President Dinah Barrand welcomed members (including two new members – welcome!) and three visitors to the meeting.
On to the main event: – Ben Cross from Crossland Flower Nursery, who gave an impassioned and informative illustrated talk on British Alstromerias and the UK Cut Flower Industry. Ben is a fourth generation grower and described how his great grandparents, Albert and Louisa, moved to Sidlesham from Abertillery in 1936, under the Land Settlement Association. The Land Settlement Association (“the LSA”), a government-supported initiative, was founded in 1934 at the height of the depression under the auspices of the Society of Friends and the Carnegie Trust. It was established “to carry out an experimental scheme, with financial assistance from the Government, for the provision of rural small-holdings for unemployed persons from the industrialised cities”. The initial programme was for provision of some 2000 smallholdings throughout England and Wales. The holdings ranged from 5 to 10 acres, the small ones for horticulture and the larger ones for livestock, particularly pigs. By 1938 it had 25 estates of which 20 had been developed, containing 1031 let holdings in total. A further 75 were retained for propagating. At the outbreak of the Second World War, the policy changed to accommodate the need for intensive food production and only tenants with agricultural experience were taken on. Thus, by the end of the War the LSA had become more of a co-operative, with co-ordinated skilled production and marketing. Ben told us that the Sidlesham Co-operative was a well organised community that boasted its own school, WI and football team.
After time however, Albert and Louisa wanted to branch out on their own, and in 1957 they moved to Walberton where they grew salad crops, chrysanthemums, and kept livestock. It was here too they started to grow Peruvian lilies or alstromerias, now the sole crop of the nursery. Ben described how the alstromeria lends itself to growing in Sussex because, as a ‘cool crop’ and thus not needing much additional heating, it has a small carbon footprint. He explained the life cycle of the flowers – it is a rhizome which needs to be replaced just once every 20 years – and the rhythm of work that needs to be undertaken during the year including cutting, tucking, thinning and weeding. Ben told the members that over 90% of all cut flowers are imported with the associated environmental costs of transport, packaging, high water use and wastage, and urged members to consider buying British when possible, citing freshness, the benefit to local economies, less waste, price and lower carbon footprint. The vote of thanks given by Katie Lyne echoed the thoughts of members who committed to giving thought to where and how their flowers are produced, buy British where possible and consider how we can encourage more outlets to carry locally grown cut flowers.
Dinah then introduced Linda and Charlie from the Friends of Bognor Hospitals and a number of beautiful twiddle muffs and lap quilts made by members were handed over and received with thanks.
After refreshments, Dinah proposed two new projects to members: a tablecloth/banner and a scrapbook. Lynn Douet showed the meeting the scrapbooks made by Chichester Regnum WI and it is hoped that volunteers will put themselves forward to take on the production of similar scrapbooks for BRWI.
Stonepillow are asking for the following and members were asked to bring contributions to the April meeting:
- Handwash, washing up liquid and toilet rolls
- Washing powder
- Bin bags, kitchen foil and cling film
- Anti-bacterial spray and cleaning sponges/cloths
- Chopping boards and tea towels
Finally, the winner of the competition ‘English Country Garden’ was announced. There were five entries displaying a range of crafts; Karen McCreedy took the top spot with Sarah Greenaway second and Gill Lowden third.
The meeting closed at 2130 with Dinah wishing everyone a safe journey home.
words: Gina Fitch-Roy
photos: Katie Lyne