A full coach load of north Bucks WI members travelled into central London to meet our guide from City and Village Tours for coffee at the Knights Templar pub. Straight away we began our study of plumbing and sewage systems with a visit to the ornate Victorian loos here. Then we walked along Fleet Street above the covered river which used to receive much of the city effluent up until Victorian times. Our guide gave us a short history of plumbing until 1858 when the Great Stink forced the Government to do something about the raw sewage being pumped into the Thames which was causing serious health problems. Bazalgette was appointed to sort out the problem which he did in a commendably short time---of course, in those days there didn’t need to be lots of consultation meetings as would have happened today.
We got back on the coach to drive to Westminster Pier where we boarded a river cruiser and ate our picnic lunches en route to Greenwich with a lively commentary about the buildings on both shores. We were transported to Crossness Pumping station on Erith Marshes where we viewed an interesting exhibition and were then shown around the huge pump house by two volunteers who are part of a group of retired engineers lovingly restoring these gigantic machines. It is not for nothing that the building is called Bazalgette’s Cathedral because it is absolutely beautiful inside, decorative ironwork everywhere on 4 floors, all painted up to how it must have been when Prince Albert opened it.
Believe me, the WI members know an awful lot about boilers, loos and, as for toilet paper, just don’t ask. We had an inspired but circuitous journey home thanks to our excellent driver to avoid dreadful hold-ups on the M25. It was a wonderful outing and we thanked the Education & Current Affairs sub-committee for organizing the day. The same outing will be available next year for the southern WIs: don’t miss it.
The Happy Stitchers resumed their crafty activities this afternoon. We were all doing different things which involved working with needles which was the basic idea when we formed the group. It is a pleasant way to set aside time to work on projects and to sort the world out together.
The monthly WI meeting listened to a talk about the telephone befriending service which is being actively encouraged by the NHS. It is topical for the WI because the system is proving beneficial in combating loneliness which was one of the WI mandates passed in June at the NFWI Annual General Meeting. Arrangements were made for the re-scheduled visit to Greatmoor Recycling plant and a report was given of the garden party. It was announced that a WI Adviser was due to attend our annual meeting in November because it was expected that there would be a lot of changes to be made as several members of our present committee are retiring. At least two officers would be needed.