of four qualified valuers available. They also do valuations on location, visiting houses between 9am and 7pm on Wednesdays. Barry’s talk was free and all donations go to charity eg Ian Rennie Hospice.

To end the evening Barry organised a game, Heather bravely volunteered to act as auctioneer. Following questions Barry was thanked for his very lively and interesting talk.

P.S. The Workaid Collection has been postponed.

Our next meeting is on June 10th subject being “Viva Mexico” by Val Brown.

Valley Friends – April Report

From Joan Steel

Coping with Multiple Sclerosis

Annette Abraminka, our speaker, has been confined to a wheelchair for 21 years yet is positive enthusiastic, incredibly brave and optimistic as well as charismatic.  The youngest of four children whose parents were hoteliers in Dorset, Annette married twice, has two children and four grandchildren, all living in America, and she is now widowed.  At the age of 18 years Annette went for nursing training at St. Thomas’ Hospital then went to work for Americans in Germany where she lived for 27years.

Annette explained that MS is difficult to diagnose because it is so variable, even from hour to hour.  It affects every patient in many different ways.  The nerve covering is damaged causing difficulty with movement, thinking, talking, eating, breathing etc., and walking becomes very wobbly. It is different for everyone.  Some patients have no visible symptoms and some become depressed.

Annette’s first decision following her diagnosis was to take all the drugs and do physiotherapy, plus every treatment available, but after some time she decided to stop all the drugs and just have the physiotherapy. She feels better now than she did fourteen years ago, but does not recommend her treatment to everyone. The only treatment she now has is hyperbaric oxygen treatment which improves fatigue levels, mobility, numbness, tingling and tremors.  She receives this treatment at the Chilterns Multiple Sclerosis Centre which is run as an independent charity.  Annette is involved in the day-to-day running of the Centre and is surely a huge inspiration to all the patients.

The Centre assists in enabling patients to take part in many inspiring activities and adventures.  Annette’s advice is to be active within your own community, think about others and learn to do everything. She herself has written articles and poetry and made a CD which she played for us.  Life becomes very precious and her words were ‘Dare to dream and sail with the wind’.  Through the charity Annette has had the opportunity to learn to sail on several occasions on the Lord Nelson where a mixed ability crew have been trained to do almost all that is necessary to sail the ship. Courage is needed to do this.  The course requires living on the ship for a period of time and patients’ confidence is built up with this training which is for all ages.  Annette says that she hasn’t run out of challenges or dreams; her great sense of humour and optimism has carried her and other patients through many difficulties.  She frequently travels to see her family in America but has decided not to be a responsibility to them by living there or near them.  Annette answered questions and showed us literature, then was thanked warmly for her inspiring talk.

Contact details for the Chilterns MS Centre are:
Tel:  01296 696133 or online at
Address:  Oakwood Close, Wendover, Bucks. HP22 5LX.

The Valley Friends’ next meeting is on 6th May when the speaker is Barrie Twyman on ‘The Work of an Auctioneer’. On 18th May we have an evening local ramble – all welcome.

Workaid.  On 2nd July between 10am and 12 noon at Hughenden Valley Village Hall car park, Valley Friends have arranged a collection of unwanted items which can be repaired to send to Africa to provide practical aid and help transform the lives of some of those in need. Some suggested items are: old tools, sewing machines, mowers, bicycles, etc. For more information phone 01494 775220, or online at or write to The Old Boot Factory, 71 Townsend Road, Chesham, HP5 2AA.


Valley Friends Report March

From Joan Steele

” The Fantastic Farnes”

Heather opened the meeting with announcements and introduced Chris Ward, our speaker who showed us the Farne Islands on a map. They are 3 to 4 miles off the Northumbrian coast, with Berwick on Tweed being the nearest town.The Islands belong to the Nanional Trust and can be reached by boat. Trips sail from the picturesque harbour at the little village of Seahouses. It is only possible to land on two of the islands, the others are seen well from the boat. The hermit St Cuthbert lived on the Farnes for many years. Nothumberland has over 70 castles, Banburgh and Dunstanburgh are on the very impressive coastline where there are miles of sand dunes. The county flower is the Bloody Cranesbill seen along with orhers eg wild orchids, and poppie. Visitors to the islands are able to go into Longstone Lighthouse, made famous in 1838 by Grace Darling who spotted a shipwreck on a very stormy night and with her father rowed out to resue 9 sailers.

The islands are inhabited by thousands of sea birds, which have no predators. They come close to visitors who are easily able to photograph them, hence Clive had very impressive slides to illustrate his talk. The inner Farne has 22 thousand water birds nesting there the most common being Guillimots that nest on the top of the cliffs, and Razorbills that nest on the cliff face. Kittiwakes are seen but most of the year are out at sea. There are Shags which are black like Cormorants, they fish around the islands but live on the coast. They breed at various stages in the year. Puffins are the favourites, and commonest with 39,000 pairs at the last count. They nest in burrows on top of the cliffs and carry up to 62 sand eels in their beaks at a time to feed their pufflings. They are long lived, many for 18 years and oldest recorded 30 years. All the birds plus gulls, are seen on all the islands, except the Arctic Tern which lives only on the Inner Farne. June or July is nesting time when they are quite vicious and attack visitors who must wear hard hats or carry something over head eg umbrella to avoid injury. They nest on the ground and have tiny chicks. The Arctic Terns are stunning birds that fly all over the world from the Arctic to the Antarctic a distance of 56,000 miles per year and they live over 20 years, equivalent of flying to the moon and back! Many Eider ducks and ducklings live around the harbours and islands. They make nests lined with their own feathers. In Iceland an eider duck quilt could cost up to 5,000. The Eider Drake is lazy and takes no part in rearing the ducklings.

Chris answered questions about National Trust full time and seasonal volenteers on the islands and boats etc. and was thanked by Heather for a most interesting evening.

Our next meeting is on April 4th when Annette Abraminko’s subject is “Coping with MS”. All Welcome.

Valley Friends October Notes

from Joan Steel

Jill welcomed everyone to our AGM and 49th Birthday Party and read the apologies. In her report she recalled the highlights of the years varied programme of excellent talks and enjoyable activities. Among them was an evening making a Christmas table flower arrangement, a talk entitled “Grandma flew Spitfires, the Fernie Field Four – a group of excellent lady saxophonists, an evening ramble in the late spring, and a talk about the Linden Gate charity. Our most recent event was a dinner followed with entertainment by the Lamp House Ladies Choir. The evening was very successful and completed our year on a high note.

The members of the committee gave their reports and along with Jill, were all re-elected. The proposal to increase the membership fee was accepted and is now £27 (because speaker’s fees have increased); a visitors’ fee is to remain at £3 per evening. We look forward to having more new members to enjoy the really interesting programme we have for the coming year. We are continuing to support the South Bucks Hospice and High Wycombe MS with our fund raising raffle and hospice book etc. stall.

Jill thanked the committee for their work during the year and expressed our regrets that Josie needs more time to recover before returning to the committee. Norma was congratulated for completing the course to qualify her in the use the Village Hall defibrillator. Doreen presented a plant to Jill to thank her on behalf of us all for her friendship, dedication and enthusiasm over many years as leader, which has kept the group active and thriving. Jill quoted our motto “Friendship is the Golden Chain by which Society is Joined Together “. Business having been concluded we commenced supper and birthday cake all prepared by Doreen; very many thanks”.

During the evening we had a Quiz which involved place names of local villages and the team with the highest score were given a prize. We have a team entering the Potter quiz on October 17th.

Our next meeting is on November 6th “The Early Life of Norman Wisdom”. All Welcome.

Valley Friends September Notes

Lindengate, a local charity based near Wendover was the subject of a talk at our July meeting. The aim of this organisation is to work with nature to help to improve and regain mental health by providing gardening activities in a tranquil and rural setting, enabling you to regain your mental strength and start to flourish. Everyone over the age of eighteen years is welcome.

Lindengate contacts are Sian Chattle ( and Charlie Powell ( A GP or health care professional may refer you to Lindengate or you can apply yourself using the form on the web site at

In August our Pot Luck Supper was most enjoyable and a great social evening.