How lucky we were to have reserved Denman College for our Federation Weekend when the weather was so wonderful! The house and gardens looked lovely and we never needed to think about waterproofs, just suncream for those enjoying outdoor courses. Bucks.shared the college with Cambridgeshire and together we filled all the rooms. Members from both federations took advantage of each other's courses and mixed well in whatever spare moments we had in the usual busy programme.A federation weekend is a good way to begin visiting Denman because there is sure to be someone whom one vaguely recognises so one doesn't need to worry about going solo. Next time the visitor on her own walks confidently into reception to register knowing that in no time at all she will be making a new acquaintance. It should also provide the Trustees and county sub-committee members a chance to get to know and be known to the WI members if they mix in.
There was a good choice of subjects ranging from active walking on the Ridgeway and around the gardens of Oxford to Elizabethan raised embroidery and Indian cookery.There was also on offer digital photography and the intricate task of producing a paperweight featuring an embroidered beach pebble for those who were able to sit and concentrate for many uninterrupted hours.But whatever one had chosen, the days presented an idea of what we call the "Denman experience" and it certainly encourages people to want to come back and they can see what is planned in the months to come.
There are many changes which have been made since the early days when our generation of WI members first attended: it has lost the boarding school element because nowadays everyone takes en suite single rooms for granted and would be dumbfounded if asked to make up the bed for the next visitor. There is a subtle change noticeable too in that the word "College" is being dropped and we are no longer "students" but guests. It is becoming more hotel-like which I suppose is unavoidable if the WI is encouraging more non-members and thinking about hosting weddings too.Needs must, if we want to keep the place solvent. We need to fill all the bedrooms as often as possible in order to keep the place in such fine condition and to have it still able to hold interesting educational courses which appeal to the members.
Our Denman Ambassador is already planning another federation weekend for 2015 so keep an eye out for information in the Newsletter and watch the programme for interesting courses. If the cost is a bit of a problem look at the back of the course list and apply for a bursary---someone has to win. If you don't try, you don't stand a chance!