Category Archives: Valley Friends

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.

Valley Friends June Report

From Joan Steele

The Fernie Fields Four – an entertainment by four lady saxophonists

Jill welcomed members and guests to our meeting and made the announcements. We were very sad to hear that we have lost our dear member, Judith Camplisson recently. On behalf of the Valley Friends, Jill had sent a sympathy card to the bereaved family.

Since our main meeting in May we have had our annual local evening ramble which was arranged and guided by John Magee. The weather was perfect and the countryside looked stunning with beautiful views over hills and valleys with fields covered in wild flowers, and patches of wild garlic in the woods. The walk ended at the Black Lion on Naphill Common, with welcome refreshments. John was warmly thanked for a most memorable evening.

Following the announcements, Jill introduced the ‘Fernie Fields Four’. Pat, the leader, who played the baritone saxophone is a retired maths teacher and explained how the group was formed in the year 2000 from a number of lady saxophonists who are all talented musicians and who all belong to other bands and groups and all also play clarinets. The four instruments played this evening were the baritone, the alto, the soprano, and the tenor, played by Helen. Their aim is to collect for charities, mainly ‘Scannappeal’, Leukaemia and Lymphoma research as well as providing wonderful entertainment. They need to go out to gain practice and had given a concert on the morning of our meeting. Last week they had played for the RNIB at Chalfont St Giles. They have travelled abroad several times, they have connections with RAF Halton, and recently had a German evening, to name a few. They are kept very busy. The group opened their programme with Liberty Belle by John Philip Sousa in 1893 (Monty Python Signature tune), followed by ‘Ain’t misbehaving’ – written in 1929 by Fats Waller while in prison! The programme continued as follows:
– Loch Lomond written in 1841 to bring back memories of a beautiful place in Scotland.
– Chattanooga 1941 written for a film called Sun Valley Serenade recorded by Glen Miller and his Big Band.
– Hornpipe fun including some shanties, Drunken Sailor etc.
– Vaudeville – genre of variety including ‘Oh you beautiful doll’
– A negro spiritual published in 1918 ‘Down by the Riverside’
– A medley of 27 songs were then played which were very cleverly blended into one another and we had to count them!
– A number of famous George Gershwin songs from shows of the years 1924-1927 followed and then a 1902 song ‘Bill Bailey’ and finally ‘Roll out the barrel’ composed by a Czech composer with words added later. The programme finished with ‘When I’m 64’ written in 1967 by the Beatles.

These final songs we were able to join in the singing and we all enjoyed the evening very much.

Barbara proposed the vote of thanks and said how the wonderful sound produced by professional players had made it perfect entertainment for a summer evening with wine – which we had provided!

On 3rd July ‘Linden Gate’ – a new charity is the subject of an open evening entitled ‘Gardening for health and well-being’. The 4th August is the pot-luck supper, please bring food and drink, cutlery plate, bowl and glass.

Valley Friends April Report

From Joan Steel

The Restoration of Mary-Anne Disraeli’s Garden

Our speaker Mr Frank Parge, the Head Gardener at Hughenden Manor, studied in his native Germany and learned to apply the most modern technology to gardening and also studied garden history. He has become known as a Landscape Engineer.

Frank came to Britain about thirty years ago, with his wife who was a trainee paediatric doctor at Stoke Mandaville Hospital, and also his two sons aged ten and three years old. Frank was free to look for work and found that Waddesdon Manor required someone with experience in garden design and knowledge of garden history to restore their Victorian Parterre. The National Trust reviewed his portfolio and accepted his application. They also found that he was happy to take charge of the 14,800 plants needed to recreate and build what was required. He had to be able to develop an underground irrigation system and a way of keeping the garden weed free.

Some years later the head gardener at Hughenden Manor was retiring and Frank was invited to use his experience to advise on the restoration of Mary-Anne Disraeli’s Victorian Garden. Disraeli bought the Manor in1848 and decided to change the house style from Georgian to Victorian Gothic. The Victorian layout of the garden followed, showing Mary-Anne’s planting scheme of cutting shapes out of the lawn and planting flowers or trees in the centres. The restoration team copied this by using Victorian shapes of items in the house. Frank showed us slides of these and the Victorian pergola that ran the length of the rear of the house and was demolished in the 1930s. Plants in the garden are protected from rabbits by surrounding them with green metal stakes, and gravel paths are covered with cloths when likely to be littered with clippings, leaves or hedge cuttings etc. The fountain that was installed in Mary -Anne’s plans never functioned because there was no mains water to the manor. However when planted with blue flowers and silver leaf plants it makes a stunning display.

Volunteers provided by the National Trust Holiday Camp are needed to plant thousands of plants each year. To make the geometric patterns, Frank draws lines on the earth which the students follow. The lawns are made up of a mixture of grasses mixed with micro clover, and no lawn feed or water is needed. The walled garden is a learning centre showing vegetable and fruit growing ideas. Frank knows the exact acreage of the estate, where every tree is and its species. There are three glasshouses and the restored orchard is growing original old English apple trees, pears, cherries and plums, with bumper crops last year.

Frank answered questions from the members and was thanked by Heather for a very interesting talk. Hopefully we are all inspired to visit the gardens in the near future when at its best.

On May 1st our speaker is Richard Road with a talk entitled “Grandma Flew Spitfires”. This is an OPEN MEETING, everyone is welcome to join us.
01494 562648

Valley Friends March report

From Joan Steel
Helen & Douglas House was the subject of the talk given by our speaker, Sue Barns at our March meeting.

Helen & Douglas House is a local charity, founded in 1982 on an idea of Sister Francis Dominica, whose friend’s child had a brain operation and needed constant support. Sister Francis saw the toll it took on the family and how they benefitted from her help. The first hospice ever for sick and dying children is based in Oxford and has now become two departments; Helen House is for children aged 0 – 16 years and Douglas House is for young people from16 – 25 years. Their charity shops are found on the main streets of most towns local to Oxford.

Helen & Douglas House is a fun and vibrant place with staff always there whenever needed. It has beautiful gardens with colourful toys and is suitable for children in wheelchairs. There is a tree house on the ground and a swing that takes wheelchairs. Families are always very welcome to come and play with patients and can stay as there are four family flats. When children come for respite care their families can rest and have a holiday – the best they can have all together.

There is one-to-one care from the strong medical team who deal with pain and general pain management. There are facilities for arts and crafts, a magic carpet that can be used for all sorts of games and many ways are found to give the patients what they would like, such as creating a beach in the garden with imported sand, plus buckets and spades, deck chairs, sound of the sea recordings and a real donkey! There is a sensory room with music therapy, lovely lights, a water bed that moves to music, a jacuzzi with hoists to lower children in.

Douglas House is more like an hotel; it provides many comforts, entertainments and interests that young adults enjoy. Also they go shopping and to the cinema and have many chances to socialise. The Elephant Club takes the patients on trips, helping to relieve worry and deal with anxiety.

Respite care is carefully planned, giving 28 days per year to families. These times give them happy memories to comfort them after their child’s death. End of life care is not limited. It takes place in a special, calming, lovely little room where loved ones can stay with the patient and experts are available to handle difficult cases.

Sue explained how funds are raised through their charity shops, also from group and individual donations, fun runs, etc. Many volunteers are needed to support the wonderful work of the hospice – all information is available at the local hospice shops.

Sue was warmly thanked by Elizabeth for her very interesting and inspirational talk. Our next meeting is on 10th April when the subject is ‘Restoration of Mary Anne Disraeli’s Garden’. All welcome.

Valley Friends February Report

From Joan Steel
In January, we had a DIY meeting to avoid a speaker having to travel if the weather is bad. A Beetle Drive is always good fun and during the evening we have time to chat about our Christmas activities and our plans for the New Year.

The ‘Court of King Zog’ was the subject of Neil Rees, who came to our February Meeting to tell us the true and intriguing story of how Ahamed Zogue became King of Albania. The Zogue family were in exile in Frieth from 1941 – 1946, so are of particular interest locally. When the Ottoman Empire declined, all the small countries that formed the Empire became independent kingdoms. Following two short reigns of the kings assigned to Albania, the President Ahamed Zogue was promoted from being President of the republic, which was becoming known as a ‘kingdom without a king’ to being the only known person to become king of a republic. At the beginning of World War Two, Albania was taken over by Italy and the whole Zogue family fled, eventually to Britain, at first to the Ritz in London, and as the blitz became worse, to Frieth where they helped with the war effort. King Zog was condemned to death in his absence, as Albania became communist at the end of the war. He was welcome to remain in Britain but chose to go to King Farouk in Egypt where there was a large community of exiles. King Zog and his wife Geraldine decided to send their son Prince Lekor to Sandhurst to learn to become a soldier and form a group to oust the communist regime in Albania. King Zog died in 1961 in Paris. The inscription on his tomb is ‘KING OF ALBANIA’.

At our March meeting we have a talk by Sue Barns entitled ‘Helen Douglas House’.
Everyone Welcome.

We have a very interesting future programme. All meetings are at 8pm in the Main Village Hall on the first Friday in the month.

Valley Friends notes December & January

From Joan Steel

Londa Gray from The Daisy Chain in Princes Risborough gave us a very interesting demonstration with careful instructions on how to make a beautiful flower arrangement for a Christmas table. We each brought a candle and Londa gave us three bunches of flowers plus some berries, greenery, oasis, and a little dish. We followed Londa’s instructions and after an enjoyable half hour or so we were delighted with the results, as we each had a pretty ball-shaped arrangement of red, yellow and pink flowers with a central candle to take home. Amazibngly mine and others lasted until New Year looking fresh and colourful. Londa, and her daughter who helped, were thanked for all their work on preparation and clearing up and for the pleasure we had on the evening.

On 9th January, our thanks to Norma who arranged a games evening and we played Beetle which caused lots of fun.

Our next meeting, on February 6th, is a talk by Neil Rees entitled ‘The Court of King Zog’ (in exile in Frieth 1941-46). All welcome.

Valley Friends November Report – The Grand Canyon

From Joan Steel

Following the notices, Jill introduced with pleasure our speaker Michael Hoey, who retired from the Royal Engineers in 2009 about the same time as becoming a Grandfather. This inspired him to do something grand to mark the occasion! So as well as cycling the whole tow path of the Grand Union Canal, he walked the Great Wall of China, having previously done charity work organising exhibitions, teaching and doing other community work. Michael’s challenge now was to cross the Grand Canyon in Colorado. He planned to take the route from North to South on the Bright Angel Trail and gave us a vivid explanation with slides of the enormous and truly awesome geography and geology of the area.

The Colorado River is 1,500 miles long and covers 277 miles from East to West. Geologists flock to study the various rocks forming the canyon. Its width varies from 15 miles to 100 miles and the inner canyon varies from a few yards to 11 miles wide at the point where Michael crossed, at one of three crossings where there are three small villages. The fault called Bright Angel Canyon crosses the canyon looking towards the North Rim which is 7000 feet above sea level with 8,500 feet difference between the North and the South Rim.

The climate varies with the altitude, being very hot and wet at the bottom where there is lush vegetation. A forest of mainly pine trees and junipers covers miles of flat land on the mountains, with sage plants covering the ground. There are wild flowers and wild animals including snakes various birds. The trail passes some temples and an Indian reservation where some cattle were grazing. There are some resting lodges where the all-important water taps are to be found for water bottles to be replenished.

The Bright Angel Trail is used by mules carrying freight that is heavier than their own body weight, but they are very nimble on the steep paths. Michael showed us some dramatic slide views and wonderful coloured sunsets. He walked 50 miles in all, walking sometimes 12 miles a day. He was warmly thanked for his interesting talk and heartily congratulated on raising £5,500 to refurbish St Mary’s church.

On December 5th we are making a Christmas table decoration with Londer Gray who is providing everything and we can add our own flowers etc if wished. Please bring £5.